Celebrating the hidden wealth of Malawi’s cities.

LUPPEN's display at the event.

LUPPEN’s display at the event.

World Habitat Day was celebrated on Oct. 11 in Mgona settlement in Lilongwe. The celebrations were the culmination of weeks of planning by a combination of government and civil society actors on how best to honour the 2014 global theme of the event, Voices from Slums. This was achieved by inviting Mgona settlement – home to many of the city’s low-paid industrial workers – to host the event, while also featuring topical drama, poetry, songs and dances by community representatives from around Lilongwe. In addition, many community representatives spoke out about the challenges facing their communities, while H.W. Mamba, Coordinator of the Lilongwe Urban Poor Peoples’ Network (LUPPEN) highlighted the important role the poor play in keeping Malawi’s cities going and growing (see a full transcript of the speech below). The event was attended both by the Mayor of Lilongwe City Council, Mr Willy Chapondera, and Mr Bright Msaka, Minister of Lands, Housing, and Urban Development. Both claimed to have heard the communities loud and clear, and pledged to take action accordingly – Msaka even committed to providing additional water kiosks to Mgona, and nearby settlement Senti. Let’s wait and see. (Photo credit: Greg Pellechi)

Dignitaries at the podium.

Dignitaries at the podium.

A women's group dancing and singing.

A women’s group dancing and singing.

A poem about living conditions in urban poor settlements read by a community representative.

A poem about living conditions in urban poor settlement read by a community representative.

Community drama.

Community drama.

Members of the Lilongwe Urban Poor Peoples' Network (LUPPEN).

Members of the Lilongwe Urban Poor Peoples’ Network (LUPPEN).

LUPPEN Coordinator H.W. Mamba addressing the crowd.

LUPPEN Coordinator H.W. Mamba addressing the crowd.

Some of the participants.

Some of the participants.

The Minister of Lands at the LUPPEN display.

The Minister of Lands at the LUPPEN display.

LUPPEN Coordinator H.W. Mamba’s speech at the World Habitat Day event:

“HON. MINISTER OF LANDS, HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT,
UN-HABITAT PROGRAMME MANAGER
THE PRINCIPAL SECRATERY FOR LANDS AND HOUSING
HIS LORDSHIP, THE MAYOR OF LILONGWE CITY AND ALL THE COUNCILLORS HERE PRESENT.
HON. MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT FOR LILONGWE CITY CENTRAL
ALL HONOURABLE MEMBERS OF LILONGWE URBAN
ALL CHIEFS
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN.

Today is World Habitat Day, and this year’s topic “Voices from the slums” is very important and that is why today Hon Minister we have all gathered here at Mgona to listen to the voice of the Urban Poor. But, Hon Minister, we would like to propose that all of us gathered here today not only listen to them but indeed celebrate them because urban poor people are BUILDERS OF OUR BEAUTIFUL CITIES, THE HIDDEN WEALTH OF MALAWI’S CITIES.

Hon. Minister, Your Lordship, Ladies and Gentlemen, imagine, without a woman/a man selling airtime along the road, what would you do, when you run out of credit? Without Kabaza so conveniently waiting at the Minibuses stop, would you walk to your final destination? Where would you get your Newspaper, if a seller didn’t stop at your Car window every morning? Without the urban poor, who would have built your house, laid down water pipes, grade and process our Tobacco at Kanengo, sweep our street, remove the waste in our Cities? Who would guard our companies, stores and the beautiful houses that we have?

Hon. Minister, I hope you will agree with me that all these are crucial jobs done by people we consider the urban poor living in Slums. It is pathetic though Hon Minister that after doing all this works the urban poor person is not recognized or rewarded and at the end of the day, he is paid less/peanuts. People often look down on the urban poor, consider them dirty, lazy, uneducated, and useless and sometimes look at them as confusionists.

As mentioned earlier on Hon Minister, the Urban poor are people who make our Cities run, who keeps things and people moving, without them, our Cities could not exist. Unfortunately, this is seldom recognized. Instead, the urban poor are made to live in inadequate housing with limited access to basic services, such as water, sanitation, health care, Electricity and education.

Hon Minister as LUPPEN (Lilongwe Urban Poor Peoples Network) and on behalf of all the urban poor we believe the urban poor deserve better. And I believe, we can give them better. Better housing, better public services, better future. And we not only can, we must: the future of Malawi s Cities depend on unleashing the strength, power and ingenuity of their entire residents. And since our Hon Minister, you are here we believe that you have heard our concerns, our voices.”

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