Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Building Resilient Cities

By Esther Awotwe, 1st year MDP student

“People move to the cities not because they will be better off but because they expect to be better off.”  Anna Tibaijuka, Former Executive Director of UN-HABITAT

My first field placement is at People’s Dialogue on Human Settlements, Ghana (PD). This NGO works with Cities Alliance and Ghana Federation of the Urban Poor (GHAFUP) to address the basic needs of slum dwellers which are driven by three major pillars; environment, economic and equity. 

The rapid spate of urbanization in today’s world is unprecedented. According to the United Nations, six out of every 10 people in the world are expected to reside in urban areas by 2030. Rapid urbanization can be a great economic boost if managed well or cause serious setbacks if not addressed quickly. A major challenge is the rapid sprawl of slums. Worst affected cities are in developing countries where rapid urbanization is a result of migration and population growth. Millions of residents in these cities live in substandard housing with inadequate social infrastructure.  

Aerial view of a slum settlement in the city of Accra, Ghana

Mission Statement of People's Dialogue (NGO)
I was particularly happy when I recognized that the mission statement of People’s Dialogue that was boldly displayed in their office was emphatic of the special focus on the role of women.

Aside having to spend quality time with my family in Ghana, my focal point of interest was to gain more insight from the perspective of women and their specific experiences in the context of ever increasing urban growth. Significantly I wanted to understand how their lived realities translate into policy formulation and decisions on urban settlement as the growth of slums has unique causes and consequences on women especially in Africa where many are disadvantaged as a result of gender discrimination. 

The amazing work done by PD seeks to address the three major pillars of urban sustainability but as mentioned earlier my attention is more on gender specificity of projects. The interaction with women slum dwellers so far has been a humbling and insightful experience as I consciously relate my findings with Goal 11 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which addresses building resilient and sustainable cities. My expectation at the end of the placement is to understand gender sensitive perspective of building cities without slums.

Esther (L) interacting with some women of the federation for the urban poor

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