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From the World Bank Publications Services

Can Anyone Hear Us?   Volume 1 of Voices of the Poor

by Deepa Narayan with Raj Patel, Kai Schafft, Anne Rademacher and Sarah Koch-Schulte - 2000

Read the complete report (1.7 MB) or download by chapter:

Front & back cover of publication (350K)

“My colleagues and I decided that in order to map our own course for the future, we needed to know about our clients as individuals. We launched a study entitled ‘Voices of the Poor’ and spoke to them about their hopes, their aspirations, their realities. What is it that the poor reply when asked what might make the greatest difference in their lives? They say, organizations of their own so that they may negotiate with government, with traders, and with nongovernmental organizations. Direct assistance through community-driven programs so that they may shape their own destinies. Local ownership of funds, so that they may put a stop to corruption. They want nongovernmental organizations and governments to be accountable to them.… These are strong voices, voices of dignity.” — James D. Wolfensohn, President, the World Bank Group Address to the Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors, September 28, 1999

Preface and Chapter 1: Listening to the Voices of the Poor (160K)
Foreword - Acknowledgments
Conceptual Framework: Examining Poverty Through Institutions
Defining Institutions
Poverty amid Plenty: Institutions and Access
Approaches to Poverty Assessment
What Is a Participatory Poverty Assessment?
Methodology of the Study
Issues Addressed
The Data Set
Systematic Content Analysis
Limitations of the Study
Some Final Thoughts on Method

Chapter 2: Definitions of Poverty (220K)
Poverty Is Multidimensional
Material Well-Being
Food Security
Psychological Well-Being
Power and Voice
Cultural and Social Norms
State-Provided Infrastructure
The Assets of the Poor
Physical Capital
Human Capital
Social Capital
Environmental Assets: Decline and Shocks
Assets and Vulnerability
Vulnerability within the Household and on the Job

Case Study 2.1: Focus on Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union
Institutional Collapse, Sudden Poverty
Humiliation and Shame
Coming to Terms with Poverty
Rural and Urban Areas: Different Assets, Different Needs
Vulnerability and Despair
Attitudes toward Government

Chapter 3: State Institutions (331K)
Understanding Institutions
Effectiveness and Relevance
Corruption and Distrust
Disempowerment and Humiliation
Vulnerability to Collapse of the State
Barriers to Access: Rules, Regulations, and Information
The Role of Local Officials and Community Elite

Case Study 3.1: Access to Health Care
Costs and Corruption
Gender and Health
Children and Health
Poverty, Gender, and Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Case Study 3.2: Education
Class Bias
Children in Institutions, Former Soviet Union

Chapter 4: Civil Society Institutions (215K)
Nongovernmental Organizations
NGOs: Resources for Poor Communities
Limitations of NGOs
NGO-State Links
Community-Based Organizations
Bonding and Bridging Organizations
Differences among Networks
Building New Partnerships
Neighborhood and Kinship Networks
Costs and Limits to Reciprocity

Case Study 4.1: Financial Services
Access to Credit
Cycles of Indebtedness

Case Study 4.2: Indonesia—Community Capacity and Village Government

Chapter 5: Changing Gender Relations in the Household (325K)
Roots of Gender Inequality
Traditional Gender Norms
Gender Identity
From Breadwinner to Burden: The Changing Roles of Poor Men
Women: The New Breadwinners
Trade: A Growth Opportunity for Women
Domestic Workers and Maids
Female Migrant Labor
Migration and Sex Work
Consequences and Coping
Alcohol Abuse
Children: Vulnerable Inside and Outside the Home
Family Break-Up
Female-Headed Households

Case Study 5.1: Gender and Education
Household Literacy
Distance and Transportation
Direct and Indirect Costs
Family Security
Sexual Harassment and Abuse

Case Study 5.2: Gender and Property Rights
Women as Property
Security of Home, Land, and Inheritance
Control over Other Assets
Environment and Common Property

Chapter 6: Social Fragmentation (195K)
Social Cohesion
Why Is Social Cohesion Declining?
Economic Difficulties
Crime and Violence
Social Exclusion
How Are People Excluded?
Who Are the Excluded?

Case Study 6.1: The Poor and the Police
Police Activities
Coping Strategies
Consequences for the Poor

Case Study 6.2: Widows
How and Why Are Widows Excluded?
How Do Widows Cope?

Chapter 7: Conclusions (135KB)
Institutions and Power
Powerlessness and Poverty
Relations within the Household
Relations with the State
Relations with the Elite
Relations with NGOs
Networks and Associations of the Poor
Organizations of the Poor
Social Fragmentation
Elements of a Strategy for Change
1. Start with Poor People’s Realities
2. Invest in the Organizational Capacity of the Poor
3. Change Social Norms
4. Support Development Entrepreneurs
The Voices of the Poor

Appendices (160K)
Appendix 1 — Regions and Countries of PPA Reports
Appendix 2 — List of PPA Authors
Appendix 3 — Systematic Content Analysis Using QSR NUD*IST
Appendix 4 —“Consultations with the Poor” Index Tree
Appendix 5 — Sample Analysis Procedure: Institutions
Appendix 6 — Listing of Poverty Assessment Reports Analyzed for this Research
Appendix 7 — Tables and Figures

References (100K)

“By presenting visions of development as seen by the underdogs of society, Can Anyone Hear Us? helps us understand the real nature of development. The importance of freedom as the central feature of development emerges powerfully from these ‘internal’ views. These unrestrained voices deserve the attention not only of scholars and academics, but also of governments, international institutions, business communities, labor organizations, and civil society across the world. This is a marvelous introduction to development seen from inside.”
Prof. Amartya Sen, Master, Trinity College, Cambridge and Nobel Laureate, Economics

“Can Anyone Hear Us? is a remarkable testimony to the strength, resilience, and spirit of the poor. The book communicates in a powerful way the corruption and often inhumane behavior of institutions that have direct contact with the poor. No one escapes unscathed. Poor people around the world have challenged us to create new partnerships with them—partnerships in which they experience love, respect, listening, caring, honesty, fairness, and helpfulness. In their simple words, poor people have shown us the real meaning of values-based development.”
Dr. George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury and Co-Chair of World Faiths Development Dialogue

“The richness of this undertaking lies precisely in the crosscultural perspective it brings to our understanding of poverty. While we have long understood the importance of poor people’s participation in their own development, Can Anyone Hear Us? establishes the importance of voice and power in poor people’s definitions of poverty. We now need to expand our conceptions of poverty focusing on income, expenditure, education, and health to include measures of voice and empowerment. That is the challenge that the poor make to us.”
Joseph Stiglitz, Chief Economist, World Bank