Building Poverty Museums

Just over a week ago, several Kiva staff members and Kiva Fellows (myself included) joined the president of Kenya, the prime minister of Zambia, the queen of Spain, the princess of the Netherlands, the former president of Peru, “inventor of micro-credit” Muhammad Yunus, and over a thousand others at the Africa-Middle East Microfinance Conference in Nairobi.

Not surprisingly, Muhammad Yunus was consistently the most interesting speaker throughout the four-day event (at least in my opinion).  He spoke on a variety of topics – a case study of his company’s work in Bangladesh, a presentation of his new film, “To catch a dollar,” social enterprise (re-sparking the Compartamos debate), etc – but something he said in passing on opening day is what stays with me the most:  “Let’s build poverty museums,” he said.

Immediately, I pictured someone walking through the MET or Smithsonian.  After marveling over an exhibit on how the pyramids of Egypt were built, he goes onto the next exhibition hall and is equally stunned over this thing called “poverty” and that it took so long to eradicate.  It’s a nice thought, poverty being something for history books and museums only, but how do we make that a reality?

Muhammad Yunus’s message was not to get overwhelmed by the size of poverty, but to concentrate on what you as one person could do.  What one person could you help get out of poverty?  What one thing could you do?  It’s hard not to notice how easily Kiva fits into this equation.

Marie Leznicki is a Kiva Fellow serving her placement with Alidé in Benin.  You can loan to one of Alidé’s clients by clicking here.

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