Memoirs of a Ugandan Slum Dweller: Part IX

Friday, 11 April 2014

**Cross posted from The Age of Zinc**

Age of Zinc is proud to present the ninth instalment in a new memoir from the slums of Kampala, Uganda. Check back every week to catch the next part of the story!


I’m trying to teach my kids and make sure that each one is doing something for himself. If one is looking after the poultry and chicks we agree that you have to take your time and make sure everything is done right. We are also making candles at home. Whoever helps make our candles at home also has to then take them to the shops and sell them. When we are making our briquettes, one kid has to take care of the whole process. So each one of them is trying. They are at least trying, and they really want it.

The oldest is about to be 18, a girl. She is in a boarding school. The boys are staying at home with us. Sometimes when I’m not at home I need someone to stay with the young one. I have one that is 17, another that is 14, one is 10, one is 7, and then the young one is 2 years. I have two girls and the rest boys. Their father is supportive; he is also working so hard.

The father is always moving with his son, he takes care of his children; let me say it like that. He is always responsible for his children. He is perfect, because I don’t even get a headache or worry or lose any track of my children. If a child is sick, he is there 24 hours.

Most of my time I’m with the federation so I cannot support them much because its voluntary work. But we earn and save our money from our projects. My husband is a carpenter and he also has some small houses for rent. At the end of three months we save 300 shillings for each child’s school fees. For us, we are looking at how we can survive. It’s a family effort to survive.

I don’t have much time for sleeping because I wake up at five, I do housework, and I leave for federation work. I get back at six or seven and I prepare food and then I have to make my candles. I make them at night. When I’m at home I usually don’t sleep until late because I have to make sure I can some have capital with me the next day.


Municipal Forums for Kampala: “If not now, then when? If not us, then who?”

Thursday, 10 April 2014

By Skye Dobson, ACTogether Uganda

“If not now, then when? If not us, then who?” -His Worship, Mayor of Nakawa, Jan 29, 2014

On the 29th of January 2014, ACTogether and the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (NSDFU) convened a breakfast meeting to discuss participatory governance in Kampala at Boda Boda, atop Garden City.  The breakfast brought together the mayors and town clerks of Kampala’s five divisions, top officials at KCCA, the Minister, Commissioners, and officials from the Ministry of Lands Housing and Urban Development, slum dwellers and NGOs. The breakfast was hosted by well-known Ugandan journalist, writer and analyst, Angelo Izama. 

ACTogether and the NSDFU in partnership with Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development has been supporting the institutionalization of forums under the TSUPU project (Transforming settlements of the Urban Poor in Uganda). The project, funded by Cities Alliance and the World Bank, spanned the municipalities of Jinja, Arua, Mbarara, Mbale and Kabale with an aim of empowering the municipalities and the communities therein to effectively and sustainably manage rapid urbanization. ACTogether and the NSDFU have been playing the role of organizing slum communities to participate meaningfully in such forums and linking internationally tested best practices through the Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI) network to inform local interventions.  

It’s evident that Kampala, as Uganda’s largest urban center, is yet to manage the city’s unprecedented urbanization – evidenced by data that shows over 60% of Kampala residents are slum dwellers. The gap that is increasingly widening between city plans and community expectations presents an urgent need for a strategic intervention to address such planning challenges by setting up a platform for government and citizens to engage meaningfully on the development and implementation of city plans in order to promote more efficient and effective service delivery in the city. 

The aim of instituting the forums in Kampala is to bridge the gap between planning and implementation as well as enhance the participation of residents (especially slum dwellers) in decision-making processes that affect them.  In addition, the forums will support KCCA in its efforts to create a vibrant, sustainable and attractive city with quality services.

The Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development – Honorable Daudi Migereko – opened the meeting by thanking his ministry for mainstreaming the idea of forums and supporting communities to generate local solutions to local challenges. He explained that the forums are a perfect space for creating “think tanks” that can generate innovative home-grown solutions. He suggested that they also serve as a space for reflection, stocktaking, identifying priorities, and discovering the resources within our midst. Critically, he informed the participants that in the urban centers where forums exist, project submissions to government have been much smoother, with the forums helping to mitigate against the bickering that stalls too many projects.

Next to speak as the Commissioner for Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Mr. Samuel Mabala, who explained that he came back from leave especially to take part in the breakfast, such is his commitment to sharing information on the role forums can play in urban management. He argued that the urban poor cannot be left out of the planning process and that it was the history of exclusion of the poor and failed upgrading projects that led the Ministry to launch the Transforming Settlements of the Urban Poor in Uganda (TSUPU) project in 2009.

His Worship, the Mayor of Nakawa (one of Kampala’s 5 divisions) presented next and explained that when he came to office in 2011, he was oriented by members of the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda and the NGO ACTogether.  He came to understand just how widespread the issue of slums is and says he felt enlightened. He decided it was incumbent upon his division to engage the slum communities in order to improve the city. He emphasized the fact that in order to make strides in upgrading, partnerships are essential and that forums are en effective vehicle for promoting this.

Next, the Director of Gender and Community Services at Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), Madam Harriet Mudondo addressed the breakfast and lamented the lack of funds allocated to slum upgrading in Kampala and expressed hope that such forums could assist in the lobbying and advocacy required to change the status quo. She said that municipal forums can help to bridge the distrust and suspicion between the authority and the community and provide an opportunity to engage communities early in the development process in order to truly implement bottom-up planning.

Way forward

Following the KCCA presentation a discussion proceeded in which participants sought clarification on certain issues and discussed the practicability of the forums.  At the conclusion of the discussion it was agreed that:

1)    A steering committee comprised of the mayors and town clerks of each division as well as a representative from KCCA’s Public and Corporate Affairs would be formed to take the process forward and draft the charters and form the committees required to operationalize the forums.

2)    The National Urban Forum will be invited to advise the steering committee on the process

3)    ACToegther committed to facilitate the forums for the next 5 years. It is hoped that after that period the divisions and KCCA will appreciate the need for the forums and support their operations

4)    By the end of March the Kampala forums should be launched



Know Your City: Discussing Community-Collected Data at World Urban Forum 7

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Know Your City

By Ariana MacPherson, SDI Secretariat 

There has been a lot of discussion at this week’s World Urban Forum about the use of data as a key tool in the development of inclusive, sustainable cities. Key to this discussion is how data can be used in the cities of Africa, Asia and Latin America, most of which still face major challenges around urban poverty and whose city development strategies, for the most part, continue to exclude the large majority of these cities’ populations – the urban poor. But yesterday at SDI’s networking event, a strategically different approach to data was presented and discussed. The Know Your City campaign – a global campaign for gathering citywide data on slums as the basis for inclusive partnerships between the urban poor and their local governments – was presented as a critical component of the push for urban data. When communities of the urban poor collect data about their own communities, in partnership with their local and national governments, they are armed with the necessary tools to become key players in the development of strategies of urban development that take into account the realities and needs of the city’s urban poor majority.

In our networking event, delegates from SDI-affiliated urban poor federations and support NGOs, the SDI Secretariat, and key international networks and agencies discussed the importance of this campaign in greater detail. Jack Makau of the SDI Secretariat spoke on the history of SDI’s data collection strategies. SDI-affiliated federations of the urban poor have been collecting information about themselves for decades. This data has led to upgrading projects in affiliates across Africa, Asia and Latin America, and has formed the basis of large-scale slum upgrading interventions in India, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya and more recently, Uganda. 

Know Your City

In the last year, however, the SDI network has begun to standardize and aggregate this data in a way that we have not been able to before. This means that urban poor communities have expanded their scope – from collecting data only about the settlements where they live, to collecting data on all the slum settlements in their cities. This includes demographic, spatial and economic information that allows for a picture of the whole city – data that can be used to drive communities’ negotiations with local government for slum upgrading and development at the citywide scale. The accuracy and ownership of the data is enhanced because it is collected and used by communities in discussions with city governments on upgrading plans and programs, meaning that the communities themselves have a greater stake in the need for accurate, up-to-date information.

Know Your City

These claims were supported by the experiences of SDI affiliates from Kenya and Zimbabwe. Catherine Sekai, national leader of the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation, related that the Federation, alongside their local authority, “profiled the entire city of Harare, settlement by settlement” to identify peoples’ needs on the ground. This led to the transfer of land by the city to the communities for the construction of upgraded houses in Dzivaresekwa Extension, one of Harare’s largest slums.

Know Your City

Another example of the power of community-collected data came from Irene Karanja, executive director of Muungano Support Trust, support NGO to the Kenyan urban poor federation Muungano wa Wanavijiji. Karanja shared some key findings from 300 community-driven profiles from slums in 20 cities and towns across Kenya. Two central issues emerged from these profiles: land and sanitation. Most of the land occupied by slums in Kenya is privatized, and currently under high threat of eviction from developers looking to take back the land as land values in Kenya’s cities continue to rise. Because of the status of land ownership, interventions around sanitation have been nearly impossible and continue to threaten health and security of slum residents, particularly women. 

Karanja concluded her presentation by calling to action the Kenyan government and global urban development stakeholders, stating that, “The dialogue [around urban development] has to change now as we move towards Habitat III – poor people need a chance to expose the data that we are talking about today. Communities have data that government does not have. Despite this, government does not want to accept this data. It is our hope that this data can be used in Kenya to form part of the national urban agenda.” 

Know Your City

Two of SDI’s key institutional partners in the Know Your City campaign also participated in the event – Jean Pierre Elong-Mbassi, Secretary General of United Cities & Local Governments Africa (UCLG-A) and Anaclaudia Rossbach, Regional Advisor to Latin America and the Caribbean from Cities Alliance. Elong-Mbassi reminded the group that at least 50% of Africa’s cities are made up of slums, and that “any mayor interested in managing a city in a comprehensive way cannot ignore slum dwellers.” Elong-Mbassi echoed the call to action of the Know Your City campaign, requesting that local governments “leave [behind] the moment where we use second-hand data to [understand] reality,” instead, he went on to say, “We want first-hand data from communities to be the mine of knowledge for the management of cities.” 

Know Your City

Lastly, Anaclaudia Rossbach of Cities Alliance, coming from her experience in municipal government and her background as an economist, went on to endorse the need for community-collected slum data as critical to the successful implementation of slum upgrading projects. Indeed, with SDI sitting as a member of the Cities Alliance Executive Committee, the Know Your City campaign is part of the Cities Alliance medium term agenda. Rossbach emphasized the key point that it is only feasible to collect accurate data if the local people take ownership of the process – a critical component of SDI’s data-collection strategies.



Co-learning for inclusive cities: Seven local authorities and Federation members meet in Zimbabwe

Wednesday, 09 April 2014

By Diana Mitlin (IIED), Beth Chitekwe-Biti (Dialogue on Shelter, Zimbabew) & Noah Schermbrucker (SDI Secretariat)

New relationships between urban citizens and their local authorities are central to the upgrading of informal settlements and new urban development options for the lowest income and most disadvantaged urban dwellers. Such new relationships were recognised and explored in a meeting that took place in Harare on March 18th. The meeting drew together seven local authorities and the organized communities with whom they are working: Chinhoyi; Epworth; Bulawayo; Masvingo; Kariba; Kadoma and Harare. The community organizations present were all members of the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation (ZHPF).  Their work is supported by Dialogue on Shelter (DoS), a Zimbabwean NGO affiliated to Shack Dwellers International (SDI)-who also participated in the meeting. Some years ago government and communities would have blamed each other for the lack of improvements in high density, low-income neighborhoods. It is clear that both parties now recognise collective responsibilities, accountabilities and  are working towards shared solutions.

The meeting provided for frank discussions about the challenges involved in improving informal settlements. In joint presentations, municipal staff and federation leaders did not waste time congratulating themselves on work completed but instead focused on current challenges. Discussions highlighted the frequently rapid turnover of municipal staff, the lack of well-located land with easy access to employment opportunities and the lack of resources for investment in service improvements. It was suggested that municipalities and central government should give greater priority to the upgrading of informal settlements, and that this requires both effective strategies and new policy imperatives.

Epworth’s Housing Officer Mr. Muranduri spoke about the need to work with existing residents to manage the increase in residency following planned improvements to Ward 7. Patience Mudimu, Dialogue on Shelter, challenged the authority to increase the scale of its work and “to avoid the problem of people coming to improved areas and creating more overcrowding.” She emphasized that “slum upgrading needs to be city wide”.

William Hwata, Federation representative from Kariba, challenged the local authority’s preference for rapid upgrading of land allocated to the Federation. While the authority has been pressing the community to construct concrete two room houses within six months, he argued that the lowest income households couldn’t upgrade so quickly. He further reflected that perhaps this is becoming less problematic as authorities are able to see the progress residents are making (e.g. making plans, connecting water and accumulating building materials). Mr. Chipepo the Assistant Housing Director from Kariba City Council, was more ambivalent at this suggestion and emphasized the importance of the deadline.

The Housing Director of Kadoma Municipality Mr Hanyane recognised the problems that had resulted from the rapid turnover of local government staff with three housing directors having been appointed to city council since 2010.  It was tabled that the Kadoma federation has been promised land in three different developments, only to have the offers withdrawn and/or the federation being forced away from the development because of the planned level of improvement and associated costs. Mr. Hanyane and others also recognised the problems that some officials raise with respect to standards particularly around eco-sanitation units that have been challenged by public health authorities. However, the persistence and quality of the Federation engagement with the authority was recognized.  He suggested that this is because 80 per cent of the membership of the federation is made up of women: “I take my hat off to the ladies”. 

The meeting took place in Harare and site visits were made to two informal settlements. The first, Dzivarasekwa Extension, is benefitting from a comprehensive upgrading programme. Reticulated services are being installed and 16 model houses have been completed. The second, Gunhill, is an informal settlement close to the racecourse in Borrowdale an affluent Harare neighbourhood. The Gunhill settlement has no access to services. The community is in the process of being relocated.

Community participants at the meeting were all members of the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation. However, the presentations highlighted the ways in which membership is expanding as non-Federation members are included within activites.  In Dzivarasekwa Extension in Harare, for example, the federation families allocated land and relocating into this area simply incorporated the 160 other families on site already into their settlement development. These 480 households now work together to upgrade the area.  In Chinhoyi, non-federation members have benefited from sanitation investments as settlement improvements are inclusive of all local residents, offering all households the possibility of better access. A group established to improve a communal sanitation block includes members and non-members alike.  More than one official recognized the value of these visits in both pointing out the nature of the problem of informal settlements, and in demonstrating that upgrading is possible and desirable. Bridget Mandizha (Housing Manager in Harare) reflected on what the City of Harare had learnt from the project during the meeting.  She argued that “the project is a de-learning platform for technocrats. It has taken us from the theoretical background of a top bottom approach to the provision of services through the participatory approach.  We have been re-taught.”


SDI Receives the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship

Tuesday, 08 April 2014

SDI is increasingly receiving international attention and recognition. The recent Nobel Peace Prize nomination bares testament to this. The Nobel committee nominated Jockin Arputham and SDI for the social progress in improving conditions in cities across the developing world and facilitating dialogue between the urban poor and government authorities.

SDI is one of seven innovative organizations receiving the 2014 Skoll Awards for Social Entrepreneurship. Winners of the Skoll Award share several characteristics; among these, each is led by a social entrepreneur and has developed an innovation that enables it to effect large-scale change related to one of the world's most pressing problems. The Skoll Awards are designed for leaders whose experiences in social change allow them to contribute to a peer network committed to continuous learning and shared expertise. The Skoll Awards help organizations scale the impact of their work to a larger national or global level by providing a multiyear grant for core support to expand programs and capacity. Beyond monetary investment, Skoll Foundation fosters collaboration and partnership between organizations.

SDI is being recognized by The Skoll Foundation for its work in supporting slum dwellers around the world in improving their cities. SDI has been operating in the urban poverty space for 15 years and has been a leader in creating a united and organized voice of the urban poor on the international stage. SDI’s network of urban poor federations is primarily built around women-led savings schemes. These savings operate as a mechanism for monetizing social capital in communities and assists communities to negotiate with formal authorities to leverage far greater resources for developing their neighborhoods. Since SDI is focused on the local priorities, needs, and capacities of slum dwellers, it has developed the traction to advance a grassroots agenda of creating “pro-poor” cities that address the pervasive exclusion of the poor from the economies and political structures of 21st century cities. SDI understands that organized communities have a catalytic role to play in alleviating urban poverty – at the household, settlement, city, national, and international level.

Jockin Arputham will be accepting the award at the 11th Annual Skoll World Forum in Oxford from 9-11 April. The Skoll World Forum is the premier conference on social entrepreneurship which focuses on best practices, new innovations and connecting leaders from social, finance, private and public sectors to one another to further global social progress. The Award Ceremony and key sessions from the World Forum will be streamed live.

For more information of the 2014 Skoll Awards, click here.




Recent Posts


Popular Posts