Secondly, behavioral and social sciences perpetuate a notion of “deviance” with respect to poverty and those who are poor resulting in irreversible psychological damage. Poverty is not a result of deviance but a consequence of the way society is organized – these are the structures of unequal relationships. ‘Structured’ inequality refers to society’s unequal distribution of its valued resources of wealth, power and privilege among citizens. With an extreme mal-distribution of wealth, some get more than they can possibly use, while others get barely enough to survive, and in the case of Uganda, a majority aren’t getting any! The material and psychological conditions that result from the above social relations bring about structured inequalities manifesting themselves in people’s experiences of class, ethnicity, gender, age, disability and other mechanisms of exclusion. Therefore, poverty is but a symptom of prolonged hopelessness resulting from political neglect which makes its eradication a governance issue.It is not in the genes, I hasten to add. We are simply born in environments and conditions that are deprived. The poor in Uganda are not able to improve their life chances without collective efforts. These efforts are made possible through state funding. For example, wealth is distributed between regions through transfer payments, and among people through a variety of social and economic programs. These can range from the creation of educational and employment opportunities, to the provision of health services that are open to as many citizens as possible. How then can poverty reduction be separated from public policy or governance when the whole notion of ‘politics’ is, in my view, a struggle to control resources and wealth distribution?
Federalists cannot afford any kind of ‘reductionism’ in our analysis. Our approach to analysis should encompass and address implications at the social, economic, and political levels at all times. For example, our analysis should also seek to understand how our actions or inaction affect people both individually and as groups. As we continue to engage in social, economic, and political discourse that seeks to dismantle structured oppression, we have to be mindful that our democracy has become in a large measure, a democracy of the fortunate. We advocate for the “opening up” of democracy by re-structuring Uganda’s social, economic, political institutions, to allow states to address poverty at the grassroots levels. Poverty reduction initiatives should not be “add-on” programs/activities. They are integral to public policy. We need to acknowledge that failing to do so, contributes to the prevalence of abject poverty that a majority of Ugandans experience.
Additionally, the poor in Uganda need much more than material wealth. We have psychological and emotional needs as well. We have been traumatized by a succession of brutal regimes for the last 41 years. We watch as our land is appropriated, we watch the killing of our relatives, the raping and mutilation of our children; we are ill and diseased. We need ‘health’ as a resource so that we can engage in productive activities.
For successful poverty reduction interventions, we need to restore “hope” as a starting point. Give people a reason to live longer than today! Community economic programs such as “entandikwa” should be understood in their literal sense - to begin - because one had nothing. Charging explosive interest rates on these loans is sinister because such schemes are not reducing poverty, but augment powerlessness and an intensified sense of hopelessness. Build mechanisms and systems to assure us that when we grow our produce, remuneration will be immediate and adequate; that our children have a fair chance of competing in the workforce irrespective of their class, ethnicity, gender; age; and that our elected MP’s represent ordinary Ugandans as well as the government’s representation is evident and felt in every corner of our villages.