Strengthening civil society voice on urban poverty in Kerala – Initiative by SAHAYI, SPARC and PRIA

SAHAYI with SPARC and PRIA has been taking necessary steps for poverty alleviation through collectivising civil society and people at large, developing the much needed database and empowering the people with the necessary knowledge about issues around urban poverty issues and its governance in Kerala. A consultation for the same was conducted in May 2012 and a follow up meeting with the participants/ CSOs in August 2012.

The consultation and the information base have highlighted the environment of urban poverty in Kerala with main issues such as:

  • More than fifteen lakh families of the state, alias ‘gods own country’ are still in the clutches of poverty
  • While rural poverty is getting concentrated in the agricultural Labour and artisan households’ urban poverty is in the casual labour households
  • Rapid growth of urban population, expansion of existing towns and cities and low investment in urban development have created deficiencies in basic amenities especially in the urban areas. The shortages are serious for the urban poor due to inequality in the access to these amenities.
  • Land tenure, environmental threat, development on untenable and environmentally sensitive sites of slums, lack of facilities, lack of proper data on urban poverty, absence of proper social support system, non-convergence of activities of various government departments and the lack of community empowerment are the issues that the urban poor of Kerala face.
  • Also it is a clear fact the funds released for urban poverty alleviation programes have only seen about 60% expenditure in Municipalities while only 45% in Municipal Corporations in Kerala


The consultations saw participation of CSOs, CBOs, community members and municipal councillors. SAHAYI took the opportunity of this consultation and disseminated knowledge and information about all urban poverty schemes- both central and state applicable to Kerala. The consultation stressed on the role of civil society for an accountable and participatory delivery of these schemes. During the consultation various issues in respect to community participation and awareness of the scheme of urban poverty surfaced, such as:

  • The CSO representatives and the councillors pointed out that non accessibility of the details of the schemes in Malayalam (local language), non-availability of a platform to discuss and deliberate upon the urban poverty and related issues, lack of resources including human resources, non-cooperation of the urban local bodies and urban poor, etc. were the factors which hindered their active involvement in urban poverty reduction intervention.
  • Municipal councillors that participated in the programme expressed their non-clarity regarding various provisions in the RAY scheme for community participation and CSO participation. They also stated that Corporations have given more emphasis in achieving physical targets rather than qualitative aspects.
  • CSOs also expressed the need for a direction and forum to collectivise on urban poverty issues in the State.

SAHAYI has prepared 7 learning materials in Malayalam on urban poverty/ urban development schemes, which are being implemented by Municipalities/ Municipal Corporations in Kerala and distributed the learning materials among the participants. These learning materials not only informed them about the schemes but also enthused their participation in discussions and deliberations. All participants thereafter took the opportunity to discuss these issues in focus group discussions and proposed the following steps towards strengthening the role of civil society to address urban poverty issues:

  • Formation of an informal urban development forum of civil society organisations to initiate continuous actions.
  • Mapping/identification of like-minded groups/individual by each CSO in their locality and discuss the issues with them.
  • Informal meeting with Community and organising of awareness generation orientation programme for them regarding poverty reduction schemes and other development programmes of Municipality and Municipal Corporations.
  • Media dialogue and sensitise them to cover urban poverty and related issues.
  • Capacity building of civil society organisations to strengthen the civil society voices on urban poverty and related issues.
  • Dissemination of learning materials on urban schemes/programmes and sharing of experience.
  • Discussions/interactions with elected representatives, officials and other actors at Municipality/Corporations.
  • Occasional meeting of civil society organisations and review the progress of the activities.
  • In Trivandrum district Joint meetings of CSOs, CBOs and other likeminded people at Trivandrum Corporation, Neyyatinkara, Attingal, Nedumangad will be organised.

These consultations have been one catalyst step in the realm of urban poverty and role of civil society to address the same, and shall be an impetus for a ripple effect to strengthen the role of civil society.

The participation of CSOs in the Consultative meetings has created an interest and commitment among different CSOs, working collaborates in the area of urban poverty and related aspects. Initiation of an informal urban development forum of CSOs has taken place and it will create opportunity for continuous dialogue and knowledge sharing through consultations with other stakeholders. Several CSO leaders that participated in the meeting have taken up urban poverty and related issues as one of their major agenda of operation in the coming period. SAHAYI is keeping in touch with each CSOs participated in the programme and are providing follow up support to plan and organise activities at their local level. Occasional meeting of the civil society organisation are planned to review the progress of the planned activities



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