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Guest Post: Women Thrive Worldwide

Women Thrive Worldwide works to create a world in which women and men work together as equals so that they, their families and their communities can thrive. They advocate for change at the U.S. and global levels so that women and men can share equally in the enjoyment of opportunities, economic prosperity, voice, and freedom from fear and violence. Their work is grounded in the realities of women living in poverty, partner with locally based organizations, and create powerful coalitions to advance the interests of the women and girls we serve.

What’s It Like to Really Live on $1 a Day? More Than 1 Billion People Can Tell You

Around the world, more than a billion people live in extreme poverty, defined as $1 or less per day. The majority of these people are women and children. They face challenges most of us can barely imagine.

Take just a few minutes to think about what you would have to give up to live on less than $1 a day.

Personally, I’d have to give up my coffee, eggs for breakfast, a mid-morning cup of tea, that bag of chips after lunch, lunch in general, my bus money to get to work — practically everything that gets me through the day. Maybe worst of all, I’d have to give up medicine that helps to keep my asthma under control.

To live on less than $1 a day, I’d have to give up nearly everything. And that’s exactly what Ritu Sharma, Co-founder and President of Women Thrive Worldwide, did on a recent trip to Sri Lanka, where she lived in a rural village with a woman, Prahansa, and her three beautiful nieces Chinthi, Kamala, and Manuka, on just $1 a day.

As the head of an organization that advocates for policies and programs that benefit women living in poverty worldwide, Ritu understands just how important it is to really know these women’s realities if she’s going be to a good advocate on their behalf. She also knows how critical it is for decision makers in Washington to hear these women’s voices. So she put her money where her mouth is and hopped a flight to Sri Lanka to live side-by-side with Prahansa, hoping to be able to understand — if only a little bit — what it’s like to live in extreme poverty.

Living with Prahansa, Ritu learned that she took the girls in when their mother left and their alcoholic father was sent to prison, and she now works every single day to make sure they’re cared for and living with family, rather than in an orphanage far away from home. To keep the family together, Prahansa’s sacrifices never end.

According to Ritu, “Prahansa stirred about 4 AM to go make her ‘rice cups’ to sell in the little market kiosk down the road from the bus stop. A teacup worth of yellow rice, a little chili and onion sauce, inside a baggie, and tied up in a neat little knot. Morning commuters would pass by, drop 10 rupees into the basket, grab a portable breakfast, and hop onto the bus into Galle. Prahansa might earn about 100-120 rupees that day, just under one dollar. Sometimes she sells them all and gets 130 rupees, if she’s lucky. Often, only a few sell. This is ALL the income she earns.”

As a result, everything from school supplies for the girls, public transportation, medical costs for Prahansa’s arthritis, clean water, household items, electricity, and clothes are up for negotiation. If she doesn’t sell enough cups, one — or most of these things — fall by the wayside.

This is just one woman’s story.

This year, Ritu will embark on two more trips to get just the slightest glimpse into what a lifetime on less than $1 a day feels like. She will meet women and their families in Honduras and Burkina Faso who, like too many, are in extreme poverty, and share their stories of survival and perseverance.

You can read the entire diary of Ritu’s trip to Sri Lanka here, read about her trip on the Huffington Post, and follow the “Living in Her Shoes: Three Countries on $1 a Day” campaign by visiting Women Thrive Worldwide’s website.


For more information on Women Thrive Worldwide, and similar Catalogue organizations, check out the following links to nonprofits working to improve the lives of women and girls (at home and abroad), as well as several Catalogue nonprofits primarily serving communities across the world.