Strengthening Participation & Opportunities Among The Urban Poor

Centre for Advocacy and Research, India

Shreya Mehta on July 19, 2018 in Health & Sanitation

In January 1998, a non-religious, non-political, non‐profitable organization named the Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR) was established in Delhi. It’s mission was to create a space within the public domain to facilitate better communication and awareness within the community for the sake of their basic rights and amenities.

Their involvement within the community strives to enable developmental inclusion in all respects. They work for all deprived people from marginalised communities such as women, girls, urban the poor, unorganized workers including sex workers, transgender persons, sexual minorities, single women, HIV positive persons, people who inject drugs (PWID) and people living with disabilities. Their vision is to strengthen and enable the voice of voiceless.

CFAR works in more than 25 locations that are spread across the states of Rajasthan, Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh. The organisation works on four primary agendas namely Mainstreaming the Urban Poor, Community-led HIV prevention, Urban Sanitisation and Adolescents and Girls Development.

The organisation has relentlessly attempted to advocate social justice and safety-based programs for the urban poor. They believe that the process should begin with defining and thus identifying who the urban poor are based on their liabilities. The second step involves collectivising community based organisations by creating awareness and discourses amongst community members in order to demand the basic needs and facilities like water, electricity and hygiene that they are entitled to.

After that the third step involves encouraging participation and collaboration between community based organisations and the government. Once this is done, the next step involves strengthening the impact of these community based organisations by engaging actively with the community and training them. The fifth step is institutionalising the community engagement so as to set a system and arrangement in place. Then finally, the last step is carried out which involves the convergence of engagements towards utilization and distribution of benefits and entitlements.

By implementing the process successfully, many communities across India have been helped. They also conduct research and surveys to supplement the functioning of their organisation and to identify locations and communities that need any kind of help. As part of the surveys and studies carried out in Delhi, it was realised that almost half of Delhi’s population lived in slums, where access to basic facilities was rarely possible. They didn’t have any access to piped-water and moved out in the open for defecation every single day.  The people lived in a pitiable condition and the NGO felt an urgent need to address this issue.

They began work in one such area, Kalyanpuri in Delhi. Community toilets had been built for the people here but they had remained locked for almost one and a half year and thus were in a very pitiable state. The situation was such that the drains were blocked and there were worms and maggots present in these toilets and were very dirty. That was probably why women couldn’t use them and chose to defecate in the bushes. Not only was this an unhealthy practice but they also faced numerous instances of sexual harassment on a day to day basis.

As soon as CFAR got involved with the community, specifically in creating awareness about their rights and responsibilities, lots of people volunteered to get into the process in order to get things working in the right way. A Slum Management Committee was formed to deal the present situation with representatives from the community. In association with CFAR they decided to find practical solution to their problem and therefore made a four minute video of the area and took it to Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor.

As soon as he saw the video, he immediately passed the budget and asked the respective authorities to repair as soon as possible. Today the community toilets are spotlessly clean and well-maintained. All women in the area use them to defecate and don’t have to go out, putting their life at risk.

This is just one example of the phenomenal work that CFAR has been carrying out. Various campaigns and awareness programs about education, livelihood skills, heath and sanitation are carried out on a day to day basis in each of the communities in order to facilitate the basic needs of the people in the area.

CFAR has also set numerous Single Windows so as to strengthen social inclusion across various social development programs and involve the community and community-based organisations to facilitate the inclusion process. Victims of abuse, violence are provided free legal aid and support. The young, old, poor and frail are provided assistance by guiding them in the right direction and strengthening the access to services.

Regular programs on pre-natal and post-natal care, strengthening of the Panchayat led-governance on rights of women and girls, Urban Sanitation, District Resource Centres, Cleanliness,  Gender Resource Centres, HIV Prevention and Care are carried out at regular intervals. The organisation has received various awards, mementos, certificates and letters of appreciation for all their efforts.

Recently, in February 2018, CFAR’s Pune team was awarded by the Swachh Award by the Pune Municipal Corporation for its outstanding work done through the Community Management Committees to strengthen public and community toilets and clean drinking water.

Today more than 180 members of the CFAR organisation work to empower community organizations and in order to develop community engagement so as to secure access to services and entitlements.

To read more about the inspirational work they are doing, visit Centre for Advocacy and Research today!

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