Slum Dweller’s Rights and Reality

National Consultation with Civil Society Organizations (CSOs)
Slum Dweller’s Rights and Reality: Challenges and Way Forward in Achieving Sustainable Development Goals

‘Slum dwellers are like the extreme victim of social exclussion, they suffers from lack of basic services and amenities ’  was remarked by Sheepa Hafiza, Executive Director of Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) in  National  Consultation with Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) on May 15, 2017 at VIP Lounge, National Press Club, Dhaka.   The program titled Slum Dweller’s Rights and Reality: Challenges and Way Forward in Achieving Sustainable Development Goals’ was organized by Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) with the support of Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) as part of monitoring and reviewing SDGs in Bangladesh.

Slum Dweller’s Rights and Reality: Challenges and Way Forward in Achieving Sustainable Development Goals

In program Sheepa Hafiza presented the key findings of a study carried out to monitor and review the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The study focused on Goal 11 (Make cities and human settlements and inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable) aligning with Goal 4 (Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and provide lifelong learning opportunities for all) and Goal 16 (Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions). The study found, even today the slum dwellers suffers lack of access to basic rights. Civic services from the State are extremely absent, most of the services related to water, sanitation, education, health are provided by the Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) which are not sustainable. Women and children in the slums are the main victim social exclusion and exploitation. Child labor and child marriage are some of the great exploitation of human rights in slums. Ms. Sheepa also argued Child Marriage Restraint Act, 2017 will be detrimental to all the government efforts to empower women.

Director of Disaster Management and Climate Change program of BRAC Mr. Gwahar Nayeem  Wahra presented a paper on Right to Shelter. In his presentation he argued disaster resilient infrastructure can contribute enough in accommodating the people at their place of origin. With the expenses of one cyclone center, 35 two storied houses can be built which sustains extreme natural calamities like floods, cyclones. In Potuakhali 35 such houses were built in collaboration of Brac, GoB, Local Government and society people. Many people of urban areas had gone back to these houses.  Mr. Wahra also claimed that no other such initiatives were adopted further. There are ample interest groups and lack of accountability, transparency in Government’s development planning that hinders implementation of such initiatives at larger scale.

Executive Director of Institute for Inclusive Finance and Development (InM) Dr. Mustafa K. Mujeri discussed on Right to Quality Education and Lifelong Learning. He mentioned, there are two dimensional problems in assuring access to education, one is the lack of educational institution and the other is accessibility of slum children to the schools in other areas. Social practice of exclusion hinders the access of slum dwellers to the schools of comparatively affluent areas. Sum children are humiliated due to their social status both the fellow student and also teachers. There are schemes like Food for Education or Cash for Education in rural areas but such schemes are took taken for the slum schools. SDG 4 concentrates on quality education and lifelong learning which is also interlinked with the education for all. Dr. Mujeri also emphasized, the right to free education should be upholding. Increasing commercialization of education is fading away the state responsibility of ensuring right free education. Dr. Mujeri said, accountability, transparency, participation and inclusive education is a must to attain SDG 4.

Director, of Article 19 (Bangladesh) Tahmina Rahman discussed on Access to Justice Scenario at the national level. She mentioned, state needs to assure fundamental freedoms to achieve access to justice. In the 2016 report on Article 19 on Freedom of Speech, in Bangladesh 39 percent of unlawful and intentional implication of laws hindered the freedom of speech of journalists, human rights defenders and people of different political, cultural and social identity.  There is also change of in the means of perpetration since in past the journalist was threatened but recently there are ample examples of physical torture on them. Only a small percentage of people have access to justice. Justice is acutely delayed that also hinders access to justice. She also emphasized, there are three main factors that can be emphasized in attaining access to justice the means of prevention, protection and impunity. But, if Act like Child Marriage Restraint Act, 2017 become tool for preventing exploitation of child rights, or Article 57 of the ICT Act that hinders the freedom of speech that cannot uphold the human rights.

In the program a detailed presentation on Development Justice Framework was presented. Ms. Sanam Amin, Program Officer of Asia Pacific Forum on Women Law and Development (APWLD) discussed on development justice scenario at the global level at linked that with the national context. She emphasized, mere achievement of SDGs without due concern to existing inequalities, subjugation of women rights, systematic and structural barriers cannot assure protection and promotion of human rights in the country.

In open discussion the participants remarked effective engagement of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) is a must to assure inclusive attainment of SDGs.

In her concluding remarks Sheepa Hafiza said, all the development plans, visions will turn up unsuccessful if we don’t take the marginalized sections into concern on priority basis. Slum dwellers are communities with the luxurious cities who struggle for survival at every sphere of their life though they help in smoothening our city life. Sustainable development cannot be achieved without overcoming this practice of social exclusion. She emphasized the CSOs needs to be common understanding and effort for assuring inclusive development upholding human rights of the people.