REEMPHASIZING COMMUNITY ADVOCACY BASED ON CITY WIDE PROFILES
Monday, 26th May 2014, Muungano wa Wanavijiji held a one day workshop under the theme of: REEMPHASIZING COMMUNITY ADVOCACY BASED ON CITY WIDE PROFILES. This workshop gave different community teams an opportunity to discuss some of the issues arising from the Nairobi City Wide profile that will enable the federation build on its advocacy strategies to address the urban planning deficits of the urban poor. Community city led profiles are a considerate way of building an understanding of the people in a geographical area or specific community of interest or identifying some of the gaps and opportunities in a settlement set up. By virtue of this understanding, communities are opened up to the development of community engagement plan, which influences who the key stakeholder groups are and how a project develops.
Settlement profiles demonstrate the existing scenario of a community: the settlement history, social and economic characteristics, how active people are (the savings groups and networks used) and what social and infrastructure services are provided.
SDI community-led profiling serves as a key tool and asset in lobbying and advocacy as well as it offers a platform for engagement between slum dwellers and their government and other development partners. In the context of urban informality, on a city scale, the Muungano wa Wanavijiji community led profiles serve as validated source of information about settlement history, social and physical conditions in informal. These settlement based city wide compounded data has continued to be a key mobilization tool since the urban poor communities have embraced the data as an asset for the poor in their engagements and notable negotiations around access to land, access to services and demands for inclusive planning and housing, as well as increasingly around livelihood options.
Henry Otunge one of the community profile team member expresses his perspectives, “ Nairobi City is growing fast as a result of the rural – urban migration and with the meager sources of income, Many Kenyans have to contend with the “informality complex” of the city and this is one of the reason that the people’s movement-Muungano wa Wanavijiji has embarked on building and strengthening informal settlements to mould resilient communities that will vouch for the inclusion of the urban poor to evoke the much needed formal change in the informal settlements.” Access to better and affordable housing, water and sanitation remains an essential priority for most residents.
To this point in time; the Kenyan Federation of the Urban Poor, Muungano wa Wanavijiji have conducted intense city wide profiles in Nairobi, Machakos, Makueni, Kisumu and Nakuru. The profiles have created a greater picture of informal settlements in these cities, pin pointing on the key infrastructural deficiencies. The reports also detail the key community priorities that ought to be actualized by formulating a planning and service delivery strategy to the urban poor.
The Kenyan federation of the urban poor has initiated a lobbying and advocacy strategy based on a rationale, that intends to focus on community needs and priorities as documented in respective city wide profile reports. The decision to formulate decisive advocacy strategy is based on systematic review of documented evidence that urban poor communities in these settlements have an understanding and experience of their environmental dwellings. The aim is to draw national and county attention to the most critical emerging issues at settlement and county levels of governance. Muungano wa Wanavijiji is also particular on how best the urban communities, who actually participated in the collection of data, use and share citywide profiles information with various stakeholders community, national and county governments, strategic donor agencies and more so the academia.
At the federation’s Nairobi City level, comprising of Nairobi Southern, Nairobi Eastern and Nairobi Central sub-county advocacy meeting, held at the Muungano House resolved that there are indeed great fundamental opportunities for data sharing, which intends to involve aspects of community participation in urban planning and slum upgrading. This platform of engagement with government is also expected to roll out in Kisumu, Machakos, Makueni and Nakuru. With due regards some of the key priority areas for the communities to address are;
Security of Tenure
Security of tenure is the cornerstone of the right to adequate housing. It protects people against arbitrary forced eviction, harassment and other threats. Residents of informal settlements and communities without legal security of tenure live in a constant state of uncertainty, which keeps them from investing time, effort or money into their homes. Providing security of tenure is therefore key to successful slum upgrading strategies. For example, robust advocacy intervention among communities, NGOs and FBOs, in the case of Kambi Moto led to land acquisition and approval by the local authorities after the communities presented their plans.
Better and adequate housing obviously requires access to basic services such as clean water, electricity, sanitation, food security and storage, waste disposal, site drainage and emergency services. Technical standards are a key issue to be addressed in this context. If technical improvements are not made within the range of the target group’s ability to pay, they can lead to displacement of the lowest income groups in the community. Therefore technical standards of housing may need to be reduced, at least in the short-term.
Housing must be affordable for everyone. One of the key challenges in slum upgrading is ensuring that improvements do not lead to increased housing costs and therefore displacement. However, fulfilling human rights in the context of slum upgrading does not mean, that State or local authorities are under the obligation to provide free services. On the contrary, some slum upgrading approaches have relied nearly exclusively on the target group’s resources (for example, slum upgrading projects organized by slum residents in Kambi Moto and Kahawa Soweto). Ensuring successful slum upgrading requires constant attention to the budgets of the affected communities and the charges and prices associated with the project.
Upgrading of the urban environment of low- income settlements encompasses a variety of components. The main issues are political will from the authorities, land tenure, financing and institutional arrangements, including how stakeholders, particularly the marginalized and vulnerable, can participate in decision-making processes. It is important that the political will to carry out an upgrading process comes from an idea of improving the standing of a community, rather than a desire to rid an area of an ‘eyesore’. Successful slum upgrading is a long-term process rather than a political project; it must be supported by all stakeholders despite conflicting interests.