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Gender Issues and Slum/Shack Dweller Federations

In over 15 countries in the global south, Federations formed by the urban poor (slum and shack dwellers and the homeless) have become important actors in poverty reduction, working not only in communities but also at the level of cities and nations. These Federations are founded on savings groups in local neighbourhoods, initiated and managed by women. This paper documents the emergence of the first women-led slum dweller Federation, Mahila Milan, which was established in Mumbai, India with the support of a local NGO, the Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centres (SPARC).

The methodologies adopted by Mahila Milan and members of the Slum Dwellers International (SDI) Federations change social relations both within and beyond the community and offer a gendered response to poverty.

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Gender is still largely considered to be about women rather than about a vital dynamic in society. And often gender issues are seen as a concern of the global north. The interlocking of production and social reproduction, the formal and informal sectors, and the constantly evolving relations between men and women, and between younger and older generations, are at the heart of this dynamic. A strong analysis of gender and generation is crucial to understanding power imbalances and being able to influence them.

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Making Gender and Generation Matter