This working paper, collaboration between the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and SDI's Kenyan Alliance, Muungano wa Wanavijiji, details the evolution of one of SDI's most dynamic federations. Below is an excerpt from the executive summary, and you can click here http://pubs.iied.org/10807IIED for the full paper.
Slums occupy two per cent of Nairobi’s land, yet they are home to half the city’s population. Comparing studies in Kenya since the 1990s reveals that the city space occupied by the poorer half of its population has not increased. While informal settlements’ populations may have doubled in this time, the rate and scale of improvements have failed to match unrelenting densification and consolidation.
Muungano wa Wanavijiji (Swahili for ‘united slum dwellers’) is a movement of urban poor people in Kenya, which emerged in Nairobi around 1996 and spread throughout the country in the early 2000s, federating around 2001 to the international network of community-based organisations that is Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI). Across its 20-year history, Muungano’s struggle has been one of framing the slum phenomenon as a core issue that the city and the state have a responsibility to address. In this paper, we describe what has essentially been a fight for perception – for the Kenyan state and citizens to see slums, not as representing a marginal amount of space in the city and therefore a marginal issue, but as the most important place for half its population and, in this way, affecting the whole city.
We explore the progress of Muungano’s relationship with the state, set within broader changes in state-civil society relations, and seek to bring out the complexity of a link that has varied from conflict to contestation, partnership to collaboration, and separate but parallel efforts to address common issues. Over the years, Muungano has challenged the state directly and indirectly, taken advantage of opportunities and spaces that have been created by the state’s actions, and, where a lacuna has been observed, has worked to create or encourage new practice and policy. Particularly in later years, Muungano’s agenda has tended towards changing practice, but its influence has also transfused to policy and legislation.