SDI Participates in Commonwealth Local Government Conference, Uganda

Commonwealth Local Govt Conference

By By Hellen Nyamweru, AcTogether Uganda

The National Slum Dwellers Federation fraternity was well represented at the recently concluded Commonwealth Local Government Conference held at Munyonyo Kampala from the 14th to the 17th of May, 2013.The conference with the theme  ‘Developmental Local Government: Putting Local Government at the Heart of Development’ saw delegates and high ranking personnel coming from all over the world to look into how  local governments can be empowered to reduce poverty, stimulate the local economy and ensure provide better services to the community.

The event was launched by the President of Uganda, His Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni on the 14th of May in an event twinned with the opening of the exhibition arena by His Excellency where the federation displayed a myriad of items from their small income generating activities such as beautiful crafts, artifacts, jua-kali works, charcoal briquettes, jewellery, mats among others. NSDFU also displayed sanitation and housing models demonstrating low cost technology and to help demonstrate the cost effectiveness of federation projects.

Local and international organizations such as ACTogether Uganda, SDI, and Cities Alliance had information desks where they publicized their works as organizations in the quest to promote good local governance.

Muturi Joseph, a federation leader from Muungano Wa Wanavijiji Kenya gave a brilliant presentation on the 16th of May in a panel chaired by Julian Baskin from Cities Alliance. The presentation that centered on urban challenges from a community-city-national and global perspective was able to ‘speak’ to the delegates in attendance and generate debate in the house .It stressed on the truth that slums and informal settlement are a reality that cannot be ignored and that governments must plan for them.

Commonwealth Local Govt Conference

The team at the ACTogether/SDI/NSDFU booths also established contact with local governments within and outside Uganda some of who had little or no information about the federation. It was a privilege for the SDI fraternity to be invited in so many municipalities by local governments officials from all over Uganda and a promise of their support once we journey to these municipalities to mobilize the urban poor. Delegates from outside Uganda who happened to come from countries where the federation exists were given a contact of the SDI family to follow up back home.

Many delegates visited the SDI/ACTogether Uganda booth to see the library of books published on the works of the SDI federations. They also interacted with the participants and availed their email addresses for further correspondence to enable them access more information and softcopies of publications by NSDFU/ACT/SDI.

Vicky Nakibuuka from Kampala Central federation and Diana Najuuko from Makindye federation coordinated and supervised the NSDFU exhibition booth, which sold items produced by federation members throughout Kampala. They sold out some of the items they had, most especially the artifacts and made a profit of about UGX 800,000, approximately USD 320. ‘’When I went back to Makindye on Friday evening, those who had given me items to sell told me I have to find out if there was another conference next week so that I can continue selling for them! I found it very interesting’’

In the words of Sri Lanka’s President, His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa, “Local governments are the most practical expression of the ideals and aspirations of a functioning democracy.” We, the SDI fraternity, share the same insight having worked with many local governments in mobilizing the urban poor in innovative ways to set priorities, make decisions in participatory, deliberative, collaborative way to overcome conflicts and to solve critical community problems. We continue working together to support positive change and achieve positive tangible outcomes in the communities, regions and the world as a whole.

Weaving Cities: Creating a National Voice of the Urban Poor in Bolivia

Bolivia National Conference

By Celine d’Cruz, SDI Secretariat 

Planning for the National leaders meeting in November began in June 2012. This was a gradual outcome of several exchanges to and from Bolivia over the last three years by SDI. In June 2012 the Government of Bolivia came out with a regularization law, which created a lot of commotion amongst the informal communities. There were many rumors spreading and the leadership did not understand the implications of this new law for the land that they occupied. There are informal settlements on municipal lands, state lands, private lands and so on. Ownership for much of these occupied lands is unclear, creating numerous complications as the law has different implications for those residing on different types of lands. 

For the Bolivian support NGO, Red de Accion Comunitaria (RAC), the first response was to strengthen and consolidate the slum enumeration process in District 8, a settlement in Cochabamba, which started long before the law was in sight. This settlement data proved to be mouth watering to both the national and local government who have no information at all. The local officials in District 8 are in dialogue with the community leaders who are mostly men. District 8 was one of the first settlements to respond, but similar concerns were raised by informal settlements in other cities.  This prompted the need to plan for the November meeting in Cochabamba where the leadership – both men and women – from the four cities would have the space to discuss the law and its implications for residents of informal settlements across Bolivia.

During the planning phase it was decided that the objective of the November meeting was 1) To understand the new regularization law and its implications for informal settlements with regard to issues of land ownership, and 2) To consolidate the voices of the leadership from the four cities to create a national federation of the urban poor. 

Participants at the conference included about 150 community women from the 4 cities in Bolivia, 4 representatives from neighboring countries of Brazil, Ecuador and Columbia with three representatives from SDI including SDI Coordinators Celine d’Cruz (India) and Rose Molokoane (South Africa) and SDI Board member Sonia Fadrigo (Philippines). 

Bolivia National Conference

In addition to these participants, about 7 – 8 local government officials (men and women) and one representative from the National government (also a woman). This configuration ensured maximum participation from women during the course of the conference. It was amazing how well some of the women narrated their stories about issues around the regularization of their land, their collective savings, and how their experiences with banks and micro credit institutions captured the attention of the both the local and the national government officials present. This is something all the officials will take back home. For the community leaders it was the first time they had the chance to speak in public; this event was a good opportunity for them to understand their own capacities and skills. 

This conference was the first time that the leaders from the four cities were meeting each other. In her introduction, Sonia Fadrigo said, “You are all women and are all saving. You are clearly on the right track.”

There are signs of a relationship being formed between communities, local governments and national government in all four cities. This needs to be pursued consistently and strategically.

The two women leaders from Brazil were very motivated after this meeting. For example, they asked Maria Eugenia Torrico of Bolivia if they could come for 15 days in January to spend time with the community leaders to learn and go back home and strengthen their own community savings.

Rose felt that SDI was doing so much good in all these places around the world especially with these very poor women from Bolivia.

The woman from Ecuador had a lot of experience with housing and had come to both share and learn. Their community-based organization is free to learn about the SDI rituals and replicate them in their context.

Adriana from Colombia plans to take some of the lessons and test them out in Colombia with the agency working on poverty issues. We also started a dialogue on possible ideas of strengthening a people’s process within a national government program.

The Peruvian women did not arrive as one of them was sick and so the other did not want to travel alone. This would be their first time out of their country without any NGO support and this may have caused its own set of dynamics within their community and with their men. Eli and Maria will follow up with them and understand better what transpired. It has been a struggle finding a support NGO in Peru.  It was decided that if the community leaders who are saving do not want to continue then we may want to stall Peru for awhile till we find an individual or an NGO willing to walk through this path. SDI needs to review this. 

Bolivia National Conference

There were a number of key outcomes of the conference. There was an MOU signed between the Director of Housing from the national government and RAC. However, with no federation in place yet none of the community leaders could sign this MOU. Government, community leaders and RAC are learning to work with each other while building their separate capacities.

This meeting enabled both the local and national government representatives to better understand the community building process through community savings, slum enumerations and slum upgrading works. The Villa Vista upgrading was a good example to the all present.

As a result of the conference, RAC better understands the need for a national level leadership that they will work in tandem with. The idea emerged to create and build a collective leadership, which is more horizontal, and not just a couple of leaders who have power on the top.

RAC will work in the coming month to select the national leadership from a locally driven process. RAC estimates that there are at least 20 leaders in the four cities who can take on the responsibility of national leadership. 

Bolivia National Conference

A brief outline of the conference events is included below:

Day 1: After the inaugural speeches the group divided into ten groups according to their land titles and discussed issues relevant to their land ownership. There was a very good reflection within the groups, which the leaders presented at the end of the day. A lot of very important issues came up and the local officials sitting with these teams had a chance to respond or advise the group on how to take this forward. Maria and her team worked to  consolidate some of the important lessons for each of the groups and what needs to be followed up.

Day 2: The morning was spent on presentations by the women to the National government representative on their savings, their experience with the local banks and with micro credit. The government is planning to have a new bank law encouraging micro credit. Listening to the stories of the women pressed panic buttons with the Director for Housing who said she would try to see what she could do about this. There was an MOU signed with the Director before she left. She has promised to work on a couple of pilots with RAC so that they can refine their learning together.

The afternoon session was on slum enumerations and the leaders broke up into groups and discussed the progress of the settlement profiles in their respective cities. Sonia and Celine wrapped up by presenting the SDI perspective on slum enumerations. 

Day 3: Event planned at District 8 to inaugurate the slum enumeration process in one of the new settlements. Ended with a closing ceremony and street theatre. 

Day 4: Morning, reflection with RAC and the core leadership on the event and the future steps to be taken. Afternoon spent time with the core leaders and the some of the District 8 leaders on explaining some core ideas and concepts of savings and enumerations.


Beyond Participation: SDI Showcases Partnership Models at AfriCities Conference

AfriCities 2012

SDI delegates take part in a reflection on the Land, Services and Citizenship Project hosted by Cities Alliance at Africities


By George Masimba, Dialogue on Shelter, Zimbabwe 

The recent Afri-Cities conference was held in Dakar, Senegal and took place under the theme – ‘Building Africa from its territories: which challenges for local governments’. About 5 000 delegates from African cities and beyond converged in the coastal  city of Dakar to deliberate issues confronting modern African cities. The concept of territory in the theme referred to, among other things, exploring the role of Africa’s institutions and resources as major components for catalyzing the growth of the continent. In particular, the focus was centered on the local government sphere as a critical institutional space for mediating development processes. This year, Slum Dwellers International (SDI) was able to send a delegation consisting of five countries (South Africa, Ghana, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe) accompanied by Mayors from cities where affiliates have established strong links. Through their presentations, the five country affiliates highlighted how they had escalated their engagement with their respective to the brokering of meaningful agreements and equal partnerships.

The session titled ‘Strategies for people’s participation and citizenship’ saw Ghana, Uganda and Zimbabwe sharing experiences from their countries on the topic. The Zimbabwean delegation presented the Harare Slum Upgrading Project that is being jointly implemented with the City of Harare as an example of how a partnership had evolved out of a precedent-setting slum improvement project. The presenters narrated how the relationship had evolved first through land allocations that supported community participation to more equal relationships grounded and firmed up with memorandums of agreements. In Harare, it was noted that the slum upgrading project had not only improved slum conditions but more significantly had provided a site to test alternative solutions to the challenges that slum dwellers face in slums. Construction of ecological sanitation units (ecosan toilets) under the project, for instance, was one such alternative that the partners were able to pilot in the Dzivarasekwa Extension settlement where previously families had to rely on pit-latrines.

Besides testing practical solutions, the Harare Slum Upgrading Project has also enabled the City of Harare and the alliance of Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation and Dialogue on Shelter to develop a slum upgrading strategy for the city, undertake a review of the building regulations and explore the establishment of a city-wide pro-poor slum upgrading finance facility. The upgrading strategy now acts as a protocol detailing a set of procedures for dealing with slums. Additionally, the city-wide slum upgrading fund initiative was an important step in innovating joint funding mechanisms that combine city and communities resources. These activities were reported as significant milestones in addressing the systemic causes underlying the emergence of slums in the city.

AfriCities 2012

Mayor of Harare officially launching a book at the Cities Alliance booth at the Africities Conference in Dakar, Senegal


In Ghana, the presenters from the alliance of Ghana Federation and People’s Dialogue related their interaction with local government indicating how this had birthed very strong partnerships. The Ghana experience centered on the Land, Services and Citizenship (LSC) program, a 3-year project targeting mobilization of savings groups, community infrastructure, profiling, mapping and organization of city-wide forums. Under the first phase of LSC 18 slum settlements have been mapped and profiled in two cities and a memorandum of understanding signed with Ashaiman Municipal Assembly. A Project Implementation Team (PIT) has been set to jointly oversee the implementation of project activities. Municipal Assembly staff provides technical assistance to anchor the profiling and mapping activities while local councilors support Federation groups around community mobilization efforts. It is through such projects that interactions with city governments have been changed from undertaking once-off projects were communities simply participate to carrying out partnership projects with enduring results that alter relations and increase the scope for going to scale. 

The SDI delegation from Uganda was supported by the Mayor of Mbale, the Presidential Advisor on Poverty Alleviation and the Commissioner of Urban Development from the local government ministry. In Uganda, central government, local governments and urban poor communities have been brought together around the ‘Transforming Settlements of the Urban Poor in Uganda (TSUPU) project. Like its Ghanaian counterpart, TSUPU is also supported by Cities Alliance and aims to: establish urban forums at various tiers of government, develop city development strategies, undertake mapping and enumeration of slums and set up community upgrading funds. 

The Ugandan presentation centered on the TSUPU project, which is being undertaken in the cities of Mbale, Jinja, Arua, Mbarara and Kabale. In three of these cities, (Mbale, Jinja and Arua) MOUs have been signed with urban forums having been set up. These forums are community-wide development platforms that rally together all urban stakeholders. During the session, the Mayor of Mbale commended the Ugandan Alliance’s achievements and committed continued support to the Federation.

The next session in which SDI participated centred around the Know Your City Project (KYC), also supported by Cities Alliance. The panelists for this session were from the Zambian SDI Alliance, Lusaka City Council’s Director of Planning, the Mayor of Kitwe, the Mayor of Ndola, the Mayor of Harare and the representatives from Burkina Faso. The Zambian presentation commenced with the Lusaka City Council outlining the background and context of slums in Lusaka. It was indicated that the Improvement Areas Act is a piece of legislation that provides the necessary legal ingredients for upgrading, setting out the procedures for undertaking upgrading. Therefore, armed with such legislation, communities and local authorities joined hands in Zambia’s two major cities under the Know Your City Campaign to collect and document information that would feed into slum upgrading. 

An MOU had been signed between Lusaka City Council, Zambia Homeless People’s Federation and People’s Process on Housing and Poverty in Zambia earlier in 2012, which has helped to define the roles and vision of the partnership. The Zambian Federation reported that with support from Lusaka City Council they had been able to conduct profiling, enumerations and mapping in slum areas such as George Compound. A National Housing Forum was convened to discuss the findings from these information gathering exercises and government declared three slums improvement areas. It is through joint execution of these project activities that these partnerships have engendered trust and confidence amongst the partners. Through this co-operation, urban communities from these slums have been given a chance to offer solutions to their challenges and design sustainable strategies together with local government.

These SDI sessions were capped with a presentation from Rose Molokoane during a political session on Africa’s Integration where she presented alongside the former presidents of Benin and Cape Verde. Rose stressed that SDI has shifted gears from participation to partnerships with local governments. She also emphasized that urban poor communities have a great deal of information which cities can use to transform slum settlements. Whilst African leaders have established the African Union, slum dwellers had also rallied together around their own African Union of the Urban Poor through the SDI network.