Pretoria, 11 April 2016—On the sidelines of the Habitat III Thematic Conference on Informal Settlements, held in Pretoria, South Africa, the Government of the Republic of South Africa and UN-Habitat, jointly hosted the Women’s Caucus for engendering the Conference Declaration.

The panelists included South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Human Settlements, Ms. Zoliswa Kota-Fredericks; Ms. Rose Molokoane (Slum/Shack Dwellers International – SDI); Ms. Victoria Okoye (Women in Informal Employment: Globalising and Organising – WIEGO); and Ms. Violet Shivutse (Huairou Commission). Chairperson was Ms. Rocío Armillas-Tiseyra (UN-Habitat).

Marina Klemensiewicz, Under-Secretary for Habitat and Human Development at the Ministry of Home Affairs, Argentina, discussed the importance of empowering NGOs and local authorities to build positive leadership. She noted that the first element of any intervention must be the development and carrying out of a survey of the relevant social actors, and thereafter a strategy for the collaboration between the local actors and the local government. She noted the importance of bringing women organisations to the negotiating table with governments and pointed to importance of human development in any slum upgrading initiative.

Violet Shivutse, Huairou Commission, presented changes and additions to the Draft Conference Declaration. She noted the importance of prioritizing women’s empowerment and echoing the voice of the 2030 Agenda of leaving no one behind in the development process. Shivutse went on to point out that decent employment should be an integral part of the New Urban Agenda (NUA). She was supported by Victoria Okoye (Women in Informal Employment: Globalising and Organising – WIEGO) who noted that access to adequate housing is essential to the livelihoods of poor women as this group tends to crowd informal economies. Thus the home becomes an important site for securing livelihoods. Finally, Shivutse opened the floor to comments and recommendations to the Draft Declaration.

The first comment came from Kirstin Wilkins (Cape Town Partnership) who noted the importance of public spaces in slums as a site of decent employment as well as a site essential to community building and safety.

Later, Rose Molokoane (SDI) reiterated the importance of partnership between government and civil society. She commented that community-based organisations are an important source of data-collection in slums. She expressed her hope that the Deputy Minister and herself could work together to implement the New Urban Agenda once it is decided upon later this year. She concluded by noting that in order to fight for equality, Women’s Rights have to be a critical part of the inclusion discourse.

Thereafter, Michael Kraus (African Centre of Cities Violence, team leader of the Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading – VPUU) noted that the Declaration should refer to inclusive design and he commented that security tenure is paramount in giving people a sense of safety in the city, in particular for women. Moreover, he pointed out that priority needed to be given to volunteerism and that gender budgeting should be an essential tool in establishing meaningful inclusive urban upgrading.

Finally, Deputy Minister Zoliswa Kota-Fredericks closed the Women’s Caucus by reiterating the critical role of women in communities and the need to establish clear mechanisms for including women in decision-making. She noted the importance of opening new chapters and establishing new creative ways of thinking through partnerships between government and civil society. She summarized the Caucus by noting the critical discussion points of the Caucus: the link between adequate housing and decent employment for slum dwellers; the need to use community-based organisations as a source of data-collection in slums; the need to include gender budgeting and tracking in municipalities; the importance of security land tenure as a means for livelihoods and safety in slums; and, finally, the importance of creating gender equality public spaces in slums.