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Diana Mitlin
on Fri, January 4, 2013 at 05.03 pm

Theme 1: Experiences of living in the city

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We suggest we begin this discussion on urban inequalities by sharing urban experiences from towns and cities around the world. The themes that follow all identify major types of inequalities and look respectively at spatial, social, political and income-based inequalites.  These first two days offer space to share acounts of the growing up and living in the city - and hopefully stories will continue to be posted on this theme in the two weeks that follow.

One of the books that had made the greatest impression on me when I began reading about urban poverty and inequality was Death Without Weeping: The violence of everyday life in Brazil, in which Scheper-Hughes describes both the 'everyday violence of shantytown life, and the madness of hunger...' and 'the women and men of the Alto in their everyday struggle to survive by means of hard work, cunning, trickery, and triage, but above all, by means of their resilience, their refusal to be negated.'  That volume is now 21 years old. 

Are the experiences it describes still relevant today?  I have already posted a story from Zimbabwe which suggests that they are.  Please share your experiences of living in the city by posting in the comments box below.

Look forward to hearing your thoughts, Diana

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Anonymous from
Mon, January 7, 2013 at 10.29 pm

Thank you on behalf of all the moderators for your contributions to this discussion so far.  I would like to share with you more insights - this time from the Philippines recent article in Environment and Urbanization (24(2)) includes transcript of a conversation between Ruby Papeleras and Ofelia Bagotlo, two community leaders in the Homeless People’s Federation Philippines Inc. and Somsook Boonyabancha from the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights. The community leaders reflect on the difficulties that community organizations face in finding solutions – for instance, getting land and getting local governments, donors and activists to respect their priorities - and describes how they have begun to address their needs..


It also powerfully describes the problems they face ....


Ruby explains: The first step is for poor people to learn to trust themselves. Because we’re poor and because we live in slums, nobody trusts us, nobody believes in us. We don’t have money, our jobs are illegal, our communities are illegal, our connections to electricity and water are illegal. We are the city’s big headache. This is the entire perception of people outside the communities. But we are human beings too and we have lives in this city. If we are given space to be part of the decisions and plans, we also can be part of the solution.


Ofelia replies: Before, I never wanted to talk because I was afraid that if I spoke, I’d make some mistake. But when I started to work in the federation, slowly, slowly I began to think that if others can speak out, why can’t I? And when I began to believe that I could do it, I could do it. For me, that confidence in ourselves is the most important thing of all. A people’s process builds that confidence and trust in a great big number of people, and turns it into a great big force, so all of us can find a better way, can improve our lives, our communities and ourselves.


Ruby again: We build this trust in ourselves by preparing ourselves, by doing our own initiatives, by bringing in our own financial contributions and by doing things that others think are impossible for us to do. In our federation, we see the people’s process as a big space for people to do things in their communities, to identify needs, start solving problems, make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. This doing ofactually strengthens us and builds our capacities to continue finding solutions to bigger and more complex problems. But this process has political dimensions also, because it allows people in a community to begin working together, to strengthen relationships, to make communal decisions and to find solutions that come out of a collective process that is bigger and more powerful than only one person or one community or even one city.


Pricilla Nakyazze from
Sat, January 19, 2013 at 07.33 pm

The way to meet costs for may poor urban dwellers is through criminal activities like hawking,prostitution and drug dealing.

Health wise they cannot not easily meet costs hence the need for free health services in Kampala city the council offers free services at its hospitals.

Many urban poor do not enroll there children in school there should be enforcement and monitoring to ensure children of school going age are in school not earning an income for the family through peddling bananas, eggs and mangoes or fetching water among  others.

Urban poor mainly consist of single mothers,refugees,street chi

Pricilla Nakyazze from
Sat, January 19, 2013 at 07.25 pm

Urban inequalities are most evident in housing,health,nutrition, employment and education.

I know refugees who have taken a canvas a set up a tent and that has been home for two years, without conviniences like a toilet,bathroom or kitchen the neighbourhood has to be run down. There is dirty water running and stagnant as thus there exposed to malaria and water borne diseases.Many of these people donot want to stay in camps because there enemies are staying in the same places and they feel safer this way. Also slums are mainly inhabited by people who come from villages in hope for green pastures that have not yet materialised.

The government has to be involved through minisrty of housing by building low cost housing, slum dwellers can have there land developed  with better affordable homes that they pay for overtime.

Kaylin Padovano from
Mon, January 14, 2013 at 04.01 pm

Thanks so much. Your recommendations have been included in our ‘solutions’ section! Please follow the link to add any additional comments and/or ideas:http://www.worldwewant2015.org/node/300328.   

Anonymous from
Wed, January 9, 2013 at 05.19 am

I am part of a team that has been collecting stories of life and struggle in urban poor settlements in the developing world. We call this the "age of zinc." We have currently published two full memoirs from South Africa and India, and are in the midst of publishing a new memoir from Kenya. You can find them all at www.ageofzinc.com.

Cities and the urbanization of exclusion and poverty are producing new challenges to the way we think, govern, and live. This is a running journal of photography, storytelling, and assorted impressions of these phenomena. The “age of zinc” is not a narrow architectural statement regarding a single building material common to slum housing solutions in some countries. Rather, “age of zinc” is a metaphor for the way in which we see change in our world. 

Below I share an excerpt from the South African memoir:

When I arrived at P_____ in 1982 I found myself amongst some of the very poor in our communities. I was lying on my back on a mattress covered with a plastic material so as to protect the mattress from the blood from bruises and wounds inflicted on me by my attackers in Newlands East in the big city of Durban. I was in pain, hurt, bruised, scared, and confused. I did not know this part of the city.

I had lived in the bush at a younger age. Then, I was frightened by snakes, wild animals and hunger. Here I was in one of the most notorious settlements in Inanda in Durban. I was scared of izigebhengu (crooks), thieves, warlords, shack bosses and hunger.

I was put in a shack in a sector of the community now known as E______. My neighbors never saw me arrive. They were busy drinking and dancing the night away. The person who organized me this shack was the mother of my eldest child who had come to my rescue that night when I was together with my friends being attacked. At the time our relationship was not serious and we had not yet had a child.

She had organized this shack for me and hid me there. Because she was the only person who knew where I lived in Inanda, she would bring me groceries and cigarettes, which she collected from my aunt. At least once a week she made her way by taxi to Newlands and exploited my aunty’s generous nature for my benefit.

In those first three weeks I lived like an animal that sleeps during the day and hunts at night. I used to piss in a bucket and go out to shit at night. Eventually, I got to know some people, which was just as well since my stocks from my aunt were no longer coming my way. I had to make friends. Because of the survival experiences I had picked up at boarding school and reformatory, it was easy for me to adapt to this jungle.

Oh there were many types of human animals here. The conmen, thieves, murderers, shebeen (illegal bar) kings and queens, self-appointed head men, self-imposed “councilors” – those con political leaders of that time. And we thought we got rid of them forever when we chased them out of the townships in the 1980s![1]

This place was a challenge to my young mind. In my life I had only known gang bosses, headmen and indunas (chiefs), prefects and bullies. Here it was just the same – probably worse. And I had to survive. I started by trying to know the who’s-who of the area.

I soon found out that the different residents of this area called P_______ were actually normal people who were all trying to make a living. There were shebeens, brothels, gambling dens, and stokvels (usually traditional savings groups) in a manner of speaking — not the one where money is saved and shared but ones where the trade was in people’s emotions and passions: people used to out-buy, out-dance, out-drink, take one another’s wife or husband. Out-eat, out-drink, out-dance, out-play the whole weekend. The place was a hive of activity.

I quickly became known because I was someone who could talk almost every subject and besides I could be very convincing because I was an honest liar. I always wanted to find a peaceful outcome, to help people with my jokes and my stories to find agreement with their friends who have betrayed them, with their enemies, their victims or their tormentors. This is a cruel world and one has to have cunning. My cunning was to make everybody laugh and even for a moment forget their anger or their jealousy, their sadness and even their pride. The ground is uneven and life will always be uneven and unequal. Sometimes the one who feels too deeply hides his anger, his hurt, his fear, in the costume of the clown.

I was in demand all over the settlement. Whether it was a party or feast or a simple indaba, the elders and people of the settlement always wanted me there. I also was a very respecting person. I could listen very attentively without blinking an eye …  often because I was bored fast asleep.

I lived like this for some time until one day S, my girlfriend, told me she was pregnant. That was when I saw my life change.

She also changed. She became moody, stingy, jealous, curious, and suspicious all the time. I don’t know how many times I slept outside. Sleeping outside in a Durban Mjondolo (shack) in the mid 1980s was not a very safe thing to do. I don’t know how many times I got attacked by self-imposed community law enforcers. It could have been a lot worse.

It was at this time I started thinking about doing something else. You see by this time my relatives had forgotten about me. I had broken contact with them because my lady used to provide everything for me. Clothes to wear, from underpants to socks, cigarettes, alcohol, sex and false dreams. When she got pregnant she suddenly realized that I was not what I think she wanted. Every time we had an argument or disagreement she would publicly embarrass me by telling the community that even the smile on my face she had purchased from the local supermarket.

When the child was born she embarrassed me by telling people the truth: that I could not even buy napkins and baby food. She would sometimes even leave the child with me for days so that I would have to scrounge around for something.

One day I asked one of my neighbours to look after my son so I could try and get him some food. When I came back in the afternoon to my shock and horror, my child was in King Edward Hospital because the granny who had cared for him during the day ran out of milk and fed him moonshine. The child almost died. He survived and today does chemical engineering. Maybe it has something to do with the moonshine.

Of course going to the police at that time in history was like a sin. I almost killed her. That’s the justice of the slums. But my days in a Catholic Boarding school had the desired effect. Like I always do in tough times I decided to pray first and ask God to give me the strength to kill her. But God is unpredictable and instead of giving me power he asked me to forgive her. She can thank her lucky stars I listened.

Then one day a friend of mine, by the name of F_________ gave me a ten rand because he heard that he and I were from the same rural area in Zululand. He told me to buy something to eat. Instead I bought a box of apples and a packet of oranges and began selling fruit. After a week of this I began seeing money. By the end of the month I had a full mini-market with potatoes, tomatoes, onions, and all the different fruit you can think of.

After about six months people were calling me “boetie” (brother) and “baas” (boss) because I could now lend people money, I could give people food to put on the table, I could now afford to take care of my son. I could now buy any shoes and socks I wanted. But still S________ decided to take the child and I did not see him again for almost ten years.

In the meantime I was making progress. I could now take decisions. I could now make suggestions. You know what I mean?


[1] Ward councilors are today again a target of scorn by many informal settlement residents in South African cities, who complain that they live in formal areas, do not adequately represent the poor, and are prone to patronage politics.

Kaylin Padovano from
Mon, January 14, 2013 at 03.58 pm

Your recommendations have been included in our ‘solutions’ section! Please follow the link to add any additional comments and/or ideas: http://www.worldwewant2015.org/node/300328.   

Anonymous from
Tue, January 8, 2013 at 03.30 pm

Experience of being an urban citizenMy names are Adamu M. Kolo from Abaji Area Xouncil, FCT - Abuja, Nigeria.  I represent an embodiment of poor people. I am the chairman of an irrigation farmer association. It is a community-based organization that is trying to fight poverty indirectly by engaging young people in irrigation farming.

I actually became interested sometimes around 2008 when I lost my mother during childbirth delivery. It came to me that she was my prime supporter despite the challenges she faced as result of family problems coupled with divorce. She was my hope due to the fact that she ran a kerosene retail business.  I developed an idea of supporting orphans and despite the fact that my father was around, I still feel like an orphan. Right now I run an orphanage assistance to two (2) orphans who have lost both parents.

It was around 2011, May precisely, I came back to weekend and suddenly the next day my car was stolen together with my valuables such as credentials, international passport, etc. I became weak after undergoing such an experience and I stayed in my town for almost three (3) months. It was during this period I started going to the forest where my elder cousin brother is practising irrigation farming to entertain myself. I even engaged myself in the operation of the farm. My cousin is a diploma holder in social education but he hasn't secured a job for the past eight years. He normally used hand by fetching water with bucket to water the plants.

I personally acquired a water pumping machine and hose as well as fertiliser to help boost the farming. I even advised him to plant pepper and ogwu instead of maize because of its benefit. It was at the forest I met number of youths, mostly young people who engaged in smoking and political rally and other anti-social vices. I discovered that they are interested in farming after I had advised them to cultivate it but lack the financial support. Right now they are busy clearing the land for the past year and a half but up till now there's no support for them despite the fact that they are even facing challenges or discrimination because of land disputes. They have grown banana, ogwu and vegetable leaf.

There are a number of youths out there that are idle who have no access to a good living despite the fact that they live in the city where the benefit of life is based on opportunity or as a result of discrimination or inequalities.  These children and the youth if they are not engaged they will engage the society one day definitely, and the security and safety of lives and property will be compromised.  This contribution came at a late hour as a result of unawareness but we hope to contribute our quota as the exercise keeps moving. I wish to thank the organisers.

Kaylin Padovano from
Mon, January 14, 2013 at 03.59 pm

Thank you for much for the post, Adamu. 

Your recommendations have been included in our ‘solutions’ section! Please follow the link to add any additional comments and/or ideas:http://www.worldwewant2015.org/node/300328.   

Anonymous from
Mon, January 7, 2013 at 08.51 pm

I am Ashimolowo Olubunmi Rufina, Chairperson Gender Development Inititaitive. I would like to speak in support of Manda's position.  Rural-urban migration as stressed as its own challenges. In Nigeria for instance, the challenges posed are quite enormous most especially with the increasing rate of street children as evident in cities where our organization work. A child as young as 9 years is already independent, away from father and mother, sleeping  in the open and market places. Some are into drugs and prostitution while others are gainfully engaged at such a young and tender age.

Efforts at undertaking family re-union proved more challenging as a lot of these children still find their way back to the street.  Even most parents do not want these children back hence, we undertake a lot of counselling  aimed at proper re-union .Shelter for these children in cities is not available. There are situations where children in remand homes/social welfare department are kept with street children, children orphaned with HIV?AIDs and sexually abused and abandoned children. The challenges are enormous.

Anonymous from
Mon, January 7, 2013 at 05.37 pm

I wanted to share with the discussion this experience of life in Harare - provided by the Zimbabwe Homeless People's Federation and Dialogue on Shelter in Zimbabwe. Tarisai Dandajena is just 43 year old, household head and mother to two children.  In 2003, her husband deserted her due to ill health and consequently she has had many difficulties to overcome. Her other relatives including her own sister shunned her and her children, and she was evicted many times from lodgings, and faced discrimination and general poverty. However, with the help of her fellow members from the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation, she managed to realise her dream and own a stand in 2011.


Life of Tarisai Dandajena


2003 saw a terrible transformation of Dandajena’s life. Dandajena was diagnosed with tuberculosis. She became very ill and could not do anything for herself.  Her husband who was the breadwinner of the family left her for his girlfriend. Her sister who was taking care of her also left. She was being stigmatised and discriminated against by her relatives, friends and society. In the same year she was evicted from the house and become homeless.


Dandajena sought accommodation at an unfinished house with no roof, doors and windows. She stayed there for more than a year but in 2005 the owner of this house evicted her. Dandajena strongly felt that her ill health was the major driving factor for the evictions. She was homeless again and people refused to accommodate her because of her condition. The need for survival income made her send her daughter (who was sixteen at the time) to work as a house maid.


Life was very difficult. She would sleep in the forest and her daughter would bring her food. She would share this food with her son who was in grade one at the time. Very early in the morning she would go to her brother’s house to prepare her son for school; at dusk she returned to the forest. Later she was barred from the premises by her brother’s wife and the owner of the house.  She then sought accommodation at a yet another incomplete house so that her son could go to school. She was evicted within a week. Dandajena found another similar place and sold her wardrobe to pay rentals but was told she could only stay for two months. She began to sell fish but people would not buy from her because of the blisters she has all over the body. The business failed.


In 2006 one of the community health promoters encouraged Dandajena to get HIV tested. At first she resisted but later went and was tested HIV positive. She was put on treatment. Her status enabled her to access food handouts from the Mashambanzou palliative care facility for HIV positive people. Life became better. By January 2006, Dandajena’s health had improved. She started vending, selling firewood and grain - the proceeds enabled her to earn a better living.


In 2011, Dandajena was allocated a stand in Dzivarasekwa extension (on the periphery of Harare) as she is a member of the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation and they had secured this land from the local government. First she built a cardboard box and plastic shack, then she acquired a wooden cabin. Now she no longer has to worry about rents or evictions and can grow some vegetables at the plot. Her major income comes from sewing bedspreads, seat covers and curtains for people. On average she earns $50 per month. Her son who is now in form one goes to Dzivarasekwa High 2 which is approximately 2km away. The father of the child is paying fees which are pegged at $150 per term.


Water and sanitation for Dandajena and the wider community are accessible and affordable. Dandajena gets water from a borehole which is 400m away. She uses a communal ecosan toilet facility which caters 17 families. Dandajena and other community members contributed to the cost and labour to build the communal eco-san toilets while one of the three community boreholes were provided through the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federations’ loan fund.  The other two were provided by other charitable organisations working in the City of Harare.  Dandajena uses the rubbish she produces; plastic and paper ignite the fire, and decomposing waste is used for manure for the garden.


The community is integrated, coordinated and secure. Residents of Dzivarasekwa extension stand together as community whenever they need anything from any organization, government and the local authority, and this has enabled them negotiate to meet their needs. The community is currently working with the City of Harare to bring in water from the City’s grid as well as connect to the sewer network to improve sanitation further.

Anonymous from
Mon, January 7, 2013 at 05.33 pm

My name is Skye Dobson. I am a Program Officer with Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI) based in Uganda. Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this important discussion.


I would like to introduce you to a booklet published in December 2012. I think the booklet can provide a valuable contribution to the understanding of what it means to be an urban citizen in the developing world. The book tells the history of the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (NSDFU) – which celebrated its 10th anniversary last year and is narrated by members. The stories capture the experience of urban citizenship through the words of slum dwellers themselves.


The following narrative from Katana Goretti, a slum dweller from Kampala, highlights the land tenure insecurity plaguing many slum residents, the violence this insecurity often fosters, the role information or a lack thereof can play in the urban experience, gender relations and the power of community.


My name is Katana Goretti. SDI president, Jockin Arputham, calls me, “Talkative Mama.” I am the national treasurer of the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (NSDFU). Mr. Jockin is good because he really wants to hear the voices of women. He always tells me, “You talkative woman, you go and look for things you can do. You do things on the ground” … He is always saying women put things in the right way, They see that things are done.


When the federation explained their methodology to me I agreed to try it in my area of Nakawa. I organized a meeting of 13 women and asked the professionals from ACTogether to come. We told these women about savings on the 21st of July, 2007. Cathy came with the savings books and we started saving. Then we started getting visitors from SDI, like Rose Molokoane and other groups started coming to our group to learn about the federation.


There is one mess that really convinced us to join the federation. In 2008 we had a serious eviction threat. It was claimed that all our land had been bought. When they came we had no information. We consulted ACTogether and they advised us to form a committee to follow up on these issues. We formed a committee and gave each person a responsibility to get information. I was one of the people who had to go to the Ministry of Lands to ask for the title for the land so we could see who really owned it. We asked for the title and we found out who the rightful owners were. It was not the person that was threatening to evict us even though they had even come with graders! We met the RC [Regional Councilor] and we informed the community and they were aware. When the land grabbers came the community was so mad – the police had to stop them from killing the land grabbers. We saved the major part of the land. We saw that working together could be very important.


This event was a victory for the movement and for me it showed me the value of being part of a federation. It was more than just savings. I also began to learn more about the other SDI rituals to see how these could make a difference in the lives of people in my community. In 2008 – around August – we started settlement profiling. We visited Jinja and did profiling. I was in Kimaka settlement. I was not one of the leaders by that time, but because of my hard work I was selected to be part of the profiling team. We completed the whole of Jinja.Working as part of the profiling teams gave me more understanding of federation. I interacted with members from other SDI countries to conduct the profiling and learned about the lives of slum dwellers in other parts of the country. I got selected as a key mobilizer for the federation and was selected to be part of the team that went to mobilize 5 new municipalities into the Federation in 2009.


In 2009, the TSUPU [Transforming Settlement of the Urban Poor in Uganda] program began and we conducted a massive mobilization effort in Jinja, Arua, Mbale, Mbarara, and Kabale. I went to all of them. Kabale was the most difficult. When we went to one cell, they chased us and wanted to beat us. They thought we were an organization that had come before and taken all the people’s savings. They were calling us thieves. But we kept coming back and talking to local leaders and eventually they came on board.  A team that went to Mbale had also failed. But, we came again with Celine and a new team and we organized to meet the Community Development Officer. We then managed to mobilize them. When we went to Arua it wasn’t difficult to mobilize them. We found them already saving in their boxes and giving three people a key. We shared the SDI methodology and how it could help them improve their savings and more. In Mbarara they thought we were going to give them money, but they came to understand and even the mayor started saving.


I started to become a leader. Hassan KIberu taught me a lot. He taught me to remain calm and keep quiet. He told me, ‘You are a leader. You have to be an example, not bickering here and there.’ I learned it takes no matter to stay calm. You don’t lose anything. I learned to listen and I learned to respect the views of those who disagree with me. I leaned the responsibility I have as a leader, both as a community and society. As a leader I have to see what benefits others and not to think of me. I can think of what will benefit the majority. What do the majority think of me? When we work as a team we can get many things. We can’t sit back and say ‘I’m poor I can’t do anything.’ No. You have to start small and you get big.


I was inspired by other women in the Ugandan federation and in the SDI network. I saw these strong community women leaders speaking and I thought I can also be a leader. I saw Rose Molokoane talking about traveling all over the world as a leader and I thought, yes I can do that. I realized from these women that to be an effective leader you can’t just talk. You must work hard. I’m hardworking. Me I do every job. I got that spirit from my mother. Through the small I have, I have done something. I am proud. Today I sit together with my husband and we together send the kids to school. Since I work so hard I get very tired.  When I can’t do any work at home my husband helps and if I have to travel to Arua he takes full responsibly for the children. This never happened before I was in the federation. Before, we were parallel. Now we work together. He has also changed you see. He now says ‘if we assist women they can also assist us.’ With the federation women we are thinking big – we want businesses, we are also planning, we can buy a piece of land, we can acquire a loan, we can become a society and do things for ourselves. We do not have to wait for begging.


My advice for leaders in the federation is to work as a team and love your federation. We are doing this out of love. If you don’t love what you do you would stop. You reach home and you are so tired you don’t eat supper. You make the federation part of you. That is when you mobilize even your husband. When you make something part of you everyone around you, everyone can understand. That way I can’t say it is a burden because it is part of me. I have to do it because it is part of me.


Today, whenever Jockin visits Uganda he asks me, ‘Are you still talking mama or are you doing something?’ I say to him, ‘Mr. Jockin, there is no time for talking. It is time for action.’


This is but one of approximately 100 slum dweller narrates captured in the booklet which can be viewed in full at he following link:www.sdinet.org/media/upload/documents/10YearsofOwegatta_opt.pdf


This is a bit of a long post so I will leave it here for now, but look forward to participating in the discussion going forward.


All the best.

Kaylin Padovano from
Mon, January 14, 2013 at 03.59 pm

Your recommendations have been included in our ‘solutions’ section! Please follow the link to add any additional comments and/or ideas:http://www.worldwewant2015.org/node/300328.   

Kaylin Padovano from
Mon, January 7, 2013 at 07.39 pm

Skye, thank you so much for sharing the SDI booklet and Ms. Goretti's story. Slum Dwellers International is a woman-led organization that is renowned for its strong female leadership. What role do you think women play in the increasingly important issue of securing land tenure-- especially as they are often pitted against the largely male-dominated world of land owners, law enforcement, and local government officials? What recommendations would you suggest to ensure their safety, and that their voices are heard? Any other challenges you have encountered and/or any recommendations would be so greatly appreciated. 

Anonymous from
Sun, January 6, 2013 at 03.32 pm

Despite how we take pride in the social advancement of urban areas...there still remains growing issues of 'inequality' that we have been led to believe are either non existent or have improven. In my personal view inequality is very much existent and alive, regardless of it being publicly exposed or kept mellow and unheard of. People are being materialistically bought, as a form of compensation for being treated inequally. It's much like a cycle...when complaints and accusations of discrimination are put forth, (and oppressors seem to eventually give in to the will of the people) in reality they improve the state of those fighting for their basic rights, however (and here comes the rarely noticed glitch) they never do bring about changes that consider the state of people in a general form to be 'equal.' At the same time the plight of those discriminated against is improved, the state of affairs of the discriminators prosper as well thus leaving the gap between the two groups unchanged. What is to be done about this? I'm not quite sure; however from my point of view all I can say is, people should not easily give in the second things begin to better under the impression that it is sufficient to keep them content...however out of empathy one may assume the circumstances that exceptionally force people to do so.

Kaylin Padovano from
Mon, January 14, 2013 at 04.00 pm

Your recommendations have been included in our ‘solutions’ section! Please follow the link to add any additional comments and/or ideas:http://www.worldwewant2015.org/node/300328.   

Kaylin Padovano from
Mon, January 7, 2013 at 07.26 pm

Thank you so much for this thought provoking post, Noor. While many local governments claim to be addressing the needs of their most vulnerable populations, the people themselves are often left out of the decision making process. In your opinion, what are some ways to move away from this 'symbolic' recognition of marginalized peoples plight and move towards more concrete solutions for sustainable change? 

Anonymous from
Sat, January 5, 2013 at 11.10 pm

Particularly for me, resident in Lagos which is considered an urban center, I would willing though not proudly categorized myself as deprived urban dweller. The characteristics of an urban centre are not only the presence of tall buildings, bridges and flyovers, cancerous automobile and industrial fumes, but good road network, availability of edible water, health facilities and service delivery, quality education and employment opportunities. If these amenities are found to be in critical short supply to majority of the population, it would be rather complicating to conclude the geo-polity an urban centre.


Lagos is a city-state that enjoyed colonial and post colonial urban bias, yet well over half of its population cannot be said to be enjoying the expected features of urbanization. The state is naturally split into; the Islands and the Mainland areas- which almost totally captures the urban inequality in the area.


On the Island, those at the apex of income ladder find their haven. All development and infrastructural transformation begin on the island and weaken before crossing the separating oceans/lagoons to the mainland- if it does! Wealthy industrialists and the political class define the neighbourhood where competition for materials of status and luxurious life styles are common place. Buildings and streets are architecturally planned with good road network, drainages, working street lights and estate security.


The reverse is the case on the mainland where majority of the city’s population dwell in tight squatter settlements, in slums and condemned to diseases and epidemics. Acclaimed adaptability has excused absence of choices and deprivation in the area. Developments do not trickle down unless for ‘political nativity reasons’! Power supply is best unimagined and edible water is a luxury. Here, those at the base of the income ladder barely exist as though in a gulag. Social vices are nearly riskless ventures due to growing insecurity. The cost of survival is one’s life- everyday is a pyrrhic victory! In this part of Lagos, poverty is urbanized.


This condition is not peculiar to Lagos, but is replicated in other parts of the country like the oil rich Niger delta region, as well as in other African nations, Asia and Latin America. Therefore, concerted effort is necessary to barrier the spread of this form of inequality.

Kaylin Padovano from
Mon, January 7, 2013 at 08.50 pm

Okafor, thank you so much for this interesting post. In your opinion, what types of interventions (if any) should take priority in the slum settlements of Lagos? Would it be potable water, electricity, sanitation, job opportunities, access to better nutrition?

That being said, what would it take for governments to invest in these type of projects in the most marginalized areas? As you mentioned, many claim that benefits from development in wealthy urban centers will 'trickle down' to the most impoverished communities, therefore never improving the infrastructure of its poorest neighborhoods. However, we know that this ‘trickle down’ effect is clearly not happening. I look forward to reading your reply.  

Anonymous from
Fri, January 4, 2013 at 08.36 pm

Hello fellow contributors

My name is AL Budd and I live in the south east of the UK. Many thanks to the Moderators for the invitation to participate on the on-line discussion.

Urban inequalities may have different definitions in the world's regions. It would be helpful if we were to define a workable definition of topic title. Urban inequalities may have different dimensions, for example. a conurbation in a developing economy versus a developed one.

Thinking about urban versus rural communities, the notion of space comes to the forefront. What are the differences between rural inequalities versus urban inequalities? Do doubt we will be discussing this in the forthcoming days.

I look forward to the collaboration.

Regards, AL

Kerry Constabile from
Mon, January 7, 2013 at 04.58 pm

Al, thanks for your comment. Could you elaborate on the differences between urban inequalities in developed vs. developing countries?  Here in the US, my sense is that urban inequalities are stark and feature more similarities with developing countries than is often well known.  Inequities may be different in the US than they are in Europe, however.... what do you think?

Anonymous from
Sat, January 5, 2013 at 06.06 am

AL Budd


easiest inequality to deal with urban inequalities for purposes of after 2015 development goals is spatial inequality. We know that informal settlements, despite having a mix of rich and poor people, generally have high levels of poverty in terms of reported health indicators but also in terms of infrastructure and services. Any improvement in infrastructure and services can contribute to improving the health, education etc indicators. Other inequalities such as income and social status would require a lot of technical, even academic, input to begin targeting. For example, in terms of social status we know at least from the experience in Malawi that some of the most powerful traditional leaders are to be found in informal settlements that were annexed as the urban areas expanded. In addition the mere large numbers and strength of such settlements makes them a strong political force- as voters. In my view to make progress the simple approach to reduce inequality is to target the informal /slum areas with negotiated and planned infrastructure and services. But this requires some trust in local governance structures. With time some convergence ought to be observable.

mtafu manda from
Fri, January 4, 2013 at 08.19 pm

Growing and Living in the City, from the African context are two different things. Growing up in the city is a new phenenon for the young generation. Prior to independence, many were not allowed to live or required some passport to visit cities or indeeed lived outisde the physical border of urban areas. Living in the City emerged after independence largely as a result of rural -urban migration.  The experience in Malawi is that the practicalities of both growing and living in the city are similar except for the colour of those that got the best of urban life. Living in the city due to rural-urban migration has created the urban challenge (informality, lack of services etc) because of its unprecendented speed in the wake of limited job opprtunities.Living in the city is the bad experience of witnessing some  citizens getting better services despite being minority eg in Lilongwe City (less than 1 million but large for Malawi), over 80% of the population live on 20% of land zoned for housing. This situation is reflective of other cities of Mzuzu, Blantyre and Zomba.

Kaylin Padovano from
Mon, January 7, 2013 at 08.01 pm

 Mtafu, thank you so much for your post. Many believe that living in the city gives you the benefit of better education, healthcare, and employment opportunities. However, as you mentioned the vast majority of Malawaian city-dwellers do not have access to these things. In your opinion, what are the factors that create barriers to access? How do you think these barriers could be lessened, or even eliminated?

 Also, your description of the new and often negative experience of rural-urban migration is a common one. What do you think are the mental health implications of living in cities, especially when the phenomenon is so new?

 

Anonymous from
Tue, January 8, 2013 at 08.15 pm

The factors of access barriers are legion. From my experience, one of them is misplaced training of urban planners. There is a silent policy reigning here not to provide services (water, power, roads)  to informal settlemets because such services would legitimise informality 9when you visit Malawi you will these services provided in such areas only because utility companies are demand driven and need the cash!).Yet it is quite clear that informality is largely as a result of weaknesses in housing land allocation that favours very few people supposedly able to develop. Such barriers can partly be resolved through re-training of planners, new policy framewoks etc etc as well  as trust (which presently is not the case in Malawi) in a strong local governance structure and decentralisation.

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