The best preparation for both representing an NGO organization at the United Nations as well as influencing international policy for the good begins with an understanding of what is happening at the grass roots level of a country. This is especially important as we see growing local and global inequalities. We are also aware of NGOs efforts to reach out to the most disadvantaged and to do this in a way that builds people’s own capacity to move out of extreme poverty.
The experience provided to Sr. Pat and myself by our Sisters while we were in India was a tremendous help for us to better understand: 1) causes of poverty, 2) effective methods to prepare people to control their own destinies and access their human rights, and 3) modeling ways to build cooperation for changing unjust systems that keep people in poverty.
As was stated in the recent Open Working Group on Sustainable Development, “growth and development are not the same”. An increase in a country’s GNP can easily mask growing inequality in a country where rural areas are inaccessible and often forgotten. Growing urban populations are often just as invisible. Monies intended for alleviation of inequalities often do not reach the intended populations.
As we moved from place to place where our Sisters minister, we experienced:
- Clinics where not only immediate needs are met in a timely fashion but also assistants are trained and the clients are taught preventative medicine;
- Women are prepared to use social analysis to help them on the road to empowerment and they have formed hundreds of leadership and microfinance groups;
- Villagers are inspired to help one another by means of street plays, illustrating methods to apply for work schemes, and human rights training is used to overcome barriers to access;
- Thousands of children, particularly girls, in the most remote villages are accessing learning and many of them come to residential schools managed by the Sisters who are assisted by staff that they have prepared;
- Provision is made for the differently-abled to receive academic and vocational learning; they receive physical and occupational therapy and move on to the work sector;
- Children and young people in schools where those with more advantages can attend are learning activism on behalf of marginal groups as they also care for the earth;
- Sisters meet regularly with other NGOs who work in areas of environmental concerns, human trafficking, promotion of human rights, and education for all.
We saw very specific examples of concerns and responses to those concerns which will help me in my role of advocating for international system change here at the United Nations. Thank you, Sisters of the Assumption and Visitation Provinces for the invitation to experience India and thank you for your goodness to us in so many ways!