Lauren Zelin of WRI sat down with Sheela Patel of Slum/Shack Dwellers International ahead of the upcoming World Resources Report on Cities.
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.