Nigerian Federation & JEI: Responses to COVID-19
On behalf of the Nigerian Slum/Informal Settlement Federation and Justice & Empowerment Initiatives (JEI) – SDI presents the work to fight COVID-19 across Nigeria.
Over a month ago, the Nigerian Federation with support of JEI, began rapidly preparing to address the impending spread of COVID-19. Through cancelling all meetings, creating handwashing stations, distributing flyers in multiple languages, Federation tailors sewing 2,500 face masks and producing hand sanitiser – a multi-scale approach was taken to address the critical needs of the most vulnerable while warning communities of the imminent crisis. Over 16,000 informational flyers were printed and distributed in communities across Lagos in English, Hausa, Igbo, Egun and Yoruba, with 7,000 across Port Harcourt.
Assisting those most at risk – older, immune-compromised, homeless, indigent, immigrant/migrant Federation members to clinics to get tested when symptoms appear, while ensuring that there are no barriers to access due to language, cost, nor demographic – remains of utmost priority to the Federation.
At this time, Lagos is three weeks into lockdown, food is still scarce and government programmes remain to be seen for 2/3 of the population living in informal settlements. Mohammed (Vagabond) Zanna reflects on the precarious position of Federations, and more broadly, the urban poor with the lack of plans and proper response.
“We are doing our best as the Federation, in Nigeria, as an affiliate of SDI. We are creating awareness, making face masks, sourcing food donations, but it is not enough. From our side, it is not enough, the government needs to do more. What they give, is not enough for that person, and their family to eat. It is not enough. We are caught between Coronavirus and hunger, if we stay home, we starve, if we go outside, we stand the risk of catching COVID-19, and spreading it to our families, and also our communities. This is the situation, and there is serious tension. Something needs to be done.”
The ongoing work of information dissemination is crucial and focuses on social distancing that is tailored to the realities of living in informal settlements, recognizing symptoms, contacting government hotlines, and pushing back on false & dangerous information that has been simultaneously spreading. The communications includes regular WHO updates & recommendations, health education talks, and WhatsApp information campaign. These information campaigns are crucial to ensure updated and reliable information is reaching those most at risk, and to guarantee Federation experiences are being accurately shared.
Corona Diaries of the Urban Poor (#C19DiariesOfTheUrbanPoor) is a citizen journalism series that details COVID-19 pandemic at the intersection of urban poverty detailing the lived realities of slum communities told by current residents across Nigeria & Benin. With a mix of audio and visual mediums, and data conducted by the Federation in Nigeria & Benin, real-time stories are being developed. To continue following their work please check out the following social handles, Facebook, and Twitter: @vagabonkingdom @NaijaFederation @justempower – all above media can also be found on the JEI website with continued updated on the Corona Diaries page.
Please keep following SDI as we highlight the initiatives of SDI affiliates across Africa, Asia & Latin America in the fight against COVID-19 to support the most vulnerable throughout this pandemic.
Announcing #ChangeOurPicture Cell Phone Photography Competition
This is a cellphone photography competition open to anyone who lives in an informal settlement in Africa. When you search for images of slums on social media what do you see? Dirt, despair, desperation? Informal settlements are alive with possibilities and places of great resilience and innovation. To enter and for more information click below!
Legends of Lagos: KYC.TV Youth Produce Web Documentaries as Research for Feature Film
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.
KYC.TV Is Born!
Our Know Your City TV youth film makers deserve a rousing thumbs up upon the launch of their first productions. These are the voices and images of slum dweller youth capturing life in the slums through their own eyes.
Like the KYC.TV Facebook page to get regular updates from youth teams across Africa.
You can also follow KYC.TV on YouTube and watch the videos on SDI’s videos page.
Art in the Service of Transformation. Transformation in the Service of Art.
Earlier this year SDI co-produced a film about life in Uganda’s slums, called The Boda Boda thieves.
This was a first and highly experimental investigation of how to freely construct the everyday lives of slum dwellers and to find ways to contribute to the development of a new form of grassroots contestation – not through ideology or representation but through a social realist portrayal of life in poverty.
The Boda Boda Thieves is a modest call for a new form of art – something beyond the endless consumption of images for mindless entertainment that we are bombarded with today. At the same time it is a baby step towards a new developmental communication, one that is rooted in poor people telling their own stories of survival, struggle and triumph.
If we focus on the everyday life of the poor and not on organisation or representation then the gap between art and transformation disappears. An authentic life, which is a life of struggle for change – especially if you have to deal with the daily indignity of being poor – makes art into transformation and transformation into art. In other words the real artistic endeavour is to eradicate poverty and alienation, and all art forms that we apply on our journey towards such a goal must have this in its sights.
SDI’s media project is as much about transformation in the service of art as it is about art in the service of transformation. In fact, if we are only seeing our media as being in the service of our political agenda then both our art and our politics will continue to fail.
The Boda Boda Thieves has been shown at various film festivals and won more than a handful of awards since its release earlier this year.
- Africa in Motion – Scotland African Film Festival, Scotland
- Africa International Film Festival, Nigeria
- African Film Festival of Cordoba, Spain
- Berlinale International Film Festival, Germany
- Cinémas d’Afrique Festival, Switzerland
- Durban International Film Festival, South Africa
- Euro-African Kampala Film Festival’s, Uganda
- Festival Cinema Africano di Verona, Italy
- Montreal Black Film Festival, Canada
- New Delhi Jagran Film Festival, India
- Seattle International Film Festival, USA
- Toronto Black Film Festival, Canada
- Uganda Film Festival. Uganda
- Vancouver International Film Festival, Canada
- World Cinema Amsterdam, Netherlands
- 2015 Africa Movie Academy Awards
- ‘Boda Boda Thieves” star, Hassan “Spike” Isingoma, wins joint award for Most Promising Actor.
- Rukundo Pross nominated for the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award.
- 2015 Uganda Film Festival
- Best Cinematography
- Best Post Production
- Best Supporting Actor to Michael Wawuyo for his portrayal of Goodman.
- Special mention for the Best feature Film Award.
Learn more about The Boda Boda Thieves here.
In the next week, SDI will be showcasing movies and media coming out of slums across Africa and Asia. Stay tuned for more.