Courtesy of Rebecca Bell
Conference: Urban Innovation in SRHR; Nairobi, UN-Complex, February 15 &16, 2017
What are current urban innovations in sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR)? Is SRHR education a critical part in addressing urban challenges faced by young people?
A recent conference held at the United Nations headquarters in Nairobi Kenya, brought together cross-disciplinary experts ranging from applied ethics to nursing, counselling to medicine, and private sector to local government in order to address these crucial questions on SRHR. Using the Kenyan context as backdrop, with additional considerations from India, Somalia, Uganda and Sweden, the goal of the conference was to identify the types of projects being implemented in our own backyards and how we can improve the SRHR situation in our communities.
The conference started off with an introduction from representatives at UN-Habitat, UNFPA Somalia, the Head of Development Cooperation for Somalia, Swedish Embassy, and a professor of applied ethics from Linkoping University. This panel set the stage for participants to look at SRHR from a variety of perspectives, from the grassroots level to national policy, and beyond to the ethical foundations of SRHR programming.
Representatives from Linkoping University, the University of Boras, and University West demonstrated the prototype of their online open-access course, Haki Sasa, roughly translated to “Justice Now” in Swahili. The presenters fielded questions from the audience with the stated intention of eventually improving health outcomes in communities where youth complete this curriculum. The presenters verified that the course would be context specific so as to account for different ideas about sexuality and morality within individual communities.
On Wednesday afternoon, two additional panels were conducted. The first included representatives from UNFPA’s Private Sector Health Partnership including Safaricom, Huawei, MSD, Philips and the UNFPA team who brought them together. These private sector executives discussed the role they play in SRHR and the partnerships that can help each sector work to their strengths.
The second panel included representatives of UN-Habitat’s youth and gender units, and their partners from Narotum Sekhasaria Foundation (NSF), India. Statistics on SRHR were expressed for global, Kenyan and Indian contexts, thereby setting the stage for the next day’s breakout sessions. The role of youth and the successes of specific projects were also considered.
Wednesday finished off with an engrossing drama and dance performance by Wale Wale Kenya. The performers communicated the daily difficulties of dealing with family, friends and employers, changes at puberty, and the challenges faced in menstrual health and hygiene maintenance.
Thursday morning, 16th February, participants and facilitators were reunited again for short opening remarks before splitting off into three groups for breakout sessions. In the first section, three topics were presented: a workshop on the Haki Sasa course, introduced during the plenary session on Wednesday; SRHR innovations for young people; and SRHR in slums and informal settlements.
The following section held the latter two workshops again, but the first workshop changed to a module on menstrual hygiene management and reusable sanitary pads. These small breakout sessions gave the participants an opportunity to network, discuss their thoughts and get creative together. Small groups discussed solutions to SRHR challenges they face in their own communities; improved upon existing online programmes for SRHR; and gave advice on how to refine reusable sanitary pad templates.
In the final plenary session, rapporteurs from each of the breakout sessions summarized the discussions from each section in order to synthesize the take-away lessons. In this way, all participants were able to share in the experiences of each breakout session despite having only participated in two of the available six sessions.
The two-day conference came to an end with representatives of the facilitating partners giving their final remarks, discussing the successes of collaborative thinking and networking opportunities, and challenging the participants to find ways to continue the conversations and partnerships formed throughout the conference. Overall, the conference was a great success, sparking new ideas and collaborations that will undoubtedly improve SRHR in Kenya and beyond.
A lot was happening in Mlango Kubwa’s football pitch last week. Mlango Kubwa is a ward in the Mathare informal settlement in Kenya. Mathare has approximately 500,000 residence; Mango Kubwa itself has approximately 50,000 residents of which 70% of the population is 24 and under.
After its inauguration by the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Antonio Guterres, it became the centerpiece of Design Thinking workshop organized to give it a sustainable make-over.
The football pitch is the cornerstone of the community, strategically placed and accessible for all Mlango Kubwa’s residents. Used primary for football, sport and play, at times it’s also a place for talent shows, celebrations and other community events. But time, weather conditions and lack of resources have left a toll on its appearance and condition. What was once an astonishing sport facility in the midst of a slum is now rapidly deteriorating public space.
To try to help out and bring new ideas and perspectives on the issue, UN-HABITAT teamed up with GIZ Sport for Development Africa programme and Prof. Dr. Falk Uebernickel from University of St. Gallen, an expert in Design Thinking methodology, to run a 2-day workshop with the community. Ran as a pilot in a difficult context of poor urban community, the hope and expectation was to come up with new strategies to revitalize and sustainably maintain the field.
Despite slow start, the community members attending the workshop came up with some amazing ideas of how to improve the current state of the pitch. Through rather complex and at times quite challenging steps of the Design Thinking methodology, the community looked at the most pressing issues, including safety and security, drainage, waste management and communication. Here are just few examples of simple interventions that were born that day:
- Adequate fence around the pitch perimeter, with some kind of roofing to protect from rains
- Paid caretaker(s)
- Build-in drainage
- Regular clean-ups, with competitions between school
- WhatsApp group to inform the community of events and happenings at/around the pitch
Funding remains a challenge and will determine the successful implementation of all the ideas that the community envisioned for the football pitch but everyone remains hopeful that over time, they will achieve everything what they set themselves for. UN-HABITAT will continue to support the Mlango Kubwa community and hope that together we can make it happen.
On 8th March 2017, at the occasion of International Women’s Day, the United Nations Secretary General, Mr. Antonio Guterres visited Mlango Kubwa community of Mathare. This special occasion occurred at the Slum Soccer football pitch, a community public space created by young women and men with the support of UN-HABITAT. Located in the heart of the community, the pitch is a perfect spot for all children and young people to play sports as well as host other community events.
Two local women’s teams were brought to greet Mr. Guterres and showcase their talents to invited guests and the residents of Mlango Kubwa. Despite the bright sun and high temperatures, the pick-up game created a great atmosphere to welcome the Secretary General in style. “Up for Slum Dwellers”, sponsored by UN-HABITAT’s slum upgrading campaign, represented UN-HABITAT at the “Global Goals World Cup” which took place the weekend before the SGs visit. Up for Slum Dwellers took on Katalands, a local team from Mathare. Together they promoted SDG 11 and advocating for more accessible and safer spaces to play sports in informal settlements.
Wendy Achieng, the captain of “Up for Slum Dwellers” team introduced both of the teams to the Secretary General and presented him with a small gift, a custom-made T-shirt promoting SDG 11. In return, Mr. Guterres honored the girls with the first kick-off of the game.
Both the Mlango Kubwa community as well as the UN family were honored and proud to see the Secretary General in the field, so early on in his term.
Secretary General, Mr. Antonio Guterres inaugurating the Slum Soccer Football Pitch
Courtesy of Akolade Aderibigbe, UN-Habitat
United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), in partnership with the Federal Government of Nigeria, conducted hands-on training in energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies; green entrepreneurship and enterprise development for 125 selected youths drawn from 26 States across the Nigeria in Abuja from 12th to 23rd December 2016.
The hands-on training on energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies; green entrepreneurship and enterprise development training programme was organized by the Regional Office for Africa; Youth Unit and the Energy Unit of UN-Habitat in collaboration with the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the Nigeria President on Sustainable Development Goals (OSSAP-SDGS). The training which was held in Abuja from 11th – 23rd December 2016 was targeted at Nigerian unemployed youths. First batch of 125 (One Hundred and Twenty-Five) youth participants were selected from across the 26 States of Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, to benefit from the programme. The training aimed at empowering the trained youths to start income generating enterprises in the renewable energy sector; become active proponents of energy efficiency and renewable energy approaches with a clear understanding of the issues/application around climate change; act as positive agents in their communities and bring about behavioral change among their peers and across their communities.
The Minister of Youths and Sports, Mr. Solomon Dalung in his opening remarks thanked the SSAP and UN Habitat for organizing the training programme. The Minister stated that the importance of the energy industry in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized. He also stated that the present administration is committed towards the development and empowerment of Nigerian youths. He assured the youth that the Federal Government of Nigeria would
Adefulire observed that the training was not to replace the university or college degrees of
the trainees but would enhance their capacities. “By your decision to be part of this exercise, you will move away from poverty, crime, drug abuse, militancy and terrorism to a sustainable platform, as this programme will address goal 1 of the SDG, which is no poverty, goal 7 on renewable energy, and goal 11 on sustainable cities and communities,” she said.
The Habitat Programme Manager for Nigeria, Mr. Kabir Yari who represented the Director for Regional Office for Africa, said subsequent training would capture a greater number of trainees, adding that the exercise would go a long way in reducing unemployment in Nigeria.
He said, “Our collaboration with Nigeria on this project is to provide technical inputs in terms of facilitators, technical personnel and other related things that will ensure a successful training. As you know, the SDGs is a 2030 agenda which intends to improve the lives of all citizens and leaving no one behind.” Tapping into its new thinking on producing items that can be locally sourced for the consumption of Nigeria’s population, the federal government is to partner with the United Nation Habitat to train some Nigerian youths on clean energy for home use. The partnership for empowerment captures capacity building in energy technologies for production of clean stoves and lantern that will serve the energy needs of rural poor and other areas where renewable energy will complement power needs.
Explaining the rationale for the partnership for the training, Vincent Kitio, Chief Urban Energy Unit, says the youth are being trained in a blend of entrepreneurship and technologies to developed skill sets in production of renewable energy as alternatives to replace kerosene stoves and lantern which has proven dangerous in some cases.
At the end of the course, participants were able to;
- Build solar lanterns
- Set up briquette production to substitute charcoal and firewood
- Build improved cook stoves
- Assemble and install gasifier stoves
- Built and Assemble Household Solar Panels.
— by Cicely-Belle Blain, http://www.qmunity.ca, NOVEMBER 4, 2016
A few months ago I wrote a blog post about the whirlwind experience of being involved in formulating the Queer Declaration, a document aimed at encouraging the United Nations to include LGBTQ/2S-friendly language in the New Urban Agenda at the United Nations Habitat 3 conference. The document was endorsed by many local supporters and eventually garnered international attention, prompting the official Canadian Delegation to the Habitat 3 conference to support and adopt it, mirroring Canada’s history of progressive LGBTQ/2S* inclusion.
The best part about all of this for me? I got to go to Quito, Ecuador to lobby for the Queer Declaration and advocate for the safety, well-being and happiness of queer and trans youth in cities. The theme of the conference was No One Left Behind, and so I made sure this statement extended to LGBTQ/2S communities. I’m now sitting in Houston airport after the first leg of my twenty-one hour journey home to Vancouver and I’m excited to reflect on my experience.
Quito, 2,500 metres above sea level, took my breath away… literally. With the help of altitude acclimatization medication, I quickly became accustomed to the reduced oxygen levels, which was fortunate because I needed every breath I had to make space for LGBTQ/2S voices in a conference of 50,000 attendees.
Caption: the city of Quito
The Habitat 3 conference was preceded by YouthHAB, a youth-led and -oriented mini conference to engage local Ecuadorian youth as well as international guests in the conceptualization of the New Urban Agenda. Along with Ellen Woodsworth (the mastermind behind the Queer Declaration), Joy Masuhara (one of the advocates in the successful battle for same-sex marriage in Canada 10 years ago) and Danilo Manzano (a local Ecuadorian LGBTQ activist), I presented at an event entitled “LGBTI* and Cities: A Youth Declaration for Habitat lll”. We each shared our personal experiences as queer people and reflected on how the work we are doing represents small steps towards safety and inclusion of LGBTQ/2S communities in urban environments.
Caption: the presenters at YouthHAB; Danilo Manzano, our translator Andrea and a friend, Joy Masuhara, Cicely-Belle Blain, Ellen Woodsworth and Andrew Robert Martin of SCARP UBC.
Representing Canada on an international stage presented challenges I hadn’t prepared for. It was a complicated experience to present Canada as wholly progressive and inclusive because I wanted to steer away from the narrative of ‘perfect and peaceful’ Canada and recognize the ongoing discrimination, violence and settler colonialism that still occurs within our borders. I wanted to explain the nuances of living as a queer, Black, non-binary person in this country, especially considering the lack of PoC, queer and Indigenous representation within the delegation chosen to represent Canada in Quito. However, it was still important to recognize the privileges that I experience, especially in comparison to countries where homosexuality is still criminalized and punishable by life imprisonment and even death. From this lens, Canada stands out as beacon of safety for LGBTQ/2S folks so juggling this dynamic was complicated.
Caption: Canadian delegation memorabilia and some members of the 163-delegate strong Canadian team.
Ultimately, I was really proud to share the work that QMUNITY does and particularly our Youth Program. I felt excited that I was able to use our organization as an example of community work done well and provide testimonies from clients and community members who have been impacted by the work that we do. It was great to see many people feel inspired by our organization and ask for advice on providing similar resources to youth in their cities. I practically ran out of business cards!
I reminded people that no country is perfect, and still many LGBTQ/2S communities within Canada, especially youth, people of colour and trans folks, are isolated and at risk. However, it was an important responsibility to share with Ecuadorian youth, and later with UN officials and foreign ministers, some of the ways in which cities can strive to be more inclusive and accessible.
The following day was filled with further excitement. I was invited by the United Nations Association of Canada to meet the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Head of the Canadian Delegation and the Minister for Children, Youth and Social Development and Marianick Tremblay, the Canadian Ambassador to Ecuador at the Canadian Embassy. The youth of the Canadian Delegation had an opportunity to share their thoughts on how the Canadian government can better address the needs and opinions of young people.
Caption: the youth delegation after a round table with Minister Jean-Yves Duclos and Marianick Tremblay, the Canadian Ambassador in Quito.
I took this opportunity to share the Queer Declaration with the Minister and the group. I was excited to hear that the Minister and his committee, on behalf of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, had advocated for LGBTQ/2S inclusive language within the United Nations in the lead up to this conference. Other countries such as the USA and Mexico as well as the European Union had also shown support but unfortunately, several countries with notoriously homophobic policies had shut down the idea in favour of “family values”. The rhetoric that queer and trans inclusions means an undoing of families is sad and completely unfounded, but unfortunately very prevalent, I learned. Seventeen countries including Belarus, Russia, Nigeria and Qatar were fierce opponents of our Queer Declaration and argued that the UN needed to support “mainstream” families.
In order for an amendment or declaration to be agreed upon within the United Nations, there must be no objections to the proposal, Jaques Paquette, Deputy Minister to Jean-Yves Duclos told me. However, on Tuesday, my trip culminated with an incredible event led by the Canadian minister and the head of the United States delegation, Julian Castro. Local Ecuadorian activists Danilo Manzano and Sandra Alvarez Monsalve presented very moving and personal experiences:
Danilo brought many audience members to tears as he said, “every day I dream of being a dad, but I can’t, because in Ecuador, gay people can’t marry or have children”.
Caption: Cicely-Belle with Minister Jean-Yves Duclos after he proclaimed his support for the LGBTQ community and the panel at the Urban Stage: the Ministers from Canada, USA and Mexico, two Ecuadorian LGBTQ/2S activists and the Mayor of Oakland, California.
The experience had many challenges: the altitude, the 50,000 conference attendees (not fun for someone who has anxiety and hates lining up), the scorching sun followed by torrential rain and juggling the responsibilities of promoting the Queer Declaration within a huge global bureaucratic system. While we were not able to change the wording of the New Urban Agenda, we did manage to convince many government officials that the term “inclusion” should explicitly and eternally support and care for LGBTQ/2S communities. Many of them took this message to heart.
We were able to provide tangible solutions to the ongoing problems of discrimination and isolation of queer and trans communities such as creating specific and well-supported spaces for LGBTQ/2S youth to socialize and get support, having accessible gender-neutral washrooms in publics spaces, putting effort and funding into the sexual, mental and physical health of these people and unashamedly celebrating these communities as government officials (like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau marching in pride parades across Canada). The United Nations is now moving towards urging all countries to decriminalize homosexuality.
Habitat 4 will take place 20 years from now, and I am confident that by then, queer and trans youth in cities across the world will have access to a ‘Q’munity.
I would like to thank Douglas Ragan and the Urban Economy Branch of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme for making it possible for to me to make QMUNITY’s work international. With their support I was able to go to Quito and they were instrumental in giving me a platform to promote the Queer Declaration by arranging for me to speak at several events. I am also grateful to Ellen Woodsworth for her passion and determination to see the Queer Declaration through. Finally, I am thankful to my friend Urooba Jamal for hosting me and beautifully summarizing the events through her work as a journalist for teleSUR English. To QMUNITY, I am always grateful and fortunate to be doing this work with you.
*LGBTQ/2S is the language used by QMUNITY to reflect the diversity of our community and be inclusive of Two-Spirit communities, a term specific to Indigenous people of Turtle Island. LGBTI is the official language the United Nations uses, hence the disparity in this blog post.
“We are a technology savvy generation and we can be a powerful resource to city authorities. We have skills and information that can support efficiency and sustainability in the city,” stated 15-year-old representative from World Vision’s Mexico program.
Over 100 children and adolescents from Ecuador, El Salvador, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Brazil, India and Indonesia; from local, regional and global child and youth serving agencies gathered at the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development in Quito, Ecuador to identify issues, priorities and recommendations for the implementation of the New Urban Agenda. As a historical first, children and adolescent voices were included in the Habitat III process starting with the launch of the Children and Youth Assembly on 15th October during the conference. The Assembly aimed to provide a formal platform for our current citizens and future leaders to propose solutions that can contribute to smart and inclusive cities for children that are just, safe, healthy and prosperous; that leave no one behind.
Several activities were organized during the day for children and adolescents to express their views on issues surrounding their rights to healthy and safe public spaces, access to quality education and health services, and protection from violence and their right to genuine participation mechanisms in city planning and budgeting processes.
Among the activities of the day, a training session ‘Map my city’ was organized to discuss the use of technology for improved understanding of city issues by children and youth (aged 14-16) participating in the Assembly. The training session delivered by Spatial Collective presented a case study of mapping by youth in one of the largest slums of Nairobi, Kibera. Children and youth saw how technology can fill in the gaps in information and secondary data used by city authorities. They learned about the technologies available to capture primary data that could become a resource for governments and influence planning and budgeting.
“The collection of primary data is fundamental to addressing urban dynamism and changing context. Information collected on a regular basis could transform the perception of communities about their well-being and predict issues that could be affecting them in the short and long term. This information once collected on a regular basis is a powerful tool for advocacy by young people to propose solutions for services and equity, said Doug Ragan, Chief of Youth Unit, UN-Habitat. Spatial Collective then presented an example of the application of mapping software from Pitney Bowes, a software company that leads in location and Spatial intelligence, provided visuals that are interactive maps that capture data on a real time basis.
Children and adolescents from cities of El Salvador, Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Brazil, India and Indonesia enthusiastically explained the issues in their respective cities, the realities of their contexts, the communities and informal settlements that remain invisible to local government, the issue of informal authorities such as gangs that make rules; waste, lack of playgrounds, green and walkable spaces. They were keen to explore these technologies in their cities.
There was consensus in the room that the government bodies responsible for data collection are often poorly resourced, with inconsistent data collection approaches. On the other hand, data collection and input by communities themselves can generate rich and useful information that complements conventional data collection methods and address such knowledge gaps. This is especially true for children and youth being a technology-savvy young generation. Young people said they are eager to contribute to well- being, equity and prosperity in the city. They can be are a key resource and agent of change to drive positive transformation in the city and a critical resource in creating smarter communities and shaping an inclusive and sustainable future. Spatial Collective representatives explained how “you can turn a mobile phone into a very effective data collection tool that helps produce maps of issues in a city”. “Through mapping technology we can bring children and youth like you to the same table with governments”.
With the problem of data on children’s well-being and extreme poverty experienced in urban slum communities being obscured by the relative affluence of their neighboring communities, locally generated information that can benefit key decision makers within local and municipal governments to inform the direction of policies, programmes and resources is a critical need. For cities to be inclusive and smart, all urban dwellers, especially the most vulnerable and marginalised, must be able to participate in and interact with data collection and analysis that contribute to cities that are people-centred and reflect the collective intelligence of its communities.
The “Map my City” session highlighted the importance of public-private partnerships and a multi-disciplinary approach to urban solutions applying the principle of complementarity to promote the implementation of the New Urban Agenda. It is increasingly evident that no single actor can unilaterally achieve the type of large-scale transformational change necessary to create cities where children and youth thrive. Technology is critical to transform cities to smart and efficient hubs and the business sector who have the expertise, resources, power, technology, knowledge, influence and innovation need to come on board for sustainable cities of the future.
About the Author
Joyati Das is the Senior Director for Urban Programs at World Vision International. In 2008, Joyati designed and launched the organisation’s Urban Programs Initiative, a multi-country action research initiative across select World Vision field offices which resulted in World Vision’s flagship urban report, Making sense of the city, 2016. Its success has led to the scaling up of World Vision’s Global Urban Program that continues to develop measurable, scalable and effective interventions that are locally led, respond to urban dynamism and provide evidence to strengthen global policies and frameworks.
With Masters in Sociology and Communications, Joyati brings 25 years of experience in diverse sectors including corporate, government and non-government organizations. She has contributed to several media and journal articles highlighting issues of vulnerabilities and children’s rights in the city. Joyati represents World Vision International as Co-Chair of the Children and Youth Constituent Group for the General Assembly of Partners, for Habitat III. She is also on the advisory board of the UN Global Cities Institute, and an elected standing committee member of UN-Habitat’s World Urban Campaign.
It’s a World Cities Day! So what are you doing to make your city a better place?
Since 2013, the 31st October is designated to celebrate the world’s cities and draw attention to its opportunities and challenges. In fact, the whole month of October was dedicated to promote better urban future, with Habitat III – the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development as a highlight of the month. The conference brought over 30,000 delegates to the Ecuadorian Capital Quito to discuss the way forward for our cities in the next 20 years and representatives of all the member states who took it upon them to commit to deliver on the newly adopted New Urban Agenda.
But the change and advancement of our cities is not only up to our governments. We young people have equal responsibility to contribute to making our cities more liveable, sustainable, safe and resilient. And how are we going to do it? That’s up to you! There are no “one size fits all” guidelines. The world’s cities are as diverse as our societies, with their unique structures, cultural heritage and vibrant people. They require individual approach that takes into consideration all its special features. It is up to you to be creative and design a plan of action that is doable, smart and impactful.
Motivated? Great! Join the #UrbanAction, a global campaign to encourage young people all over the world to take action in their cities to advance SDGs and support NUA. Sign up and share your ideas, your plan of action, struggles and victories with the others! Inspire them! Motivate them! Join them! Together we can do so much more than on our own! In the spirit of the SDG 17, let’s build unbreakable partnerships between all segments of society and make our urban future better.
“The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the New Urban Agenda show how investing in cities advances progress across societies.” – UNSG
The world is celebrating cities — join in!! Following the highly successful Habitat III conference , the world is now focused on how cities can be #Cities4All and a positive force sustainable development and the achievement of both the 2030 Agenda and the NUA.
Please watch UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s World #CitiesDay message.
If you want to get involved please follow us our on Facebook a UN-Habitat Youth, or twitter at @unhabitatyouth, and the #UrbanAction campaign.