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No one wants to live in poverty; likewise, no one wants to live in a world where there is poverty, and yet it is an ongoing problem that affects millions each year. It is also often the cause of other global issues like violence, conflict or lack of education. On the other hand, alleviating poverty leads to win-win situations as it is often the individuals who are living in poverty that end up touching the lives of those trying to remedy the situation. Through Malik’s story, we have insight into one individual’s experience of poverty. We learn that one ordinary citizen can help break down the walls of poverty by doing for one person what he or she wishes could be done for everyone.


Copyright © 2018

The Iceberg series was inspired by the Perception Change Project’s Iceberg Infographic, a visual demonstration of what the media choose to broadcast and what they tend to overlook or ignore when reporting on global challenges in the context of the United Nations.

The production of this booklet has been made possible with financial support from Fondation pour Genève. Special thanks go to the Division of Conference Management at UN Geneva for editing, translating and printing the series, and to Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, United States of America, for illustrating it.

Printed at the United Nations Printing Section at UN Geneva, 2018.

Written by Kirsten Deall Illustrated by Hannah Barr


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the Iceberg Collection Iceberg Education Poverty Youth Climate Change Gender Health Rights Peace The series is created by the Perception Change Project team in the Office of the Director-General at UN Geneva.

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Poverty Poverty is about more than the daily struggle to make ends meet. Poverty can also lead to hunger and malnutrition. Children who live in poverty are less likely to go to school. People who live in poverty may find themselves living on the margins of society, with limited access to basic services and little say in decision-making. Economic growth may not work for them, as it does not always provide stable jobs or promote equality. “Extreme poverty� is defined by the international community as living on less than $1.25 a day. Worldwide, extreme poverty has more than halved since 1990. This is a remarkable achievement. Yet, one in five people in developing regions still lives in extreme poverty and millions more are only just above this $1.25 threshold or are at risk of slipping back into poverty.

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My name is Malik. I’m a car guard at an open-air car park of a shopping centre. I’ve been living in this city for 35 years. That makes me quite old. I’m 45 to be exact. Growing up, I lived in a hut in a small village with my mother, my father and my two sisters. My father was a violent man, so one morning, after my father had left for work, my mother packed all our belongings into one bundle and told us children that we had to leave immediately and quietly. We weren’t allowed to ask questions until we were on the bus and far away from our old home.

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My mother took us to a big city where there were lots of wealthy people with important jobs, living in big houses behind high walls. It wasn’t a pretty city, but for some reason it still attracted all these rich people. There were also many homeless people looking for work, so we felt like we belonged. I remember when we first arrived how new and different everything felt. We didn’t speak the language, which made it hard. It was noisy and busy all the time. I watched how impatient motorists blared their car horns at the stalled traffic. Kids in the back would look nervous about being late for school. My mother noticed I was staring at them and laughed. She said, “all people have problems, but some problems are bigger than others.” 7


After rush hour, when the roads were a bit quieter, I would help my mother look for recyclables in the rubbish bins. We would take these recyclables to a scrap merchant in exchange for some money. We still couldn’t afford to buy nice clothes or go to school, but at least we didn’t go hungry. My sisters would make beaded jewellery and sell it on street corners. This was our childhood: we lived from hand to mouth and were constantly looking for new ways to make some money.

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When I was about 17 years old, I decided to get off the streets. This meant moving to a crowded township on the outskirts of the city. At first, I was hesitant because I needed what the city could offer – money – but I knew that a long daily commute into the city was preferable to sleeping rough. The township was overpopulated, which caused many problems. The water pressure was low, making it difficult to wash clothes, cook, bathe and clean the house. The sewers were often blocked and overflowing. There were dangerous – and illegal – electrical connections. You may wonder what was so appealing about moving there, but it was better than living on the streets. At least I had a roof over my head and I was part of a community. 11


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Shortly after moving I became a father to a beautiful baby girl. I hadn’t planned on becoming a father, but this baby was the best gift I had ever received. Sadly, her mother left us – she did not want a child – so a friendly neighbour helped me raise my daughter. Eventually, this neighbour and I fell in love, got married and had two children of our own. Two boys. 13


By this time, I had found a job as a car guard. There was no salary, only the tips from the shoppers whose cars I guarded. For the first two years, at the end of every day, my boss would make me hand over 60 per cent of all the tips I’d made. When my – wealthy – clients found out about this, they reported him and he immediately stopped taking a cut. I was so happy! I had more money for my family. 14


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I spent a lot of time travelling into the city every day. I would leave home before the sun rose and walk to the taxi rank – it was the cheapest way to travel. Many people relied on taxis for transport so there would be long queues. Then, when I arrived in the city, I would walk for almost an hour to get to work. 16


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Occasionally, one of my sons would come with me. While I would guard the car park, he would stand on the street corner. When the cars stopped at the red traffic light, he would weave between cars asking for money. Many drivers would shake their heads without making eye contact as a signal for him to move on, but most of them just looked past him. 18


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One day, I looked over at my son. He was on the pavement with a young girl whom I didn’t know. She was handing over some items to him. From a bag, my son pulled out a second-hand laptop. He stared at it, emotionless at first. Then reality sunk in. He hugged the laptop tight and ran towards me. “Baba! [Father!] Look!�, he shouted. The girl was standing with her mother in the background, smiling. It was such a generous gift that it made me, a grown man, cry. The young girl and her mother walked over to us. They said they often saw me when they did the shopping. They asked questions that no rich person had ever asked me before. Where was I from? Where did I live and what was it like there? How long did it take me to get to work? How many children did I have? They were interested in me.

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I have seen a lot in my life: hurt, fear, anger, violence, abuse. I have seen poverty from the inside and wealth from the outside. I have seen happiness in rich people and a different kind of happiness in poor people. I have seen a lot. But when the girl and her mother took the time to talk to us and gave us something that would be useful, I saw something unique: I saw kindness. I realized something that day. The richness of life does not come from the things you own, but from the things you give; the most valuable gift of all being time. 23


Malik is just a fictional story. But there are many similar real-life stories like his of children and adults in poverty trying to overcome daily obstacles and a few who are able to break free from poverty either from their own persistence or from the support of others.

Peter “We were a family of eight, with too meagre an income to cover our basic needs. My father was a primary school teacher. This is one of the lowest paying jobs in Kenya. To make matters worse, he would spend half of his salary in the village liquor dens drinking local brew. We did not have enough food, nor sufficient water. We had no electricity, no good house, no clothing, no nothing – we struggled to live. We used to live on a single meal per day that consisted of a boiled mixture of maize and beans. Beans were scarce and expensive and so the number of beans in the mixture was extremely small. Most of the available beans would be reserved for the youngest of my brothers. My family suffered from malnutrition and we were all emaciated. Our house was mud-walled and had a grassthatched roof, which would leak terribly when the rains fell. The rains brought with them the Anopheles mosquitoes, which transmitted malaria. I was the most vulnerable to malaria infections in my family. Much of the family income would be spent paying my hospital bills. I vividly remember once praying to God to take my soul while lying in the hospital bed. We would share one textbook among ten pupils, a desk among three or four. Others would sit on the floor. We had only a single teacher for all the subjects, and to make it even harder we studied on an empty stomach all day! During class breaks we would rush to the nearby


baobab tree to see if there were any fruits to pick. We rarely found any since baobab trees are in season only once a year. While I was in class 4 (age 9), the head teacher informed us that we were to benefit from a ‘school feeding’ programme to be spearheaded by WFP in collaboration with the Government. All the pupils would get a cup of nutritious porridge for breakfast. They would also get five biscuits to take home in the evening. It was the best thing that could have happened to me and to all the pupils in my school. Our parents now had to worry less about where our next meal would come from. They gave me energy and a reason to work hard and hope for the future. I’m sure the programme also helped build up my immune system and reduce the number of days I was absent from school for sickness. The school meals continued through to class 8. I maintained the top position in my class. This allowed me to attend one of the best secondary schools in Kenya. Then in 2007, I enrolled in Moi University’s Engineering School and graduated with an honours degree in chemical and process engineering in December 2012. Compared to where I have come from, it’s a different world. So much has changed. I am currently working as a product development manager with an agrochemical and fertilizer development and distribution company in Nairobi. I can today afford a balanced diet and eat whenever I feel like it. I am able to give back. I’m able to pay my bills and provide for all of my basic needs. No more poverty, my future looks very optimistic with new opportunities opening up gradually. I have carried out research projects in agriculture and environmental projects as well as food processing projects over the years. Currently I am investing some of my own money in greenhouse farming and I’d like to get production up to a level that could sustain a small processing plant. I take every opportunity to encourage youths to take up modern farming. Investing in this area means not only jobs, but also food security.” World Food Programme (WFP).


Moussa “I was born and raised in Niamey, Niger. My father is Malian and my mother comes from the Niger. I have moved a few times in my life. When I was eight years old my parents sent me to Agadez in the north of the Niger, where I lived with my sister and her husband for four years. I liked it over there and if it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t have gone to school — she helped me a lot. Due to our circumstances, I couldn’t stay with her and returned to my mother in Niamey. My father was gone. I still don’t know what happened…

“My family is pure blood Nigerien. We don’t let anyone sit back and let their life go to waste. My mum convinced me to pick up my studies or training so I started learning to be a carpenter. During those studies, I got in touch with Caritas and the NGO Environment Development Action in the Third World (ENDA). They visited one of the Caritas workshops I was attending. They must have noticed that I was still young but very driven. I think they also saw I needed more guidance in order to develop my skills and so they put me in touch with MAEJT in the Niger. This organization informs children of their rights, helps them to battle poverty and creates a network of fraternity among African youth.

“First I started volunteering with a lot of passion. I found something that I liked and that I was good at: coordinating and helping at the same time. Soon I participated in their training programmes and then the big moment arrived: they asked me if I wanted to do an internship for six months in Dakar. Of course, I said yes.


“I arrived in Dakar and moved in with a Senegalese host family. I had difficulties adapting at first, their lifestyle was different than mine. They like to get dressed up, and they dress well! They like to dream and they don’t give up, even when they don’t succeed. I admire that. One thing the Senegalese can learn from us is to waste less food. If a Senegalese person sees a rotten tomato he throws it away. In the Niger, we keep it, cut out the bad parts, dry the rest and use it as food or sell it. We don’t let anything go to waste!

“I have lived in Keur Massar, close to Dakar, for 11 years now. I go back to the Niger every year. I love my country and I like my work here in Senegal. I often compare the people of my home country to camels: endurance, always finding a solution and often on the move. The Senegalese are like lions: proud, graceful and full of energy. Except when it is too hot.” I am a Migrant, campaign of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Toak “I was a carpenter at home [in South Sudan] so, when I heard about the chance to make things here in Gambela, Ethiopia, I knew I could do a good job,” said Toak sitting outside his shelter.

As he speaks, one of his daughters sleeps in the shade of the veranda he added to the entrance of his shelter. His craftsmanship is evident from looking around the area where he lives with his wife and children, like the handmade, intricately woven wood and grass chicken coop.


“I teach the others how to make their shelters, together with some [local community] carpenters from Gambela. I enjoy seeing people learn. It takes time as we start with the basics. I am looking forward to the new part of the work, which will be making furniture,” said Toak, while sitting in a handmade bamboo chair, a prototype for the ones he will make for camp residents in the coming months, along with beds. Toak is one of four carpenters from the refugee community employed by IOM. He has 10 support workers under his guidance.

Despite everything being taken away from him, Toak has used his ingenuity to create things for himself and his neighbours. For refugees in Gambela, helping others create a safe place to live in is one of the greatest gifts that can be given. I am a Migrant, IOM Campaign

Richard “When I left Zimbabwe in 2004 to look for a job in South Africa things were really challenging economically. I knew I had to do something in order for me to see the success I was dreaming of every day. I migrated because I knew there were greener pastures somewhere out there.

“I knew there were a lot of opportunities in South Africa. The economy was developed, the infrastructure was nice; it was refreshing to be there. My plan was to get myself a job and continue with my studies but life had other plans for me.


“I stayed 18 months jobless until I almost gave up. I received a call for a job interview to work at one of the major banks. And I got the job! I worked for a few years until I ventured into business. I never looked back and the hustle continues.

“Being a migrant without a support system, family, relatives or anyone that you know can be very difficult. I was fortunate to have some of my family around. As a migrant, you learn to persevere because you are away from your comfort zone. You don’t have a family structure to lean on.

“You learn to become a little more ‘thick-skinned’. You go through challenges and you also become street-smart. You learn that people will make you promises that don’t materialize. You become wiser as you get older and you begin to realize that certain things are not good for you. I have spent the bulk of my adulthood as migrant and I learned a few things which I’m very grateful for.

“I believe South Africa is an open country where there is a lot of room for migrants to make it. There are enough opportunities for both South Africans and migrants because ultimately we are all Africans and the borders that separate us are just artificial borders. We should be able to move, work and be productive for the great of the continent and not be nationalistic in one country.


“My journey has been interesting. My first three years were very difficult. It was tough but I managed to pull through. Twelve years later I look back and appreciate what I have gone through. I look back and realize I am fortunate to be in my position. I appreciate that home is not that far away. Many migrants are very far from their homes. Being a migrant is not easy, you face a lot of challenges but you learn to persevere.” I am a Migrant, IOM Campaign

Christine Christine, 14, lives in a camp for displaced people near the international airport here in the Haitian capital. “The only thing I know is that I know nothing,” says this energetic girl, who cites Socrates as her motivation for going to school.

“A person without education is a life without examination,” she says, paraphrasing the ancient philosopher. “You have to study and study to be a big philosopher, a great intellectual.” And Christine has done just that, even though she was out of school for three months following the earthquake that struck Haiti in January, destroying her home and displacing her family. Christine’s tattered notebooks, filled with detailed anatomy sketches, are a testament to her desire to become a doctor. And Christine’s heart goes out to her siblings, who are not in school. Her 15-year-old brother, Jean Renee, has been out of school since just before the quake when he was forced to drop out. His mother could not afford to pay the school fees and had to make the difficult choice of sending just one of her three children to classes. Now Jean Renee goes to a family friend’s garage each


day to work as a mechanic’s apprentice. “If I cannot send him to school, I want him to at least learn a trade and stay out of trouble,” says his mother. Meanwhile, Christine’s sister Afenyoose, 9, longs to go to school but cannot because it is simply too expensive. Even for Christine, however, there are barriers to education. For example, teacher absenteeism is a reality in Haiti, because many teachers do not have the resources to get to their jobs. “I sometimes don’t want to go to school because our teachers are not there,” says Christine. Christine’s mother sells second-hand tennis shoes that she gets on consignment. She meticulously cleans them with a toothbrush. This is how she supports her family and pays for her daughter’s school fees. Her objective is to get out of the camp and give her children a better life. “My mother wasn’t able to study. This is why she wants us to go school, so we don’t go through the same difficulties she did,” says Christine. United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

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8statistic Each

is a

personal success

These are just a few examples of the positive statistics that should be making headlines. As the numbers are changing daily, please see the websites of the organizations concerned for the most up-to-date information. • Since 1976, UN-Habitat and others have helped 9.8 million people obtain affordable housing.

• 59 per cent of adults living with HIV were receiving lifelong antiretroviral treatment in 2017.

• In 2016, the housing conditions of 3 million people improved through construction, rehabilitation, incremental improvements, repairs or through partnerships with the private sector that provided better shelter.

• In 2015, fewer people became newly infected with HIV than in any year since 1991.

• 2.1 million people now have the potential to improve their housing conditions as a result of advocacy efforts led by UN-Habitat. • In 2016, 82.2 million people received food or cash for food from WFP. • In 2016, 47 million people ate higher-quality and more varied food thanks to WFP. • In 2017, 18.3 million children received school meals or take-home meals through WFP. • In 2016, 4 million pregnant and nursing women received special nutritious food from WFP. • In 2016, 76 per cent of all pregnant women living with HIV around the world received medicines that prevented HIV transmission to their babies.

• There were 45 per cent fewer HIVrelated deaths globally in 2015 than in 2005 due to a massive expansion of antiretroviral therapy. • In 2016, by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) helped avert 11.7 million unintended pregnancies. • In 2017, remittances to low- and middle-income countries totalled $466 billion, more than three times the amount of official development assistance. • More than 1 billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty since 1990.

• In 1990, nearly half of the population in the developing regions lived on less than $1.25 a day. This rate had dropped to 14 per cent b y 2015.


International Geneva The city of Geneva lies in the southwestern tip of Switzerland and boasts some of the country’s most recognized qualities. The spectacular views of the surrounding mountains capture first-time visitors and long-standing residents alike, its competitive financial centre attracts business persons from around the world, its quality of life is second to none and, above all else, Geneva hosts a high number of international organizations. This led to the term “International Geneva� being coined. It all started in 1863, when the Red Cross was founded in Geneva to protect victims of armed conflicts. Today, people come together in this city to address not only humanitarian needs but also challenges related to peace, health, science, human rights, migration, climate change and more. International Geneva unites international organizations, academic institutions, an international business community, many non-governmental organizations and the permanent representatives of 178 Member States of the United Nations. The lives being affected by International Geneva extend well beyond Geneva itself and the leitmotif that runs through its work is the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals are the way that International Geneva, together with its many partners across the world, fights against poverty, prevents violence, protects the planet and does so much more. Geneva may be small in size, its reach is global. It is the venue where the world crafts solutions.


The Sustainable Development Goals In an era when we are bombarded with negative news, it is easy to feel discouraged and unequipped to improve the world we live in. Thankfully, to address the many problems, world leaders have adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: a set of 17 goals that are humanity’s roadmap for transforming our planet into a better place. The goals reach everyone, they leave no one behind, they are all interconnected and they are everyone’s responsibility. We have everything we need to help everyone thrive and reach their potential. Together, let’s create a world where peace, rights, and wellbeing become a reality.


The Perception Change Project Time and again, when people hear about the United Nations for the first time, their eyes light up. Especially children. The comfort and reassurance we feel knowing that there is an organization that brings the entire world together, for peace, rights, and well-being, is unparalleled. We don’t need to explain why there is a need for such an organization. We all get it. It’s there, for all of us. And it’s in International Geneva. At the same time, this feeling of awe and security fades away quickly because we live in tumultuous times and of course, the reality is different. We have ups and downs and we are also constantly adapting to address new challenges. News stories often focus on the negative, while we all take the positive for granted. It’s been part of our nature to put the spotlight on issues that need to be fixed rather than celebrate what we are good at. But the mission and underlying impact of the work of the United Nations and its partners remains the same, and we don’t always realize it in our day to day living. The good news is that this constellation of organizations that makes up International Geneva is still there, carrying out its noble mission. And it belongs to all of us. For it to thrive, we all need to recognize its value, its impact and make sure it can do what it was designed to do. This is what the Perception Change Project has set out to do and it succeeds every time eyes light up when they hear about the United Nations, just like they did the first time.


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Copyright © 2018

The Iceberg series was inspired by the Perception Change Project’s Iceberg Infographic, a visual demonstration of what the media choose to broadcast and what they tend to overlook or ignore when reporting on global challenges in the context of the United Nations.

The production of this booklet has been made possible with financial support from Fondation pour Genève. Special thanks go to the Division of Conference Management at UN Geneva for editing, translating and printing the series, and to Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, United States of America, for illustrating it.

Printed at the United Nations Printing Section at UN Geneva, 2018.

Written by Kirsten Deall Illustrated by Hannah Barr


No one wants to live in poverty; likewise, no one wants to live in a world where there is poverty, and yet it is an ongoing problem that affects millions each year. It is also often the cause of other global issues like violence, conflict or lack of education. On the other hand, alleviating poverty leads to win-win situations as it is often the individuals who are living in poverty that end up touching the lives of those trying to remedy the situation. Through Malik’s story, we have insight into one individual’s experience of poverty. We learn that one ordinary citizen can help break down the walls of poverty by doing for one person what he or she wishes could be done for everyone.

Profile for Perception Change Project (PCP)

ICEBERG SERIES #3 - Malik (English)  

ICEBERG SERIES #3 - Malik (English)  

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