40% of city residents in India reside in slums and continue to face rampant deprivation of basic rights and hygienic living environments because of their status as ‘informal’ citizens. They are also the most adversely impacted by large infrastructure projects that often leave them displaced. Women who bear the dual burden of economic production and care giving are the most affected by these deprivations. To enable a transformation towards more just and equitable cities, it is important that people have a voice in shaping development policies.
Local government is the closest to citizens, and is in the best position to involve people in decisions concerning their lives. The Government of India mandates participatory local governance through the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act (74th CAA) which has been implemented only to a limited degree. In most cities, there is no ‘formal’ space for citizen participation in governance and planning. For example, budgets for development works are created and managed in a centralized manner. These budgets are often not accessible to citizens and are difficult to decipher. Similarly, urban planning procedures like ‘Development Plans’, ‘Town Planning Schemes’ and ‘Zoning Regulations’ are also difficult for common people to access and grasp, and are often ‘imposed upon’ and not communicated to citizens.
In absence of ‘invited spaces’ for participation, there is a need to mobilize communities and empower them with knowledge, skills to ‘claim’ opportunities to engage with decision-making. MHT amplifies the voice and agency of poor women from slums who have exhibited exemplar abilities to address habitat issues in their own communities to engage with and influence key city- level decision-making processes including city & local area planning, budgeting for development works, and governance and service delivery processes.
Today, because of Vikasini, I have amenities like sewage, clean water and electricity at my home. Not only that, but I also have ration card, election card and information about other Government Benefits, which I employ. I don’t have any debts, everything has been easier.
Since acquiring training as a Vikasini through MHT, I have been able to help 3 communities, and at the same time gained the trust and respect of government officials.