Community Advocacy for Urban Poor

The Problem

Over the last two decades there has been a global trend towards increasing urbanization in which more than half of world's population is living in cities and towns. According to 2001 Census, 27.8 per cent of India's population-285 million-live in urban areas. This has led to reinforcing the disadvantages of a pre-existing class and caste-based society, where lower income groups are pushed to the periphery of the city; compelled to stay in tiny spaces with no services or make-shift shelters, far away from their current informal jobs. This is to make way for the swanky up-market malls, gated housing communities, motorable roads, international airports in an effort to meet the needs of the select urban elite.

Ironically these urban marginal communities living in slums and less privileged settlements, who have actually built the malls, airports with their blood and sweat are ignored; their contribution to GDP goes unaccounted for.
These apprehensions and assumptions were reinforced when we looked at official documents such as Delhi Human Development Report, 2006 which acknowledged this. For instance, Delhi Human Development Report 2006 said, “In most slums, housing and living conditions are appallingly poor. In 2001, nearly 25 per cent of houses in Delhi had no access to piped water supply and depended on either handpumps, tubewells, or other sources. Between 1991– 2001, there was no progress in the proportion of households with access to piped water supply. The numbers of households without toilet facilities jumped from 1.18 million in 1991 to 1.99 million in 2001.

It is in this backdrop that CFAR begun its intervention of working with the urban poor communities that represent the most widely under-served and their rights and needs are constantly underestimated, even distorted and prevented from becoming part of the mainstream. The focus of the work was on:
- To facilitate and support the marginal community and the representatives of civil society organizations to spearhead public and policy advocacy with different stakeholders.
- To sensitize the influential stakeholders - representatives of government, opinion makers such as media, development institutions and academia.
- To strengthen capabilities of the marginal community and their representatives for issue-based advocacy.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
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.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
At the very outset of its work on urban poor, CFAR learnt and drew from interactions with other Civil Society Organizations, grass roots groups and unions among others. It particularly looked at the scope and nature of civil society interventions that the urban poor are involved in, like the work being done by NGOs, grass roots groups among the marginalized sections in slum clusters, slums and squatter localities, resettlement colonies and the newly rehabilitated areas. Within this they tried to identify the organizational measures and strategies that were enabling the civil society organizations to mobilize the community and strengthen collective action.

They also interacted with and were guided by the supportive stakeholders on the issue. To name a few who helped CFAR chart out their work with urban poor would include, Members of the Planning Commission, Government of India, Constitutional Figures such as the Lieutenant Governor, elected representatives such as Chief Minister, members of statutory bodies such as Chairperson National Commission for Women, Member Secretary, State Legal Services Authority; Independent bodies like Supreme Court Commissioner - Right to Food, Chief Advisor to Supreme Court on the Right to Food Case; national level women’s organizations such as All India Women’s Democratic Association, social activists and grass roots groups with a history of struggle.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
The thrust of this intervention is to strengthen the concept of “caring cities” and to demonstrate that the urban poor, led by women, are not just a “burden of numbers” but potential partners in the process of building socially equitable and sustainable urban settlements.
The objectives of this intervention have been:
- Empower the civil society, in particular marginal communities, to strengthen the process of social mobilisation, participation and negotiation with the local administration and the related stakeholders.
- To enhance the participation of marginal community in the public discourse, in order to ensure that we alert all concerned stakeholders, to the diverse needs and viewpoints of different segments of society.
- To sensitise the influential stakeholders - representatives of government, opinion makers such as media, development institutions and academia on issues of the urban poor

Their strategy was multi-pronged
- Capacitate community members to develop a core group of community advocates to leverage the existing community or consumer centred mechanisms as mandated by the various government departments.
- Strengthen community linkages with different stakeholders - government, non-government, media and key opinion makers to ensure that the community is an integral part of the service delivery systems.
- Upscale the Forum and expose them to greater processes of change by networking with larger movements, campaigns, community based organizations, among others.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
There was a sense of achievement when though sporadically and somewhat in an interim manner the systems responded. For instance following a Public Hearing in late 2007, a storm drain in Tigri was repaired, toilets in Kalyanpuri Delhi were repaired and opened; in the same league card holders in Jaipur, Bangalore were being given the correct quantity of food grains under the Public Distribution System. These small but significant changes instilled a sense of confidence amongst the community members and also they started gaining faith both in the intervention and the institution.

In 2008, negotiations with stakeholders, use of lawful instruments, networking with larger processes were upscaled. In this phase they focused on the electoral political process that gave a window of opportunity to make structural demands for greater community say in ensuring inclusive approach to city planning and development. 7 forum members from Delhi participated in the civil society window series organized by the Planning Commission on the approach paper to the Twelfth Five Year Plan. Members were using the media to put forth their voices and mainstream their grievances. Members in Pune and Delhi used National and Regional visual media houses such as CNN-IBN, IBN Lokmat to speak about their concerns. Across the cities members become active partners of nation-wide campaigns such as Right to Food Campaigns and participated in rallies, demonstrations, hunger strikes. By the end of 2008 the Women's Forum had arrived as a strong grass roots group actively raising issues of survival of the urban poor community.

End of 2009 and beginning of 2010, the forums wanted themselves to have an identity of their own. There was a growing sense of restlessness when in few instances members were turned away from getting into a formal role of the government. It was time for institutionalization. Each city adopted a different approach, while Bangalore opted for a CBO model, Jaipur was comfortable with the SHG model and Pune wanted to keep it more open in the forum of a collective- Samuha.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
In the first phase the biggest challenge was to mobilize the community members around the principle that collective action could bring about change. First 4 months were spent in mobilizing, crystallizing the forums. Unless the members could see any result yielding from the initiative, community members were not willing to be part of any exercise.
At this juncture, CFAR’s primary effort was to rekindle hope and tell them they had the power to speak up and stand up for their own cause. It bore fruition with the system responding.

In the second phase CFAR realized that in the process of intensifying the community process, could not ignore the internal dissensions, groupism, frustration and a sense of loss of control many community members were experiencing. They were feeling the need to be a registered entity.

It was very important at this juncture to hold the forums together, avoid political co-option of the forums more importantly continuously innovate and offer the forums roles, solutions hitherto unexplored. Hence the next step for them was to move towards institutionalizing our forums. At present they are under process of doing the same.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
From its inception, the FORD Foundation has been supporting us in this initiative. For consecutive three years now, the Foundation has supported the work on urban poor. At the end of each phase, a proposal was drafted and submitted with the Foundation for consideration and in all occasions it was accepted.
A rich experience of use of legal instrument like RTI, drew attention of the donors to the innovative community-led model of engaging in negotiation and advocacy on their concerns and rights. It was clear for the granters that the Forums had already established themselves as community structures of grievance redressal mechanisms and any support to the model will further strengthen the community to deal with corruption in their struggle for a rightful survival. With the support of the additional grant from (PTF) Partnership for Transparency Fund, the forum members in Bangalore have set for themselves a target of creating model aganwadi centres and fair price shops. In Pune, the forums have focused on mainstreaming their voices using the mass media, an initiative that is being supported by WACC (World Association for Christian Communication).

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
In due course the women’s forums across the cities will be brought under one umbrella- giving it a shape of Community Based Organization. Secondly a link between the forum members and various government departments will be established over a period of time, thus ensuring that irrespective of presence of CFAR, the members are capable of ensuring proper delivery of services.
Also as part of community-government partnerships, members of the forum will be made part of delivery mechanism, thus ensuring sustainability.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
The predominant models in addressing issues of women and poverty largely focus on economic empowerment. While one school focuses on forming Self Help Groups and uses micro-credit as an instrument to empower women thereby enable them to claim their rights; another emphasizes vocational training to women to enable them to be economically independent and take charge of their lives.
While economic empowerment is no doubt very powerful strategy, that enables women to come together, collectivize with a purpose and has the potential to act as a platform that can articulate other concerns, it does not always happen. This is particularly true for the urban poor context. CFAR realized six years ago that in urban slums women have to come together to struggle for their most basic rights. As far as the city administration is concerned the poor not bona-fide citizens, they are “squatters” “floating” population that should not be allowed to make the city their home.

It is in this context that CFAR initiated the model of women’s empowerment-that enabled women to use collective action, legal instruments, social audits to seek their rights and entitlements as citizens and in fact reclaim themselves as true builders of the city.

Using this model of empowerment the community members themselves realized the need and strength of collective action. They are trained and facilitated to directly interface with each one of them and negotiate on their demands; make themselves heard and be counted and most importantly hold the government accountable. These are some of the key elements of success of this model. CFAR is now seeking to scale this process and innovate in as many ways as possible to ensure effectiveness and success of the model.

The impact of the intervention is that the urban poor community is no longer being seen as the disenfranchised population, a burden of numbers on the state but rather as a resource. They have journeyed from engaging in local advocacy to high power advocacy to finally partnering with the government. This is best explicated when we look at the role the forum members of Delhi played in piloting of the government's flagship programme Mission Convergence.

Mission Convergence initiated by the Government of Delhi, brings together nine line departments and 45 schemes under a single window. It is aimed to change the government’s approach to the urban poor, especially women. The government seeks to use the Mission mode to re-identify urban poor through census and tackle urban poverty, strengthen inclusive growth and encourage participative governance.
The forum members of Kalyanpuri, Tigri, slum settlements in Delhi not only contributed to the design and formulation of the survey questionnaires, piloted and pre-tested the questionnaires of Mission Convergence of 200 households and even presented key findings to the Apex Committee-Members of the Planning Commission, Mission Convergence, Supreme Court Commissioners to Right to Food - to facilitate finalization of the Survey questionnaire.

Contact Information

Institution Type:   Non-Governmental Organization  
Contact Person:   Akhila Sivadas
Title:   Executive Director  
Telephone/ Fax:   91-11-2629 2787, 2643 0133
Institution's / Project's Website:   91-11-2622 9631
Address:   C-100/B, Ist Floor Kalkaji, New Delhi
Postal Code:   110019
City:   New Delhi
State/Province:   New Delhi
Country:   India

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