Thursday, 24 October 2013

Seminar with UMEA University of Sweden at SPARC

SPARC hosted 55 architecture students from the UMEA University of Sweden in which the director of SPARC, Ms. Sheela Patel and SPARC staff member, Ms. Keya gave a presentation on SPARC’s slum redevelopment endeavors and working closely with the community for development.
In her opening, Sheela explained why it was necessary to work in partnership with the community regardless of your field of profession; it is necessary to share knowledge that will help the community understand and then use the knowledge in their own capacity.  As an example, Sheela explained that 85% of housing is built by the people in a way they understand; SPARC supports them by working with policy makers and other professionals to provide the urban poor with knowledge, material, and other support needed for their development.
Housing involves a series of processes which SPARC is required to undertake; some of the things it involves is data collection, designing solutions, among others. SPARC produces information and documentation to help the urban poor to acquire proper housing and public benefits.  In this endeavor, SPARC focuses to produce a strategy that helps in good governance and recognition of city members. On this note Sheela added that the poor are should be treated with respect and not as garbage and that they should have a place safe to stay.
One of the students questioned the slum dwellers reluctance to relocation to which Sheela citied Dharavi’s example; the slums are not only residential areas but more like “towns” within which the lives of the poor rotate; it is also the place for their businesses and thus their source of living. Therefore, people resist to protect their small companies, jobs that generates them income and they resist to protect their homes.  Relocation sites only provide residential rooms but fail at providing means to procure an income.  In addition, the maintenance cost is higher at the relocation sites.
Sheela also explained the necessity of proper identification documentation to identify the true beneficiaries and also to provide security to the urban poor.  Incremental housing is carried out by urban poor on various scales.  This gives the urban poor a strong sense of ownership.  Thus, a lack of identification security and a desire to resist safeguarding what belongs to them also makes the urban poor wary of relocation.

On the end note, Sheela said that SPARC’s role is to challenge professional behavior to work with their knowledge to help develop the poor communities. On a challenging note, she added that in her perspective therefore, as a professional, it is your role to put a mirror or reflect to show how others perceive things and show your case how you perceive the situation and how and the rest differ. In that way, one can be able to create new ideas to change rather than doing the same thing over and over again.

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