THE EARTH TIMES
FEBRUARY 7, 1996
NGOs sharing insights On Housing
By Ashali Varma
United Nation New York—While the final preparatory meeting to decide the future course of human settlements is in progress here, some NGOs working at the grassroots level are busily changing the lives of women from the slums of Bombay to the homeless of South Africa.
Homeless International, a nongovernmental organization, (NGO) based in the United Kingdom, supported an exchange program between the National Slum Dwellers Federation in India and the Homeless People’s Federation in .South Africa. Teams of women from Mahila Milan, a pavement dwellers association, in Bombay visited women living in informal settlements in South Africa. They shared their experiences and worked on strategies. The women from Bombay trained the women from South Africa on how to deal with issues concerning housing and the environment. As a result over 250 women-led saving groups for housing were formed using the model developed by women pavement dwellers in Bombay.
As chief executive of Homeless International, Ruth McLeod said, “Finding funding to support this process is a nightmare. But it is probably one of the most powerful processes we support in our work in terms of improving living conditions of the urban poor.”
Homeless International supports NGOs and Community Based Organizations (CBOs) in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, who work on shelter and habitat. Funded by individuals and organizations and by trusts and foundations, they work in 16 countries entirely through indigenous organizations.
McLeod is also secretary to the National Council for Habitat II in the United Kingdom. Regarding the NGO priorities on the Habitat Agenda, she said, “First it is important for people to have secure access to land, access to credit and financing.”
Capacity building at the community level which would enable people in the low income group to organize and participate actively is also needed said Mcleod. “I think what has been missing in many instances are real practical mechanisms to allow community organizations, NGOs, the private sector and the local authorities to work together,” she said.