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Why development work is more than just the numbers

Development and aid workers should realize that in our effort to provide solutions to poverty, we always give face to these numbers

Most of the time, people who work in the development sector encounter the words “sustainable”, “resilience”, and “development”.

These buzzwords are not new; in fact, these have been the selling point of most development projects and programs in international cooperation and grassroots building. But as we attempt to solve and identify the gaps in issues related to poverty and humanitarian concerns, we often get swamped with all the technical jargon and the cracking down of data to assemble key result areas and accomplishments expected from us by funding institutions and agencies. We forget that we are working with individuals, that more than just the numbers, these ordinary people hold distinct stories with deeper value.

In the time I spent working in non-profit organizations, I have met groups that are often tagged as people who are in the margins; people who are denied their rights; and people deprived of a dignified and quality life. But more than these labels, they also carry with them a certain level of “resilience” and “development” – contrary to how it is defined by professionalized references.

In some of the provinces in the country, where poverty incidence rises up to 55.43%, I met people from different backgrounds. This figure is not just a number, but it represents people. It exhibits stories of struggles and victories defined by their own situations. However, these stories are repeatedly misjudged by people from the point of view of privilege, repeatedly mistaken as being unproductive and parasites hungry for a comfortable life.

This kind of misconception bears hatred, division, and lack of compassion frequently neglected by the numbers. The deficient effort to hollow out reasons to support the underprivileged is halted by uninformed opinions. The best way to practically understand others is to know where they are from.

Majority of them live in rural areas, and in some cases in the most interior geographical locations. They work as farmers, fishers, vendors – people who are often forgotten for how integral their roles are in society. Most of their families hold the most basic education we can think of; they have no or few assets and minimal access to credit; and sometimes depend on enterprise income.

These numbers are people – people capable of surviving their daily lives while striving to claim what’s for them. Their rights are not privileges; they must be given because that’s what people deserve.

People should stop blaming the poor for their chronic situations – people remain poor not because they lack character but because they lack informed and better choices.

It is time that development and aid workers should realize that in our effort to provide solutions to poverty, we always give face to these numbers. That more than just these numbers, in the course of our work, we give justice to their stories too. It is important that the success of our programs should not only depend on whether we have met the expected line of accomplishment, but always question how holistic these developments are.

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