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‘Vote for Dignity’ – The 2011 INSP Campaign

Mon, Oct 17, 2011

“I never thought I would get an apartment. I’m so grateful. But StreetWise gave me my hope back. When I saw I could sell StreetWise Magazine to maintain a room, [I regained my hope]. And then I promised the good Lord I’d never go back. When I got those first set of keys, I said there is no way in the world I’m going back,” says StreetWise vendor Felicia Atkinson. Despite her daily struggles, Felicia counts herself fortunate, as selling a street paper has dramatically changed her life and helped her to regain her courage and drive. Indeed, for the first time in years she has been afforded some dignity instead of poverty and she now has a regular income to buy food for her children.

Felicia’s story is not unique. Across the world, more than 200,000 people have been given a hand-up through the street press concept since 1994. It is a remarkable success story that combines social enterprise with independent journalism in a global effort to help some of the world’s poorest people.

The concept is simple; vendors buy copies of the papers at 50% of the cover price and sell them to their customers to generate an income. Street press readers help vendors to earn a dignified income and escape poverty.

This is a key message of the 2011 ‘Vote for Dignity’ campaign – launched by the International Network of Street Papers (INSP) to coincide with the UN’s International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on 17th October 2011.

StreetWise Vendor Felicia Atkinson

To mark the campaign, Scottish-based INSP has announced that the street press movement is growing. Street press sales have increased across the world for the second year running, lifting tens of thousands of people out of poverty. Every edition, 6.2 million people read the 112 magazines and newspapers sold by homeless people in 40 nations. At a time when consumers are becoming increasingly disillusioned with media conglomerates, street press offers quality journalism, free from political and corporate influence. More importantly, these publications save lives while offering hope and dignity to people living on the margins of society.

David Schlesinger, chairman of Thomson Reuters China, is honorary president of INSP. He says: “Go around the world and buy a street newspaper or magazine and you are not just doing good, you are really getting something good. There’s a true exchange and creation of value, using real journalism as the medium. As someone who has always believed passionately in the revelatory and transformative powers of journalism, I am really proud to be associated with this movement. It shows how the published form can help people change their own lives and also have an impact on the society around them.”

Lisa Maclean, executive director of INSP, adds: “Street press offers dignified employment and social support to people experiencing homeless and poverty in 40 countries. INSP street press is also in a unique position to uncover stories and share the perspectives of people and issues not typically discussed in the mainstream press. It is independent, acts as a powerful voice for social change and challenges the status quo. And it reaches out to an incredible 6 million readers across the globe every edition.”

The quality of street press journalism was showcased recently in Glasgow, Scotland, at the INSP 2011 International Street Paper Awards. Winning entries ranged from an astonishing report about 31 homeless people who were murdered in São Paulo, Brazil; to an exclusive interview with Matthew Saad Muhammad – once a boxing light heavyweight world champion – who became homeless in Philadelphia.

Street publications are already well established in North America and Europe and others have been making their mark in countries such as Argentina, the Philippines, Zambia and Malawi. New publications have been launched recently in Taiwan and South Korea. And as INSP continues to expand across the world, more publications will come to the fore in Nigeria, Greece and Finland.

Exciting new global projects are in the pipeline for the street press movement, and INSP has been working on harnessing street press journalism through the expansion of a multilingual online news agency called the Street News Service. Funds are being raised internationally through a global advertising initiative and during the next 12 months INSP will explore the digital expansion of the street press network.

It goes without saying that this movement will continue to advocate for the needs and rights of homeless vendors across the world – who remain at the centre of our work; people like Felicia.

Keep supporting your local street press vendor and Vote for Dignity.

Feature courtesy of INSP ‘Vote for Dignity Campaign’ 2011, www.street-papers.org.

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