Act Now! PNG

Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

Act Now! PNG is a small, community advocacy organisation that helps people to make their voices heard. They use the internet, social networking and community engagement to highlight critical issues affecting Papua New Guinea, such as land grabs, corruption, poverty, and corporate impunity. Act Now! also provides a critical pathway for voices of indigenous people across the country to be heard in the formulation of practical, realistic solutions, in line with the existing constitution and laws of the country.

Papua New Guinea has been formally independent since 1975. Land is the most important resource for the peoples of PNG. Most of the land, around 85%, is held communally. All native people have an inalienable right by birth to use and enjoy their traditional lands. In spite of this, the PNG Government’s development policies see customary land as a fundamental impediment to development and economic growth, and a steady stream of policies have worked to privatise land. In just a decade, over 12% of its pristine rainforests have been acquired by foreign companies who have logged enormous amounts of land under the guise of ‘sustainable’ palm oil agriculture.

War on Want works with Act Now! to document and raise awareness around the human impacts of land grabs. With limited access to information about land policy and the rights of affected communities, this project has already proved to be an enormous success. We are currently working together to expose the role of foreign companies in illegally acquiring land under the guise of sustainable palm oil.

NGOMA

Eldoret, Kenya

NGOMA mobilises farmers to defend their rights in Kenya and the wider East-Africa region. Organised in groups at village level, NGOMA emerged as a way for family farmers to come together, lobby and advocate for better agricultural policies to protect small-scale producers.

NGOMA is short for Ng’ombe na Mahindi, which refers to dairy and maize in Swahili. These products dominate the Rift Valley, a vast region in the west of Kenya considered as the food basket of the country. The livelihoods of over one million farmers depend on it, yet most are unable to make a living and feed their family.

As a result of trade liberalisation in the 1990’s, farmers were forced them to adopt the costly and intensive practices of industrial agriculture. Practices like mono-cropping, the use of commercial seed, chemical pesticides and fertilisers have contributed to environmental degradation, water loss and soil erosion as well as driving a generation of small farmers into a cycle of poverty and hunger.  

In recent years, NGOMA farmers have resisted by reverting to native maize seeds with incredible results: not only do native varieties mature three month earlier, enabling two harvests in one year, but also they are more nutritious, more resistant to local pests and diseases and require less water. With the government now planning to lift the ban on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and commercialise them, NGOMA is preparing to campaign against the approval and import of GM seeds and raise awareness about the negative social and environmental impacts. With support from War on Want, they are now mobilising farmers to demand food sovereignty in Kenya.

Malawian Union For the Informal Sector (MUFIS)

Blantyre, Malawi

Malawi’s informal sector workers range from street vendors, market vendors, rubbish collectors, home workers, to work in numerous other unregulated jobs. They provide society with vital services and make significant contributions to the economy of Malawi. Despite the large number of Malawians engaged in informal work, there is no legal recognition of their right to trade. Many informal traders face harassment, discrimination and violence on a daily basis at the hands of local authorities and police. This affects their ability to trade freely and earn a decent living. Most informal sector workers earn below the poverty data line. As the situation in Malawi becomes increasingly dire, families are making risky choices to ensure the livelihoods of their households. This includes withdrawing their children from school and using their labour to support livelihood income.

Malawian Union For the Informal Sector (MUFIS) is a national network of 6,500 informal traders across Malawi. Most of its members are women, organising street vendors, hawkers, marketers, artisans, small veranda (khondes) businesses, informal cross-border traders and smallholder tea farmers.

Founded in 2000, MUFIS now supports members to fight for their rights: the right to trade freely, the right not to be evicted or harassed by police and the right to better working conditions including designated trading space with access to basic services.

War on Want is currently working with MUFIS to build a sustained intervention to address the economic and social conditions that compel parents to involve their children in economic activities. The project will increase the number of children moving into education from work in the informal sector. It does this by raising awareness of the rights of children (particularly their right to education), raising awareness of the rights of informal traders to trade freely and building the capacity of informal traders to trade more effectively, thereby increasing household income without the use of child labour.

Kenyan National Alliance of Street vendors and Informal Traders (KENASVIT)

Nakuru, Kenya

Kenyan National Alliance of Street vendors and Informal Traders (KENASVIT) is a national organisation of 10,000 workers in the informal economy. This includes street vendors and informal traders, of whom 70% are women and 20% have disabilities. It organises with and empowers informal workers to improve their livelihoods and well-being through gaining legal recognition.

KENASVIT works to raise awareness of the rights of informal traders while engaging in advocacy work with national government, county officials and local authorities for better living and working conditions and rights-based awareness raising for members. They have also led a successful national campaign to develop legislation that recognises and protects the rights of informal traders, making Kenya the first sub-Saharan country to do so. KENASVIT also works with urban alliances to set up self-financing groups that support small businesses.

War on Want is currently working with KENASVIT to get the Kenyan government to implement legislation protecting the rights of informal traders to trade freely, to access government loans and to have safe spaces to raise grievances. In addition, we are supporting KENASVIT’s attempts to gain representation on the County level urban planning boards to enable them to be part of decision making processes on securing safe and visible spaces for informal traders.

KENASVIT has successfully developed a governance and accountability mechanism at district levels where government officials are invited to Q&A forums in which informal traders are given the opportunity to hold government to account for promises made to traders.de freely, making Kenya the first sub-Saharan country to do so.

Sikhala Sonke

Marikana, South Africa

Sikhala Sonke which means “we cry together,” was formed by the women of Marikana, where 37 miners were killed in August 2012. Some members are the widows of the miners. Others who joined are angry that nothing has changed in Marikana over the last five years. Sikhala Sonke has continued the struggle for a living wage for the miners after the massacre. It has also repeatedly made demands on Lonmin and the South Africa government to address the Marikana Massacre.

Bua Mining Community (BuaMC)

Rustenburg, South Africa

South Africa’s mining industry was built on gold mining. However, in the last 20 years this has shifted towards platinum mining; 80% of the world’s platinum group metals are found in two of South Africa’s most impoverished and rural provinces – the North West and Limpopo. This boom in platinum, unlike the preceding gold boom, has shifted the geographic focus of mining into rural areas and in particular onto ‘communal’ lands that fall under the former Lebowa (located in Limpopo province) and Bophuthatswana (located in the North West province) homeland areas of the country. These densely populated and poverty-stricken areas are characterised by high levels of unemployment, poor education standards and a shortage of basic services.

Bua Mining Community (BuaMC) is a social movement dedicated to fighting against the injustices brought by the mining industry. Based in the Bojanala Platinum District Municipality in the North West Province of South Africa, the organisation was established in 2012 and is led by seasoned activists who organise in mining affected communities. These are predominantly rural but have some footing in urban centres.

War on Want supports the Bua Mining Community to have organised and empowered communities affected by platinum mining effectively take forward their struggles against the negative impacts of mining and to hold key stakeholders accountable for these negative effects of on their livelihoods, health and environment. To achieve this, the project will: support the strengthening of the Platinum Belt Community Alliance so that it is a strong, representative and democratic alliance; organise and empower the mining communities to effectively participate in the alliance; and strengthen and capacitate the Platinum Belt Community Alliance to hold government, traditional leaders and mining companies accountable.

Ubunye Bama Hostela (UBH)

Durban, South Africa

Ubunye Bama Hostela (UBH) organises with hostel dwellers in Durban. Here, ‘hostels’ refer to housing blocs built during the apartheid era to house labourers supplied to the city at a time when their movement was restricted by apartheid laws. Although built as transitional housing, decades later they remain, overcrowded, dirty and dangerous.

Founded in 2006, UBH works in ten hostels which house over 120,000 people. They have been campaigning, independently of party political affiliations, for an end to slum conditions in the hostels. Their demands include access to safe and permanent public housing, access to basic services, an end to evictions and forced removals and an end to corruption in the allocation of social housing, which is often based on political affiliation. UBH activists engage with local, city and provincial authorities through protest marches and are attempting negotiations and meetings with city officials. They also work to build relations between immigrants and locals living in the hostels.

War on Want is supporting Ubunye to grow and strengthen the movement by organising and mobilising hostel dwellers so that they have a strong, collective voice to demand the right to decent housing. We are also supporting the development of their capacity to engage with government to bring about change to the policies on hostels.

Housing Assembly

Cape Town, South Africa

The Housing Assembly is a social movement with over 6,500 members organising poor communities across six districts in the Western Cape. They campaign for the rights of poor people to access decent housing and essential services like the provision of water, electricity and sanitation.

The Housing Assembly, which formed in 2009 and is leading the National Campaign for Decent Housing, is also a leading voice against privatisation because this process has cut countless poor families off from basic rights like these. They organise people who are squatting in backyards and living in shacks, living indefinitely in transit camps and in dilapidated social housing. They also mobilise against evictions, forced removals and against the privatisation of water.

The Housing Assembly uses  grassroots organising methods developed by the anti-apartheid movement in the 1980s, such as door-to-door visits and community speakouts, to raise awareness of housing law and rights to basic services. They also engage with city officials, and local and provincial authorities through protests and negotiations. The Housing Assembly have won a number of improvements in eviction laws. They are regularly seen fighting against evictions, and protesting the installation of water management devices that are being installed by the City of Cape Town without the consent of residents.

War on Want supports Housing Assembly in their fight for decent housing and against evictions. We support the strengthening of the movement and its ability to organise and mobilise shack dwellers to fight for their right to decent housing. Housing Assembly has established a strong learning and knowledge production model through their use of rights based education as an organising tool. This has formed the basis of a research project War on Want is involved in with the University of Sussex’s Centre for International Education and the Institute of Education. 

Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM)

Durban, South Africa

The Abahlali baseMjondolo movement (meaning simply ‘people who live in shacks’), campaigns for: decent public housing; provision of water, sanitation and refuse removal in informal settlements; electrification of shacks to prevent recurrent fires; an end to evictions and forced removals; and fair access to land.

Abahlali began in 2005 and now organises over 20,000 members in more than 50 informal settlements across South Africa. At the heart of the organisation's values and objectives are the rights of poor people to access decent housing, security of tenure and essential public services. They organise protest marches on government, police and municipal offices, engage in grassroots awareness raising through community workshops, and negotiate on behalf of their communities with policy makers and politicians.

Through the support of War on Want, Abahlali has already achieved concrete victories on a range of fronts. They have successfully engaged in litigation, including Constitutional Court challenges, to strengthen people’s rights against eviction. Abahlali has also managed to get the eThekwini municipality to provide basic services to shack settlements. Now almost all shack settlements that Abahlali is organising have been electrified, have tapped water and some have been provided with toilets and showers.

War on Want currently supports Abahlali’s struggle for land tenure, the right to decent housing and access to basic services. As land rights defenders, Abahlali has been on the frontline defending their right not to be evicted off land and to have their shack settlements upgraded on site to proper housing. They are also documenting each shack settlement in Durban, enumerating the shacks and creating demographics for each settlement. This is being used for advocacy and their campaigning.

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