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close this book Daughters of Sysiphus
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The experience behind the figures

Of the 12 women who were interviewed in depth, four were renters, four were squatters, one lived free, one owned the land and the house and two were in the process of buying the land on which the houses they owned were situated. Some of their comments on tenure are given below.

Auntie is a squatter on the Causeway that crosses Kingston Harbour. She owns the house she lives in but has done little to improve it over the years. Five years ago she was sent notice to quit by the Ministry of Housing but she's heard nothing since. She has no interest in improving her present accommodation and would very much like to have somewhere else to live, even if she keeps this as her income-generating base.

Carmen lives free in a tenement yard. She is trying hard to build her own small house so that she will be able to live in better, and less crowded conditions.

Deula is a squatter who settled on captured government land about a year ago. She used to rent but opted to move to squatting so that she could get a little more space and settle down to do some farming. The rent she was paying was also a drain on her resources.

Commenting on her hopes for the next 10 years Deula says,

"I wouldn't mind sitting down and relax. If the Government decided to lease us the land and all that I would see myself as a better person because I know the effort that I would have to put in if the Government says within the next year they could lease us this place. I know the effort I would put in to achieve something over the next ten years time. I'd be alright because I think by farming here and by having a little fowl farm and a couple of goats I would get through."

Icie owns the house she lives in and is currently buying the land she is on under a lease purchase agreement with the Government.

Lena pays ground rent for the land space she uses in a yard in Cassava Piece but owns the house which she bought and added to. She did not benefit from the squatter upgrading programme in the area because she was a tenant and the land was sold to the old lady in her yard who "controls" the place and is her landlady. As a tenant Lena had no rights to the land.

Letty owns the house and land where she lives and is dependent on the income she generates from it as a landlady.

Marcia lives in a rented furnished apartment. Her main complaint is "You cannot use anything of your own and you can't even buy things if you have money because there is nowhere to put them.- She commented in her interview how hard it is to find a place to rent when you are a woman alone with children. She has to leave her children in the country because things are so hard.

"I want to move from the house I'm in because it is a furnished room and staying into a furnished room you will never own anything for yourself and plus I can't take anybody here to do their hair. I have to go to their house and there are plenty of people I would get to do them but because it is furnished room the landlord is living here. they can't pass through and they're big responsible people. They can't hide come in. They want their hair to do on Saturdays. That mean Saturdays I have to take them to the shop where I'm working so I never benefit from it."

Megan is a squatter in a highly politicized area of Kingston. She owns the house she lives in but owes money on it to Houseman who is the man who built it for her when she first moved here.

Even though the land is not hers she would take the risk to expand. She would like to be able to own the land she lives on or to purchase land elsewhere if the possibility arose. However, she feels insecure knowing the land is not hers even though no-one "molests" her where she is. She doubts that anyone will really move her.

"I don't think anyone will move me from here again. Because since this government which hate squatters don't find me yet. I don't think they will again because they soon get voted out.

She thinks it would be good to have something to leave for her children. She says she has suffered too much due to all the movements in her life and sees this as a result of her parents not owning land. If her parents had had their own land, even in the country, then she could have gone there to live. She goes on "Business could be done better if people owned their own what they have like land, house, shops whatever."

Pam rents two rooms in a three room house from her landlord who holds the lease on this and seven more properties in the same area. She is constantly battling with the landlord over repairs but intends to put nothing of her own into improving the house unless she can rip it out and carry it with her when she goes.

Pansy has a mortgage for the land from the Ministry of Housing. The Government relocated her from another piece of land which they needed to build a road. When she was relocated, along with her neighbours. the Government gave her a basic three-room unit which she has expanded and improved on over time. Her main problem is that she has not been able to get title to the land and that is holding up the connection of the mains water supply. The mains system is in place but the National Water Commission will not put water into the system until they have seen the title.

Pearl rents from her father who leases from a landlord.

Verona is a squatter. She owns her house and the shop which she built herself with help from her family. She would prefer a concrete house but as long as she is a squatter she thinks that is out of the question.