The Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR) has been striving to mainstream the concerns of the urban poor in the seven cities of – Delhi, Bangalore, Jaipur, Pune, Kochi, Kolkata and Bhubaneswar by: creating participatory structures for accountability, establishing a grievance redress mechanism, strengthen civil society mechanisms, enabling community advocates and partnering with urban local bodies in implementing key schemes.
In Delhi, CFAR was also appointed to act as a link between community structures (Gender Resource Centres) and the Deputy Commissioner in the city’s South district. Our role here has been to ensure that the government-community convergence is facilitated and outreach within the community is supported in as many ways as possible.
We have been successful in a number of slums and seen achievements in the training of community advocates, the filing of applications (RTI, Ration Cards, Identity Cards, etc.) and in the setting up of workshops and events to establish vigilance committees, Anganwadi development committees, school development and neighborhood groups. Forum members have actively participated in rallies, demonstrations and press briefings to pressurize decision makers to reconsider proposed policies.
“Now we as members of the vigilance community supervise the ration shops and take action with the help of officials against wrongdoers. So there is pressure on ration shop owners to not only give us good quality food grains and kerosene on time but also talk politely to us.” Namatatai, Bhimnagar
“Earlier, we were not getting kerosene from the fair price shop at concessional rates. But after our morcha, I got 6 litres for the first time. The shopkeeper has also promised to give us the last two years quota in installments.” Sojarbai, Shramik Vasahat, Bangalore
Mainstreaming concerns of urban poor communities across five cities
Since 2005 CFAR has been working on a plethora of initiatives aimed at integrating the concerns of urban poor communities, regarding water, sanitation, hygiene, the public distribution system, domestic violence and the basic rights and entitlements of marginalized communities, into the mainstream discourse in the country.
The first of these initiatives, which were implemented in Bengaluru, Delhi, Jaipur and Pune focused on building the capacities of grassroots communities and organizations to use the strategic tool of media to draw attention to their problems and needs and build the leadership skills of women’s forums; thereby enabling communities to collectively raise their concerns on the quality of governance in urban poor settlements.
This was closely followed by an initiative that focused, during its first phase from 2007-2009, on extending the women’s forum model using media strategies to develop skills and facilitate innovation among poor women in urban communities. But even as we worked across these four cities it became amply clear that for urban poor communities to participate at a strategic level and in decision making processes it was essential to create accountable processes of governance.
Based on this perception the focus during the second phase of this intervention from 2009-2011 was on extending it to the three cities of Bhubaneswar, Kolkata and Kochi and preparing our communities to establish linkages with significant stakeholders such as government, like minded CBOs, civil society organizations and the media, while simultaneously using all possible windows of opportunity to collaborate with their respective state governments and their various agencies.
Meanwhile in 2008, CFAR in partnership with the Delhi Government started working on Mission Convergence, which entailed the running of a District Resource Centre (DRC) in South district and steering 21 Gender Resource Centre (GRCs) in partnership with government departments, agencies and the Deputy Commissioner of District South. As the Delhi government’s Mission Convergence partner, CFAR’s aim was to build capacities of grassroots organizations to enable better access to basic entitlements and services for the urban poor.
Presently, the intervention is working with the women’s forums that are registered as Community Based Organizations (CBOs), in the five cities of Bengaluru, Bhubaneswar, Delhi, Jaipur and Kolkata, to “Strengthen the Accountability Process with a Strong Gender Lens in order to ensure transparent governance and the Delivery of Social Development Programmes and Schemes across these cities”.
The initiative, which is spread across five cities, covers 20 schools, 27 anganwadi centres and 3 maternity homes in 40 slum communities comprising of 13,352 households. The areas of intervention are education, maternal health, child marriage, mother and child health and nutrition.