In 2005 CFAR began work with the urban poor in Delhi, Bangalore, Jaipur and Pune set up community-led forums in each city. By 2007, 23 forums were crystallized. In 2008, efforts were up-scaled and replicated in 3 newer cities: Bhubaneshwar, Kolkata and Kochi. Multi-pronged approaches were used to advocate:
Community Empowerment: Forum members were capacitated on issues of Public Distribution System (PDS), domestic violence, Right to Information Act, Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, and De-addiction. Workshops, trainings (41) exposure visits (13), and interactive community theatres (3) were undertaken.
Using Lawful Instruments: Trained forum members, (community advocates), were encouraged to use lawful instruments - Right to Information (203), applications and complaints (108).
Engage in evidence-based advocacy: Community advocates with technical support from CFAR undertook surveys, visual documentation, collected case studies to document the horrific state of services.
Network, interact with cross-section of stakeholders and galvanise wider support: Forums were exposed to larger processes of change through national campaigns, interacting with government, media, community based groups.
Some significant achievements:
a. Strong community advocates: liaising with government agencies, political leaders, local implementing bodies in advocating for rights to Food Information , urban homelessness. Across 7 cities 37 women forums were created in 37 slums; 139 trained community advocates, 446 community volunteers reaching out to 15279 households.
b.Negotiating for systemic responses: In Raghunath Nagar, a Bhubaneswar slum, the Municipal Corporation and Department of Health ensured essential services - electrical connections, disposal of hospital wastes and doctor visits at the Public Health Dispensary (7000 people).
Forum members of Ukhila, a Kolkata slum, undertook surveys on 5 Integrated Child Development Centres, revealing critical gaps - 35% centres had toilet facilities and they rallied with officers- in-charge - the Child Development and Project Officer for changes.
Jaipur forum members negotiated with Chief Minister for 6 months for effective management of the PDS. Government responded by issuing an Order in May 2010, and observing a monthly “Consumer –Friendly Week’, where shops remain open through the day with a government employee present.
c. Integration of Community in Service Delivery Mechanism: CFAR ensured that forum members are part of decision making and partners in implementation, Every opportunity was used. In Bangalore, Pune, Bhubaneswar and Kolkata 302 trained forum members are part of government mandated community based monitoring bodies like Integrated Child Development Scheme mandated Anganwadi, Development Committee, Pressure Groups, civil defendants dealing with domestic violence, under aegis of local police stations; Vigilance Committees under the PDS and School Development Monitoring Committees in government schools.
d. Mainstreaming concerns of urban poor by engaging in evidence based multi-level advocacy across key stakeholders- media, government, civil society, etc.
The impact was measured using case studies, after impact feedback from the communities and responses from stakeholders and bureaucrats.
These results indicate that the primary beneficiaries - the urban poor communities across slums - are ready to stand up and be counted.