Tag Archives: Book Reviews

Book Review: Reframing Poverty: New Thinking and Feeling About Humanity’s Greatest Challenge

Reframing PovertyReframing Poverty by Eric Meade

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Poverty in all its multitudinous forms is not an easy subject to broach. An age-old problem, poverty, its root causes, as well as poverty reduction have all been studied and theorized, it seems, ad infinitum. It is not often that someone presents poverty in a more nuanced way than generalized and ubiquitous thinking on poverty. In Reframing Poverty: New Thinking and Feeling About Humanity’s Greatest Challenge, Eric Meade takes a deep dive into how poverty is more of an emotional construct that evokes feeling as opposed to the more widely read and globally accepted set of data points. Meade’s conclusions take some time and thinking to wrap your brain around to be sure. In fact, I had to put this book down several times to keep from seething. I do, however, appreciate new ideas that can be engaged in rather than reading the same poverty reduction principles that seem to keep vulnerable communities trapped in a cycle of poverty with Sisyphean tendencies.

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Book Review: To Fool the Rain: Haiti’s Poor and Their Pathway to a Better Life

To Fool the Rain: Haiti's Poor and Their Pathway to a Better LifeTo Fool the Rain: Haiti’s Poor and Their Pathway to a Better Life by Steven Werlin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Helping families lift themselves out of poverty means helping them build income and wealth, but it is a social phenomenon as well,” wrote Steve Werlin, the author of To Fool the Rain: Haiti’s Poor and Their Pathway to a Better Life. “And one of the social change we try to effect involves working on the way members look at themselves.”

It is quite impressive how someone’s mind and attitude can alter and reset the course of one’s life. However, in order to eventually arrive at that mind reset some people require a substantive hand out, constant observation and follow-up; not simply a prescriptive hand up. When looking at the lowest income countries in the world like Haiti a vast array of NGOs work to alleviate some of its inherent problems with programs that address the root of poverty. Some provide work programs, educational programs, health care, or even microloan programs. But some of Haiti’s families are so extremely poor they cannot dream of qualifying for many of these programs because they have virtually nothing. In fact, they live in such cyclical poverty they cannot feed themselves on a daily basis, or even every other day. In Haiti’s deepest far reaches and unfathomable rural areas are families who live in abject poverty far away from roads and towns. They require the most cumulative social programs designed by worldwide NGOs that specialize in the nuances of poverty reduction and eradication.

In Haiti, for example, one of those social programs is called “Chemen lavi miyo (CLM)” in Creole or a Pathway to a Better Life that is run by Fonkoze, Haiti’s largest microfinance organization. Even as a microfinance enterprise Fonkoze realized that to reach the poorest Haitian families means to provide overarching programs that teach rural women who qualify for their CLM program financial and entrepreneurial skills as well as life and relationship skills.

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Book Review: Somalian Memoirist Writes About FGM in Raw Detail

The Girl with Three Legs: A MemoirThe Girl with Three Legs: A Memoir by Soraya Mire

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Female genital mutilation or FGM for short is one of the most horrific crimes against girls and women in the world. According to the World Health Organization over 100 million women and girls live with the adverse effects of FGM, a traditional practice where a girl’s external genitalia are removed. The pain is excruciating oftentimes performed without anesthesia by older women in a village and according to traditional customs. Girls are then sewn up and a tiny hole is all that remains – tiny enough that only a Q-tip can get inside. FGM causes massive health problems for women and girls who sometimes cannot urinate and have unbearable menses because the blood cannot sufficiently flow out of a girl’s body. Once a girl is married, many times very early, sex is painful and when she has a baby its head cannot breach the massive, thick scar tissue that forms from FGM causing its death. And many women find themselves then having a fistula. This happens more times than not. FGM remains a destructive circle of violence against women and girls particularly when after birth women are re-sewn in order to remain “chaste”.

Soraya-MireThe best telling of FGM is in The Girl with Three Legs: A Memoir written by FGM activist and Somalian woman, Soraya Mire. Mire was 13 years old living in Mogadishu, Somalia when she underwent FGM. Her day started beautifully with her mother going out to shop and buy beautiful clothes, but the day ended in a strange house where her genitalia was forcefully removed and literally thrown to stray dogs to eat. It was a horrific experience for Mire, she writes. It took her many, many years before she decided to come forward to help prevent girls from undergoing FGM in her homeland and beyond.

After undergoing FGM Mire became extremely sick with swollen legs because urine and blood could never pass through her vagina as it should. Her parents who were wealthy tried everything to help her except reverse the procedure. They called in a Chinese doctor to perform acupuncture. They went to a local doctor who prescribed her medicine because they thought she had gone crazy, but it didn’t work. They also took Mire to local healers and, of course, that didn’t help either. She lived in pain for years until she went to college in Europe and discovered she has been secretly married to one of her cousins.

FGM and an arranged marriage were the ultimate signs of betrayal for her independence and for autonomy over her body. It took Mire several moves in Europe, escaping from her husband, and an eventual and final move to the United States before she found her voice to create her film about FGM, Fire Eyes.

Amid death threats and being shunned by her people and even countries that didn’t want her showing her film she found resolve in spreading the word about the dangers of FGM. Through sheer determination and a willingness to move forward with her story despite many Somalian’s desire for her to keep her mouth shut about FGM Mire found herself at Sundance and even on the Oprah show. She was also instrumental in helping to make FGM a felony in the United States as more Somalian refugees came to America and tried to continue the practice with their daughters.

Knowing and understanding the full scope of FGM is difficult if you haven’t gone through it or know anyone who has, but Mire brings the ugliness of this violence against women and girls to her readers in raw detail. Anyone who reads this will stand against the practice in any way they can.

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How can you help?

Join the DFID Thunderclap against FGM.

Support UNFPA and UNICEF‘s joint campaign to end FGM.