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Young women and men in urban slums: building resilience and amplifying the voice of slum dwellers - updated 22/12

Enabling young slum dwellers in Freetown and Monrovia to become agents of change and increase resilience of their own communities

Photo of Rehana Merali

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EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

Slums dwellers are extremely vulnerable to disasters and climate change, and often lack the information to respond to, or prepare for these, and have limited voice and influence over decisions impacting their lives, including those that could increase their resilience.
Improved information flow, within communities and with external stakeholders, can help solve this issue contributing to risk reduction and better disaster management. To do this, young people can play a vital role as mobilisers and catalysts of change.
Our idea is to set up youth-led Community Communication Centres in slum areas in Freetown and Monrovia to generate and coordinate information on community-based facilities, risks and assets. The information shared through the Community Communication Centres will help young people (i) mitigate risks of disasters and adapt to climate change impacts, and (ii) influence leaders and decision-makers on slum upgrading and climate change adaptation.
Trained youth will:
1. Conduct hazard, vulnerability and capacity assessments of their communities, and implement action plans to reduce risk
2. Carry out community-led surveys and inventories of infrastructures (monitoring their state/functionality)
3. Use data generated to update OpenStreetMap maps of slum communities
4. Develop radio programmes and posters/flyers, to increase awareness and encourage action
5. Undertake advocacy activities on slum upgrading and climate change adaptation

WHO BENEFITS?

Young women and men (15-24 years old) living in the slum communities will benefit from and contribute to efforts to build community resilience. They will be the interface between other community members, organisations and local authorities. All slum-dwellers will benefit from improved resilience.
Our idea will be implemented in urban slums communities of Monrovia, Liberia and Freetown, Sierra Leone with a potential to scale up and be ‘exported’ to other countries in West Africa and beyond

HOW DOES YOUR IDEA TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE CONTEXT OF URBAN SLUMS AND CLIMATE CHANGE?

Community Communication Centres (CCC) will complement efforts made to date by Y Care International to give a voice to youth in slum areas – in partnership with YMCAs, city councils, and SDI. This idea draws on renewed support from these actors and from OpenStreetMap community.
Youth advocates, peer educators trained by the YMCA, school clubs facilitated by the YMCAs, and slum savings groups’ members will all be linked to the CCC. These centres, like those successfully piloted in Monrovia, are designed to be regularly attended by people who get and give information when they move across the community.
In the context of climate change, activities at the CCC will be flexible and based on priorities expressed by the community. They CCC will (i) raise awareness around risks associated to e.g. sea-level rise and implications for those living in coastal areas; (ii) develop action to respond effectively to sudden-onset emergencies and adapt to long term gradual changes; and (iii) inform about factors contributing to climate change e.g. over-production and use of charcoal for livelihood and energy – charcoal is the primary source of energy for 90%+ of urban inhabitants in Liberia!
They will be a physical entity – over to the community to recommend space and shape! To maximise resources, schools may decide to use kiosks already available in their premises for this purpose. In WestPoint, Monrovia, a newly open community centre is also able to host one of the CCC.
Specific needs of (young) women, whether linked to hygiene, security or climate change adaptation, will be considered.

IN-COUNTRY EXPERIENCE

  • Yes, for two or more years

EXPERTISE

  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for at least two years

GEOGRAPHIC FOCUS

  • Yes

TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF

Alessandra, Caroline, Rehana and Lizz. All members of the International Programmes Team at Y Care International, including expertise in DRR. Passionate about providing vulnerable young people with opportunities and a voice, for a better future!
http://www.ycareinternational.org/
http://sdinet.org

IS THIS A NEW OR RECENT IDEA FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION? HOW DOES IT DIFFER FROM WHAT YOU ARE ALREADY DOING?

Y Care International and partner YMCAs in Liberia and Sierra Leone have been working for over 10 years with young slum dwellers, focusing on increasing economic resilience through saving and credit groups, improving health conditions of slums dwellers, improving community disaster management and increasing engagement with decision-makers on slum upgrading.
This idea brings a fresh approach whilst building on piloting Community Communication Centres established during the Ebola outbreak in Monrovia and years of supporting youth-led DRR actions in Freetown. It will provide a space to share information within the communities and consolidate recent partnerships with: the new Sierra Leone Urban Research Centre (supported by Njala University and University College London (UCL) Development Planning Unit); the OpenStreetMap online community who were active in mapping slum communities during the Ebola outbreak; and UK Universities (Kings College London & UCL) to support research and learning

HOW IS YOUR IDEA DIFFERENT FROM OTHER SIMILAR INITIATIVES? WHAT ARE YOU DOING DIFFERENTLY? WHAT UNIQUE ADVANTAGES DO YOU HAVE?

What is different:
- establishment of youth-led Community Communication Centres in the heart of slum communities, increasing access to information to ALL community members
- combining community-led assessments, academic research and OpenSource technology to collate, verify and share data on urban slum communities: free and widely available within and outside of Monrovia and Freetown (to anyone with an internet connection), and responsive to changes in community risk.
Our unique advantages:
- young slum dwellers are at the centre of the idea, designing and implementing activities to support their communities
- YMCAs are well-established, trusted local organisations embedded in local slum communities and able to mobilise young volunteers
- building on existing partnerships with a range of stakeholders for implementation and learning (communities, academics, community-based organisations, I/NGOs, City Councils)
- building on combined YCI and YMCA experience and expertise in youth programming and DRR

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR IDEA?

- Data on climate change impacts in the targeted slum communities: accurate data at local level doesn't exist currently
- The sustainability of the Community Communication Centres; to what extent will community members use the centres in the longer-term?
- How do we ensure Maps and data generated on slum communities is accessible to all slum dwellers, ensuring that we 'leave no-one behind'?

WHY DO YOU THINK THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HASN'T BEEN SOLVED YET?

Due to the informal nature of slum settlements, there is limited investment by government in infrastructure development and service provision for slum dwellers. Also, decision-makers are less accessible and responsive to slum dwellers; leaving them 'feeling neglected' (beneficiary, Monrovia).
Our beneficiary feedback found most community members are unaware about climate change and issues surrounding it; and also lack an understanding of the role that they themselves could play in response to risk. Despite this, community members have shown willingness to engage with these activities "We are interested as this will help us reduce risks to our lives" (Slipway slum community, Monrovia)

HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BASED ON FEEDBACK FROM YOUR COMMUNITY?

To develop this concept, we have worked together with our YMCA partners to generate new ideas, drawing learning from existing approaches and expertise, contacted other OpenIDEO applicants and carried out focus group discussions with young people, community stakeholders & leaders in Monrovia and Freetown. This idea has also been informed by learning from the Final Review Workshop held in November 2015 for our multi-country slum project, with participants from 4 West African countries including slum dwellers from 5 slum communities.
Our initial idea included the use of SMS technology. Based on feedback from slum dwellers, this approach has been removed as it would exclude some community members with no access to mobile technology. Instead, our concept includes more focus around youth-led radio programming and other community-based IEC activities such as theatre and film projection, and talks from relevant government authorities. The engagement with government authorities will create space for young people to influence on decisions related to climate change adaptation and slum upgrading, and facilitate two-way communication.
Research and learning components have also been strengthened following consultation, building on existing relationships with academic institutions e.g. UCL and SLURC (based in Freetown and London).
Finally, further consultations with the OpenStreetMap community to ensure data collected can be represented and accessed via this free OpenSource platform

WHAT WOULD YOU ULTIMATELY LIKE TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS IDEA? WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP TO GET THERE?

87% of disasters last year were climate-related. Flooding in Freetown earlier this year and the Ebola outbreak in both cities disproportionately affected those living in slum communities. We believe in the power and agency of young people to bring about positive change in their own communities. Building skills and understanding of local young people to adapt to and manage disaster and climate risks will contribute to increased resilience and improved quality of life in slum communities. Increasing young people's voice, engagement and influence over decision-makers at all levels will bring about lasting change in urban slum communities.

How does your idea connect to the broader system of the city where you plan to implement?

This idea will benefit from support and resources from a wide network, including slum dwellers’ federations, local/city-wide authorities, CBOs, schools, as did the pilot communication centres during the Ebola outbreak. This idea also connects to, and complements, city-wide initiatives that Liberia and Sierra Leone YMCAs with their partner slum dwellers' federations are supporting, i.e. the Comic Relief-funded Freetown Urban Slum Initiative; and the 2016-20 Liberia Country Programme, funded by Cities Alliance/Comic Relief, aiming to achieve a “Strengthened organisation and participation of slum dwellers and working poor in city governance, inclusive planning and pro-poor service delivery.” The Community Communication Centres will support the overall strategy and activities for mobilizing young slum dwellers to capture and disseminate relevant information and lead informed advocacy on investment priorities, including disaster preparedness and adaptation to climate change.

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Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hi Rehana,

Below is some more feedback from our experts. Looking forward to your thoughts!

I feel the scope of the youth needs to be further defined. Open street maps is a great start but there's many things that can be achieved through that data. To solve a problem, we need dive deeper into what is it that we're trying to address. What is the big problem you are trying to solve?

Photo of Rehana Merali
Team

Hi Chioma, thank you for this comment!
Following on from it, and based on most recent consultations with our partner YMCAs, (Sierra Leone Urban Research Centre – https://www.bartlett.ucl.ac.uk/dpu/sierra-leone-urban-research-centre) and HOT (Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team – https://hotosm.org/about ; they have published an idea here: https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/urban-resilience/ideas/ramani-huria-open-map-participatory-urban-mapping-for-connected-and-resilient-communities-in-dar-es-salaam), we have rephrased our problem statement and tried to better respond to the question ‘what is the problem we want to solve’. We hope that this is clearer now – the problem that we want to solve is the limited information available for most slum dwellers around risks associated to their communities and related to climate change and what they can do about it. Radio and TV shows inform about climate changes and disasters around the world but very rarely encourage actions at the local level, with concrete examples, materials to refer to, and people to engage in discussions with.
At YCI, we feel that young people can play a great role in mobilising communities, raising awareness and making a change. Youth have specific needs due to their particular age of transition but they have also many assets in terms of energy, social skills and motivation to attend and organise social events, etc., that they can use to mobilise people (their peers, their parents, their siblings, etc.) around issues that are important to them or their families. More importantly, they speak the language people want to hear, not NGO-jargon. The YMCAs in Africa, following their philosophy ‘Subject to Citezen’ (http://www.africaymca.org/empowering/our-work/subject-2-citizen/), promote this and constantly make efforts to create the right space for young people to take action. We believe that the Community Communication Centres can contribute to creating this space, specifically in slums communities. For example, youth at the Community Communication Centres will be able to develop and disseminate messages on the Paris Agreement on Climate Change in simple English or local language through outreach fora and other media.
The link with the OpenStreetMaps community is there to ensure information can be shared beyond the community limits and can be brought at city-wide/national level. It is for this same purpose that we have engaged with SLURC. We totally agree with you – maps cannot be the end of our idea. Maps are useful when they are used. To date, YCI supported the YMCA in Sierra Leone to establish DRR youth-based groups in Freetown. Young people members of these groups would benefit from improved mapping skills as this would strengthen their action panning processes. We also feel that the information they gather should be available for other community members at all times – not only when they carry out awareness-raising sessions or mass events. The presence of Community Communication Centres will help make this information available to anybody interested.
Young people at the centres will also be able to develop leadership skills. This will benefit in two ways: on the hand, it will improve youth self-confidence which is generally quite low as demonstrated by our latest needs assessment and baseline surveys; and on the other end, it will make young people reflect on their responsibilities as citizens and will potentially challenge their stereotypes, including on gender-related issues.

Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Thanks Rehana!

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