Eradicating poverty in Mauritius

The island of Mauritius is in the Mascarene islands in the Indian Ocean east of Madagascar.

Its white beaches, crystal-clear water and lagoons have made the island the hub of a thriving tourist industry.

After gaining independence in 1968, Mauritius adopted sound economic policies and rose from a low-income state to a middle-income country.

Yet the island still has its share of poor people. In Mauritius poverty means more than going to bed hungry. It is about a lack of opportunity to pursue economic growth and human development.

The Mauritius council of social services (Macoss)—the umbrella body for non-governmental organisations (NGOs)—was founded in 1961 to help plan and coordinate the activities of its members in poverty eradication, education, the environment, food security, climate change and social development.

In 2007 Manda Boolell, a well-known public figure in Mauritius, was elected the first woman chairperson of Macoss.

Within a year she has become synonymous with Macoss.

Boolell spearheaded regional civil society participation in the SADC international consultative conference and summit on poverty and development held in Port Louis in April 2008. The conference was held in collaboration with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) council of NGOs and other regional civil society organisations.

In preparation for the conference Macoss, through Boolell, consulted with and held workshops in the poorer areas of Mauritius.

Preceding the conference, a workshop was held with civil society partners in the SADC region to prepare delegates for meaningful participation in the conference.

Boolell addressed the region’s heads of state at the summit about the perspective of civil society organisations.

A recommendation that poor children have access to pre-primary education was taken up by the minister of finance in his June 2008 budget speech.

After the poverty and development conference she engaged civil society and NGOs about overcoming poverty.

“NGOs and civil society play an essential role in sustainable development. We need to ensure that we are empowered to participate in all stages of the development process,” she said.

As a member of the working committee of the national empowerment foundation, she persuaded NGOs to support the programme by mentoring people who live in extreme poverty.

NGO staff members are trained in life skills and use the knowledge to ensure that children attend school and parents find decent means of survival.

In her capacity as chairperson of Macoss, Boolell is involved with the Mauritius government and other organisations in establishing a national poverty observatory. They also promote a grouping of corporate social responsibility leaders among the island’s business community.

Her dedication and commitment has resulted in her nomination as a member of the panel for the eradication of extreme poverty programme.

The programme, created in the 2008 budget speech, aims to eradicate extreme poverty in the next 10 years.

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