Posts for July 2011
The Rockefeller Foundation announced yesterday that Jane Weru, SDI board member, founder of the Kenyan support NGO and executive director of Akiba Mashinani Trust, will be honored with an award for innovative work which exemplifies the mission and vision of the Rockefeller Foundation to promote the well-being of humanity around the world. Watch the video of Jane's acceptance speech here, and an NTV interview with her here.
The award will be given as part of the Foundation's inaugural Innovation Forum, to be held on 27 July 2011 in New York City:
The 2011 Innovation Forum will place a particular focus on identifying major challenges facing the poor and vulnerable in the areas of food security, global water security and urban economic security in American cities. The program also aims to pinpoint potential new approaches to solving some of these most pressing issues.
Awards will also be presented to President Bill Clinton, founder of the William J. Clinton Foundation and 42nd President of the United States, Sania Nishtar, founder and president of the NGO think tank Heartfile, and Kiva in the Classroom. For more information on the Innovation Forum and awards, read the press release here, and a short article here.
For more on SDI's work in Kenya, read Jane's article in Environment & Urbanization describing the important work of the Kenyan urban poor federation and support NGO around upgrading, tenure, and developing community capacity to manage these, or visit the Kenya country page.
By Ariana K. MacPherson, SDI Secretariat
Espina stands. She tells us that she is positive – that she tells women in her community she is not ashamed, and that because she takes care of herself, she does not look sick, “Do I look sick?” she asks with a coy smile on her face. She breaks into song and the woman by her side stands as they begin to dance. They are strong, empowered, have taken control of their lives and ensured that their voice is heard. Espina is right – they do not look sick. They do not look like AIDS or anything close to death. Dressed in bright East African fabrics, they are vibrant and full of life.
These women come from Zambia and are gathered in Windhoek, Namibia to meet with fellow slum/shack dwellers from across Southern Africa to exchange learning around challenges and successes in their efforts to improve living conditions for urban and rural poor throughout the region.
Yesterday they gathered in a nearby settlement called Barcelona. Under the shade of low-hanging branches, members of urban poor federations from across southern Africa gathered alongside members of the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia (SDFN) to share knowledge and experience and find solutions to some of the struggles facing the local group here in Barcelona.
Lucia, a SDFN leader from Windhoek, described the challenges they have faced in collecting loan repayments and audit books from community members who have already obtained housing through the SDFN process.
We wait patiently for community members to gather. Slowly they appear, intrigued by the group of visitors waiting under the tree. Eventually, roughly fifteen members of the Barcelona group gather to meet with us, describing how they started their efforts in 1998, meeting on Sundays to collect and report on savings. It was in those early days that they set a goal of saving N$500 per person to put towards purchase of the land, so that someday they could own homes there.
Before long the group accomplished this goal. They purchased the land and constructed shacks on it, continuing to save money towards construction of their homes. In 2002, twenty-four of the group members had saved enough to build homes. Each contributed a down payment of N$750 and received a loan of N$15,000 for housing construction. To date, 31 of the 39 members have constructed homes in Barcelona settlement. Of these, four have paid off their housing loans and now own their homes outright.
Although the community is still participating in a group savings scheme, savings and collection of loan payments have been less regular since most members have acquired housing. It has been a challenge to keep track of owners and to keep up the momentum for savings. In addition, SDFN leaders describe difficulties they have had in obtaining audit reports to contribute to the Federation’s national reports. It seems as though the community has lost touch with the bigger picture of the Federation, and the power that they have as Federation members.
Gradually the community members opened up about some of the challenges they have faced locally. Some owners have rented their homes out to a ever-changing stream of tenants. Loan repayments are not being made by all members. The suggestion is made that tenants must be approved by the group, and members are reminded that until the houses are paid off, they are owned by the Federation. Local members are encouraged to remember their own power as members of a national federation – they can engage the police if necessary, as they are the legal owners of these homes.
A young woman speaks up. She tells the group that she is renting a room in one of the homes. She is paying towards the loan and for water, but she was unaware that the loan was acquired through the Federation or that there was a local savings scheme. She stays for the length of the meeting, taking responsibility for a bundle of savings books showing interest in becoming involved in the group.
An old lady is squatting at the front. She tells the group that she took out a loan for her home and was making her payments, but fell sick and has not been able to continue making full monthly payments, “I divide my money that I need for food, and the rest I pay towards my house, but still it is not enough,” she says. A Federation member from Swaziland suggests that perhaps she could rent a room out to increase her income. She needs help to make this work, and the group says they will help her. Another SDFN member reminds us that this is why savings schemes are so important – they maintain group unity, and keep people informed of what is happening, why individuals can or cannot make payments, and how the group can find solutions to these problems together.
Before the close of the meeting another woman raises her hand. She is very concerned about the situation in one of the houses. “A mama built this house, and then just disappeared!” she says. Apparently the mama’s son and a policeman are now living there, the policeman renting a room, and the homeowner is never seen. Repayments are not being made. It turns out her son is at the meeting. He raises his hand to speak. He tells the group that his mother is living in Khomasdal, another settlement in Windhoek. He has started paying towards the water, but has not been paying for the house. Marlene, a Federation member from the SDI Alliance in South Africa, asks him, “Do you understand that the house you are staying in does not currently belong to you, but to this Federation? Are you willing to take the necessary measures to make this house yours?” He says he is and the group decides to write up a contract right then & there, putting this agreement in writing with the hope of ensuring that loan repayments will now be made.
These solutions would not have been possible without the coming together of people from across the region, exchanging experience and ideas, and encouraging local members to open up about their experiences. This kind of exchange empowers not only the local Federation, but the visiting ones as well, as they share knowledge with others while gaining new knowledge to take back to the Federations at home.
Click here for a full report on the Meeting of the Southern Africa Regional Hub.
To see more photos from the recent trip to Namibia, visit SDI's Flickr page.
The 80,000 residents of the Accra informal settlement known as Old Fadama have faced numerous eviction threats over the past decade. But these are the people that live, work, and build the growing Ghanaian metropolis. A new publication of Ghanaian journalism students and the Federation explains how people such as female head porters and entrepreneurs survive and organize. Click here to download.
By Skye Dobson, SDI secretariat
On July 4th, 2011 an international delegation set off to Kabale in Uganda’s South-West. The group consisted of slum dwellers, support-NGO staff, and a government official from Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Uganda. The Zimbabwean team consisted of Sharon and Samukelisiwe from the Federation, and Takutzwa from their support-NGO. The Malawian team consisted of Loveliness and Fainess from the Federation, Patrick from the support-NGO, and Costly Chanza, Director of Physical Planning from Blantyre. From Uganda, Federation member, Kakinda, was joined by ACTogether representatives.
The journey to Kabale from Kampala was a long one. Poor roads took their toll on the group’s van, but spirits remained high as conversation about the work of each Federation flowed. The groups had much to share and much to learn from one another. The Zimbabweans, experienced in mapping, were able to share some information about their work in Harare, while the Malawians had much to share on housing and sanitation projects. The Ugandans had much to share about their experiences as part of TSUPU and the massive citywide enumerations recently completed. As the group drove through the Ugandan countryside they discussed the similarities and differences between their countries and Uganda. Inspirational singing followed these discussions. The Zimbabwean and Malawian women, despite their different languages, were able to sing their Federation songs in perfect harmony.
Despite the long journey, the group rose early the following morning to meet their fellow Federation members from Kabale. The group then visited Local Council Members to inform them of the mapping exercise and sensitize them about the Federation and the purpose of mapping. They then ventured to the Municipal Council to meet the Town Clerk for the same purpose. Both meetings went well and the community was encouraged by the receptiveness of the local authorities.
These meetings were followed by training with the Kabale mapping team. The Federation’s regional leaders mobilized a group of mappers, many of whom had taken part in the recent enumeration exercise. Since first learning to map on an exchange to Jinja, Federation member from Kampala, Robert Kakinda, has proven to be a strong mapper. He has led mapping teams across Uganda and become an adept teacher and committed and organized mapping leader. In the yard in front of the Kabale federation’s regional office, Kakinda showed the local team the symbols used by the Federation to represent features such as electric poles, water-points, and garbage skips.
Once convinced the group had internalized these symbols he proceeded to show them the satellite maps of Kabale’s cells (neighborhoods). The group was asked to identify certain features on the map to show they understood how to read it. Because each and every structure needs to be identified, interns from local universities digitized the satellite maps to show only the structures. In order for the new map to be big enough for the community to record structure-level features, the satellite map is broken up into a series of “zoomed in” maps. It is on these maps that the community can record the numbers allocated during enumerations on each structure. In so doing, the rich household data that was collected during the recent enumerations (community-run censuses) can be linked to spatial maps using GIS technology. The smaller maps are segments of the entire cell (neighborhood). To ensure the community understands this they assemble the smaller “zoomed in” maps like a jigsaw in strips as can be seen below.
The smaller maps then become recognizable again. Each day of the mapping process, the teams are allocated their own “strips” which traverse the settlement to ensure every square foot is mapped. Each team was led by one experienced mapper and was comprised of a team of local Federation members that will become the leaders once the visitors depart. The exchange participants from Zimbabwe and Malawi were split amongst the groups to learn and to teach. As the groups set out the Learning-by-Doing process began. Concepts that were somewhat abstract in the initial training workshop became concrete as the Kabale team – some of whom are pictured below – navigated the complexities of mapping informal settlements.
The local contingent is absolutely critical to the success of the mapping process from the very beginning. Not only will they carry on the exercise once the visitors leave, but they are able to explain the exercise to their fellow Kabale residents and respectfully request permission to enter compounds and homes to collect information. Entering the private spaces of families is invasive and fears of eviction are never far from the minds of those in informal settlements. Having Federation members that speak the local language – which is different in Kabale than it is even in Kampala – and who are known in the community is central to the viability of the exercise.
The complexity of mapping is hard to comprehend unless you take part in the exercise. Satellite images are not always current and things change very rapidly in informal settlements. The teams must remain vigilant and take nothing for granted when analyzing the digitized structure maps they’re given. They must alter the outlines of structures when they do not fit what appears on the map and they must never assume what is seen from the front of a structure will be seen from the back. For example, in Kabale it is common to see a gated compound, which appears to contain a single house. One might assume that a single household occupies this structure and record the enumeration code that appears on the front door and leave. It is more often the case, however, that when you proceed to walk to the back of the house you see an additional 16 doors, meaning a total of 17 households actually occupy the plot upon which it was thought one household resided.
For the next week the experienced mappers will stay with the community to ensure they are confident with the process and then it will be up the Kabale residents and their regional leaders to manage the exercise going forward. They are confident they can carry on the exercise effectively and efficiently and anticipate it greatly strengthening their negotiating capacity when they visit the municipal and local councils. They will also be looked upon as the new teachers when neighboring Mbarara commences mapping later this month.
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