Finding a voice in the politics of urban poverty


May 2015 — There are innumerable factors that contribute to minimizing the visibility of the poor in politics, ranging from limited funds for organizing to mainstream media biases that give preference to voices of authority and power. Yet leaders, activists, and unions do emerge from poor communities to advocate for critical needs, contesting stigmas and creating alternative avenues for communication based on participation rather than wealth.

This month’s discussion examines how the urban poor and their advocates navigate conflicting agendas and institutional invisibility in order to make their claims heard. Follow the conversation as it unfolds over the course of May and share your thoughts in the comments below.

Our community, our city, our say — participatory urban governance in Accra

Accra, 27 May 2015 — Participation is a panacea to inclusive governance and development. Nonetheless, the forgotten voice of the urban poor in Accra is a recipe for seclusion. Reviving the spirits of an all-inclusive and participatory urban governance dream, Global Communities' IncluCity, WASH-UP, and SCALE-UP projects have brought not only hope to Accra's urban poor but have also rekindled the essence of a grapevine participation. See more.

Between state and society: the work of the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa

Johannesburg, 26 May 2015 — While South Africans all signed up to a new constitutional path in the immediate post-apartheid era, constitutional ideals at times also appear to be flouted both by government and by society. The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa is one notable non-profit organisation seeking to bridge such divides. Building on the nation's constitutional framework, it provides dedicated socio-economic rights assistance for individuals, communities, and social movements. See more.

Bring Back Our Girls: Advocating for vulnerable groups

Abuja, 25 May 2015 — On April 14th, 2014, insurgency group Boko Haram abducted 276 schoolgirls from their hostels. This was the tipping point leading to the formation of Bring Back Our Girls, a powerful advocacy organization for vulnerable groups, with the aim of demanding action on their behalf. See more.

Hazard Centre: Institution-building through community empowerment

Delhi, 22 May 2015 — How do we empower communities so that they can find their own voice and build their own institutions? Read about the case of Hazard Centre, a Delhi-based NGO, and its role in a two-year-long consultation process with the residents of Kathputli Colony, the first in-situ development under Rajiv Awas Yojana. See more.

Media pengaduan yang inklusif

Surabaya, 21 Mei 2015 — Penggunaan teknologi informasi mendominasi pelayanan pelayanan publik di Surabaya. Di satu sisi memudahkan masyarakat mendapat informasi dan menyampaikan aduan, namun di sisi lain masih banyak yang tidak terakomodasi dalam sistem ini. Java Sutra merupakan jaringan CSO di Surabaya yang menjembati mereka menyampaikan keluhan pelayanan publik. Baca lebih lanjut.

Dando voz a los barrios: iniciativas institucionales en Cali

Cali, 20 mayo 2015 — La apertura del proceso político a los pobres durante los periodos entre las elecciones constituye un reto para cualquier democracia. La Alcaldía de Cali ha implementado algunas medidas institucionales que buscan dar una voz a las organizaciones comunitarias en las materias relacionadas con los barrios en los que se constituyen. Leer más.

Tecendo redes de cooperação na Maré, um dos maiores complexos de favelas do Rio

Rio de Janeiro, 19 maio 2015 — A Redes de Desenvolvimento da Maré é uma instituição da sociedade civil que articula pessoas e organizações para implementar projetos de transformação estrutural na região. Nesse artigo, seu diretor Edson Diniz fala ao URB.im sobre as soluções que encontrou para dialogar com diferentes agentes sociais e para ter mais agilidade e efetividade em suas ações. Leia mais.

A talk show radio programme and enumerations in Malawi

Lilongwe, 18 May 2015 — Without platforms to project their voice, the urban poor suffer in silence. A radio programme and enumeration-driven Community Strategic Plans in Malawi are challenging power and putting urban poverty issues in sharp focus for action. See more.

"شبابنا يقدر": مبادرة تشاركية لتمكين الشباب في محافظة القاهرة

Cairo, 15 May 2015 — "شبابنا يقدر" مبادرة تشاركية أطلقتها وزارتي الإسكان والشباب في مصر كي يتم تمكين شباب القاهرة وتفعيل دورهم كأفراد مؤثرين على مستوى اتخاذ السياسات... اقرأ المزيد عن ذلك

How Mumbai's street vendors set off a nationwide movement

Mumbai, 14 May 2015 — Street vendors are ubiquitous in Indian cities. They provide a variety of goods and services, from shoe polishing to fruits and vegetables. Yet in Mumbai, street vendors are largely illegal, since the city limits the number of hawking licenses to just 15,000. In order to fight for their right to their livelihood, hawkers' unions have formed a federation to represent vendors' needs at the highest level. Now, 888 street vendors' unions from across the country have joined forces to push forward an agenda to protect street vendors in India. See more.

Innovations in legal empowerment education and land rights for the urban poor

Nairobi, 13 May 2015 — Nairobi may be one of the hot urban real estate markets to watch for high-end and boutique investors, but tackling the disenfranchisement resulting from land-grabs faced by marginalized communities remains the battleground for one Kenyan organization dedicated to providing legal services to the poor. See more.

Từ câu chuyện công nhân Pou Yuen đình công phản đối Luật Bảo hiểm mới: Nhìn về vai trò cầu nối của Công đoàn

Ho Chi Minh City, 12 Tháng Năm 2015 — Ngày 02/04/2015 đánh dấu sự kết thúc của cuộc đình công kéo dài 1 tuần liền của hơn 90.000 lao động tại nhà máy sản xuất Pou Yuen, một sự kiện hiếm thấy tại Việt Nam. Cuộc đình công xảy ra khi công nhân bắt đầu phản ứng với Luật Bảo hiểm Xã hội (BHXH) 2014 không cho phép người tham gia được hưởng BHXH 1 lần, và đình công kết thúc với thỏa hiệp từ cả hai phía. Xem thêm.

Speaking on behalf of the voiceless

Lagos, 11 May 2015 — Economic and social justice is a right of every individual, but vulnerable groups often become marginalized. See how Lagos-based SERAP is championing the cause of such groups through legal actions and advocacy. See more.

کارگران نماینده واقعی می خواهند

Tehran, 8 April 2015 — سندیکای کارگران شرکت اتوبوسرانی تهران و حومه» یکی از تلاشهای مهم کارگران برای داشتن صدای سیاسی مستقل در ایران است. جایی که هر نوع تشکل کارگری مستقل ممنوع است. کارگران برای داشتن نماینده واقعی خود تلاش کردند و هزینه های زیادی در این راه داده اند. ادامه مطلب.

Mecanismos de inclusión de los pobres en la agenda pública del DF

Mexico D.F., 7 mayo 2015 — Existen mecanismos de inclusión de los pobres en la agenda pública en el DF. Desde el gobierno, el presupuesto participativo satisface las necesidades locales de la población en cuanto a la seguridad y vías públicas. Desde la vía de la lucha social, existe un movimiento que busca proteger los derechos de los pobres. Leer más.

Redes de relacionamentos digitais e interpessoais impulsionam o desenvolvimento do Paraná

Curitiba, 6 maio 2015 — Rede Cidade Digital é um projeto que estimula o uso de tecnologias de comunicação para integrar cidadãos, organizações e governo na promoção social. Neste artigo, entenda como a iniciativa funciona na prática e conheça José Marinho, seu criador e diretor, um articulador por profissão. Leia mais.

Penyambung aspirasi kelompok terpinggirkan perkotaan

Jakarta, 5 Mei 2015 — Proses pengambilan keputusan dalam sistem pembangunan kerap meninggalkan kelompok minoritas perkotaan. Suara mereka kerap tidak didengar oleh wakil raykat mereka di Parlemen dan pemerintah daerah. Keberadaan Forum Warga Kota Jakarta (Fakta) menjadi jembatan penghubung mereka kepada para pengambil keputusan di tingkat parlemen dan pemerintah kota. Baca lebih lanjut.

Las Madres de Soacha y su lucha por la justicia

Bogotá, 4 mayo 2015 — Las Madres de Soacha son un grupo informal de madres de la zona de Bogotá cuyos hijos fueron ejecutados extrajudicialmente en 2008. Mediante su agrupación han conseguido mantener la atención pública sobre estos crímenes y el que se abran causas criminales contra los autores de los mismos. Leer más.

Bangalore's domestic workers have paved new pathways in gaining recognition and rights

Bangalore, 1 May 2015 — Bangalore's domestic workers have led the way in demanding better wages and conditions at a state level and beyond. Their unions pushed the city's home state of Karnataka to declare a minimum wage for maids, cooks, and sweepers. While the law is progressive, enforcement has been minimal and much more needs to be done. See more.

 

Join the discussion on finding a voice in the politics of urban poverty in the comments below.

 
You can also join our April discussion on powering poor communities.


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Comments

jorgebela's picture

Hi Carlin, you point out to a very important issue: laws are empty promises if after enacted they are not properly enforced. Enforcement takes political will and effort, as well as a capable judiciary system. Very often the poorest people lack the resources or the information to pursue legal relief. Way too many far reaching and ambitious laws have little or no impact on the problems thay try to solve. I am glad that the women in Bangalore are getting organized to get advantage of the new laws, this is a significant first step, and will also serve as a thorn on the side of the authorities that so often pretend to be asleep in regard to woman's rights in India.

Here in Colombia they passed a very effective judicial system in which individuals who believe that their rights have been can seek judicial relieve in a very simple, fast and inexpensive judicial procedure known as "tutelas." This has brough a massive improvement in the enforcemente of the laws, but it is also plagued by problems caused by abuse. Still, making the judicial system accessible for the poor is a critical issue.

Andréa Azambuja's picture

Hi Carlin,

Your article came in perfect timing for me, as in Brazil the Senate has just enacted what we call "The Domestic Workers PEC", a Constitutional amendment that institutes important rights and benefits for the workers – this happened more than two years after the amendment was proposed.

Here in Brazil this profession has been recognized by law since 1972. In 1988 its rights were expanded – as the institution of a minimum wage and parental leave, for example – but only in 2006 these employees won the right to vacation, for example. And only now, in 2015, the profession, recognized by Constitution, is matching other jobs regulations, with regulated working hours and the payment of taxes.

Unfortunately I'm sure that this doesn't mean that domestic workers' rights are being guarantee in Brazil – as you mentioned, the isolation of work makes changing their circumstances challenging. But is a fact that the workers are more united now, stronger, have gained visibility, know better whom to speak to and whom to bargain with if they need. The subject is in the newspapers everyday and people in general are aware of the new regulations – new contracts are being made everyday in accordance with the new terms, what is slowly changing the way people usually see the domestic work, still so marginalized. This awareness is extremely important, and I'm sure this progress was supported in a great deal by an international effort, by a collective vision on the subject and the willingness to change. I'm glad this is in our agenda and I hope this moment in Brazil can help somehow the domestic workers in India to gain full recognition and protection!

María Fernanda Carvallo's picture

Jorge, el caso de las Madres de Soacha es realmente un ejemplo de la lucha por el reconocimiento de los derechos de las personas de hacer justicia. Es un caso trágico pero el empuje de las madres ha puesto en la mira de la política de seguridad el caso para detener la actividad criminal. En el caso de México han surgido casos similares en donde han desaparecido jòvenes que han sido víctimas de militares, así como feminicidios en Ciudad Juárez. Si bien en México la voz de las madres implicadas ha resonado, es necesario que se unan más organizaciones para hacer escuchar una voz más fuerte que incida en la agenda pública.

Chris Baulman's picture

If landrights are defined in terms of a right to PROPERTY, it leads to COMPETITION for profit,
hence to winners & losers
and so, systemically, to POVERTY.

The Right to LIFE logically includes a RIGHT to nature's GIFTS  for life's essentials,
and so a FREE RIGHT of access to land
with DUTIES of justice & sustainable use imposed by the equal right others of this & future generations.

So this is not a right to own, but to use for life's basic needs only … and it is only a right if you don't meet those basic needs already through access to other resources (income/property).

This right should not be debatable, but the property is threatened by the notion. The challenge therefore is to remove the challenge & even compliment neighbours into the property system.

This can be done with urban commons that enhance neighbourhoods & so make the poorest residents there into an asset rather than a liability.

Neighbourhoods that Work is being promoted as a project in Australia, but it is just as applicable anywhere.
See http://landrights4all.weebly.com/neighbourhoods-that-work.html

Regards to all
Chris
@landrights4all

#UrbanCommons
#UrbanCommons

Olatawura Ladipo-Ajayi's picture

Hi Carlin,
Inspiring piece on street hawkers and their unions. It really highlights how the informal economy through proper organization can be integrated into the formal, and also shows the power of numbers/ability of unions of vulnerable people to create one voice, and push for change/rights. Street hawkers definitely provide convenience for a bustling city, I have mentioned before they are the difference between hunger in a 3 hour gridlock and relief. They are also largely considered nuisances in Lagos and to varying degrees illegal, it is encouraging to see cities like mumbai recognize their value while attempting to regulate the challenges their existence pose. A union or licensing system might have be a worthy approach for Lagos. Any ideas how the 15,000 are selected, any push to increase the restriction number, and how this is implemented ? Although the system has shortcomings, it has valuable lessons for cities like Lagos.

Carlin Carr's picture

Priyanka, this is a fantastic example of the process of empowerment for evicted communities in slum redevelopment schemes. Thanks for walking us through the Delhi example and Hazard's important work on the ground. I wonder what will happen now that the community needs to draw up their own housing plans. Is there an organization besides Hazard who will help in this? How is the community going about prioritizing/designing housing needs? Are there good models they are using? Great article, Carlin

Priyanka Jain's picture

Dear Carlin, Thank you for your kind comment. I have answered your questions below.
Is there an organization besides Hazard who will help in this? Kathputli colony is supported by the centre with technical assistance and providing information on policy, planning, etc. The centre is a unit of Sanchal Foundation and has a list of supporters who help with resources and expertise. Many volunteers have also assisted the residents with their documentation work and mapping exercises. The residents have collected small amounts of money as collective fund from the residents of Kathputli colony for expenses to visit govt offices, organise meetings etc. and manage the funds themselves. In addition, the DDA has declared three days as public visiting days i.e. monday, tuesday and thursday (all days after 2 p.m.). The residents have several times taken prior appointment or arrived at the DDA office to meet with the vice chairman, and have usually being given some time to discuss problems being raised by them.
How is the community going about prioritizing/designing housing needs?
The khula darbar (open court) titled "sach ka saamna" (face the truth) was a conscious effort by the Delhi Development Authority to address the problems that remain unresolved. The officials also tried to explain to people how the PPP project for redevelopment of Kathputli colony will benefit the residents. The residents took this opportunity to enlist their demands and demand clarity on the issues from the DDA and Raheja developers. Three main points emerged from the discussion. First, the inclusion of left out families that were excluded by the DDA in their survey of beneficiaries. Second, the feasibility of a 4 storey housing plan as desired by the residents. It was also acknowledged by the DDA and the developers that it will be less costly to build four storey housing. And third, clarity on the cost of housing to be paid by each beneficiary. At the end, the residents demanded that the DDA and the developer should come to Kathputli colony and organise such public meetings on regular basis where all residents can express their opinions and not just a few. The Hazards Centre was present at the khula darbar more as an observer as people represented their demands themselves and occasionally played the role of a translator when officials used english language during their discussion with the residents.
Are there good models they are using?
The Hazards Centre while respecting the agency of residents to resolve internal problems and factionalism, supports discussions and proposal development by providing information of similar cases occurring in Delhi and other parts of India, and connects collectives that have had similar experiences to learn from.

Shaima Abulhajj's picture

Nice article Olatawura.
The SERAP project is very inspiring. I wonder if there is any education aspect of the project, i.e. do the project includes the procedures of holding educational sessions for the indigent youth for instance to know about their rights which facilitate protecting those rights later on?

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