What Do the Urban Poor Have to Say?
Sheela Patel, SPARC
Given that 40-70% of cities have people working and living in informality the inability of existing instruments to address their needs aspirations and impact of their invisibility of their lives and that of the city they live in are barely touched in the SDG and Climate change discourse.
Emerging networks and social movements of the urban poor have begun to create simple powerful and unique ways to equip themselves with knowledge, with proposition and emerging voice and actions at local national and global forums.
While Slum Dwellers International ( SDI) and other such movements are being observed studies invited to events, the inability of formal institutional arrangements to take advantage of such organized and articulate representation is timid, fearful and demonstrates an inability of mainstream development organizations to overcome their aversion, phobia or even non recognition about urbanization which is dumping more and more poor into informality.
What are the real development challenges? When will development interventionist acknowledge that the solution will not come out of business as usual and both climate linked challenges and SDGs need new scalable solution which require new audacious solutions new partnerships and new explorations.
What are the implications? Who will pay this price for denial? What are some emerging indications of the extent of violence this will bring into cities in the near future.
Sheela Patel is the founder Director of the Society for Promotion of Area Resource Centres (SPARC), an NGO set up in 1984 to explore real alliances and partnership with community organizations of the urban poor in their efforts to seek their right to the city through the access secure housing and basic amenities. The initial work of SPARC with pavement dwellers threatened with evictions let to its facilitating the creation of Mahila Milan a network of women's collective and their work together brought in National Slum Dwellers' federation ( NSDF) a predominantly male organization to enter into this alliance. Together the alliance presence in in 70 cities in 9 different states of India.
Since 1999, when the alliance created a not for profit company she is also the Secretary and Chief Executive of SPARC Samudaya Nirman Sahayak (SSNS), set up to assist slum communities take on construction projects in cities to provide slum dwellers to build homes and sanitation for themselves . She is a founder of Slum/Shack Dwellers International (SDI), an international network of poor people’s organizations and the NGOs that support them in Asia, Africa and Latin America, and is currently its Chairperson.
She is widely recognized – nationally and internationally – for seeking urgent attention to the issues of urban poverty, housing and infrastructure onto the radar of governments, bilateral and international agencies, foundations and other organizations. In addition, this alliance pioneered the strategy of building the capacity of poor people’s organizations so that they could negotiate their rights at different levels. This has been considered a new developmental model. In 2000, she received the United Nations Habitat Award. In 2006, she received Outstanding Contribution towards Mumbai Vision 2015 by Observer Research Foundation. In 2009, she received David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award along with Mr. Kofi Anan. In 2011, she was conferred with the prestigious award of Padmashree on the eve of Republic day of India. She has published many papers mainly published in IIED's journal Environment and urbanisation and written chapters in several books.
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