In Dakar, youngsters from a very poor neighborhood come together to transform an environmental disaster into an opportunity to rebuild relationships between them and mobilize local authorities to collaborate. In New York, a young woman questions the UN on the situation faced by the most disadvantaged young people in the world. In France, people living in very marginalized communities pitch in to mobilize their neighbors. They join many others moving from extreme poverty to social change on a new ATD Fourth World International website, Unheard Voices. A wide array of videos show how women and men living in extreme poverty can transform our societies and contribute to building a fairer world, based on their own lived experiences.
Alvenia Hutton, a 26-year-old African-American woman, describes how she got to know and take action as a part of ATD Fourth World in “From Brooklyn to the United Nations.” “My UN experiences [with ATD Fourth World] definitely introduced me to different cultures and different ways of living and it was so fascinating and enriching that I want to continue to see the good in everybody, to want better for myself, and to want more than what was in my surroundings.”
“What’s really fascinating,” says Kanokkarn Nakpassorn, the ATD Fourth World Volunteer Corps member who produced the video, “is that we can witness the different stages that have enabled Alvenia, over the years, to go from a Brooklyn Street Library to leading an event held at the UN’s headquarters during the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, on October 17, 2010.” Kanokkarn adds, “ATD Fourth World often shows us people in poverty engaging in dialogue, but rarely lets us see how they prepare for it. This is portrayed in the different films in a way that’s very tangible and topical from an international perspective.”
The multimedia project was developed following an international conference in 2009, when a World Bank senior official expressed his astonishment at the way in which people in extreme poverty were capable of speaking on their own behalf and on the behalf of others. “Senior officials like me are unaware of this. Everyone must be told. It will have an impact on our way of doing things,” he said at the time.
Indeed, the website will soon show how people in poverty are evaluating the Millennium Development Goals, working towards greater inclusion of what they have to say within the international community (watch “Millennium Development Goals – evaluation by those who live in poverty”.) It demonstrates how this work begins at a local level (“An example of joint decision-making,” in Angers, France) and can go on to international level: Emma, from Bolivia, reflects on representing her people at the UN in Geneva. Participation of this kind is spreading slowly but surely to other spheres of activity like the European Institutions, as an upcoming short will show.
Unheard Voices is a project led by the International Communications team at ATD Fourth World’s International Centre. The team is composed of Kanokkarn Nakpassorn, Jo-Lind Roberts, Laurent Ganau, Bruno Couder, and Philippe Hamel.