UN magazine features stories of families finding their way out of poverty

Published: Saturday, March 23 2013 12:10 p.m. MDT

Shyamola in her tea stall with her two daughters. "Until I became destitute, I had never imagined I could run a business," she said.

Salman Saeed/UNDP Bangladesh

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Early this year United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) administrator Helen Clark launched the second edition of the Development Advocate, a magazine featuring 12 award winning stories about poverty reduction efforts in countries around the world.

“As in last year’s issue, these stories highlight UNDP’s critical work on poverty reduction, democratic governance, crisis prevention and recovery, and the environment and sustainable development,” said UNDP head Helen Clark in a letter to readers. “They remind us that people are and always will be the centre of UNDP’s work.”

The UNDP received more than 120 story entries from 66 countries around the world. Winning stories include a story from Brazil about eco-friendly stoves that empower indigenous women and a story from China about sustainable farming practices.

Perhaps one of the most touching stories is of a woman in Bangladesh who pulled her family out of poverty with a $30 loan. The 43-year-old woman's name is Shyamola Begum from the city of Dhaka. When her husband abandoned her and their two children, Shyamola struggled to make ends meet.

Begum's situation is not uncommon for women in her country. "Every year, tens of thousands of women are left by their husbands who have given up hope in the face of poverty and lack of employment opportunities," according to a Borgen Project Report.

Recently she received a $30 grant from the urban partnerships of poverty recovery fund. With that money she opened a small tea stand. According to the story, in just a few months, she has more than doubled her investment. She is successfully running a business and supporting her family.

Most encouragingly, her story is not atypical. "Over 55,000 families like Shyamola’s have received such grants over the past five years, with encouraging results. In many places, these men and women have started making monthly contributions to their own local savings groups, so that there is a source of a larger loan in cases of emergency," according to the UNDP report.

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