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Africans help North West's grassroots

30 Apr 2009

A group of women activists from one of the world's poorest communities have come to the North West of England to pass on their expertise.

The initiative - supported by The University of Manchester's Brooks World Poverty Institute (BWPI) - is happening this week at the University, Salford and East Manchester.

The women - from Oukasie slum in South Africa - are from 'Slum Dwellers International', an association of communities from 15 countries.

"The impoverished of the developing world have a great deal to offer people in our own country - they really are experts on how to get things done", said Professor David Hulme from The University of Manchester and Executive Director at BWPI.

"So the purpose of this initiative is to organise stronger contact between grass roots organisations of the developed and the developing world.

"It's a recognition that the policies of Governments intended to combat poverty are usually designed by the relatively better off and that inevitably means they're less likely to work.

"Help is more effective when it's designed and delivered by the poorest- and this initiative we hope will provide valuable links between the urban poor in the developing and developed world."

Community groups in the UK spring up from gatherings such as credit unions, churches, sports teams, mother and child groups and health clinics.

In Greater Manchester, they are networked through the Community Pride Unit which is part of the charity Church Action on Poverty.

Groups linked to the Community Pride Unit from Salford and East Manchester will be meeting the SDI group.

He added: "SDI has a great deal of experience of for example lobbying local and national Government and even the World Bank - so they have valuable knowledge they can pass on to the North West's less well off.

"Similarly, they'll be talking in detail about their savings and credit schemes.

"Poor people in Asia, Africa and Latin America have been very creative in tackling financial exclusion with their own programmes.”

The schemes set up by the South African women involving collect small amounts of cash for the benefit of the community.

They spend the money on protecting people from eviction, loan programmes and lobbying local authorities and have established their own Federation of the Urban Poor (or FedUP) to lobby the state.

When the South African communities demonstrated what they could do for themselves, they persuaded the Government to finance their efforts to improve homes and neighbourhoods.

Dr Diana Mitlin, from BWPI said: "SDI’s schemes have the benefit of bringing communities closer together, encouraging them to trust each other and learning important skills which will stand them in good stead for the future.

"The fact that they are so well organised has given them much authority in their own countries: they are taken seriously.

“They have shown that the poor are much better than professionals at designing anti-poverty programmes, and they want to share these lessons with communities in the UK."

Notes for editors

Opportunities for media interviews and photographs will take place on Friday at 10am at Humanities Bridgeboard Street building, The University of Manchester. Oxford Road.

The Community Pride Unit  is a project within Church action on Poverty. Visit

SDI is a collective of slumdwellers across the developing world based in South Africa. Visit

Brooks World Poverty Institute is a multidisciplinary centre of global excellence based at The University of Manchester researching poverty, poverty reduction and inequality in both the developing and developed worlds. Visit

For media enquiries contact:

Mike Addelman
Media Relations Officer
Faculty of Humanities
The University of Manchester
0161 275 0790
07717 881 567