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Research Report

Community savings: A basic building block in the work of urban poor federations

Celine d’Cruz
Elizabeth Amakali
Peter Chege
Molin Kohli Chakamba
Beth Chitekwe-Biti
Skye Dobson
Maria Sonia Vicenta Fadrigo
Wonderful Hunga
Sarah Kalenjeka
Viviane Kandundu
Edith Mbanga
Patience Mudimu
Lutwama Muhammed
Anna Muller
Selma Namwandi
Niloke Niingungo
Mphatso Njunga
Shellie Price
Ma. Regie E. Ruego
Albertina Shenyange
Hendrina Shuunyuni
Susan Waniru
Copyright Date: Jul. 1, 2014
Pages: 56
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 8-9)
    Celine d’Cruz

    Community savings has always been a fundamental component of the practice of the organised slum/shack dwellers¹ who are part of the Slum/Shack Dwellers International (SDI) network.² This was true in the very early days in the 1980s, before the SDI network had even been dreamed of, when a handful of women living on the pavements in Byculla, Mumbai, began to develop their community savings strategies. It is still true now that the SDI network has grown into an urban poor movement working in around 33 countries.

    Over the years, there have been many articles and papers documenting the federations’ work...

  2. (pp. 10-18)
    Peter Chege and Susan Waniru

    Muungano wa Wanavijiji, Kenya’s federation of slum dwellers, has been an affiliate of Slum Dwellers International since 1999. It has more than 150 savings groups in 11 cities. As with affiliates in other countries, its work to address eviction and the upgrading of housing and infrastructure in negotiation with government is built on a foundation of settlement-based community savings schemes. This section outlines the federation’s history and achievements, and then presents a case study from one settlement that highlights key details of the savings group work on the ground that underpins these achievements. Although Muungano’s successes have been substantial, it...

  3. (pp. 19-25)
    Edith Mbanga, Selma Namwandi, Albertina Shenyange, Niloke Niingungo, Elizabeth Amakali, Viviane Kandundu, Hendrina Shuunyuni, Anna Muller and Shellie Price

    This case study reports on the experiences of low-income urban communities in Namibia addressing their needs through their own collective organisations.⁴ The first initiative started before independence in 1990 in the capital Windhoek and this developed into a national movement of urban and rural poor.

    Before independence, the urban poor in Namibia lived in overcrowded houses built during the apartheid era in formal townships. Informal settlements and backyard structures were not prominent features of the urban landscape due to strict controls on people’s right to move to urban areas until 1980 and the fact that most of the authorities in...

  4. (pp. 26-29)
    Wonderful Hunga, Sarah Kalenjeka and Mphatso Njunga

    In Malawi, the first federation savings groups started in 2003 in Mtandire, one of the best-known informal settlements in Lilongwe City. Women in the settlement were not formally organised in any savings groups before that. Those who wanted to save money had to look to banks, mostly located at the city centre some eight kilometres away from the settlement. The banks only accepted substantial amounts of money; otherwise the women had to find other aletrnatives, using under-the-mattress, or under-the-pillow ‘banks.’ This money was saved with purpose but with little security.

    When the federation was introduced to the women in the...

  5. (pp. 30-36)
    Maria Sonia Vicenta Fadrigo and Ma. Regie E. Ruego

    The Homeless People’s Federation Philippines (HPFP) is a national federation of 200 urban poor communities in 14 cities and 16 municipalities from all over the Philippines. It was organised as a result of the various independent attempts of urban poor communities in the country to address land tenure issues and homelessness. Using community savings as its organising tool, HPFP’s work centres on low-income communities in high-risk areas, disaster intervention, reconstruction processes, voluntary resettlement and post-relocation activities. Its development priorities focus primarily on securing land tenure, decent housing, emancipation from poverty and protection of dignity and rights of its member communities....

  6. (pp. 37-44)
    Skye Dobson and Lutwama Muhammed

    This section outlines the ways in which savings are used to mobilise an urban poor federation in Uganda. It provides a brief history of the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (NSDFU), the central role of women in the federating process, the mechanisms through which savings build collective capacity and contribute to slum upgrading.

    When people hear that the federation is a collection of savings groups, it is sometimes very hard for them to imagine that it is more than a micro-credit or typical community-based self-help organisation. The link between savings groups and city federations capable of partnering with government...

  7. (pp. 45-53)
    Patience Mudimu, Molin Kohli Chakamba and Beth Chitekwe-Biti

    The first SDI-modelled savings schemes in Zimbabwe started in 1996 in Victoria Falls. They were mobilised by members of the South African Homeless People’s Federation, who had come for a brief visit. The Victoria Falls groups were comprised of people who were living in backyards in the Chinotimba High Density suburb and the Baghdad informal settlement. The families in both Chinotimba and Baghdad had experienced regular evictions, were anxious to secure their tenure as well as improve their living conditions and were seeking ways of achieving this.

    While the South Africans had impressed upon Victoria Falls residents the principle of...