Quality of Life Program – towards Poverty Elimination

As part of the global initiative of the Leaders International Forum (LIF), the National Council for Tanzania is implementing the Quality of Life Program (QoLP) in all regions of Tanzania.

In 2003, Mawlana Hazar Imam tasked the LIF to look at the causes of poverty. In response to this, from 2003 to 2013, LIF conducted “Research-Informed Pilot Initiatives” (RIPIs) in 15 countries (including Tanzania) to develop a deeper understanding of poverty in the Jamat and approaches to redress poverty.

Mawlana Hazar Imam created a Poverty Elimination Endowment and, in 2021, started rolling out the Family Mentorship Programme (a global program implemented in 21 council jurisdictions). To take this agenda forward, a Central Office of Poverty Elimination (COPE) was established in Lisbon that has a global coordinator.

In Tanzania, as in many jurisdictions, the Vice President of the National Council is responsible for implementing the QoL Program. They chair the Case Review Committee (CRC), which is composed of representatives from Aga Khan Economic Planning, Aga Khan Education, Aga Khan Health, and Aga Khan Social Welfare Boards. The CRC is supported by the Chief Executive Officer of the National Council, as well as the Program Director and staff of the Quality of Life Office.

The CRC is the governance body that decides on the onboarding of families, oversees the progress, and approves the interventions requested by the families.

At the Madagascar State Banquet on 27th November 2007, Mawlana Hazar Imam said:

“Our duty is to try to free people from poverty.

And to me, poverty means being without shelter, without protection, without access to healthcare, education, or credit, and without hope of ever controlling one’s own destiny. This means condemning one’s children and grandchildren to unacceptable living conditions.

Who is responsible for controlling destiny – fulfilling the HOPE, the dream? The answer must be the family, as these are the family’s dreams. By achieving their own dreams, the family will be able to control its own destiny. Anything else would mean that someone else is controlling the family’s destiny.

The program’s role and mandate are to support the family in achieving its potential. This requires a shift of attitude for both the family and the institutions. Whereas previously, the view may have been: ‘The system/institutions owe it to me’ now, it is ‘I am responsible for my family’s future.” From an institutional perspective, “what is wrong with this family (and how can we make them fix it)?” to “What is strong about this family (and how can we support them to build on it)?”

The essential characteristic of this program is the empowerment of the family to control its own destiny. The philosophy of the program is that each family has inner strengths, which need to be reinforced. Once each family member recognizes their power, the Program works with that family member and the family to reach their goals in a time-bound manner.  Therefore, an essential criteria for the CRC to onboard a marginalized family is that the family is prepared to work with the Quality of Life Program to develop its (family’s) potential to reach a better quality of life, to reach the stage of self-sufficiency and be resilient against future challenges.

Once a family is enrolled, family mentors (FMs) are assigned to the family. FMs are volunteer members of the Jamat who have stepped forward to support the families. They have undergone extensive training in communications skills, goal setting, maintaining confidentiality, and values and ethics, amongst other topics.

The mentors work with the family to develop a family development plan where the family and the program work on the goals set by the family. These are time-bound goals in the short-, mid- and long-term. There are seven areas that the family and the Program work on: income, savings, education, health, housing, integration, and dignity (self-respect). Once the family sets its goals, the Program can also provide support by giving educational support, including vocational training loans, business development loans, and other financial and mentoring support.

Family mentors also take an oath of confidentiality not to disclose any details or discussions they had with the families, except authorized individuals.

The FMs are also the contact between the institutions and the families so that Murids do not have to go from one institution to another. Their needs are holistically looked at by the FMs, the Quality of Life Office and the Institutions.

This program relies on volunteers and Jamat helping Jamat. In addition to financial resources, the Jamat also supports the Program by giving its time, knowledge, and resources to support our brothers and sisters.

As noted in a conversation between the Imam and Synergos Founder, Peggy Dulany Synergos, on 22 October 2012, the Imam said:

“What Islam says about supporting people in society is perhaps somewhat different from other communities and other faiths. The premise that Islam works on is not just helping but helping to render the individual capable of governing his or her destiny.

You are not just helping them away from poverty; you are giving them the means to propel themselves and their families into their future, in ways which they control. And therefore, when you educate, when you help in healthcare, when you give access to credit, you are not looking at just helping the individual survive, you are trying to reposition the individual and the family in society. That is the basic premise of social support that I believe is the correct interpretation of Islam.”

By devoting their time to the family, the family mentors are helping to propel families to achieve their dreams.

In addition to the mentors, there are many ways that the Jamat can support this and other institutional programs. Through mentorship, the Jamat can help a student struggling with certain courses. An experienced business person can give support/advice to a family wanting to go into business to meet the challenges of new and emerging businesses so that the business can stand on its own. They can offer financial literacy and budgeting skills as well as help with bookkeeping. If one is a professional, one can offer career counseling or let a person shadow the professional to see what that type of work is, after which the student or young adult can decide if he or she wishes to pursue that profession.

For instance, besides giving fish, we need to support families to learn how to fish so that the family is no longer dependent on being given fish to be able to control its own destiny. This is a skill that will not only assist the family for the current generation but also future generations.

Due to confidentiality reasons, the families’ identities are not disclosed here. However, some of the comments from the families have been:

“The holistic and one stop program has boosted my family’s self-esteem, gained back self-respect and to become confident and overcome fears. I also got courage to take risks and changed jobs for better pay. Messages sent by the program through FM catches my attention and motivates me to take action.”  – Family 1

“I am a different person now, happy with my life. QoLP pulled me out of my shell, stood by me in every way and transformed me from a nobody to someone who now knows her self-worth and able to solve problems in my life with confidence.”- Family 2

“Tangu nimeingia kwenye programu ya Quality of Life napata sapoti ya kufanya biashara kwa amani bila maswali mengi. Programu inani amini na inanipa huru yaku chaguwa nini chakufanya. Mimi nina furahia namna mambo yangu ya kazi and kifamilia zinawekwa siri.” (“I feel at peace after joining Quality of Life program, I do my business with peace that I am trusted, and the biggest achievement is that my business and family issues and other things remain confidential between my family and the program”) – Family 3

“Through the Program, I have now learned how important it is to take care of my health as it impacts me and my family in different ways.” – Family 4

 If you would like to know more about the Quality of Life Program or would like to become a mentor or offer any other mentorship support to the families, please contact [email protected].

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