For several weeks now, Elizabeth Ohene and her neighbours in a Ghana slum have been excited about the visit to their homes this week by the UN-HABITAT Executive Director, Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka.
Elizabeth, a slum dweller for 17 years, migrated from her home village in Aburi in the Eastern Region to Ashaiman in Tema in search of a better life. She says in her village there were no opportunities for income generation. And so she chose to migrate to the city and find paid work.
On arrival in the city she soon realized that without an education and without skills, she could not get a good job. The only rent she could afford to pay was in the sprawling slum in Tulaku-Ashaiman in Tema. She literally lived from hand to mouth with her three children until she joined a self-help community group.
It is through a loan from this group that she managed to open a small shop within the slum where she sells all manner of items to make a living. Elizabeth says that there are communal water taps and electricity in the slum. However, the water is expensive and costs about 300 cedis (US 30 cents) for a small bucket. She uses several buckets a day. The electricity is not cheap either. Almost all the structures in Tema are made from wood and measure the size of a standard police cell. Added to her woes is the most frightening prospect of all – that one day the owner of the land, the Chief of Ashaiman, would demand his property back and the slum residents thrown out.
However, the slum dwellers feel all is not lost after the intervention of UN-HABITAT and other partners. For several weeks now Elizabeth and her neighbours have been excited about Mrs. Tibaijuka’s visit.
For them, the visit is the climax to an ongoing UN-HABITAT Slum Upgrading Project which includes the very real possibility of Elizabeth and her fellow slum dwellers becoming owners of the land. For them Wednesday 29 November will be a day to remember. They will interact with Mrs. Tibaijuka whose agency they give full credit for the land-ownership intervention.
With support from the Slum Upgrading Facility of UN-HABITAT, the Peoples Dialogue of Ghana has completed enumeration of households in Tulaku-Ashaiman area. The PDG also organized the communities, which have initiated savings and credit programmes. The Peoples Dialogue with the assistance from SUF country advisors has been working with community and the Chief of Ashaiman in land ownership transfer and development of an area of 41 hectares that is home to more than 1,800.
A UN-HABITAT team believes that there is a tremendous potential for development. On the ground working with UN-HABITAT and Peoples Dialogue in the slum is the Ghana Homeless People’s Federation. The area regional co-coordinator Felicia Amanor, says that the community welcomes the slum upgrading project. The organization runs a successful community-based housing finance system in line with UN-HABITAT’s vision for alternative funding for housing for the poor.
Felicia says that one of the key programmes is the slum-based saving scheme. Within the scheme members of a community save daily their surpluses, which in turn are banked in a scheme bank account. The savings are geared to raising funds for land, services, livelihood, and housing finance. However, the scheme also loans out to its members for business and other needs.