Looking back: What we learned in 2013
As 2013 draws to a close, it is a good opportunity to reflect on what we have learned from cities in the URB.im network during the last year. Some of our community managers discuss the benefits of increased citizen participation in the planning and implementation of urban initiatives. Others highlight the effectiveness of programs that build the capacity of youth and women to be agents for poverty alleviation. Many discuss how to ensure that the benefits of economic growth and urban improvement extend to the most marginalized residents.
What 2013 taught India about including women in urban planning
Carlin Carr, Mumbai Community Manager
This time last year, a horrific event took place in India. A young girl and her male friend took a late-night bus ride in Delhi after a movie; it ended up being the girl's last. In the bus, she was gang raped and so brutally assaulted that even an emergency medical flight to Singapore couldn't save her. The incident sparked national and international outrage; protestors poured into the streets of India's major cities to force more stringent laws to protect women against violence.
Months later, a female photojournalist out on an assignment in an abandoned mill area in the center of Mumbai endured a similarly brutal assault and gang rape. As it turns out, the men had done this to ragpicker women in the area before, but few women, especially the poor, feel comfortable stepping forward. Mumbai has always been touted as a safe city for women, but incidents like these have rattled this sense of security.
While legal frameworks, training for police officers, and educating men are all key areas in reducing violence against women, urban planning also has a large role to play. For women to feel safe in India's urban environments, city planners need to ensure that appropriate infrastructure is in place to help women feel safer and more secure in — and to feel that they are a part of — urban India. Here are five key areas to address:
- Transport: Women-only train cars have been a great addition in Mumbai; in Bangalore, sections of the buses also are reserved solely for women. These measures reserve safe spaces for women and signal that women are encouraged to travel in the city.
- Lighting: Dark streets create an unwelcoming environment for women, and the lack of lighting also jeopardizes their safety. Streetlights are needed not only throughout main roads and thoroughfares, but also in informal settlements, where darkness hovers once the sun goes down.
- Activity: Despite the antagonistic relationship that many Indian cities have toward street vendors, their presence brings a vitality that increases women's security. Delhi proposed an initiative last year to create vending areas near metro entrances. Initiatives of this type, particularly around transport stations, will go a long way in creating a city that is not only vibrant, but also safe.
- Passageways: Although crossing roads in Mumbai is risky, the underground passageways that allow walkers to traverse busy intersections are much scarier, especially for women. Some in the city seem much friendlier than others, with good lighting and security officers posted, but many others are dark and dank.
- Sanitation: We recently reported on the abysmal toilet situation in Mumbai, where there is only one toilet seat for every 1,800 women. Even when there are toilets available, women and young girls often have to walk great distances or choose a dark and secluded area in order to have some measure of privacy. Providing proper sanitation preserves people's dignity, but it also will go a long way toward reducing the risk of violence against women during this necessary act.
Many of these measures are low-hanging fruit in the larger urban planning needs of the city. They are economically feasible and don't require large infrastructure overhauls. Brighter, more vibrant and welcoming cities will benefit the entire citizenry and go a long way toward making women feel comfortable engaging in their urban environment.
Kenya at 50
Katy Fentress, Nairobi Community Manager
On the 12th of December, Kenya celebrated Jamhuri (Independence) Day. The event came at the end of a year that played host to a roller coaster of emotions for all those who have a part of themselves invested in this country.
Nairobi's 2013 was a year that witnessed impressive progress in terms of infrastructure development, but in which the government made no significant progress on providing services to the city's numerous slum dwellers. It was a year in which Nairobians came together in great shows of unity, but also saw neighborhoods turn against each other; a year of victories and pride, but also one of great loss and shame. 2013 was the year in which it became clear to what extent corruption puts everyone's security at risk and the year that the term "Silicon savannah" began to gain serious traction in the business world.
Politics, technology, infrastructure development, and finance ruled the discussion board in 2013 and laid important cornerstones for future discussions on how the country will develop and evolve.
In politics, Kenyans collectively held their breath for three months in the run-up to the elections. Come Election Day in Nairobi and the rest of the country, people eager to be counted queued for hours in the sun and dust in long peaceful lines. As radios and TV channels preached the mantra of non-violence — occasionally at the expense of the truth — the #KOT (Kenyans on Twitter) hashtag acquired prominence, and people flocked to social media to vent grievances or poke fun at the international press.
Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero was voted in on a slew of electoral promises — amongst which, to improve service delivery to the capital, improve the living standards of slum dwellers, and address the problem of Dandora, the city's overflowing dumpsite. Ten months after elections, the promises are yet to be met: Kidero has held meetings with representatives of Nairobi's different slums, where he reiterated his commitment to increasing employment opportunities for youth; his wife has made public donations to various slum orphanages; and the Dandora question is under discussion.
Yet lack of communication between the lands ministry, the Governor's office, and interested stakeholders resulted in Nubian settlers from Kibera slum not being issued title deeds they had been promised, and the lighting, security, and city-wide cleanup residents believed would take place failed to materialize.
In infrastructure development, despite a few hiccups, work on Nairobi's southern and eastern bypasses continued to move forward, as did the construction of Nairobi's new international airline terminal, which was launched in December despite the chaos that followed the burning of the arrivals terminal in August this year. The Nairobi light commuter rail network opened a new station, the Safaricom Kasarani stadium was brought to completion, and Machakos county (part of the city's larger metropolitan area) unveiled its ambitious development plan and how it intends to create Machowood, Kenya's first dedicated film production studios.
Progresses in technology were routinely feted, the term "Silicon Savannah" became increasingly popular amongst technological investors eager to branch into the burgeoning African market, and Microsoft and IBM moved their African headquarters to Nairobi. Yet people's trust in technology took a strong blow after the hyped-up IEBC e-voting machines routinely broke down over the election, prompting pollsters to return to a more traditional and easy-to-tamper-with ballot system.
Finance went from strength to strength as the Kenyan stock market continued to rise throughout the year and the government began to recognize that the most sustainable form of development was the one that came from the grassroots. As a result, efforts were stepped up to invest in youth and women's savings groups through the newly introduced Uwezo Fund.
Photo 3: Javi Moreno. Photo 4: Damiano Lotteria.
Lagos: Development with opportunities for inclusive growth
Olatawura Ladipo-Ajayi, Lagos Community Manager
Lagos is the most populous city state in Nigeria, home to over five percent of the nation's 166 million residents, and ever growing. To manage this large group of people and to create an environment that is not only safe and accommodating but also filled with opportunities for improved living and continuous growth, the state government and various civil society organisations have spent 2013 working on a number of ingenious projects to achieve these goals.
Makoko's slum clearance, part of the city's effort to make the city safer and more modernized, illustrates the importance of considering the social impact of urban planning and growth projects. The economic and social effects of this slum clearance on the communities are grave: residents become displaced, lose their shelter, sense of safety, and livelihood. Other initiatives in Makoko have been more successful: the innovative floating school project plans to make education more accessible to slum residents.
While some projects face strategic planning and implementation flaws, many of them are not only well-intentioned but also successful. Some of these projects include the Youth Empowerment and ICT Center, the Vocational Training Skills Acquisition Center, and the Real Women's Foundation empowerment program. These programs focus on providing marginalized populations with skills and opportunities to alleviate poverty and to contribute productively to society. While the city and the ICT center's programs such as the Urban Youth Empowerment Program focus on youth, the Real Women's Foundation "peace villa" rehabilitates women and also provides life-skills training. Both programs encourage entrepreneurship and employment, an efficient way of alleviating poverty, and have recorded great success.
Lagos has a magnitude of opportunity to improve the lot of its marginalized urban residents. While progress is being made in various aspects, such as transportation, health care awareness, and employment creation, it is important that urban planners and officials consider the impact of rapid progress on every class of its citizens, so as to avoid situations like those that arose with the slum clearance in Makoko. The urban future is very bright for Lagos; we have learned that, with adequate planning and proper social impact assessment, it is possible to create development solutions that do not leave certain groups of the society in the dark. With this in mind, Lagos can continue to make strides towards being a just and inclusive city in 2014.
Photo: Roy Luck
El 2013 nos enseñó que la visión de una ciudad es la inclusión de sus ciudadanos
María Fernanda Carvallo, Gestor Comunitario de Mexico D.F.
A lo largo del 2013 comentamos sobre diversas estrategias de inclusión y de superación de la pobreza en la Ciudad de México. Si bien las soluciones son variadas e innovadoras, un factor central en la solución de estos problemas es el involucramiento de la participación de la población que vive las situaciones de conflicto; puesto que desde un enfoque de participación para el desarrollo, ellos son los expertos que priorizan e identifican las necesidades y áreas de oportunidad de su desarrollo.
Por ejemplo, el mapeo comunitario en Nezahualcóyotl, facilitado por la Universidad de las Américas, identificó las variables de vulnerabilidad de la población; al igual que los pobladores de San Andrés Totoltepec en Tlalpan, impulsado por la Organización Fomento Solidario de la Vivienda (FOSOVI). Los habitantes de ambas localidades realizaron un diagnóstico comunitario para visualizar las carencias sociales que debían de satisfacer, así como los recursos disponibles para obtener soluciones. En este sentido, se da evidencia de que la misma población que se encuentra en situaciones de vulnerabilidad, puede generar sus propias soluciones y así ser una comunidad que desarrolla estrategias de vida. El factor elemental en estos modelos de desarrollo local ha sido la intervención de actores externos, como las organizaciones de la sociedad civil, que habilitan mecanismos que cohesionan el capital social de las personas y empoderan para que la población descubra su capacidad.
Hoy en día, la agenda de desarrollo rompe con el paradigma de los enfoques de políticas públicas desde arriba, para focalizar los esfuerzos en metodologías que permitan vincular a los diversos actores que juegan un rol activo en la promoción del bienestar. En este sentido, Enrique Betancourt, urbanista de la Ciudad de México, nos compartió en una entrevista, que uno de los grandes retos para esta ciudad es un paquete de acciones coordinadas — estrategias que integren el equipamiento e infraestructura con programas sociales y con un fuerte componente de participación ciudadana. Así mismo, la inclusión de la población marginada, como una tarea de planeación urbana, está relacionada con garantizar a las personas el derecho a la ciudad. Es decir el tutelaje de que todos accedan a los beneficios de vivir en comunidad, lo cual impulsa cambios de manera más rápida y eficiente. De acuerdo a Betancourt, es necesario borrar las barreras institucionales, sociales, y físicas que promueven que hasta ahora se dividan los ciudadanos de primera y segunda clase. Para lo anterior, es necesaria una sinergia de actores y del fortalecimiento de la capacidad de las organizaciones sociales para ofrecer la atención de servicios de manera descentralizada y abarcando a la población que aún no ha podido ejercer su derecho.
Una Ciudad debe de erigirse sobre la inclusión y participación de sus pobladores; de tal manera, para el 2014 debemos tener en la mira que la planeación urbana debe de ser un acuerdo pactado entre los ciudadanos y las autoridades sobre el papel que la Ciudad de México desempeñará, a fin de que la ciudadanía sea participativa en el cumplimiento de esa visión.
2013's vision of the city: the inclusion of its citizens
María Fernanda Carvallo, Mexico City Community Manager
Throughout 2013 we discussed various inclusion and poverty reduction strategies in Mexico City. While the solutions discussed are varied and innovative, a key factor is the involvement of the population through active participation. By participating in the development of their community, citizens share their expert knowledge, which prioritizes and identifies needs, as well as areas of opportunity and development.
One good example is the community mapping in Nezahualcóyotl, facilitated by the University of the Americas: the initiative successfully identified the population's vulnerability, as with the population of San Andrés Totoltepec in Tlalpan, led by the Organización Fomento Solidario de la Vivienda (FOSOVI). The inhabitants of both towns conducted a community assessment in order to show the social gaps that needed closing, as well as the resources available to meet the possible solutions. This shows that citizens living in vulnerable situations can in fact generate their own solutions and thus be a community that develops livelihoods. The essential factor in these models of local development is the involvement of external actors such as civil society organizations, which help to unite residents' social capital and empower them to discover their own potential.
Today, the development agenda shatters the paradigm of top-down public policy approaches in order to focus on methodologies that allow the linking of various stakeholders who play an active role in promoting wellness. Enrique Betancourt, an urban expert from Mexico City, said during an interview that one of the great challenges that the city faces is a package of coordinated actions: strategies that integrate supplies, infrastructure, and social programs with a strong component of citizen participation. Moreover, the inclusion of marginalized populations is related to guaranteeing residents the right to the city. This means that all citizens must have access to the benefits of living in a community, which in turn drives changes to happen more quickly and efficiently. According to Betancourt, it is necessary to remove the institutional, social, and physical barriers that promote divisions between first- and second-class citizens. For this, it is necessary to have a synergy of actors and to strengthen the capacity of organizations that provide decentralized social care services.
A city should be established on the principles of inclusion and participation. Therefore, in 2014 we must look to urban planning to reach an agreement between citizens and authorities on the path that Mexico City will take, so that the entire population participates in the fulfillment of this vision.