Graduating from extreme poverty

People with disabilities are disproportionately affected by poverty across the globe. The UN estimated in 2009 that over 426 million people with disabilities globally live below the poverty line. Complementarily in 2017, a systematic review of 150 studies (out of more than 15,000 screened) on the linkages between disability and poverty showed a consistently positive association between disability and income-related poverty status in low and middle-income countries.

HI recognized that to achieve SDG 1: End Poverty in All Forms Everywhere, it was imperative that ultra and extremely poor poverty alleviation initiatives, such as the graduation model, was designed to systematically include people with disabilities as project holders / income earners. Responding to this need, in 2011 in Bangladesh, HI piloted a “disability-inclusive” graduation model, targeting 600 people with disabilities in Sitakunda as project holders in this DFID-funded program (under SHIREE funds).

In addition to the basic activities typically included in a graduation program–consumption support, asset transfer, building savings, skill building, social integration, ongoing coaching, etc.–HI layered in disability-specific supports throughout the program, ensuring that each project holder has access to the rehabilitation, adapted tools, and environmental adjustments needed to increase their functional autonomy and productivity.

After the success of our initial pilot (100% of people with disabilities graduated out of extreme poverty, according to an independent evaluation conducted by DFID/SHIREE), HI scaled this initiative, in partnership with DFID’s Global Poverty Action Fund (GPAF). Between 2015-18, HI doubled our beneficiary targets (to 1,200 people with disabilities and their households), and expanded our geographic scope of work to Kurigram Sardar. The approach was again proven effective – 98% of extremely poor beneficiary households in Kurigram Sardar graduated from extremely poor to poor status, lifting hundreds of people with disabilities and their families out of extreme poverty, and ending their dependency on social safety nets.  

To complement HI’s direct implementation of activities, we also worked with mainstream partners Helvetas, Islamic Relief Bangladesh and YPSA, providing technical assistance to each mainstream organization on the disability-inclusive project cycle, training and coaching each organization on how to adjust their livelihood and poverty alleviation programming to be more inclusive of persons with disabilities. Through this mainstreaming approach, collectively HI reached an additional 3,000 people with disabilities living in poverty.

In addition to showing high rates of “graduation,” the independent evaluation of HI’s most recent graduation project showed high value for money rates and strong potential for future scaling of this disability-inclusive model, both by HI and by other organizations. You can read our most recent independent evaluation, as well as the evaluation of our first disability inclusive graduation pilot, conducted by SHIREE staff.

Read the story of Adul, a Bangladeshi man who benefitted directly from HI’s graduation programming.

To learn more about HI’s graduation approach, we welcome you to contact Angela Kohama, Inclusive Livelihood Policy Officer at a.kohama@hi.org.