Federation activities means getting the community organized to work towards improvement of their settlement and better housing. The poor must be in control of their own development, and in order to do that , Baandhani has worked out three simple tenets
The power of numbers: One person in the community can achieve little, but a large group of people dealing with the same problem has much more impact. Thus the emphasis of community-management or community organization.
The power of having money: Nothing comes free. When the poor demand a certain right, they accept the responsibility to maintain that right, either through payment in money, or management or labour. They need access to credit for housing, they do not want a free house. If toilets are built in their community, they pay for the upkeep.
The power of information: An empowered group of people who know their rights can with confidence ask for what they are entitled to. Baandhani ensures that the settlements they federate are surveyed by the people and mapped so the community is aware of how many houses there are in their settlement. The people know what the person to community toilet ratios are, or what the common tap to person ratios is which is needed. On the negotiating table, the authorities are then talking to a group of people who know exactly what they want. Again, that makes a big impact.
Crisis savings The women take turns to make daily rounds in their settlements. Each woman puts in just Rs.1 or Rs 2 a day for her household. The savings are collective, kept in a joint bank account, and totally controlled by the women. The women can take out small loans in times of crisis.
Although only very small sums of money go into the account at a time, the total saved by one collective over several months can be a substantial amount, showing the women their collective strength.
Meetings are held regularly in the settlements, where the women can get together, discuss possible solutions to common problems in their slums, and just sit and chat, looking after the little ones. In many ways, this is the time that really counts, the informal time spent together as a community.
There are so far three Baandhani offices in Pune. Two centres are attached to community toilet blocks, in the community rooms incorporated into the toilet designs. Here, the women maintain the savings accounts, hold meetings, and co-ordinate Baandhani work. Kamgar Putala slum has its own Baandhani office, for co-ordinating the resettlement project.
Planning For Resettlement
The next step for groups which have been saving jointly for some time is to start saving for housing. These are individual savings, of a few hundred Rupees per month. When a resettlement housing project becomes a reality, the savings can go towards paying a loan down payment.
The women see it as their responsibility to look after as much of their settlements as they can. They are even ready to go ahead and build and work on improvements themselves, for example building gutters and vermiculture beds.
Baandhani women had considerable input into the designs and process of the community toilet building project, and have taken on the responsibility of supporting the maintenance systems set up by the local communities to manage their community toilets. A mural on the wall of the toilet painted by the community. This is the level of ownership the community feels which leads to well maintained toilets.
Authorities can be a labyrinth of offices, officials intimidating strangers, and applying for anything involves a multitude of tricky forms to read and fill in. The system is tilted against poor people, especially poor women. So Baandhani members go in groups, because a large group of women is hard to ignore, and the support of numbers increases the confidence of the women. They deal with different levels of state and municipal officials, for example to request water and electricity connections, and to apply for Ration Cards for members of their communities. Bringing people into the settlement is another way of negotiations. Here the mayor talks to the people of Kamgar Putla in the settlement itself.
Baandhani have been collecting information about their own settlements, as well as settlements all over the city. Currently there are about 70 people, led by Baandhani and Shelter Associates, working on preparing the first ever Slum Census of Pune. For more information about Baandhani please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Baandhani, in partnership with Shelter Associates concentrates on building groups of strong, well-informed poor people who are aware of their rights and can find ways to make these rights theirs to use on community-building, housing and infrastructure.
The Partnership focuses very strongly on women because it is the women who have primary responsibility for looking after the home and local environment, and the health and well being of their families.
The basic working strategy is the FEDERATION of slum dwellers which is primarily done by Baandhani and supported completely by Shelter Associates.