Gentle Negotiation

Based on its initial experience with the program in Indore, and Agra, beginning November 2009, UHRC program strategies have evolved towards a broader development of the urban slums/vulnerable populations goal. UHRC has found educating communities about government resources and services to be particularly effective. As groups bring municipal problems forward (for e.g., paving of slum roads, laying drainage systems), the UHRC suggests that communities begin writing applications and letters to service providers, and holds trainings and workshops where group members can practice writing applications and learn about the importance of making and filing copies of all applications and letters that submitted. Field workers encourage groups to write highly specific, concrete requests that focus on a single issue rather than multiple issues to increase chances of success. They are also encouraged to have all members sign each request or petition to show consensus. 

Usually, the first few petitions or letters written are followed by a period of struggle or stagnancy. Municipal service providers and government officials tend to be initially unresponsive and uncooperative. Group members are therefore trained to write reminders following up on requests and to seek formal receipts from civic authorities for any communications sent. For example, group members are trained to send reminders through the government postal system, which automatically provides receipts to senders. 

Women’s groups also learn to recruit the support of democratically elected ward representatives who can help in interfacing with municipal corporations. UHRC social facilitators guide women’s group members to start by pursuing simple tasks, such as getting a street drain cleaned, before moving on to more ambitious projects such as road paving and water supply installation.  

The requests are both specific to neighborhood level and individual level needs. The neighborhood level needs include upgrading slum infrastructure (lanes, electricity, sewerage, water supply, waste disposal) requesting for Aaganwadi centres. The individual needs are related to entitlements such as Voter ID cards, food subsidy card, vidhva pension (old age pension), labour card, educational scholarships.  

As a result of sustained efforts in Indore and Agra through negotiating with Government authorities, slum women have been able to gradually improve living infrastructure in slum. They have also strengthened access to Government ID and related services in Indore and Agra.  

Collectively negotiating with civic authorities for better living conditions​