Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence - Part 1

So following last weeks introduction to The Complexity Of Poverty, we're today going to have a look at how violence perpetuates poverty all around the world. I recently read a really insightful book called 'The Locust Effect'. Packed full of real life accounts, experiences, facts and statistics, Gary Haugan, the author of the book and founder of International Justice Mission, gives a really convincing case for the need to urgently address violence if we are serious about eradicating poverty around the world. The book starts off with a series of accounts that the author and his colleagues have experienced as lawyers in developing countries throughout the world, before going on to look at the route causes of violence and what can be done to prevent it destroying the lives of those living in poverty. I will use this post to talk you through just four of many accounts of violence that have affected those that we work with in Uganda. Next weeks post will be to look at the causes of violence and what Gary suggests can be done.   

When we think of global poverty we readily think of hunger, disease, homelessness, illiteracy, dirty water and a lack of education, but very few of us immediately think of the global poor’s chronic vulnerability to violence - the massive epidemic of sexual violence, forced labor, illegal detention, land theft, assault, police abuse, and oppression that lies hidden underneath the more visible deprivations of the poor.
— The Locust Effect



I often spend time chatting with families outside their homes in the back alleys of Katanga, Uganda. On one occasion in October 2014, I was chatting to a girl, perhaps 12 years old, who was cooking, preparing the food for her family before the expected heavy rains in the next hour. We were chatting about a number of things including how good her English was. She let me know that her Luganda (the Language of the Buganda people) wasn't very good because her family is from Northern Uganda. She, and later her mum, went on to tell me about how her village was destroyed by Kony and the LRA (Lord's Resistance Army), which meant they had to flee, eventually heading south for Kampala. Their life wasn't free of poverty before but at least it was surrounded by the comfort that comes with friends and family sharing the same culture, traditions and language. They are now living in a rapidly developing, international city, and struggling as they find out that life in Kampala looks very different to what they previously knew. 

Some 1.8 million people had been displaced and tens of thousands kidnapped, mutilated or killed.
— Samuel Okiror (IRIN Contributor)


Assault & Theft


James used to be a boda-boda driver, providing for his family by taxiing people around the city on his motorbike. This at least was the case until early 2013, when he accepted a job, driving a client to a quiet village suburb of Kampala. What James didn't realise, was the man he was driving only intended to direct James to a rural location, to beat him up with the steal bar he had hidden in the sleeve of his jacket and steal the bike. During my annual visit to Uganda in May 2013, I learned the extent of the damage. It wasn't simply 'a beating' but instead, a savage attack that left James hospitalised for a few months before being transferred to his parents home in the village, where he stayed bed-ridden for a further year. James had suffered severe brain trauma, which left him without any speech and without the mobility of his right arm.

Even relatively small losses of property through violent theft [...] can be debilitating to poor households - especially if it is one of their few productive assets like a tool, vehicle, or livestock.
— The Locust Effect

I spoke to James a few times when I returned in 2015 and 2016, communicating with a raise of the eyebrows for yes, a shake of the head for no and the limited use of his left arm as we play charades, all whilst he throws the washed clothes on the line to dry. I ask him a question and work through a range of answers until I get a positive response. James is mobile in his legs, with one arm and thankfully his mind seems fairly capable. He would love to find work again to help support his family but it is hard for him to retrain in a different career having been left in the condition he is in. Through all my interactions with James, he always seems super positive but I can only imagine how I would feel if I were left in the same position.

Through Hope for Life Katanga, the older of James's children are sponsored into school, whilst we have also helped by providing his wife with an Income Generating Grant, to expand her already established hairdressing business, in an attempt to compensate the loss of James's boda-boda business.       

Poor people, living off $1.00 to $2.50 dollars a day, simply cannot [pay to defend themselves]. So their cases do not move forward, there is no justice for those who abuse them.
— The Locust Effect


Domestic Abuse

Through the testimony of our staff and family relatives, we have now referred seven children to be fostered into new families because of various forms of abuse occurring within the home. We have dealt with acute sexual abuse, emotional and physical abuse, as well as parents withdrawing basic care from their children, as a result of drug abuse.

Micheal (10) lived in a home with his mother, stepfather and his children from a previous relationship. Whilst attending the catch-up class, our teachers started to get insight into Micheal's hidden life, with accusations of beatings coming from his step father and even occasionally from his mother. In time we learnt that the beatings from his mother were as a result of pressure from her partner (the stepfather would leave with all his financial security if the mother would not conform). We continued to monitor the situation, working with the family to see improvements but our staff continued to be concerned for Micheal's welfare. He was withdrawn from the family home and was fostered by another family outside of Katanga, through Retrak, a partner organisation. Fostering only happens with the consent and signed permission from the parents, local council leader and social workers, both at Hope for Life Katanga and Retrak. Through the whole process the social workers counsel the child, gauging their felt situation, as well as hearing explicitly the child's own future desires. The new family are providing Micheal with a decent standard of living, a loving safe home environment and access to an uninterrupted education. 

If ignored, Micheal would have received severe emotional and physical trauma that could further negatively impact his future, limiting his access to many beneficial opportunities.

In this story we get a hint of a cultural norm: a motivating factor for women to 'marry' is to gain financial security, even if that means big compromises.  

Violence [and the resulting trauma] significantly raises levels of depression, suicides, panic disorders, alcohol and substance abuse / dependence, and post-traumatic stress comparable to living in a war zone.
— The Locust Effect



Most conversations that are had with our nurse, social workers and counsellors are kept confidential between those who need to know. In my position I am not someone who needs to know the particulars of a personal situation, unless through understanding the situation we can better support families and individuals from a structural point of view. Rape, sexual violence and exploitation are all experiences of beneficiaries that our staff in Uganda deal with, which I need not know. I am informed however, when an individual is withdrawn from one of our programs and the broad reasons as to why.

Studies suggest that 48 percent of Ugandan women will be assaulted.
— The Locust Effect

Sarah (19) has a past of occasional education, attending school for a term or two at a time (on occasions when her parents have the required 'disposable income'). She applied for the chance to gain a scholarship through our program, which was accepted. She was enrolled onto a hairdressing course at a vocational training college in the Kampala and was due to start the following month. During this time it came apparent to us and the college that Sarah was pregnant. This college (as with most schools and colleges) wouldn't allow someone pregnant or with a child to attend training, so they withdrew her from the course.

The pregnancy was as a result of rape and of the first time she had "been with someone". Shame and the uncertainty as to what had actually happened kept Sarah quiet about the situation. Through one act of sexual violence, Sarah's life has completely changed: from enrolling onto a vocational course that will give her the necessary skills to earn a sustainable income, to being a young mother, who without any formal training or sufficient education, needs to look after and provide for both herself and her new child.          

Education for girls in the developing world has a spectacular rate of return in helping girls and their communities escape from poverty. But [...] violence against girls in the developing world has a devastating impact of their school attendance, their educational performance, their achievement levels, their self-esteem, and their physical and psychological health.
— The Locust Effect


I could go on sharing stories of violence: child sacrifice, FGM (Female Genital Mutilation), murder, corruption, a lack of state security inc. police brutality, abduction, sexual exploitation, slavery; all of which are detrimental for those who lack social standing, wealth & education, but I won't. We get the point. If you don't, buy the book and wait for next weeks instalment where we look at the causes of violence and what the author of The Locust Effect feels could/should be done. 

Join the conversation; what are your thoughts? Perhaps you can let us know by adding a comment below or on our Facebook page. Do you know someone who would love to weigh in on the conversation, click on the share buttons and let them know. Next weeks instalment we will looking at Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence - Part 2.