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A Philosophy Behind Our Mission

January 25, 2009

Human Rights and Poverty

The UN, World Bank, IMF, and similaimg_0955r institutions tend to measure poverty in terms of income and use those numbers to identify and fund development projects. There’s another group of development thinkers who look beyond income measurements of poverty.

Many people see poverty as existing on less than $1 a day (where many people do not exist in the formal economy at all thus making this measurement irrelevant). Or they measure poverty in terms of how many homes are built out of materials considered to be of higher standards to westerners (brick, cement as opposed to mud and sticks, despite the fact that certain materials might be better suited for local climates).

Many Indigenous groups (and their big-league representatives) have rejected the income/consumption definition of poverty on the grounds that not all people value wealth, TVs, etc. One thing that everyone values worldwide, across cultures, is art. Wealth for these people is not measured by a bank account, but by cultural knowledge, the right to enjoy life and express their believes and emotions, the right not to be controlled by others.

Indigenous definitions of poverty consider the denial of rights to pursue things that they value (rather than low income). Artfully AWARE will tap into the fact that art promotes the human rights of expression, joy and culture, and that this right is more universal than the right to purchase goods. Historically, the right to express minority cultures has been brutally suppressed. Almost all of these expressions are artistic in one way or another – theater as representing religious beliefs and telling history, architecture and worshiping buildings, clothing design, crafts, culinary arts, and the list continues.

Restoring art, then, is a means of promoting human rights. Restoring creativity in communities promotes freedom of self-expression and thus, self-determination.

Shana Montrose

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