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Fighting poverty: different approaches for different realities

October 31, 2023 | News Articles
Steelworkers Miranda Hegan and Samantha Bonin (LU 1-405) and incoming SHF Executive Director Guillaume Charbonneau visiting SHF Global Forestry Program partners in the Indian state of Gujarat, October 2022.

By Guillaume Charbonneau, Executive Director of the Steelworkers Humanity Fund.

When it comes to fighting poverty, the Steelworkers Humanity Fund (SHF) has been working with partners around the world that make change happen in very different contexts. In India or in Canada, approaches must be tailored to our diverse realities. 

Based in Québec, Young Musicians of the World’s (YMW) mission is to promote the personal development of children and adolescents from at-risk backgrounds through free musical activities. Using music to address the psychological and social impacts of poverty and economic and social exclusion, it helps children and teens learn music while having fun. Working on the motivation and aspirations of the young participants, allows them to broaden their vision of what is possible. 

A long-term SHF partner, YMW began working with Anishinaabe youths from the community of Kitcisakik in 2010. As time went by, they expanded the services they offer to nearby Val-d’Or, following the movement of elementary school children as they left the community to continue their high school education in the city. Today, YMW’s programs and activities, implemented in coordination with community partners, reach a total of 210 youth annually. 

On a global scale, our Global Forestry Program has connected for over twenty years USW Wood Council locals with forestry workers worldwide through a partnership with the Building and Wood Workers International (BWI). Since 2016, India has been the country of focus, a country that faces serious challenges, including the existence of wide income inequalities, job insecurity and low social protection for workers. 

The project supported by the SHF assists local union partners in the forestry sector in three Indian states, providing rights-awareness training to workers on issues, advocacy with state institutions and local governments, and facilitating their members’ enrollment in available government programs and linking workers with various benefits. In 2022, organizing efforts led to more than 6,000 workers joining unions. 

Whether it is by supporting Indigenous youths in acquiring the keys to reach their full potential or strengthening union representation in marginalized communities in India, the Humanity Fund’s approach always relies on its partners’ knowledge to address the many root causes of poverty, and multiple strategies that empower workers and communities. 

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