Throughout both of our film careers, our work has involved international travel. And for more than a decade, we’ve focused our work on documentaries filmed around the world, for theaters, U.S. Public Television and international broadcast. In many cases, we met and worked with people and communities who were in the midst of rising out of poverty. We also came to know the local advocates who were fighting the legal and social battles to remove barriers that had prevented such people, often women, from full economic participation.
We also met many individuals and familes whose lives had been transformed once they, or their parents, had been able to break through the barriers of poverty. Street vendors in India now able to send their children to college, a North Korean refugee who now invests in start-up companies of other refugees, a woman who started with a pan and a hotplate and now runs a successful catering business and culinary school in Zambia.
These many people inspired us beyond measure. But such stories rarely make the news, and we wanted to give them light. What had changed to now allow for so many people to drastically improve their life situations? A billion people coming out of extreme poverty in just 25 years feels like a big story to us. And yet there is still so much work to be done to create an environment that will truly bring an end to extreme poverty in our lifetime. Over 750 million people today remain in extreme poverty. We want to share what we see working around the world to ignite lasting change.
Changes are generated when economic obstacles are removed—obstacles which often benefit the wealthiest in the community at the expense of the poorest. Women frequently face even greater obstacles economically and culturally, and we will encounter several women who are dramatically changing their own future.
We will come to know and care for the local visionaries doing the hard work of change in their home countries as well as individuals in their home regions who are now lifting themselves and their families up from extreme poverty.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, global extreme poverty is expected to increase rather than decline for the first time in 30 years. Women in particular could easily lose decades of progress and economic advancements. It is more important now than ever to build infrastructure that protects the most vulnerable.