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“The federation model of community organizing” – Sheela Patel, Slum Dwellers International
In the past two decades through a process called “Enumeration” through which the members collect at city level data about slums, Slum Dwellers International have created a mechanism which serves to create a city wide network of urban informal settlements with the intention of the dwellers to see themselves as part of a larger subsection of the city, whose needs have been neglected and whose voice has to reach the city and the national government.
Slum/Shack Dwellers International (SDI) is a transnational organisation whose primary members are federated slum federations from 33 countries in Asia Africa and Latin America. In the past two decades through a process called “Enumeration” through which the members collect at city level data about slums, and households living in them, they have created a mechanism which serves many ends. Primarily, it serves to create a city wide network of urban informal settlements with the intention of the dwellers to see themselves as part of a larger subsection of the city whose needs have been neglected and whose voice has to reach the city and the national government.
Through an aggregation of this data across cities who are member federations of SDI this voice aims to link to the global discussion on challenges of development faced by cities in which the poor seek involvement and voice. The data collected by these organised federated slum and informal sentiment dwellers produces contestation with official data on the urban poor, gradually the data receives formal recognition by mayors and government. It forms a basis of dialogue and discussion about addressing the needs of these communities, and has produced a wide range of partnerships between communities, their cities, and national governments, sometimes with bilateral and multilateral agencies. This data has helped the communities at various times to explore innovative and win-win solutions that have facilitated secure tenure and basic amenities while improving the infrastructure in cities.
The presentation consists of instances where solutions were not only developed and executed, but through the peer learning and horizontal exchanges facilitated by SDI, also explored and adapted by community federations and city officials in other countries facing similar problems. Through this presentation SDI invites NGOS, peoples movements, mayors, national governments and bilateral and multilateral organisations to explore this strategy to develop a co-production of solutions for cities.
Sheela Patel is Founder Director of the Society for Promotion of Area Resource Centres (SPARC), a Mumbai-based NGO that has been working on housing and infrastructure rights for the urban poor for since 1984. She also played a key role in the expansion of Mahila Milan, a federation of collectives of women living in slums across India.
Patel is also the Chair of Slum/Shack Dwellers International (SDI), an international network of poor people’s organizations and supporting NGOs, active in Asia and Africa. She has represented SDI as member or advisor in many national and international task forces and committees. Patel has received the David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award from the Synergos Institute in recognition of her extensive efforts to ameliorate urban poverty, and Padmashree a national award from the Indian government for her work on urban poverty issues.
ADDITIONAL READING MATERIAL
Patel, Sheela. 2013. Upgrade, Rehouse or Resettle? An Assessment of the Indian Government’s Basic Services for the Urban Poor (BSUP) Programme. Environment & Urbanization, 25(1): 177-188.
Patel, Sheela, Carrie Baptist, Celine D’Cruz. 2012. Knowledge is power – Informal Communities Assert Their Right to the City through SDI and Community-led Enumerations. Environment & Urbanization, 24(1).
Patel, Sheela. 2011. “Are Women Victims, or Are They Warriors?” In Women’s Health and the World’s Cities, chapter 6, Afaf Ibrahim, Meleis, Eugénie L. Birch, Susan M. Wachter, eds. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Patel, Sheela and Diana Mitlin. 2010. Gender Issues and Slum/Shack Dweller Federations (report). International Institute for Environment and Development.
Patel, Sheela, Shaaban Sheuya, Philippa Howden-Chapman. 2007. The Design of Housing and Shelter Programs: The Social and Environmental Determinants of Inequalities. Journal of Urban Health, 84(1): 98-108.
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