India: Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centres (SPARC) and the Indian Alliance
Despite the growing number of pro-poor government policies in India, they are often poorly implemented and do not always reach those in need of support. Through the Indian Alliance, CLIFF supports projects led by and for the country’s urban poor.
The Indian Alliance is one of the most advanced and experienced assembly of partners that Homeless International works with. The Alliance comprises four organisations:
The Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centres (SPARC) is a non-governmental organisation formed in 1986 by housing and social work professionals to support the ideas and priorities of the urban poor, organised via the National Slum Dwellers Federation and Mahila Milan (see below). SPARC is based in Mumbai but supports the Federation’s activities in towns and cities across India. All programmes are designed and managed by the Federation and Mahila Milan themselves.
The National Slum Dwellers Federation (NSDF) was founded in 1974 and has a membership of 2 million poor people from 72 towns and cities in India. NSDF helps slum dwellers to obtain secure tenure, access adequate housing and develop basic infrastructure, including water and sanitation. To make it easier to negotiate for secure land in Mumbai, households have organised into smaller networks as part of the larger Federation. For example, families living alongside the railway tracks in Mumbai have formed the Railway Slum Dwellers’ Federation. Likewise, slum dwellers living on land owned by the national Airports Authority have formed the Airports Slum Dwellers Federation, whilst pavement dwellers have linked together to form a Pavement Dwellers network. Other Federations have been created by slum dwellers in other cities and states, including the Karnataka and Orissa Slum Dwellers’ Federations.
Mahila Milan – which means ‘Women Together’ – is a network of women’s savings groups founded by women pavement dwellers in Mumbai. Mahila Milan has strong links with the NSDF, and the two networks work together to enable poor people to share experiences through exchanges, to train each other in financial management, construction techniques and other relevant skills, and develop the confidence and opportunities to take on leadership roles within poor communities. NSDF and Mahila Milan also work hard to build partnerships with local authorities, in order to carry out larger scale developments in slum areas.
SPARC Samudaya Nirman Sahayak (SSNS or Nirman for short) is a non-profit company founded by SPARC, NSDF and Mahila Milan in 1998. Its role in the Indian Alliance is to support building and construction projects put together by SPARC, NSDF and Mahila Milan. As the Indian Alliance’s projects became larger in scale and complexity, a need for more sophisticated legal, financial and technical expertise arose and Nirman was created to fill this void. Nirman is based in Mumbai and is Homeless International’s partner in implementing CLIFF.