Addressing the issue of the rural poor

Posted Thursday September 10, 2015 by Hazel Durbridge

Yesterday I had a massage. This has been a very quiet week with no trips. I have been just enjoying my last few days and beginning to pack up and give away. Giving things away sometimes brings out the worst in people. I took a big bag of things in to work, like some old phones, a calculator, a cagoule, jewellery etc and asked all the people I had worked closely with to choose something. Quite a few wanted the whole bag! I got to the end and left a steel thermos flask for an old deaf guy and someone took it before he got back to his desk!

The massage was M (one of the economic migrants I wrote about previously) trying to wring the last bit of cash out of the ‘rich’ westerner. I didn’t really want it, but she kept bargaining and bargaining over the price and was obviously so desperate to get something out of me I gave in. She wasn’t as thorough as Paula who is a Hindu woman I have had for the last 22 years, but she has obviously got experience pounding up to 8 bodies a day in Hong Kong.

She began with my feet and what I always find amazing is how they can pick up my tension spots from my feet. I love massages. I think they are an excellent preventative therapy. Touch is so healing.

 

FOCUS AREA 2: Addressing the issue of the Rural Poor

In the next ten years Batticaloa will remain an area where fish, cattle (milk) and agriculture will predominate. Tourism is still in a fledgling state and not understood by local people.

However, doing more of the same interventions is not working.

Public Service staff from the highest to the lowest level must recognise that they are what the title suggests – providing a public service – and ensure the dignity of every individual is realised in how they are treated. The community needs to feel comfortable about seeking support and feeling they will be heard. Batticaloa District Secretariat has public days on Mondays and Wednesdays when key staff must be in situ, but the feedback is that some officials in community areas are not as approachable.

Benefits are not enough: The general consensus of those working outside government circles is that Samurdhi payments are not enough, nor do they cover all the poor. Some people get missed out. As in benefits systems generally some people are claiming who do not need it because they believe to do so also raises their opportunities of other benefits just as housing programmes etc.

Encouraging a changing mind set – from welfare to development: Post the war people had lost everything. Helping organisations were in relief mode and people expected welfare. We are now 5 years down the line from the end of the war and that mind-set needs to change to development and partnership.

Letting go of the past also involves not labelling those who were active and continuing to harass and punish them and their children. Suicide rates are continuing to increase locally, in part due to post war trauma.

Plan to be at the interface long term: All of the services operating at the interface are adamant that staff need to ‘be with local people’ in order to change and motivate them and it takes a long time. Psycho social programmes to address issues such as alcoholism need 6 months. One day training events are not sufficient.

Reinforce messages face to face by front line staff: There are a myriad of issues that local departments want to get across to rural communities. Workers in INGOs and NGOs are already talking to them about issues such as

  • health and nutrition including the benefits of drinking milk and eating milk products such as curd rather than selling them and buying less nutritional items
  • alcohol abuse, domestic violence, young marriages. These same workers could also carry the messages about sustainable fishing, keeping irrigation channels clear etc.

Utilise employees who do not have enough to do: More thought needs to go into getting the workers behind desks with not enough to do out in the field one or two days a week spreading awareness and encouraging small projects out in the communities even if this requires co-ordination on a transport front and making sure vehicles go out full.

Continue to build on collaborative working: see Focus Area 4

Batticaloa District Development Plan DRAFT 2013

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