What is a slum

In episode 3 of our podcast series, we talk about informal settlements in Africa with Charles Witbooi, Program Head for Advocacy and Volunteering Engagement at Habitat for Humanity South Africa.

In episode 3 of our podcast series, we talk about informal settlements in Africa with Charles Witbooi, Program Head for Advocacy and Volunteering Engagement at Habitat for Humanity South Africa.

The first very important point Charles clarifies is the term “slum” itself. In South Africa, “slum” is not used due to its political implications. The country’s past was marked by Slum Clearance Acts, which were used by the government to evict people who lived in poor conditions. For this reason, the preferred terms are “informal settlements” or “squatter camps”.

As in other parts of the world, despite the different terms, what they describe is areas where people live in temporary households and without basic services. However, the degree of poverty varies from one settlement to the other; some of them have rudimentary services – shared toilets or electricity – some have none.

In South Africa, the origins of informal settlements can be traced back to the years of segregation. In those days, the population was segmented according to official racial groups which all had their own geographical area to live in.

After 1994, the year when segregation ended, and the country opened to the world. Black South Africans, who until then had been cut out of key areas of the economy, had the chance to get job opportunities and move freely, often closer to big cities. As a result, the number of informal settlements around urban areas grew quickly.

As of today, the biggest squatter camps are indeed located around metropolitan cities, such as Johannesburg, the centre of economic life, Soweto, or Cape Town, Khayelitsha.

The latter for example, Khayelitsha, is a suburb of Cape Town, which features a variety of different living conditions: from formal housing with decent economic opportunities and even some basic services to areas where services are very limited, with no access to running water or electricity.

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In addition, in the Cape Town area, informal settlements are often located 30-35km or more from the urban core, which is the centre of all economic activities. Therefore, people can really find themselves marginalised in many ways. Being so isolated, these areas often do not represent a pleasant or safe environment, especially for women and children.

The housing diversity in settlements such as Khayelitsha is mainly due to the policies of last 27 years. Since then, the government has been giving free housing to those eligible. However, the process often takes longer than expected, and many have been on a waiting list for years.

Since there is no money to acquire a house on the market, most people have no other alternatives than keep living in informal, temporary settlements while hoping and waiting for the next housing project to improve the quality of their lives.

What people living in squatter camps all tend to share is a life on a very low income. However, the reasons why they chose to live there can be different for each community. In the metropolitan areas, for example, most people came from rural areas – where there are less opportunities – in order to find a better job, better education for their children, or simply better social services, and live in temporary housing in the meantime.

As much as we like to feature success stories of the people we support, however, not many South Africans living in those conditions have to opportunity to make it and improve their life conditions, which is why our work with these communities is so critical.

The current pandemic has highlighted the core of the issue: shelter. When people have access to proper housing, hygiene can be preserved, and distancing or self-isolation can be easily put into practice, so that is the starting point for a change.

The process, according to Charles Witbooi, should be driven by the government but should have all actors – NGOs, local communities, companies – actively involved, each playing their own role but all working together to achieve a common goal – improving the life conditions of the informal settlements’ dwellers.

In Charles’s opinion, a home is a place where a family can live together in a secure environment, with sufficient space and, most importantly, with dignity. A place that allows children to go to school and study safely, so that they can improve the quality of their lives in the future, if compared to previous generations. This is what all housing projects should be based on: the promise of a place one can become proud owner of and, finally, the transformation of that promise into a reality.

Home Sapiens podcast was produced as a part of the Build Solid Ground Project, founded by the European Union, Habitat for Humanity. Its content is the sole responsibility of Habitat for Humanity and does not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union

 

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Equality in an unequal society

Episode 4 brings up the issue of gender equality. We take a closer look at customs and traditions in Lesotho. Stories of women evicted from their homes are typical in many communities in this country. Fungai Mukorah, national director of Habitat for Humanity Lesotho,  walks us through women’s experiences and their fight for shelter. 

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Episode 1 welcomes listeners to the world of housing. Architect Esben Neander Kristensen, Director at Gehl, explains the difference between home and housing, discusses the right to housing, and provides insights into how the COVID-19 pandemic changed our perception of home. This episode opens the first season of Home Sapiens. 

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slum-housing

What is a slum?

a look into Khayelitsha, one of the world's biggest slums

Home Sapiens podcast

A new podcast series takes listeners on a housing journey around the world.  People face many challenges in their lives: lack of drinking water, gender inequality, and harsh living conditions. However, one thing stays the same - everyone needs a place to call home. 

Studying by candlelight: Interview of ManPro Systems Founder & CEO Linus Wahome

Episode 5 is driven by young enthusiasts. Linus Wahome, founder and CEO of ManPro Systems Ltd, shares his childhood and school memories . As a family of three tried hard to provide best conditions for their children, Linus and his siblings had to share one candle while doing their homework. Fortunately, this story has a happy ending.  

In episode 5, we focus on young people and the struggles they face in their everyday lives. This time, our guest is Linus Wahome, CEO of ManPro Systems, a Kenyan tech company. We will take a walk through his life, to better understand the challenges he – as many others – faced as a kid and the path that led him to become an entrepreneur at a young age. 

When Linus was a child, getting a formal education was very challenging. Most families struggled to afford it despite its relatively low costs. It was common that half the class could not regularly attend school, as the parents did not always have enough to pay the school fees.

Too dark and too noisy to study

Housing conditions also created an obstacle to education: at home, for example, they did not have electricity, which made it impossible to do homework in the evening. Linus remembers trying to finish work before dark, as the only lamp in the house was shared by the whole family.

He was amongst the lucky ones, though: most of his school friends lived in overcrowded houses, where constant noise was added to the list of hurdles to concentration.

All of that reflected on the quality of life those kids now have as adults: due to poor and discontinuous education, many of Linus’s schoolmates could not take advantage of formal job opportunities and ended up struggling through life.

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Pushing to send more into higher education in Kenya

Luckily, nowadays the situation is definitely improving: thanks to the government, primary education is not only compulsory but also accessible to everybody. However, the quality of education is often compromised as, to keep the costs down, a single class might have from 50 up to 100 children with only one teacher.

Since free primary education has been introduced, the government has also been pushing on a 100% transition from primary to high school, which is also partly free. Parents still must cover some fees and uniforms, but books are provided. Thanks to this, the transition level is very high.

When it comes to transition from high school to university, however, situation gets harder. Once again, the challenge is affordability, as not everybody has the money to attend it.

Getting the entrepreneurial bug

What gave Linus the motivation to start his own business were exactly the struggles his family faced when he was young: their economic situation was not easy, and while his father was working in IT, his mother was an entrepreneur, engaging in all sorts of businesses to make sure they would always have food on the table.

She sold clothes, she got into a construction business, supplying materials,, and that example planted a seed in young Linus: it made him admire the hard work and ingenuity of the people who started their own business.

When in high school, he followed the same example and, in order to have pocket money without having to ask his parents, he spent his holidays either selling charcoal to the local hotels and restaurants, or jewellery to his classmates.

That is when he started noticing opportunities everywhere. That is how ManPro was born to find a tech solution to construction issues.

Home is the cornerstone of children’s development

Home was the key to Linus’s success, and still today it has a special place in his heart. To him, when you are a kid, home is where you get ideas about how life is going to be in the future; it is supposed to be a place where you find peace, in contrast with all the conflicts that are outside – which unfortunately is not the case for many Kenyan families.

It should be a place of happiness, joy, and laughter, where you can always be yourself, without the need to prove anything to anybody. The simple things of life should be enjoyed within the context of home since that enables you to be more productive in the outer world.

The COVID pandemic has made people appreciate home more. Being forced to stay in our homes, people had to face and solve whatever challenges were there.

As a successful entrepreneur – or, as he says, an entrepreneur on the path to success – Linus thinks we should all put more effort in our homes, , because at the end of the day that is what matters and those are the people we come back to.

Home Sapiens podcast was produced as a part of the Build Solid Ground Project, founded by the European Union, Habitat for Humanity. Its content is the sole responsibility of Habitat for Humanity and does not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union

Listen now:

Apple Podcasts

Spotify

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<Go back> <First episode>

Discover more

Does the right to housing exist?

Episode 1 welcomes listeners to the world of housing. Architect Esben Neander Kristensen, Director at Gehl, explains the difference between home and housing, discusses the right to housing, and provides insights into how the COVID-19 pandemic changed our perception of home. This episode opens the first season of Home Sapiens. 

Read more

Water is life

Episode 2 explains that not everyone in the world has access to clean drinking water. In Zambia, many families are challenged every day to survive. Mathabo Makuta, national director of Habitat for Humanity Zambia, discusses problems with access to clean water and water borne diseases.  

Read more

Equality in an unequal society

Episode 4 brings up the issue of gender equality. We take a closer look at customs and traditions in Lesotho. Stories of women evicted from their homes are typical in many communities in this country. Fungai Mukorah, national director of Habitat for Humanity Lesotho,  walks us through women’s experiences and their fight for shelter. 

Read more

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To talk about critical urban issues is a goal of 14 partners and one project – Build Solid Ground. The project is funded by the European Union.  

Read more
Off
books

Studying by candlelight

Interview of ManPro Systems founder & CEO Linus Wahome

Equality in an unequal society: Women fighting for shelter

Episode 4 brings up the issue of gender equality. We take a closer look at customs and traditions in Lesotho. Stories of women evicted from their homes are typical in many communities in this country. Fungai Mukorah, national director of Habitat for Humanity Lesotho,  walks us through women’s experiences and their fight for shelter. 

Episode 4, focuses on women and housing, in particular: what are the challenges women face when they try to access housing? The question is discussed with Fungai Mukorah, national director of Habitat for Humanity Lesotho.

Women aren’t allowed to own land

Lesotho is a very good example of gender inequality in housing: being a patriarchal society, women are not allowed to own or inherit land, since inheritance of land and property follows the male line. Everything the family owns is passed from male to male, favouring the first-born child, as codified in customary laws.

Customary laws are governed by the traditional chiefs and, despite the existence of civil laws governed by the state, they still are the main legal source in use. With the Legal Capacity of Married Person Act of 2006 and the Land Act of 2010, gender inequality and customary land system where deems as discriminatory and limited. However, the norm about discrimination is found once again in customary law, which is the main source of it.

Constantly at risk of eviction

It so happens that women are cut out of any decisions about inheritance, especially when their marital status changes. For example, when they get married, divorced or become widows.

In these cases, the result for women is often an eviction: as a matter of fact, once the husband is no longer there – due to a divorce or death – his family feels the bond does not exist anymore, so the woman – who moved to the man’s village after marriage – should go back to her original home.

At the same time, ta woman loses her house and source of living and must go back to her village where, being a female offspring, there will probably be no house waiting for her.

Unfortunately, many women do not fight against this, and that depends on a lot of different factors.

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Why fighting back is difficult

First, weddings are often undocumented oral agreements done in the presence of witnesses. Since there are no documents, it is often complicated to demonstrate they actually happened.

Secondly, there is a social stigma over those women who fight to see their rights recognized. Therefore, many women prefer not to fight in order to be still accepted in their family and social circles.

Last, but not least, they have so much internalised the patriarchy culture that, if asked to register the property, they will do it in the exclusive name of their husband even when he is absent (as in the very likely case of emigrants).

How to improve gender equality in Lesotho

Due to all this, and to a poor knowledge of laws, most women wait until the problem presents itself to find a solution. Fungai suggests following few simple rules every woman in Lesotho should follow to have their rights recognized:

  1. Make sure their marriage is properly documented.
  2. When land is inherited or allocated through customary law, make sure there is a registration, and it is done in both names.
  3. Make sure they know their legal rights, so that they can actually be able to claim them.

Since Lesotho is composed of many types of different laws and beliefs and a lot depends on which system – or combination of systems – has supported the decision-making, meddling with all this can be extremely complicated.

However, there are some things that can – and must – be done to address and solve the issue:

  • It is important to keep raising awareness and advocate not only for women, but more in general for the female children to be considered when it comes to inheriting the family property.
  • At a broader level, the issuance of land registration documents by local communities: having a registered documentation would make it a lot easier to track the story of a property.
  • Technical and financial help can provide an important support, especially to cover the needs of all those women without the economic means.

This leads us to another important point, that is making sure women can have a source of income. In that way, not only they can contribute to the acquisition of property, but they can also improve their chances of inheriting it, since they contributed to it and can demonstrate it. Also, having an income they would have the financial means to challenge the repressive practices in place.

Habitat for Humanity Lesotho is currently working on all these solutions to improve the wellbeing of all women in the country. And they keep telling the stories of women affected by these discriminations so that they can fight for their rights, finally with the support of their entire community.

Home Sapiens podcast was produced as a part of the Build Solid Ground Project, founded by the European Union, Habitat for Humanity. Its content is the sole responsibility of Habitat for Humanity and does not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.

Listen to Home Sapiens podcast:

Apple Podcasts

Spotify

Google Podcasts

<Go back> <Next Episode>

Discover more

Does the right to housing exist?

Episode 1 welcomes listeners to the world of housing. Architect Esben Neander Kristensen, Director at Gehl, explains the difference between home and housing, discusses the right to housing, and provides insights into how the COVID-19 pandemic changed our perception of home. This episode opens the first season of Home Sapiens. 

Read more

Water is life

Episode 2 explains that not everyone in the world has access to clean drinking water. In Zambia, many families are challenged every day to survive. Mathabo Makuta, national director of Habitat for Humanity Zambia, discusses problems with access to clean water and water borne diseases.  

Read more

Studying by candlelight

Episode 5 is driven by young enthusiasts. Linus Wahome, founder and CEO of ManPro Systems Ltd, shares his childhood and school memories . As a family of three tried hard to provide best conditions for their children, Linus and his siblings had to share one candle while doing their homework. Fortunately, this story has a happy ending.  

Read more

Build Solid Ground

To talk about critical urban issues is a goal of 14 partners and one project – Build Solid Ground. The project is funded by the European Union.  

Read more
Off
woman-building

Equality in an unequal society

Women fighting for shelter

Water is life: Access to clean drinking water in Zambia

Episode 2 explains that not everyone in the world has access to clean drinking water. In Zambia, many families are challenged every day to survive. Mathabo Makuta, national director of Habitat for Humanity Zambia, discusses problems with access to clean water and water borne diseases.  

Episode 2 focuses on water, through an interview with Mathabo Makuta, national director of Habitat for Humanity Zambia.

The lack of clean water spreads diseases in Zambia

As Mathabo explains, inadequate access to clean and appropriate water supplies affects human health and economic development. In Zambia, for example, poor hygiene and limited access to clean drinking water cause diseases such as diarrhea and cholera, very common and potentially lethal.

The most affected are usually those living in the informal settlements, slums, around urban areas, as it happened with the cholera outbreak of 2017-2018, when almost 5,000 people were infected. When analysing the areas involved, 15 out of 20 resulted to be informal settlements outside of Lusaka.

70% of urban residents in Zambia live in slums

In Zambia, 60% of the population resides in rural areas, against the 40% living in cities. 70% of this last portion lives in informal settlements. Capital of the country and home to 2 million people, Lusaka is strongly affected by the water issue since its rapid urbanization led to the creation of slums all around it.

When it comes to water supply, many elements need to be taken into consideration, but two are crucial: the location of the sources and the affordability of the service.

Access to water is also a sexist issue

With regards to location, safety can be a challenge if the water source is not in a reasonable walking distance from the settlement. Women and girls – those who usually perform this task – get often assaulted, raped, and even killed on their way to go get it, especially late at night and early in the morning.

girls-in-africa

Also, in terms of school attendance, girls are the most vulnerable category. The lack of water in schools makes it impossible for them to take care of themselves during their period, so they often end up dropping out of school entirely in the long run.

For many, water is just too expensive

Affordability is still the main limit to provide clean water to everybody. The service needs to be paid for and poverty, together with the high unemployment rate – 11.41% as of November 2020,  makes it hard to afford for most of the population.

In addition to this, the COVID pandemic has worsened Zambian economic vulnerabilities. Kwacha, the local currency, depreciated 30% since the beginning of the year. A household of five people – the average household in Zambia and most sub-Saharan countries – would need a daily supply of approximately 20 litres, and each litre costs around 1 Kwacha (0,046 USD), which would make a total of 600 Kwacha per month, when the minimum salary is 1,520 Kwacha per month[1].

These challenges are not limited to Zambia. The situation is similar in most African countries, especially Sub-Saharan ones. According to a 2018 Demographic and Health Survey, Zambia is taking control of the situation and slowly improving. In 2018, 72% of Zambian household had access to drinking water against 63% in 2014.

However, nearly half the population in rural areas remains without access to safe and clean water supplies. A slight improvement can be seen also in those areas, where 27% of the people has access to improved sanitation as compared to 20% in 2014.

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Huge investment is needed to improve access

The involvement of institutions is another crucial point. In Zambia, for example, government is the sole provider of water, and there is a ministry of water which is responsible for adequate and clean portable water, sanitation and environment protection.

Unfortunately, the poor capacity of investment on improving the system and the inability to find alternative forms of funding and economical support, make the task particularly hard. Governments do not have the capacity to do it alone. Partnerships and collaborations with private companies are the only way to deliver what is needed and provide a proper service to everybody.

Because water is not only a physical, but also a social need. A home cannot be considered decent or complete if there is no clean water, and that is even more true during the COVID19 pandemic. Now more than ever, water can save lives and bring dignity to people’s lives.

Home Sapiens podcast was produced as a part of the Build Solid Ground Project, founded by the European Union, Habitat for Humanity. Its content is the sole responsibility of Habitat for Humanity and does not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union

[1] http://www.salaryexplorer.com/salary-survey.php?loc=242&loctype=1

Listen now:

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<Go back> <Next episode>

Discover more

What is a slum?

In episode 3 of our podcast series, we talk about informal settlements in Africa with Charles Witbooi, Program Head for Advocacy and Volunteering Engagement at Habitat for Humanity South Africa.

Read more

Equality in an unequal society

Episode 4 brings up the issue of gender equality. We take a closer look at customs and traditions in Lesotho. Stories of women evicted from their homes are typical in many communities in this country. Fungai Mukorah, national director of Habitat for Humanity Lesotho,  walks us through women’s experiences and their fight for shelter. 

Read more

Studying by candlelight

Episode 5 is driven by young enthusiasts. Linus Wahome, founder and CEO of ManPro Systems Ltd, shares his childhood and school memories . As a family of three tried hard to provide best conditions for their children, Linus and his siblings had to share one candle while doing their homework. Fortunately, this story has a happy ending.  

Read more

Water is life

Episode 2 explains that not everyone in the world has access to clean drinking water. In Zambia, many families are challenged every day to survive. Mathabo Makuta, national director of Habitat for Humanity Zambia, discusses problems with access to clean water and water borne diseases.  

Read more
Off
water-bucket

Water is life

Access to clean drinking water in Zambia

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