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"What is poverty?" - travelling questions

study travel learn while travelling Guinea Bissau street

We are the students from the Necessary Teachers Training College, travelling for four months by bus through North-West African countries. We are trying to stay away from the touristic approach and are willing to know better the countries we are passing by and their people. It’s not a surprise that environment and living conditions in African countries are completely different from the European standards. It is changing from country to country and every new landscape raises tens of new questions, but some of them keep confronting and following you wherever you go.

Poverty is the concept that raises many controversial discussions in our bus and elsewhere. Who is poor? What is poverty? Is poverty in global North different from the one in global South? Do people realize that they are poor? If so, why do not they change that?  Is poverty only an economical measure or is it more ideological, mental? Who has a right to define, who is poor? Whose responsibility is it to take care of the poor: local government, foreign funds or people’s themselves? Why don't rich change the things? Is poverty an obstacle for people to be happy?

These are the questions that constantly move back and forth our bus. Especially after visiting, according to multiple statistics, one of the poorest countries in the world Guinea-Bissau or getting slapped straight to the face by the living environment in Mauritania, where the poorest and the richest live side by side. Also, the contradictive feelings that during our bus travel (not including the expenses of the bus) we are living on probably the lowest budget in our lifetimes and still, we are way richer than the majority of people around us.

These and similar experiences made all these questions circulate in my mind. I started to look for the answers. I do not think there could be the one and only answer to this question: why poor are poor? After talking with many locals from the countries we have travelled, visiting ministries, talking with businessmen, digging deeper into the history of the continent and some research about the global policies of modern times, I must say that it is a huge network of complex and interrelated reasons that compliment 

Karolina Kazlauskaite DNS2016