Building vibrant and tolerant democracies
The Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute (SPII) in partnership with Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection in Zambia (JCTR) and Namibia’s Basic Income Grant Coalition (BIG) conducted a Basic Needs Basket (BNB) training workshop in Namibia from 5-9 of March 2012. Funded by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), the workshop involved the eight civil society organisations from the SADC region – the three organisers as well as the Labour Resource and Research Institute (LaRRI, Namibia), the Malawi Centre for Social Concern, the Poverty Reduction Forum Trust, (Zimbabwe), the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (Lesotho), and the National Union of Namibian Workers.
The Basic Needs Basket Methodology is succinctly described by the JCTR as the ‘promotion of basic human rights, an appeal for the restoration of human dignity, a guide to paying a living wage, the evidence to challenge an unjust wage, a statistical measure of rising costs of living, a platform for challenging a misplaced government priority, a monthly stimulant to discuss poverty issues, a monthly lesson in economic literacy, an analytic tool to stimulate research and catalytic-tool to mobilize action’.
Therefore, the BNB is a statistical research and a broad advocacy tool. It is a monthly survey that shows the gap between the minimum cost for a decent standard of living and the incomes of average urban families. In this case, the BNB examines the cost of food, non-food and other essentials for an averaged sized family and compares it with the average wages in certain sectors of the economy – police, teachers, municipal workers and factory workers.
The training workshop aimed to understand the different BNB methodologies adopted by implementing organisations through sharing experiences, challenges, lessons learned and how the BNB is used as an advocacy tool to effect social change and influence policies in their respective countries. It also intended to help establish BNB networks among the participating organizations as well as the sharing of information, advocacy strategies and future collaboration on research issues in the region.
It was highlighted during the training that participating organizations were at different levels/stages in their implementation of the BNB methodology. Some were at a more advanced level, such as JCTR, the Malawi Centre for Social Concern and SPII. However, the Labour Resource and Research Institute is still at the concept note stage, while and the Poverty Reduction Forum Trust is still piloting the BNB methodology. The organisations that are further along the BNB road have used the tool for advocating for a minimum wage threshold for lower income earners and for taxes to be reduced on basic food items.
The workshop also involved participants conducting a practical BNB data collection exercise from different stores in Windhoek and in the nearby township of Katutura. Participants were followed in Katutura by the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation, which aired the story on prime-time news, and invited to take part in a panel discussion on the station’s Morning Live show to share their experiences, challenges and the importance of using the basic needs basket methodology. However, participants who were followed by the NBC during their field visit experienced intimidation from store managers, which might have been the result of the presence of the NBC cameras and they were unable to collect all the necessary food items and non-food items in their basket. This kind of treatment could pose as a major challenge to LaRRI during their data collection so it was advised to seek prior consent from store managers before proceeding with their data collection. Participants also visited a Basic Income Grant Coalition (BIG) pilot site in Otjivero to observe the benefits of the BIG and the challenges that the coalition faces in sustaining the project.
Outcomes of the Training
The group will discuss the above issues in more detail in a teleconference to be organised by SPII in April. In the interim SPII has setup a Facebook and twitter page for the BNB network.ShareThis