How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Narayan's Voices of the Poor
Narayan and colleagues did a study for the World Bank about poverty in 1999 and followed it up with a book in 2000. They note well-being as leading to peace of mind, happiness and harmony, while 'ill-being' results in humiliation, shame, anguish and grief.
Material well-being is simply defined as 'having enough'. This includes anything from food to assets to work. Assets here, include possessing or having use of such as toilets, bedding, land, livestock and so on. When you have enough of such things in your life, you can survive. Land, livestock and so on are essentials for rural farmers to grow their own food. For others, work provides the means of money for food.
Material ill-being includes a lack of food, livelihood, assets, money, housing and shelter.
With a sound body, we are able to work and sustain life. When the body is pain-free, we can feel comfortable and pay attention to other things. Socially, the appearance of the body can be important as a healthy appearance helps find a mate, while looking ill can result in rejection by others.
For a sound body we also need such as shelter, clothes and some way of regulating temperature (from fires to shade). Clean air and water is also important, though may only be noticed by those who lack such basics.
Physical ill-being includes hunger, pain, discomfort, exhaustion and poverty of time (having no time to rest and enjoy life).
Social well-being means being accepted as a member of a group where you can find a mate, settle down, have children. Raising this family requires being able to provide food and safety, while helping them to get a good start in life. Within the family and wider community, living at peace and in harmony with others helps this, as does having dignity and being respected.
Bad social relations include exclusion, rejection, isolation and loneliness.
Security means being safe in a number of ways, ranging from simple physical security through protection from criminals to the avoidance of war (a luxury that many poor people cannot avoid). It also means being able to be confident about the future and having security in old age.
Insecurity includes feelings of vulnerability, worry and fear.
Freedom and fairness are the basis of democracy, yet they are not always available to all, even in more enlightened countries. Those who are less well off are unable to do anything about any loss of freedom and may be oppressed by those with greater power. Freedom includes having options, the ability to choose which path to take, to go where one wants and to act in ways that may achieve one's goals.
When people are powerless, they may well feel helpless, frustrated and angry.
When we have psychological well-being, we can be happy, or at least contented. We can live with the peace of mind that our well-being will continue into the future. This can be helped in particular when we live in harmony with others and without conflict.
Psychological ill-being includes feelings of humiliation, shame, stigma, anguish, loss and grief.
In many ways, it makes sense when seeking to understand needs to ask those who have nothing about needs, rather than asking those whose needs are met, at least in part. This is what Narayan did in his long study.
Narayan, D. with Patel, R., Schafft, K., Rademacher, A. and Koch-Schulte, A. (1999). Can Anyone Hear Us? (Voices from 47 Countries), World Bank Poverty Group.
Narayan-Parker, D., Chambers, R., Shah, M.K. and Petesch, P. (2000). Voices of the Poor: 32 Crying Out for Change. New York, N.Y.: Published for the World Bank, Oxford University Press.
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