“Portrait of Poverty: European women and children” is the title of a special report aired on December 7 in the international television channel “Euronews”. The extended feature examines the scale and importance of the poverty on the old continent and the increasing number of people who are facing serious problems of survival. In the TV report are included interviews with two Bulgarian experts – Dani Koleva from the National Network for Children and Dobromir Mitev from the European Anti-Poverty Network, as well as the story of a Bulgarian child whose family is supported by the Social Activities and Practices Institute.
The shocking truth is that according to Eurostat, the official EU statistics agency, around a quarter of Europe’s population are now at risk of falling into poverty. That adds up 122 million people in the Europe we think of as developed. Women and children are the groups most vulnerable to poverty in the 21st century. If we have 26 million children living in poverty across Europe – something is wrong, commented the authors of the broadcast.
Firstly though, we have to distinguish between two different definitions of poverty. Firstly, there are almost one billion people in the world living on less than two dollars a day. They have little food and water, no real housing, few clothes and no medicine. For these people it’s a daily struggle to stay alive.
These people a living in absolute poverty. Secondly, there are those people who, in their respective countries, earn or receive, less than what is needed to maintain a minimum standard of living. They may struggle to meet basic needs like food, housing and medical expenses. These people are living in RELATIVE poverty, and it is these people, and people at risk of joining them, that Euronews is looking at this week.
The EU’s goal is to bring 20 million people out of relative poverty by 2020. But the financial crisis over the past eight years has put more people at risk of falling into poverty, especially women. A quarter of women across the EU are at risk of poverty or social exclusion (Eurostat).
The report on Euronews shows a few examples of France and Italy. The reporter Fanny Gauret also visited Bulgaria and met with the family of 13-year-old Simeon from Sofia. The boy says that before his family lived in a room that was cold and humid, full of insects. Now the family of Simeon has moved to a new home and receive support from social workers from the organization Social Activities and Practices Institute (SAPI). So the family is in a proper home, Simeon continued to attend school and acquire new social skills.
Euronews reporter sought comment from Dani Koleva, Program Director at the National Network for Children. “The government should support our organizations and social authorities to provide adequate services for vulnerable children and families, said Dani. “This needs a systematic approach. It requires the different sectors like education, health, social services to work together.”
More than half of Bulgaria’s children are at risk. Douhomir Minev is the Chairman of the European Anti-Poverty Network for Bulgaria: “I would say that there are two reasons for child poverty.The first one is dysfunction at a family level, the other is dysfunction at a societal level, the weakness of institutions. We should first and foremost prevent parents falling into poverty.” And Dani Koleva of Bulgaria’s National Network for Children says that when people fall in to poverty, society loses too: “Europe loses citizens who could contribute to the economy. The problem with poverty is that it really affects one generation to the next, so actually we are seeing that Europe is getting worse. It needs to be supported by real actions, with projects, programs and funding.”
Euronews reporter spoke to Jana Hainsworth, the Secretary General of Eurochild – a network of organisations working with and for children across the continent. “I think it’s much more than funding – this is about mindset change and that has to come from bottom up. Of course the EU has a very very important role and it has had an important role not only on funding but also on legislative change, and what we are unfortunately seeing now in the current austerity and economic crisis, is that the pressure is off! They feel this is not a priority anymore. If we are going to deliver economic growth in the long term we need to keep the priority on equality between men and women. In the society there is this myth that its about lazy adults who don’t want to work and that is so much not the reality. They might not be able to hold down a job because they have, caring for elderly or caring for children, because of the transport challenges they have to get to work whilst also taking children to school. And our societies are not really constructed to support people to stay in employment over time”, added Jana Hainsworth.
You can watch the full Euronews report here