We are sitting around a kitchen table that is covered in papers and magazines. Outside, the rain pours down and occasionally the sound of it drumming on the roof drowns our conversation. Fortified by endless cups of tea and coffee, we are trying to thrash out our ideas on poverty.

This could be a standard meeting of the NI Co-operative in Oxford. Or a session of the editorial group. But it isn't. This meeting is taking place in the middle of the forests and tea plantations of the Nilgiri hills in southern India. The rain is the north-east monsoon, turning roads into red slush and lending its damp stench to clothes, walls and bedding.

But this new place heralds a new venture - an issue of the NI co-edited from the Majority World. Not by one, or two, but by three of us.

Stan and Mari Marcel Thekaekara are long-time friends of the NI. They [image, unknown] have worked with tribal people (adivasis) in the Nilgiris since 1984. Adivasis here were once considered society's dregs, its lowest and its poorest, deprived of their lands and dying unnecessary deaths. Stan and Mari were instrumental in founding an organization now run by the tribals themselves which has enabled them to get back their land, their health - and above all their self-respect.

So the discussions we were having about poverty were rooted in the everyday reality we could see if we took an umbrella and stepped outside the door, but also in the hope and the knowledge that it is possible to move out of poverty.

The ideas flew back and forth across the table, as subsequently they were to flow rather more erratically to and fro by e-mail. We wanted a magazine that didn't just describe poverty but took its arguments from the voices of people who are poor. Stan and Mari had visited Britain and argued forcefully that although poverty manifests itself differently in North and South, its impact on people is the same. You feel isolated and helpless; you are not able to control your own life. No difference here, whether you live on a housing estate in Scotland or the US, or in the forests of India, or in rural Australia.

Our conversations at the kitchen table led to new worlds, new ideas, new contacts. There is a community of people out there who are challenging the money-oriented values that lead us to divide the world and its people into 'rich' and 'poor'. They are also trying to make the fine words from international platforms about the eradication of poverty translate into their daily lives.

A positive magazine about poverty? Perhaps that is going a bit far. But one which wants us to look at poverty differently? Yes.

Nikki van der Gaag
for the New Internationalist Co-operative
[image, unknown]
[image, unknown]
[image, unknown]

Poverty: challenging the myths
Nikki van der Gaag explores the deeper meanings of poverty.

Money matters
Sometimes you have to borrow to eat, even in Scotland.

The Poverty Quiz
How much do you know?

Calvin Klein and the teapickers
From Gudalur to Gloucester, some unusual alliances are being forged, reports Mari Marcel Thekaekara.

Weasel words
Jeremy Seabrook finds that dictionaries can be deceptive.

Chesson's choice
Being poor in the world's richest country, by Tom Waters.

Poor and rich - the Facts

The burning of popular fear
Poverty controls us all, argues Zygmunt Bauman.

Edgardo's special place
When Hurricane Mitch hit Honduras, the street children had nowhere to go.

Paupers' progress?
A history of poverty

A pound of flesh
Mozambique has huge debts - but talk of rescheduling is a big con-trick, as Joseph Hanlon explains.

In the name of poverty.
Who is saying and doing what about how to eradicate poverty.

The simple life
How to change yours by Gerald Iversen.


Letter from Mongolia
The NI Interview
with Jean 'Binta' Breeze
plus Rigoberta Menchu classic
NI Crossword
by Christian Hout
Country profile: Guyana


[image, unknown]

New Internationalist issue 310 magazine cover This article is from the March 1999 issue of New Internationalist.
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