Making the Law Work for Everyone
About a decade ago, the sellers in the market created a communal savings plan to which each contributed fi fteen cents a day. The money was used for small business loans and to make civic improvements, such as a public bath. Fifteen cents a day may seem a trifl ing sum, but in that place and for those people the payment often meant forgoing the purchase of new clothes for a child, food for the family, or a used bicycle for transportation. This was democracy at its purest – the willing surrender of a private benefi t to build a ladder out of poverty for the community as a whole. Proposals for loans and projects were approved openly and collectively, with consent signifi ed by the wiggling of fi ngers and the clapping of hands. Over time, the fund grew by tiny increments to more than $200,000. This was still not much in a market with 5000 stalls crammed together, selling everything from toys and cabbage and to spark plugs and fl ip-fl ops. Still, the savings plan was a source of hope and pride to people who had put their faith in cooperative action, understood the importance of abiding by shared rules, and were doing everything possible to help themselves. Their courage underlined our conviction that those
who consider poverty to be just another part of the human condition are ignorant, for the poor do not accept it, and when given the chance, will seize the opportunity to transform their lives. Because of what we saw and the people we met, the Commission
left Nairobi encouraged.
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