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Poverty

Montanans often list helping our neighbors as a fundamental Montana value, with a broad definition of who those neighbors are. We help folks in-state and across the nation and world, among the top states in per capita military and Peace Corps members.

We’re also acquainted with poverty — according to Talk Poverty, 14.6% of Montanans and 18.9% of Montana kids lived in families with incomes below the poverty line in 2015. The 2015 U.S. poverty line was $11,770 for a single individual, about $32.25 a day. According to the World Bank, in 2015, close to 46% of the world population lived on less than $5.50 a day. One in 10 people lived on less than $1.90.

These statistics show that we need to address poverty both at home and abroad. The shared neighborhood of human expressions and experiences — playing with our children, falling in love, wondering about things beyond our perceptions — unites us all. It goes against the spirit of kindness so prevalent in Montana to let folks suffer.

People in other countries may seem distant, but there’s still a lot we can do to help them, too — even if we’re constrained on time. One excellent way to help is mobilizing our representatives in D.C. to stand up for Montana values and support legislation aimed at efficiently reducing global poverty. The Keeping Girls in School Act (S.1071/H.R.2153) and Global Fragility Act (S.727) are great, bipartisan bills which can help fight poverty around the world.

Education really matters — it’s where we get skills that serve us for the rest of our lives. According to the Malala Fund, a nonprofit named after a brave young woman shot by the Taliban for attending school and advocating education, more than 130 million girls worldwide are losing access to those skills because they are not in school. The Keeping Girls in School Act would help more of them return to the classroom, empowering them to go much further in life. Educating women also helps their entire families — for example, more educated mothers’ infants are more likely to live and be healthy. None of our Congress members are cosponsoring the Keeping Girls in School Act yet, but we can bring them on board for women’s education.

The Global Fragility Act would attack instability and violence from the roots, allowing more people the security to plan long term instead of struggling to survive. Since people trapped in violent, unstable situations are easy marks for terrorists’ recruiters, passing the Global Fragility Act would also reduce the number of people turned to extremism through desperation, helping our and other countries’ troops in the conflict against terror. Not all legislation would let us improve national security at home and living conditions abroad in one fell swoop — our Montana congressional delegation can support this (rare) efficient government proposal by cosponsoring it.

Fortunately, reaching out to Congress members is a lot easier than it sounds. You can take two minutes to call U.S. Sen. Steve Daines (202-224-2651), U.S. Sen. Jon Tester (202-224-2644) or U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte (202-225-3211), or email any or all of them. Email is quicker, especially if you use resources like what The Borgen Project, a bipartisan nonprofit for which I’m an ambassador, has: draft emails loaded up with facts and bill numbers that you can send to all three Congress members at once. (Those are at borgenproject.org/action-center.)

I hope you’ll join in fighting poverty, both for the local folks below $33 and those around the world below $1.90.

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Meredith Walker coordinates anti-poverty actions as a volunteer ambassador with The Borgen Project, a bipartisan nonprofit dedicated to fighting global poverty. She is based in Missoula and can be reached by phone at (406)540-2467.

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