|Role of Women in the Execution of Low-income Housing Projects (HABITAT, 1986, 64 p.)|
Planning the settlement is usually the first phase of a housing project where the community can become actively involved in the decision-making process. However, the scope for community participation varies according to the nature of the project.
In sites-and-services schemes, many basic decisions, such as the location of the scheme and the number of plots, have already been taken before the beneficiaries are recruited. If future residents are, however, selected before the detailed planning starts, there may be reasonable opportunities for community participation.
Obstacles to participation: The main obstacle to involving target groups in planning a sites-and-services project is the absence of communities. It is up to the project staff to encourage the creation of a community by people who do not yet know one another.
In most squatter settlements, some form of community organization already exists; indeed the organization may have initiated the upgrading project. In such a case, planners have a basis on which to involve participants in planning, but the process may also negatively affect the participation of women.
If community organizations are traditionally led by men and most or all members are men, they will tend to represent men's interests. If the project staff only works with and through such organizations, women may be prevented from participating in the execution of the project. In sites-and-services schemes, where community organizations do not yet exist, it may be easy to create organizations open to women and to encourage the participation of women in such organizations.
On the other hand, project authorities may not need to create new channels for community participation involving women in squatter-settlement upgrading projects. There, women often have already developed informal networks which can provide a basis for community participation by women.
Ecuador: In Guayaquil, squatters have settled in man grove swamps on the edge of the city. In a situation where even water is scarce and valuable, women are constantly thrown together and develop complex mutual-aid linkages' formalizing them through godparent relationships. When the water tanker fails to arrive, they stand in groups discussing how to share what they have; when a child is killed falling off the catwalks, women gather to console a neighbour. In these ways, they become aware of their common suffering, and it is the women who urge their neighbours to form committees to lobby the local authorities for infrastructure (Moser, 1982).
Transport: When the location for a new settlement is chosen, authorities often overlook the fact that women may need transport to different parts of the city and at different hours of the day from men.
Consequently, women, who already have little time because they have to combine economic and domestic roles, will hose time travelling from their new house to their work and back.
Brazil: In Belo Horizonte, several buses ran from the periphery to the centre at peak periods in the morning and evening, to take male workers to their jobs. Women also needed public transport for a variety of activities, such as collecting children from school, shopping, visiting clinics or hospitals and getting to their own part-time jobs. However, many buses were withdrawn during the daytime, when the women needed transport. This made the women's average daily travel time three times longer than the men's (Schmink, 1982).
India: Between 1975 and 1977, 700,000 squatters in Delhi were relocated to 17 resettlement areas on the city outskirts. In one of the settlements, Dakshinpuri, it was found that women were far more affected than men by the move.
Dakshinpuri is located far from former places of employment, and, for a large number of women, the cost of public transport cut so deeply into their meagre earnings that working was no longer viable. While the rate of male employment fell by only 5 per cent, 27 per cent of the women had to give up their jobs (Singh).
If, owing to high land prices, settlements have to be located on the periphery of the city, it is necessary to develop cheap and reliable transport links or to organize viable income-generating activities for women within the settlement to compensate for the loss of earnings.
Long daily travel times can also have negative effects on other components of the project. In the George squatter-settlement upgrading project in Lusaka (Zambia), house construction among relocated women-headed households was considerably delayed because women spent much time each day travelling to their work at the city market (Rakodi).
Tenure: Land tenure is very important in both sites-and services schemes and squatter-settlement upgrading projects. Security of tenure stimulates investment in house improvement and a property title can often act as collateral for loans.
Rights to land are usually given to men, because the authorities assume that they are the heads of household, even when women have the primary or sole responsibility for their families. In some countries, women do not have the right to own property
The fact that women do not or cannot own land has a number of consequences.
First, ownership of land represents a form of saving, as the value of land and property in creases over time. If women do not have a title to land, they may end up with no capital at all in the event of divorce or separation. Moreover, it is easy for a man to divorce or separate from his wife, if he alone owns the plot and the house.
Secondly, as primary income-earner, the man often already has considerable control over the household and its dependents. If he also is the legal owner of all the property, his control will be even stronger, and as a result he is likely to take all decisions about the design, improvement and organization of the house.
Thirdly, in many countries, women's access to credit is usually limited. If they cannot have the land title registered in their name, they cannot use the land as collateral for a loan.
Mexico: In Mexico City, a co-operative called the Union de Solicitantes y Colonos pare la Vivienda (USCOVI) bought a plot of land for 60 families in 1980. The co-operative recognized that it was important whose name appeared on the land title. The co-operative's constitution, therefore, included the obligation that land titles should be held by the woman of the family in order to protect the woman and children against desertion by the male partner (Arredondo et al).
Settlement pattern: As land is usually scarce and expensive, settle meets are designed to make the most efficient use of space. Decisions on land-use patterns are made on the basis of technical and financial criteria.
Rarely is consideration given to the culture and the life-style of future residents, especially women.
Site layout: In many countries, the social world of women is defined by the physical boundaries of the house or the neighbourhood. Therefore, the layout of the settlement is particularly important to women. If women cannot participate in the planning of the settlement to the same extent as men, it is unlike that sufficient consideration will be given to their specific needs and priorities.
Women's needs with regard to plot arrangements may be radically different to those of men. Women may prefer plots to be grouped around services, so that they can meet other women while doing domestic work, and their double task of domestic work and income-generating work may be eased by mutual help.
However, because it tends to make inefficient use of space in economic terms, this type of pattern is not often implemented.
Zambia: The settlement pattern in the relocation area of the George upgrading project in Lusaka drastically changed the lives of women. Roads and plots were laid out in a grid pattern with each house on a separate plot, resulting in privacy for individual households.
Previously, women had been able to carry out their housework within sight of one another.
The new layout forced them to work under isolated conditions. This meant that they could no longer leave their houses unlocked or their children playing under the watchful eye of the neighbour (Schlyter).
Income-generating activities: Because it is usually assumed that men work outside the settlement and that women are entirely involved in domestic activities, the need to create income-generating activities within the settlement is easily overlooked.
In situations where families cannot survive on the wages of the male head of the household, women have to contribute whatever they can to the family budget. Women who are heads of household have to earn an income for the entire family. If there are no employment openings within the settlement or if land-use regulations do not allow income-earning activities in residential areas, these women are forced to look outside the neighbourhood for work.
This often causes severe hardship for the children who are left on their own.
Kenya: In the Dandora sites-and-services project in Nairobi, regulations stated that the land and house should be used for residential purposes only. However, many of the Dandora residents were women-headed households who worked at home in informal-sector jobs.
Despite attempts by the authorities to enforce a strict separation between residential and business activities, and constant threat and harassment by city askaris, 48 per cent of the women workers in Phase 1 of the Dandora project continued to operate from their houses.
For those who wanted to adhere to the regulations, a form of income-generation permitted by the authorities was the letting of rooms.
Permission for renting was granted in, order to compensate for the loss of traditional means of income-earning at home.
However, women-headed households were often unable to consolidate their houses to the same degree as male-headed households, owing to lack of time and money. Therefore, tenants preferred to rent rooms in the better-serviced and better-constructed houses owned by men. So, gender-blind planning resulted in a substantial reduction in women's ability to provide income for their families (Nimpuno-Parente).
The layout of the settlement has to allow for income-generating activities for women within the neighbourhood. The provision of space for income-generating activities has to be accompanied by training programmes and credit facilities.
India: In Madras, the Urban Development Authority is implementing a large-scale housing programme which includes a mobile skills-training unit.
Women and children often make a significant contribution to the family income and an in creased income as a result of stills training has a positive effect on cost-recover; (Singh).
Child-care facilities: Because women are assumed to be responsible for child-rearing and child-care, planners usually do not allocate resources for child-care provision.
However, the ability of women to participate in income-generating activities depends on adequate child-care provision which releases then! from the task of looking after their children In some communities, grandmothers and other female members of the household will assume this task, while the mother is at work. In other areas, lack of childcare facilities at the workplace severely limits women's participation in the labour market.
Community participation: Whether working with new or existing organizations project authorities must consult women when planning the settlement. In sites-and-services schemes, where beneficiaries have not yet been recruited, a survey of low-income women who live in circumstances similar to those of the target group could yield valuable information about the needs and priorities of women in settlement planning.
In other projects where a community already exists, project authorities must be wary of dealing solely with male-dominated organizations. Where possible, project staff should evaluate the representativeness of existing organizations, and, if it is found that they exclude women, alternative channels for women's participation should be created.
Location: In sites-and-services and resettlement projects, project authorities should try to find out where women work in the city and to place the project as near as possible to women's work zones. This positive discrimination is necessary if women have to earn an income as well as carry out domestic labour and child-rearing. In addition, project staff should observe where low-income women tend to shop and where the children attend school.
If the scheme is forced to be located on the out skirts of the city, away from traditional places of work for women, provision should be made for:
(a) cheap, reliable and frequent transport which runs throughout the day and not just at peak hours, and/or
(b) income-generating opportunities for women as well as adequate child-care facilities markets and schools within the settlement.
Tenure: Women-headed households constitute a significant proportion of the target group, while women entering the project as members of male-headed households may well end up heading their families through desertion or long-term migration of the man. If women do not possess a title to land, they risk being left homeless. Since women usually have the ultimate responsibility for their children, it is important that women's rights to land are recognized to safeguard their families' interests.
Project authorities should involve female staff in title registration. In a squatter-settlement upgrading project in Amman (Jordan), a woman staff member happened to be in charge of handling title deeds in the community development office. There fore, the men in the community allowed their wives to go and complete the forms. As a result, many land titles ended up in the women's names.
Settlement pattern: Consultation with women and attention to their specific problems are vital in ensuring project success. Where women's needs regarding the establishment of facilities for income-generation and domestic labour have been acted upon, the results have been generally successful.
Even where land itself cannot be set aside for women's activities, alternative methods of responding; to women's needs can be utilized. If domestic and economic initiatives form an integral part of project piens, the scope for subsequent self-generated activities is greatly increased.
(a) Fieldwork Assignments
(1) Identify the gender composition of the community organization in your project. Is it male or female-dominated?
(2) Do men and women have different priorities in settlement planning, with regard to location and 1 and use?
(3) Do land titles tend to be held by men or women in your project?
(b)Questions for Discussion
(1) How could women's involvement in community participation be encouraged?
(2)Is it important that women should have land registered in their names? How would you organize the land registration procedure in your project so that tilles would go to women?