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close this bookVolunteer Participation in Working with the Urban Poor (UNDP - UNV, 64 p.)
close this folderAnnex: Excerpts from background papers
View the documentUrban development policy issues and the role of united nations volunteers
View the documentWorking with the urban poor: lessons from the experience of metropolitan Lagos, Nigeria
View the documentBrief account of my experience as a DDS field worker and a UNV in Sri Lanka and Jamaica
View the documentSpecial consultation on volunteer participation in working with the urban poor

Working with the urban poor: lessons from the experience of metropolitan Lagos, Nigeria

Excerpts from paper presented by. Tade Akin Aina, Department of Sociology, University of Lagos Akoka, Lagos, Nigeria, September 1990

"It is important to begin with the recognition that the problem of urban poverty cannot be treated independently of the wider context of the way the society and political economy are organised and managed. Urban poverty is a result and a continuous expression of the greater unequal marginalisation and powerlessness which characterizes the development process of many societies of the world, particularly those that, for the want of a better term, are called Third World. This structural inequality contains both internal domestic and external dimensions. It is, however, an extremely complex phenomenon for which until today, human society has not found a satisfactory or widely acceptable solution or mode of management...."

"Even among those who genuinely want to help or to change things, there are still elements of a faulty perspective. Two major ones can be identified here. The first is that the problem of urban poverty is a problem of development, it is not merely the problem of certain specific unfortunate individuals or groups. It must, therefore, be tackled from a development perspective, not a humanitarian perspective. Closely related to this first element is that poverty, whether urban or rural, does not amount to a disability.... Therefore, our interventions must be related to their perceptions and understanding of their needs, their problems and the options available for managing and solving them. This is the essence of the participatory development approach. Working with the poor in this context presupposes the involvement of the poor in all aspects of such work, from the planning, through the implementation, to the evaluation phase."

"Meaningful and effective intervention must be developmental. It must equip ordinary people to overcome the limitations imposed by political and socio-economic structures. It must also sustain and reproduce this overcoming as an on-going concern. Such work must empower the poor, it must enable them to conquer the obstacles that daily plague their environment. To do this, it must not only be participatory, but it must embody a multi-flow learning process in which both the voluntary worker and the poor learn from each other. In this way, the poor are empowered to overcome certain aspects of their problems, while the volunteers and their agencies are empowered to overcome their own prejudices and fears of other ordinary persons being their own masters."