Nayana, the Mahila Milan leader is also a member of the Slum Development Association (SDA) and is well known for her work with slum dwellers. She is often approached by the authorities for conducting any survey in slums, is informed about new schemes and programs for the urban poor in Cuttack and also gives her opinion / ideas in favour of slum dwellers development. This is her report to MM monthly review. Kali Vihar is a settlement on Irrigation land situated along the riverbank with 164 families living there. Nayana’s settlement, Kali Vihar is to be relocated soon, but there is story behind it as to how they succeeded in getting houses for their community. This is a settlement where Mahila Milan has had a presence supporting the residents through various activities. Kali Vihar is located along the riverbank on a flood prone area, the city of Cuttack has tried several times to evict this settlement but were unsuccessful. Finally, they decided to relocate Kali Vihar to a place called Dhabereshwar 15 kilometres away from their present location. They will be allotted a plot size of 15X15 and given Rs 50,000 cash ( US$ 600).
The residents visited the site to find out there are no basic services in place, no transport facility, no means of communication, no livelihood options, no access roads, only water and a temporary community toilet was in place. There were no livelihood options in or around the site as most of the women currently work as house helpers. After visiting this site, Mahila Milan along with the communities and SDA members took an appointment of the collector to explain to him reasons why these communities should not be relocated there. The rationale was simple: with no job opportunities they would be forced to come back and settle in the city. But the collector said, they would have to move.
They then went to Cuttack Development Authority and explained the full situation, they got the same response from the CDA the rationale being “there is no other place” they can be relocated to. They were also informed that the Cuttack Development Authority planned relocation for 14 slums living along the coast in the Ring Road area under the Jaga Mission. Nayana, said, even we are slum dwellers and have a right to live and be relocated in a well-developed place, so then why not consider our settlement along with those 14 slums? Giving it a thought, the CDA consulted with the Cuttack Municipal Commissioner who then sent their verification team to Kali Vihar to do an assessment. Later it was decided to consider Kali Vihar as well for relocation at Trishulia, 4 kms away from the current location.
700 units of size 364 sq.ft has been constructed by the CDA at Trishulia. 7 buildings of 4 floors each having 120 flats are already complete, more are under construction. The area is well developed with schools, hospital is under construction, security has been provided, is a gated community, markets, bus stands are close by. There are private residential buildings and industrial areas where these women can get work easily as narrated by Nayana. The total cost of the units is 9,50,000 of which community contribution is 1.50,000. A down payment of 20,000 must be made by the communities, thereafter for the balance either they will be supported by the CDA to open bank accounts so that the EMI is deducted automatically for the balance amount from their bank accounts or a team from the bank will manually collect from the families once relocated.
While 135 opted for the first one; 29 families agreed to move to Dhabereshwar. the reason for choosing the second site, was one, they would get money and secondly, they say they can accommodate bigger families if they grow incrementally making some adjustments and changes to the design of the unit. But there are consequences of this that they might lose their livelihood and will not be able to travel back to the original place to continue with their jobs because of the distance and lack of transport facility. Also, Dhabereshwar is not a well developed site with least facilities and hence gives no opportunity for them for livelihood or other activities. Nayana, has been explaining to them the benefits of shifting into ready buildings, but they are unable to change their minds. They also say, they will not be able to make the downpayment now will be able to take a loan and repay back.
Families that agreed to move into buildings say they are in a position to pay 2000/month towards repayment as they already managed to get new jobs for themselves as laborers, cleaners, security guards for the new bus stand that is coming up. Again, this was possible because of Mahila Milan and SDA members as they were approached by the contractor and municipality to get them people to work at the bus stand. They will be paid 12,000 a month, some of them also got work as cooks in the Ahar Kendra at the bus stand. They will continue to work even post relocation.
What should the next urgent action and follow up should be ?
- Informing the communities on necessary documentation required for relocation – Ration card, voter ID card etc.
- Supporting them in the process of forming housing cooperatives and registering them
- Talking to them on the post-relocation challenges
- Listing other relocation colonies /slums to be relocated to follow a similar pattern.
Insights and explanations
- Why allowing communities to choose is critical yet has many known and unknown consequences.
- All cities will have such plans, and once some alternative is proposed, only strong networks can negotiate with well developed collectively created representations.
- More organisation is essential, cooperatives must be formed, borrowing and lending systems have to be developed from now.
- As has been seen in many other projects follow up is critical what gets developed in this project has value for the city and all other federations.
- This reflects how large disaster linked large projects will produce displacements and have to be areas for interventions for community organisations.
- How can MM and NSDF develop proposals and protocols.
 What is the JAGA mission- Odisha Liveable Habitat Mission (OHLM) -JAGA aims to transform slums into livebale habitat thus providing all necessary infrastructure and services as is provided to other sections of the society.
SDI Board and Secretariat hosted a collection of meetings from 19-23 April 2022 at the SDI Secretariat in Cape Town.
In attendance, SDI hosted its Board of Directors, which is chaired by Joseph Muturi, national leader of Muungano wa Wanavijiji, the Kenyan Slum Dweller Federation. The majority of Board members are slum dweller leaders, augmented by SDI-affiliated and independent professionals with expertise in key priority areas.[caption id="attachment_13468" align="aligncenter" width="660"] SDI’s Board and Secretariat hosted a series of sessions to reflect on the previous Strategic Period and the way forward. (BACK ROW) Charlton Ziervogel, Cher Petersen, David Sheridan, Ariana Karamallis, William Cobbett, Theresa Rodriguez, Austen Nenguke, James Tayler. (MIDDLE ROW) Martha Sibanda, Beth Chitekwe-Biti, Esperance Ayinkamiye, Tamara Merrill, Skye Dobson. (FRONT ROW) Anna Muller, Margaret Bayoh, Emily Mohohlo, Joseph Muturi, Mikkel Aagaard Harder, Xola Mteto. (PHOTO: James Tayler)[/caption]
Get to know our Board of Directors here.
The introductory sessions spanned two days and served as an opportunity for the Board and Secretariat to reflect on SDI’s 2018-2022 Strategic Plan, the State of SDI today, how we got here, and our key priority areas moving forward.
The sessions took a reflective and introspective look at the management of SDI’s Secretariat from 2018 to date and the tremendous progress made since the 2019 systems audit by Sida, one of SDI’s funding partners, highlighted major shortcomings in our internal controls and governance practices. As outlined previously, SDI immediately identified and took a number of critical actions and has spent the subsequent two years engaging in a process of comprehensive organisational turnaround to reactivate, rebuild and strengthen SDI’s Secretariat and governance structures. This week of meetings marked a critical juncture in this process as the first in-person meeting of the newly established SDI Board of Directors and the first meeting between the new board and its Secretariat.
SDI’s Programmatic Work
The Board and Secretariat also reflected on the network’s programmatic work over the past two years and the Secretariat’s role in supporting affiliates in this regard. SDI affiliates presented impressive work on climate adaptation and resilience, Covid-19 recovery and response, youth inclusion, human settlements and slum upgrading. Additionally, the Secretariat presented a number of key pieces of work, including a comprehensive Communications Strategy, the development of a Youth Inclusion Framework and activities in a variety of global spaces including the Gobeshona Conference on Locally Led Adaptations (27 March – 1 April), COP26, and more.[gallery columns="2" size="medium" ids="13472,13471,13470,13469"]
Additional pieces of work presented during the week include efforts towards the development of a comprehensive Business Development Strategy prioritising the hiring of a business development manager, rebuilding funder relationships and diversifying the funder base, and plans for a participatory review of our 2018-22 Strategic Plan and development of a strategy for the 2023-27 period. We aim to conclude the review by the start of the fourth quarter of 2022, with the new plan adopted by the Board and Council in the first quarter of 2023.
The week concluded with a Donor and Partners Meeting where SDI’s institutional strengthening and programmatic work over the past year was presented to our donors and partners by SDI Board members, Secretariat staff, and federation leaders. While most of the donors, partners and affiliates joined the meeting virtually, it still provided a critical opportunity for the SDI network and many of its key supporters to gather together to review the work done to date and chart a way forward to future support. This offered a critical moment for SDI in our efforts to continue building the trust of our donors and partners.
To request more information of the minutes of these meetings, please email Cher@sdinet.org
Port Harcourt Federation volunteers launch a new savings group in Diobu waterfront
Despite being one of the younger affiliates in the SDI network, the Nigerian SDI Alliance – comprised of the Nigeria Slum / Informal Settlement Federation and support NGO Justice & Empowerment Initiatives – is doing impressive work building a solid foundation of networked savings schemes, using community-collected data to negotiate eviction alternatives and improved living conditions for their communities, forming active partnerships with government and other urban decision makers, and building capacity and momentum in local youth to catalyse greater change. Below are some highlights from the affiliate on their activities over the last year.
During the period the Federation’s savings groups and membership continued to grow through outreach to new communities and strengthening savings groups in existing Federation communities. In Lagos this was primarily supported by the LGA Coordinator system set up by the Federation in 2017 where 2 strong Federation mobilizers have volunteered to take the lead in supporting other savings groups in their LGA. The LGA Coordinators convene meetings with representatives of the savings groups within their LGA, and also provide support to new groups or reenergize ‘inactive’ groups within their LGA.
The LGA Coordinators also generally serve as point persons for all Federation activities within their LGA (e.g. profiling or enumeration efforts). LGA coordinators effectively serve as ‘second tier’ leadership within the Federation even though there is no formal overall leadership structure.
Additionally, in order to emphasize the importance of savings as a core ritual, the Federation instituted a policy that all Federation volunteers would be required to submit copies of their savings passbooks on a monthly basis to show that they are active savers – this cuts across all aspects of Federation work, including that of the media and the profiling/data teams. This has helped to ensure that all Federation work continues to be anchored by community level savings groups as the fundamental building block of the Federation.
General Manager of Lagos Urban Renewal Agency and his staff in Orisunmibare community for a planning meeting with the Orisunmibare Upgrading Committee
Know Your City
To support community planning and partnerships outlined below, we have developed a number of maps, charts, and graphs that present the Federation’s profiling and enumeration data towards specific purposes. When a community completes profiling – a simple map of the community is produced and given back to the community for their own records and use. In Port Harcourt, towards building a collaboration with the Ministry of Works around improving community drainages, we have also developed drainage maps.
In both Lagos and Port Harcourt the Federation has been working to put their data to work – primarily in the context of engaging with government. In Lagos, our engagement with Lagos Urban Renewal Agency (LASURA) towards upgrading Orisunmibare community (and potentially 2 others) is largely informed by the enumeration process carried out in the community together with several LASURA staff. In Port Harcourt, the Federation is working with both the Water Corporation and the Ministry of Works towards community upgrading efforts – improving access to water on one hand, and improving drainages on the other hand. The interest of the Water Corporation and the Ministry of Works to work with the Federation was, in both cases, piqued by the data that the Federation had already collected.
The Federation has collaborated with the Department of Geography at University of Lagos and LASURA towards localizing and measuring indicators for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 – particularly around access to services and climate change resilience and adaptation. The Federation and JEI developed a household survey module that can be added on to our standard enumeration form to capture data about SDG 11.
Another collaboration that the Federation developed was with the Landlord and Tenant Association of Apapa LGA, tackling access to electricity (overbilling and estimated billing). This partnership evolved from a single paralegal case assisting Federation members wrongfully arrested and detained at the instigation of the electricity distribution company to try to silence their advocacy for better access to services, to an LGA-wide house numbering effort facilitated by the Federation towards negotiating better terms of service with the electricity distribution company. Because of the federation’s efforts, the member of the Lagos State House of Representatives for Apapa LGA and the Police Area Commander have participated in meetings to try to resolve the simmering dispute – and have largely supported the Federation’s position against extortionate billing. This negotiation process is still ongoing, however, it has afforded the Federation a lot of productive learning about mass mobilizing and using data to push for improved access to services, while drawing (political) allies to the cause.
Samuel Akinrolabu with the head of the Landlords and Tenants Association planning for mass house numbering across all of Apapa LGA to generate data to use in negotiations with the electricity distribution company
In Lagos, our partnership with Lagos State Urban Renewal Agency has continued to develop primarily through the process of working towards an inclusive in-situ upgrading process in Orisunmibare community. This process – the first of its kind in Lagos – has included community-level data collection through a participatory enumeration together with LASURA, establishment of a community upgrading committee, and dozens of planning meetings to date. As a result of these efforts, LASURA was able to obtain a budget from the State Government for 2018 to specifically support their engagement in the planning process in Orisunmibare.
Separately, the Lagos Federation has been engaged in an Affordable Housing Working Group set up in 2017 to think through mechanisms and designs for affordable housing in Lagos. The working group includes members from the Lagos State Ministry of Housing as well as a group of urban planning, architecture, and housing professionals. During the period numerous meetings were convened and a proposal for a government-backed housing trust fund that is truly accessible to the urban poor is being developed.
Engaging the Youth
KYC.TV media team in Port Harcourt on a shoot focused on access to health services in Federation communities
During the reporting period the youth Federation’s Know Your City TV team grew and matured by leaps and bounds – transforming from a group of young Federation members interested in making media, to a much more organized, focused, and talented team taking their own initiative to launch new projects. This transition was anchored by a regular series of trainings, exchanges, and other engagements that served to hone skills, build excitement, deepen engagement of the KYC.TV team with the larger Federation, and sharpen our collective focus on making media for change.
The other major area of youth engagement was in further training and growing the KYC profiling and data teams in Lagos and Port Harcourt – which led a number of intensive efforts to enumerate several settlements towards planning upgrading, house number communities towards engagement with electricity distribution companies, and refine data capture processes — both for KYC and for the Nigerian Federation Savings Database.
By Jack Makau, SDI Kenya
It’s Day 8: Demo Day. The procession of 300 to 400 slum dwellers gets moving at 10 am. There is a small smartphone army of NGOs who are continuously dashing ahead of the procession to snap away. Some idiot runs forward and takes a selfie. To the dismay of the federation, one of the partner NGOs has hired a marching band to lead the procession.
From Freedom Corner – a memorial to the struggle for Kenya’s Independence –the orderly musical procession makes its way to the Ministry of Transport. The Ministry houses the ‘Multi-Sectoral Committee on Unsafe Structures’, who are behind the Nairobi evictions.
As the procession approaches the Ministry of Transport, the gates are quickly closed and padlocked. First, the lead team asks to speak to the Minister’s office, informing them that their only interest is to deliver a petition. There’s frantic activity behind the gates; a Mercedes car parked near the gate is driven away. Faces are peering from the Ministry offices. Two armed police officers come to the gate. After a couple of protest songs, there still is no response from the Ministry. The perfect cue that the slum dwellers are waiting for. Time to breach the awkward, but for me rather comfortable, civility. Free at last!!!
A cry rises above the marching band: to retreat from the Ministry’s gate and back to the street. The strategy is to block the road. Someone says in Swahili, “A little tear gas is good for the soul.” The road is quickly occupied. A new energy is starting to take over. The script goes out the window, and is replaced by an anger that has seemed to be sadly absent in the last week. Another voice demands, “Demolish our homes, we are coming to take your fancy houses.” The blocked traffic starts to turn back. Pedestrians hesitate to walk past. Some in the NGO crowd start to drift to the edges of the crowd – distancing themselves and pretending to be documenting on their phones.
“Kumekujwa,” someone says. The nearest English equivalent is, “There is an arrival.” An unmarked Land Cruiser with darkened windows parks a few meters away – no one comes out. On the other side, a police truck stops and half a dozen police jump out. No one misses the teargas canisters in their hands, no one stops singing and jiggling. To show defiance some people sit and lie on the road. I suddenly have a deep need to find an outer position to take a panoramic picture on my iPhone. The KYC TV camera guy has the camera strung behind his back and has his right hand raised in the symbol for struggle. I’m certain his KYC TV teacher/mentor in Cape Town would be horrified. I force myself to jump up and down instead.
Battle-hardened federation mama Emily engages the lead officer: “All we want is to give them our petition. Why are they wasting our time? Tell them to come take it, I need to go home before the kids come from school.”
“You,” the officer barks back, “are causing a traffic problem – you need to get off the road.” Emily’s response is lost. The crowd is suddenly wailing. I look both ways — damn! nowhere to run. We are bang at the centre of the roadblock.
Now Emily has the officer’s arm and is marching to the Ministry gate. Then the officer is talking to someone behind the gate. Then a voice from the federation team near the gate commands, “Give them one lane!” The crowd is upset. Someone starts a countdown, the crowd has turned to the gate and is counting down – we are going to storm the gate. I turn around and some onlookers have their hands inside of their blazers – pistols are being pulled out. All the four doors of the unmarked car are now open. The marching band are across the road, opposite the Ministry’s gate. The band are hurriedly packing their instruments.
Within the crowd, the federation leaders know there is a deal being done at the gate. They start herding the crowd, “Let’s give them one lane for five minutes. They don’t open, we take the road again,” they shout. Reluctantly, the crowd is marshalled to one lane. The tensed police stand down too. The moment passes, I breathe out.
The gate is partially opened and a few people are let in.
In 1997 Papa, now 67 years, was part of the first Kenyan slum dweller exchange to South Africa. He is first through the gate. Ezekiel, federation president and the man with the script and petition, is next. Emily, with the lead policeman still in hand, goes in next. A mostly troublesome “senior youth and suspected police informant” muscles in. Next, petite and clad in a hijab, a new but passionate leader from Mukuru slums. They want to shut the gate, then a mama squeezes in – no one is sure which settlement she’s from and she’s holding the arm of another mama. The negotiating team is in and the gate is shut. Someone says, “That last one is a real stupid,” everyone laughs. Someone starts singing, everyone joins in. Symbols sound and the marching band is back.
45 minutes later, the team emerges with the Housing Secretary. He mounts a chair behind the gate and is handed the protest mega phone. He lyrics all lovely things, “We need a national database of slum dwellers”, “Government will build 200,000 social houses…”
The crowd listens a little and then someone shouts, “And the demolitions?” He calms the crowd and announces, “We will do the demolitions with you.” The crowd starts wailing. He calms the crowd again and corrects himself, “We will work with you to resettle people living in dangerous places.”
Ezekiel then addresses the crowd. He reports the deal they’ve made and is heckled. “We want blood, we want justice, we sent you to drag them out here by the ears and you bring us an agreement instead?” they shout. And it truly seems all too easy.
Everyone is exhausted, plans to deliver other petitions are abandoned and the crowd melts easily into the street. Soon, we cannot see the other civil society organisations. We get Ezekiel and Emily to debrief us over lunch, overlooking the Ministry.
To start, they narrate the proceedings of the meeting. By any standard applicable it sounds like a totally shambolic affair:
First, the woman from an unknown settlement jumps right in and accuses the housing ministry of interfering with the selection of representatives to a slum upgrading committee in her settlement. And as her tone rises, the stupid one breaks down and starts crying about the pain she feels about how government has treated her family. Emily tries to establish some sanity, but the ‘senior youth’ jumps up, whips a Kenyan flag from his waist and says he’ll hang himself right there with the flag. “Better I kill myself right here than you come at night to kill me and my children in my shack,” he shouts. It’s going terribly.
Emily asks them to calm down and asks senior leader Papa to speak. Papa in turn and with complete gravitas, begins by informing the group that he went to New York in October last year: “…And even though I missed my flight, they got me to the next flight and when I got there… ” Again Emily has to jump in. Finally, Ezekiel comes in and does the proper representation and also asks to read the petition in summary. The Housing Secretary takes notes and, just as he prepares to respond, the passionate new leader in a hijab, says she would like to share. And share she does. She talks about the federation’s Special Planning Area project in Mukuru slums, probably all she knows about Muungano. Emily is concerned that the Secretary now looks totally dumbfounded.
When he finally gets the chance to speak the Secretary says the following: first, he has listened with complete attention because he can see that this cannot be an NGO organised protest, “You people, I can see, are genuinely from the slums.” He also observes that there is a lot of pain and third, the petition. The petition, he says, carries everything that the government aims to achieve. He further says that what government would like is a database of all slum dwellers, nationally, that are sitting in dangerous and unsuitable places and an engagement with them and Muungano to discuss their resettlement. Emily let’s him know: “All you needed to do was ask.”
Day 9: The Housing Secretary calls the federation chair early to ask for the other petitions with people’s signatures. He will deliver them himself to the Governor.
At the end, it was all about the protest, the representatives, and the petition. All three could only be delivered so elegantly and successfully by the people who live through the trauma of demolition – by the federation.
As of 2017, the Nigerian Slum/Informal Settlement Federation has organized 162 groups in 2 cities. As with most federations in the SDI network, combating evictions is the federation’s key mobilizing force. In the past 5 years, waterfront evictions have escalated owing to land grabs associated with an inflow of finance for luxury coastal development projects. The federation has used a combination of organizing strategies to try to stop the brutal evictions – evictions characterized by the overnight bulldozing of settlements housing tens of thousands, police setting fire to peoples’ homes and belongings, and the firing of live and rubber bullets to drive communities off the land. Federation profiling data on 40 waterfront communities with an estimated combined population of over 300,000 has been essential to informing the #SaveTheWaterfronts campaign to end forced evictions and ensure eviction alternatives are prioritized.
Despite a highly hostile environment, the federation has continued to work to build relationships with government. In the past year, progress has been made with the Lagos State Ministry of Health and the Lagos State Urban Renewal Agency (LASURA) with whom the federation has signed MOUs and is undertaking pilot projects to demonstrate eviction alternatives and city development that is in line with New Urban Agenda commitments. Peer-to-peer exchanges with other SDI federations and their government partners have been an important contributors to shifting perceptions in some government circles. Collaboration with other civil society actors has also been critical for raising awareness among the Nigerian public that – aside from contravening national and international law – the demolitions of peoples’ homes and livelihoods is neither a strategy for eliminating slums nor a strategy for building secure and prosperous cities.
Much is at stake in these efforts to demonstrate eviction alternatives and show there is another way. Since the absence of services in informal settlements is often used to justify removals, an effective first step in navigating the land tenure continuum can be the extension of these services to informal communities and the setting in motion of processes to upgrade in situ. It is an uphill struggle to say the least. In a city such as Lagos, with some of the most expensive land and housing markets on the continent, the forces against the federation are fierce. Poverty and deepening inequality are acute threats to the resilience of Lagos.
The Nigeria slum dweller federation efforts contribute to improved city resilience by reducing acute human vulnerability resulting from forced eviction, mobilizing cohesive communities, and organizing them to act as engaged citizens. These efforts are geared toward driving proactive multi-stakeholder engagements and building mechanisms for community engagement with government in pursuit of inclusive safety, security, and wellbeing in the megacity.
This post is part of a series of case studies from our 2017 Annual Report titled ‘The Road to Resilience.’ Emerging from the field of ecology, ‘resilience’ describes the capacity of a system to maintain or recover from disruption or disturbance. Cities are also complex systems and a resilience framework addresses the inter- connectedness of formal and informal city futures. Moreover, it enables a nuanced reflection on the nature of shocks and chronic stressors – recognising that the latter are particularly acute in slum dweller communities and that this critically undermines the entire city’s economic, social, political, and environmental resilience.As with personal resilience, city resilience demands awareness, acknowledgment of reality, and a capacity to move beyond reactivity to responses that are proactive, thoughtful, and beneficial to the whole. The most enlightened individuals and cities will be those that understand their responsibility to the most vulnerable and to the planet. Our 2017 Annual Report showcases some of SDI’s achievements over the past year on the road to resilience. Click here for the full report.
Last week SDI received news of demolitions and evictions in Kibera, one of Nairobi’s largest slums, that have left 30,000 families homeless, their homes, businesses, and belongings destroyed. SDI knows that there is another way. Successful alternatives to evictions have been demonstrated across the SDI network. In fact, Kibera itself is home to a successful large-scale relocation programme, in which the Kenya federation, Muungano wa Wanavijiji, used community-driven data collection and organizing processes to facilitate the successful relocation of slum dwellers living along Kibera’s railway line to a nearby housing scheme. This co-produced solution resulted in all families being housed on a smaller footprint of land, allowing for both the clearing of the railway reserve and upgrading of families’ living conditions. Not a single family was moved more than 100 metres from their original home, minimizing disruption to the local community by safeguarding social networks, employment and livelihoods opportunities, kids’ place in their schools, and the overall fabric of the community.
These violent evictions are particularly disturbing in light of this nearby example of another way. SDI invites local and national government to join hands with Muungano to put an end to these evictions and instead pursue a negotiated alternative that maintains the dignity, homes, and livelihoods of Kibera’s residents.
A brief summary of the Kenya railways RAP project is below, followed by links to additional articles about the Kenya Railway Relocation Plan, a project implemented by Muungano in partnership with Kenya Railway Corporation and funded by the World Bank:
This project involves the upgrading and resettlement of 9,000 families and businesses along an eleven kilometre stretch of rail line through two of Nairobi’s largest informal settlements, Mukuru and Kibera. It is a US$30 million Kenya government and World Bank funded programme to remove families and business sitting on the thirty-metre wide buffer on either side of the railway track and re-house them on its outer ten metres – effectively creating a 20-metre buffer for use by the railways, and improved housing and trading space for the residents. Construction began in Kibera in 2013 and is ongoing, with the first families moving in 2015.
There were notices to evict all people living along the railway buffer in 2004. Following large scale protest by civil society, including Muungano, the federation offered to design a win-win solution. This involved organising an exchange visit to India for the top brass of the Railways Corporation to see how the Indian railways and the SDI alliance had dealt with similar encroachment. Later, Muungano was contracted to develop a Relocation Action Plan (RAP) (Government of Kenya, 2005).
The railways RAP’s impact on how the Kenyan state deals with large-scale resettlement of informal communities faced with the threat of eviction has been to enforce the global position that government must bear the cost of displacements of communities on public projects, irrespective of the legality of tenure of those affected. These principles have now been adopted into state policy. Muungano’s other key success has been that community participation was positioned at the centre of this large informal settlement upgrading.
 “Muungano nguvu yetu (unity is strength): 20 years of the Kenyan federation of slum dwellers” by Kate Lines and Jack Makau, IIED Working Paper, January 2017, pp. 47-48, http://pubs.iied.org/pdfs/10807IIED.pdf
By Megan S. Chapman, Co-Founder and Co-Director, Justice & Empowerment Initiatives – Nigeria
The footage you see at the beginning of the promo clip for “The Legend of the Vagabond Queen of Lagos” showing thousands of people in wooden fishing boats on the Lagos Lagoon watching their homes being burned by the government was taken almost a year ago to the day by my husband. He was with the evictees while tear gas and live bullets were being shot in their general direction to keep them from returning to land.
The man in the second clip whose head was lolling back was Daniel Aya, a young man and Federation member who was hit by one of those bullets in the neck and whose community members were trying to pole him to another boat that could try to take him to get urgent treatment across the Lagoon. I met that boat when it landed 45 minutes later carrying his dead body. A few minutes later, another boat arrived with a young man shot in the chest whose life we were able to save.
The Otodo Gbame community including 30,000 people was violently and forcibly evicted so their land could be turned into a luxury real estate development. It was destroyed violently and ruthlessly despite peaceful protests by thousands of Federation members from the Lagos waterfronts. Despite a court injunction restraining the government from carrying out the eviction of Otodo Gbame and 39 other communities who remain at risk of eviction up to today despite a court judgement in their favour.
This project is born out of the need for alternative ways to get the message out and change these lived realities of the urban poor in Lagos, in Nigeria, and around the globe. There is urgency in the struggle. It is personal to me and to hundreds of thousands of Lagos urban poor who are leading the struggle for dramatic change.
We believe deeply in co-creative processes. These are the key to alternatives we are pushing for the government to take to pursue win-win solutions with the poor instead of violent land grab. But co-creation is messy, is labour intensive and takes time to be done well and be truly co-creative and pluralistic. I both recognize the “essentialness” of this approach and struggle to be patient for the end-product (or mid-stream) tools that will advance the struggle — and hopefully transform it into something that will change the conversation and lived realities of the people with whom my daily life is intertwined.
By James Tayler, SDI
Legends of Lagos is an online documentary series in production by SDI’s youth media programme, Know Your City TV, which seeks to reveal the invisible legends that hold the waterfront communities of Lagos together by collecting stories of resilience and hope from informal settlements.
The documentary series serves another function as research material for a fictional narrative feature film to be produced by KYC.TV titled “The Legend of the Vagabond Queen of Lagos.”
The inspiration for this story comes from news reports that have surfaced in Nigeria about million dollar caches of paper money, hidden away by corrupt politicians and officials, that have been discovered in graves and other unlikely places. We wondered: “What if a grass roots community activist happened to discover one of these million dollar hoards and, instead of using the cash to enrich herself, set out to transform her community?”
Why are these stories necessary?
Lagos is undergoing a face-lift; plans are in action to turn this congested mega-city into Africa’s Singapore. But the slum dwellers living in the waterfront townships create a major problem for city officials: they are now an inconvenient eyesore that does not fit into this grandiose vision.
The Lagos State Government’s response has been brutal, swift and unjust – tens of thousands of people have been displaced and made homeless overnight in illegal evictions. Thugs and police in the employ of wealthy landowners forcibly drive people from their homes and possessions. Communities that have existed for decades – or over 100 years as in the case of Otodo Gbame – are barely given warning before the bulldozers and hoodlums armed with machetes and gasoline move in to hurt and burn. People have been killed, families ripped apart, and lives upended but hardly anyone in Nigeria or the international community knows about it. When the evictions are covered in the news, the stories are often met with a fatalistic shrug.
These stories, told and produced by slum dweller youth, are going to help change that. We will show that these communities are sites of resilience, innovation and practical solutions to very real problems. With this feature film and documentary series we want to show that true progress and innovation means that every citizen, no mater how poor, has something to contribute.
There is an emergency – lives and livelihoods are at risk. We need to swing public opinion, mobilize communities and forge new partnerships with other global citizens.
Please watch this space – we will take you on a journey through the waterways and alleys of Lagos slums where you will hear whispers of the Legend of the Vagabond Queen of Lagos. A fabled kingdom where corruption and self-serving leadership is not welcome, a place of resilience and innovation built on water and hope.
This article was first published in The Hindu.
The government has plenty of schemes for slum redevelopment, but most of these are on paper. Importantly, sanitation is not on the agenda.
I was all of 17 when I migrated to Mumbai in 1967 from Kolar, Karnataka. I didn’t have a purpose then; my only aim was to find bread. I often wondered why I moved to this city. When I look back, I can visualise how millions have the same problem: you don’t have anything, you look out for a metropolis, you land in Mumbai.
I would never have dreamt what Bombay meant. It was a culture shock at various levels. To begin with, I’d never heard the word ‘slum.’ Moreover, the language was alien, and we had open-air, ‘airconditioned’ toilets.
A week after I landed in the city, I ended up in the thickly-populated Janata Colony, Mankhurd. Conditions were pathetic. If I needed to use the public toilet, I would have to queue for nearly 20 minutes. So I would end up squatting wherever I would find place.
I was in a slum, but I had no home. In fact, I had zero liabilities and assets, no roof over my head, no roots. I would sleep anywhere.
One of the good things about a slum is that no one ever chases you away from their doorstep. In the day, I would mark out a veranda where I could lay my head at night. I would pick up saris hung out to dry and use them as blankets. In the morning, I would go to the public tap, remove my clothes, bathe, dry myself with the same set of clothes and carry on with the rest of my day.
The questions in my head were ceaseless: how did I fall from the frying pan into the fire? For the first time ever, I saw pavement dwellers. Why did we all have to live like animals? I gradually learnt about eviction and demolition. And then about homelessness. Where could one live? I figured there wasn’t much of a choice.
My journey had begun; I needed to do something about all this. From then on, I have been organising people, taking up issues of slum sanitation, eviction and demolition, and trying to find solutions.
It’s important for me — for all of us — to talk about our slums. There is an entire section of society living in deplorable conditions, because of which the city’s health and economy are being dragged down.
The way things are, there is no collective vision; no rules either. Nearly 60 per cent of Mumbai lives in slums, but a good chunk of the municipal corporation’s agenda is devoted to gardens, roads, parking and so on; the slums don’t feature. In our lopsided system of political representation, slum dwellers have been relegated to a vote bank. They are patronised, and encouraged to live in deprivation.
Look at Dharavi, for instance. The government has no policy for Asia’s largest slum. In the past 15 years, there has been no development in terms of roads, drains, toilets, or common areas. The main road has seen encroachments, encouraged by a former politician.
Clean the city, build toilets
Mumbai lets off a big stench. People call it Slumbay. What are the reasons? Poor sanitation and environment, contaminated drinking water and crowded conditions.
Even today, 40 per cent of people in Mumbai don’t have access to a toilet. In Dharavi, 33–35 per cent of people live in 60-sq-ft areas. We’re talking about five-member families living in that space. How can you think of having individual toilets there? The airport slum doesn’t have a single toilet. How long will this continue?
Mumbai needs sanitation that is not dependent on the sewer system alone. Sewerage systems require a capital cost, which the government cannot afford. And the rehabilitation of people will cost them 100 times more than their investment in sewerage lines. Nearly 65 per cent of Dharavi is not covered by a sewer system. To do so, you need to rehabilitate 80 per cent of the people living here.
Everyone is talking about Swachh Bharat, but how many toilets have been constructed in slums under this project? The government could have claimed it had cleaned Mumbai, so working with smaller cities would be relatively easier. You have to show what you have done in a difficult situation first.
Our sanitation needs to be customised to our living and weather conditions. Unlike the West, we cannot afford individual toilets or sewer lines.
We have to work towards providing collective, shared and community toilets. We can achieve two agendas at one go: if the municipality invests money in a slum (in the form of toilets) it cannot demolish it.
The main focus should be on how to clean the city. Without getting into the politics of it, we need to ask if a mechanism has been created for the purpose. Even after we have created wards, there is nothing to show on the ground. Where and how is the money being used?
A city like Mumbai should have had an IAS officer as the head of sanitation. Every area needs a dedicated sanitary inspector, with the additional role of mapping the area and reporting to the higher authority.
In the 80s, there were around 600 slum pockets in the city. Now it has gone up to 3,000.
No one comes to Mumbai for the pleasure of getting a house in a slum. They are in tough situations, therefore they migrate. We need to address the needs of those already living in slums by giving them better housing. We need to do away with the dehumanised category of ‘shanty’.
Former Municipal Commissioner S.S. Tinaikar used to say, “Mumbai has so much land, you can arrange to have another city like it.” Land needs to be given to the people, but not for free.
The Development Plan outlines a clear policy of homes for the dishoused. There is also a pavement policy, which former Secretary, Special Projects, Sanjay Ubale and I hammered into shape. The subsequent Government Resolution said all pavement dwellers are eligible for a house, just like slum dwellers. I was able to secure 4,710 sq.m. land for rehabilitation in Mankhurd.
There are policies, but the government is sleeping on them, while the people don’t have anyone to organise them into agitating for their due.
The government often says it can’t give land because it is reserved. So I tell people, let every slum- or pavement-dweller identify 10-15 pieces of land. If they say it is reserved for a university, ask for a third, a fourth, and so on. After 220 land reservations, can they still say no? There is land, only the will is missing.
Over a decade ago, I was working with the MMRDA on the Mumbai Urban Transport Project-II. I told the Sukhtankar Committee that the government could float a tender asking for free housing on the land in the project. The first housing scheme was initiated by us. All 20,000-30,000 families have been rehabilitated on it. That means the MMRDA has the land and houses.
The Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) has failed because of corruption and mismanagement; it has become a money-making mission for the government.
The first question a councillor asks these days is, “Isme mera kya hai? [What’s in it for me?]” You have 365 cooperative housing societies built under the SRA, but most of the residents have had to dedicate 20 per cent extra, or out-of-pocket expenses, like paying someone to approve a document, an extension, or adding a name to a registration. That’s why these societies have taken in only 150 families.
In an SRA house, you are charged more than five times what you pay in a slum for water. Do you expect a rehabilitated person can pay that much? An SRA home, then, is not affordable. Nobody is going into why the SRA scheme hasn’t picked up in Mumbai, and why there are so many slums. They have set 269 sq.ft. as the base under the SRA, and 300 sq.ft. in Dharavi. But a political party wants 400 sq.ft. Once this is done, airport slum dwellers will demand the same. This doesn’t just involve finding land; it’s also a question of rehabilitation.
The government is doing nothing for affordable housing, which in any case costs Rs. 5 lakh and above. Besides, most ‘affordable’ homes are outside the city, or in far-flung areas; this requires the creation of a transportation network.
Our politicians and bureaucrats have learnt nothing from the mistakes of the SRA or rehabilitation over the past 35 years. Therefore, we live with myths like ‘there is no land’. To begin with, slums are on the ground level. In urban India, you cannot afford to live in a ground-floor structure, simply because the land cost is so high. You compensate for that by getting into an SRA house. But if you want to live here, you have to change your living pattern. You live without a toilet for years; you don’t talk about it.
I’m not asking everyone to go to an SRA accommodation. Regularise or recognise a slum and maintain a standard; instead of a corrupt SRA society, slums could be more organised. We also need a housing guideline.
Women must be at the centre
Local residents, particularly women, need more representation in decision-making. For every issue, be it toilets, housing or water, women are worst affected. A man can meet his needs outside the home: he can use the toilet in his factory, or a public toilet. In most cases, women are tied to the home; their representation is token.
Use NGOs better
Today, you have more than 6,000 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) registered with the Charity Commissioner. Every ward could be allotted 10 to 15 NGOs for specific issues of their choice; this will fix responsibility. The government could create that kind of flexibility, by inviting a ward’s prominent NGOs to a meeting and assigning them duties. A coordinating body could be responsible for their functioning.
In other words, identify the issue, then create a system and then monitor it, all within a budget.
NGOs, on their part, need to raise the issue of sanitation in their wards. For now, they are just “talking revolutionaries” who often don’t get down to hard work.
The government should take these issues to the people, create forums where debate can happen without fear of reprisal being targeted. Right now, there is a disconnect between the grassroots and the policy-makers.
What you see today is the result of the administration not looking after the city. Mumbai is actually well organised, with every inch of land governed by the administration. They ought to be more in control of encroachment though.
There is a Hindi saying: ‘Billi ki nazar chichde mein rehti hai [The cat always looks for the cream]’. Similarly, the politician always looks at how many votes he can garner in an area. He never looks at problems like housing or a poor living environment.
About the author
Jockin Arputham has worked for more than 40 years in India’s slums, building representative organisations to partner with governments and international agencies for the betterment of urban living. He is president of National Slum Dwellers Federation, which he founded in the 1970s, and of Slum Dwellers International, which networks slum dwellers from over 20 countries. Arputham received the Ramon
He was awarded the Magsaysay Award for Peace and International Understanding in 2000.