Part of the learning involves reading relevant books and articles. The WEvolution staff reflect here on the work of Kathryn J. Edin and Luke Shaefer’s study of the one and a half million families in America who live on 2 $.

Chapter 4, ‘By Any Means Necessary’, charts the survival strategies adopted by families. One is to take advantage of public spaces and private charities. Families are continuously on the look for good deals. Another strategy is income generation. The US Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provides vouchers to low income families. Sometimes benefits are substituted to free up cash. The 2$ a day families sell these vouchers for cash, losing a proportion of their value and risking arrest. Collecting aluminium cans that are used for recycling is another way to survive. In India, recycling garbage is the primary income for women in some SRGs. The study participants are experts at conservation. One explains how to save money on the water bill. ‘After (my washing machine) goes to the rinse cycle, I take the hose and fill up all these old laundry detergent bottles. That’s my next wash load. Then that rinse becomes the wash water for the next load. Saves half the water bill… I fill it up, boom, boom, boom, boom.’

2$ a day captures the resourcefulness and inventiveness of people living in poverty. It also confirms the scarcity theory discussed in an earlier post. Resourcefulness and inventiveness demand a lot of mental energy. It leaves little cognitive bandwidth for the self and its fulfilment. A movement like WEvo can provide a context where women can form meaningful relationships and recover the headspace to entertain other possibilities for their futures.

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