Importantly, the movement started to provide a voice for the communities with their local, regional and national governments. “You can’t just be an island on your own, you need partnerships with governments,” she says. An early example was in South Africa, where the government pledged to provide Rand 10 million but sought a model for how best to use this by working with the community.
The combined voices started to bring influence, particularly related to housing policies and services provision. In the past, the requirements could often be too centralised and would miss the mark in terms of what was actually needed. “Most cities don’t know about their own settlements,” says Rose. Indeed, on some occasions, they don’t even know where they are. She gives the example of one municipality that had a forest on its plans without realising that there were around 3000 households living there.
Profiling and relocations
Profiling is done by the people themselves, collecting data such as the number of households and population, the status of the land and ownership, current services and the main challenges and priorities, but also charting the history of the community. For households, among the data captured is number of children, their ages, whether or not they are in education, and the household’s financial status.
“It brings together the community to be more resilient. It is not just about bringing in money, it brings people together,” says Rose. It empowers people to make choices for themselves and to break down resistance to working with governments.
At the same time, there clearly needs to be the political will, she says, and this varies from country to country. In some countries, the municipalities have seen the collective action as a threat. “They don’t want to engage except to consult on decisions that they have already made in their offices.”
The need for engagement particularly comes to the fore when there are plans to relocate communities. Too often, this has been merely a case of eviction, moving the problem without any consideration for those involved. It makes no sense, she points out, as it destroys people’s property and just creates another slum. There needs to be community buy-in, security of tenure, infrastructure and services, and recognition and preservation of the community.
There is often a lack of reaching out, says Rose. However, in Kampala in Uganda and in Nairobi in Kenya there are good examples of community engagement, the latter centred on the Mukuru informal settlement in the south-east of the city, where the community-led profiling has been done and, instead of eviction, SDI has been able to negotiate the movement of 10,000 people to a better area through agreement with the community, not through force.
Rose says there are also strong relationships in Durban and Cape Town. As an example of the exchange of information, dwellers in Durban met their counterparts in Mukuru to understand what had been achieved.