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I’m telling the people with power that I have power too.

January 17, 2020 6:00 PM

Moraene Roberts (1953-2020)

In the last week, a women who few in the East of England will have known died. Moraene Roberts was a poet and campaigner for human rights and her lived experience of poverty and disability informed her unique voice which made an indelible impression on people of all walks of life.

Moraene was and will continue to be an inspiration to all those who challenge poverty in all its forms in the sixth-largest national economy in the world.

All people, all human

I'm telling the people with power

that I have power too.

If you stifle my voice,

and deny me a choice,

I will show my power to you.

I will not come with a weapon,

I will not come in fear.

I will come with others

as sisters and brothers

and a voice you will have to hear.

I'm telling the people with knowledge

that I have knowledge too.

If you ignore my words,

and deny what you've heard,

my knowledge will be lost to you.

I will not come in anger,

I will not come in pain,

I will come as me,

with dignity,

and your denial will be to your shame.

I'm telling the people with control,

that I have control too.

If you put me in chains,

then hatred reigns,

and fear gains control of you.

I will not come as a prisoner,

I will not come broken to you,

I will come with pride,

and stand by your side,

because I am human too.

- Moraene Roberts

Moraene Roberts, a poet, researcher and campaigner for human rights, died peacefully on 12 January 2020 in Homerton Hospital, Hackney, surrounded by her children. Adored mother and grandmother, treasured friend and neighbour to so many, her loss will be keenly felt. Her lived experience of poverty and disability informed her unique voice which made an indelible impression on people of all walks of life. Baroness Lister of Burtersett said: "Moraene has always been such an inspiration. She had an impact on my understanding of poverty and on my writing". Julia Unwin, DBE, who was chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in 2007-2016, called Moraene's passing "a huge loss for civil society as a whole".

In 2012, while researching the violence of poverty, Moraene spoke about how exhausting it is to always be fighting against violence, against poverty, against hunger. Then she added:

"To be told you can take the same voice, the same knowledge, the same emotion, and use it to speak for peace is to be given a power I don't think I've ever had before in the same way. Instead of having to fight against a government, against 'them', what I can actually do is go to them in a peaceful way and say: 'I'm bringing you something that you need to know in order to be able to provide for people like me in a humane and just way, a decent way.'

"We are not the problem; not the victims; we are part of the solution. It's like I can go with a banner made of silk, whereas before I had one made of heavy wood."

Moraene was introduced to the international charity fighting poverty, ATD Fourth World in 1990 and quickly became a key figure. She was instrumental in developing the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Poverty in 1997 and in ensuring that it broke precedent by allowing people with lived experience to speak before MPs. She also helped to pioneer a tradition at Royal Holloway, University of London, where for fifteen years now parents with lived experience of poverty have contributed to a module of social work training. After many years playing an unofficial role shaping the vision of ATD Fourth World UK, Moraene joined the National Coordination Team in 2014. Moraene was guided in all her endeavours by her great sense of humour and her deep empathy for everyone she met. She was a cherished mentor to successive generations of ATD Fourth World activists, allies and Volunteer Corps members.


As of 2017, 20% of UK people live in poverty including 8 million working-age adults, 4 million children and 1.9 million pensioners. Research by the JRF found nearly 400,000 more UK children and 300,000 more UK pensioners were in poverty in 2016-17 compared with 2012-13. Children trapped in poverty increased by half a million during the five years to 2018 and reached 4.1 million in 2017. ... Over 14 million people, about one in five of the UK population are in poverty, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

As at May 2018 London is the richest region in the UK but the largest percentage increase in wealth was in the East of England at 1.3%.