In Development as Freedom, Amartya Sen defines poverty as the deprivation of basic capabilities that provide a person with the freedom to choose the life he or she has reason to value. These capabilities include good health, education, social networks, and command over economic resources, and influence on decision-making that affects one’s life.
Defining Urban Poverty
From this perspective, poverty is a condition with many interdependent and closely related dimensions which can be summarized in three broad categories:
- Lack of regular income and employment, productive assets (such as land and housing), access to social safety nets;
- Lack of access to services such as education, health care, information, credit, water supply and sanitation;
- Lack of political power, participation, dignity and respect.
Urban poverty reduction requires different kinds of approaches, because it is different from rural poverty in many respects: the urban poor are affected by the highly monetized nature of urban living, which forces them to spend far more on accommodation, food, transport and other services than the rural poor; unlike rural poverty, urban poverty is characterized by the regulatory exclusion of the poor from the benefits of urban development. Moreover, the nature of urban communities is distinct and urban poverty is not easily addressed by the community-based approaches developed for rural poverty reduction. (Read more at https://terraurban.wordpress.com/2013/04/09/urban-poverty-its-challenges-and-characteristics/)
The Three Aspects of Poverty
ESCAP paper on Facing the Challenges of Urbanization and Urban Poverty in Asia and the Pacific has articulated that Poverty essentially has three closely interrelated aspects: “poverty of money”, “poverty of access” and “poverty of power.” These make the working, living and social environments of the poor extremely insecure and severely limit the options available to them to improve their lives. Without choices and security, breaking the cycle of poverty becomes virtually impossible and leads to the marginalization and alienation of the poor from society. The various dimensions to these aspects of poverty as articulated by UNESCAP are
- Lack of income: Productivity and working conditions in the urban informal economic sector;
- Lack of access: food security, water and sanitation and informal settlements; tenure rights (read more at https://terraurban.wordpress.com/2013/05/07/rights-of-the-urban-poor-chhapra/ , https://terraurban.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/when-right-to-sanitation-becomes-right-to-life/)
- Lack of power: participation, mainstreaming of human rights-based approach and good urban governance.
Poverty Alleviation Strategies
ESCAP paper has highlighted various strategies that are used as ‘poverty reduction strategies’ and should be aimed towards the three kinds of poverty as mentioned above. The strategies highlighted include:
- Alleviating the Poverty of Money: Integrating the Economies of the Poor, Providing Access to Credit, Investing in the Knowledge-based Economy, Promoting Community-based Safety-nets,
- Alleviating the Poverty of Access: regularization of existing settlements, self-constructed housing, tenure rights, rights to services, upgradation of existing settlements, participatory planning
- Alleviating the Poverty of Power: Supporting Collective Mechanisms, Increasing Access to Information
As highlighted on Terraurban, Society for Participatory Research In Asia (PRIA), Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centers (SPARC) and Forum of Informal Urban Poor Workers (FIUPW) are organising a National Consultation on Urban Poverty at Delhi on 21-22nd June at India Habitat Centre. (https://terraurban.wordpress.com/2013/05/31/national-consultation-on-urban-poverty-issues-challenges-and-opportunities/)
The first session of this consultation aims to show light on all the above mentioned aspects with grassroots experiences shared by PRIA, SPARC and associated partners. The details of the first session are mentioned below:
Technical Session 1: Redefining Urban Poverty: Issues and Challenges
Moderator and Speakers of the Session:
Prof. Amitabh Kundu, a renowned academician with expertise in the issues related to the urbanization and urban poverty shall moderate the session.
The diverse range of speakers from urban arena in this session include: community representative from Patna’s slum, members from National Campaign Committee for Central Legislation on Construction Labor, Janpahal, National Alliance for Labor Rights and Civil Society, namely
- Ms. Ranjana Chouhan, Community Representative
- Mr. Subhash Bhatnagar, FIUPW
- Mr. Dharmendra Kumar FIUPW
- Mr. Rajesh Upadhyay FIUPW
- Mr. Dunu Roy Civil Society
Few fundamental questions that the session shall raise are:
- What are the various aspects/dynamics of urban poverty?
- What makes urban poverty different from rural poverty?
- How can the challenges of urban poverty be addressed?
- What is the role of civil society in addressing urban poverty?
If you are a community member, civil society actor, academician, policy maker or a concerned citizen – Terraurban values your experiences and hopes to encourage learning through peers. Share with us your thoughts, your projects and experiences and we shall have them uploaded here! Comment on this blog or mail to firstname.lastname@example.org