Development with Dignity; New Perspectives By Shahid Khan
So they built a proper tarmac road past a village whose only access was a dirt road of sorts. The village was a cohesive community, each person knew and cared for each other. They were a contented relatively happy people. The road bought outside influences that slowly destroyed the cohesiveness of the community. Shops and eating places opened up, some of the villagers benefited.
Competition removed the “community” togetherness. Neighbours stopped talking to each other. Jealousies’ thrived. Innocence was lost. The ‘capitalist’ over view that is part of ‘outside’ world came to a community that for generations were happy. They had achieved and preserved something that many seek but a few find. Seeing this outside prosperity, outsiders bought up land which removed ‘wealth’ from the less well off. They felt rejected. They had lived here for generations without feeling insecure. The road eventually bought less than more.
I know this place. It is real. I have been there because it’s a place I have observed in the development work we have been doing for the past 15 years in Pakistan.
Is the notion of community development to remove the very essence of what it should be? That is to make communities more secure, have greater understanding of real human values. Feel content in their lives. All I see is an erosion of what was into something that is alien to many communities. Is this perpetual thesis that the way to a better future is more and more growth, in this case a tarmac road, that eventually benefits the few and destroys a way of life.
Development is a necessary but it must be for the benefit of the beneficiaries. Find out what they want and guide them towards an objective. The Development proposal must be implemented by the communities themselves not by ‘others’ who have their own agenda which many times comes nowhere near the aspirations of the receiver. International donors, governments have their own agenda.
They have targets to fulfil. So many water pumps; so many houses; so many electric lights. Numbers have to be seen to be implemented. It’s removed from ‘the field’ as it works with statistics that need to be made to look better (poverty alleviation) but has little to do with what the beneficiaries needs are.
Can anyone maintain their dignity if they are receiving ‘charity ’. The very word, ‘charity’, is an anathema to me. Hand-outs is not what people are looking for. There is a sense of pride in every human being. However when you are at the bottom of the barrel you will accept anything to survive another day. Every human being needs some basic facilities; clean water, essential energy needs, proper sanitation and a sturdy roof over their heads. To be ‘sustainable’ show them how to achieve these things themselves.
They can do it. Time and time again I am surprised as to what uneducated people can do once they know how to. We trained 12 women to build their own school. They had never used a drill or hammer before. They built the school for their children in 2 weeks. You could see the pride in their faces. Stature in their community rose. They had done what had never been suggested they could do before. Some of the women, having learned a technique of using bamboo and earth, helped others in the community to build their houses.
A paradigm shift is needed in attitudes by donors and beneficiaries. The former to get out from their offices, enter the field, understand the real needs and allocate accordingly. The latter to stop expecting that hand outs are the answers to their poverty.
Helping others to help themselves is happening; we are doing it.