• August 13th, 2020

A new perspective on the informal settlements

Having lived in an informal settlement for the past 21 years, it saddens me to witness that amongst all the challenges that we are faced with, we have truly grown comfortable in our dignity being abused.
The Covid-19 outbreak, amongst all other social ills, has made it once again clear that there is still a huge gap between the rich and the poor. 
While we applaud efforts by the government, individuals and corporates, especially with regards to the donations of food items and hygiene products, it also is saddening to see the dignity of people in the informal settlement trampled on the ground once again.
Some people are actually using our condition to boost their self-esteem and to get credited by the public, and be seen that they care for us.
A typical example is individuals giving out food and hygiene items, but feeling compelled to take pictures and upload such on their social media pages. With all honesty, this is degrading our dignity and there is no sense in doing this. 
What happened to giving your alms in secret, that the father in heaven may reward us?
As a beneficiary, it would truly be difficult for me to refuse taking a picture because you have just helped me and saved me from four weeks of starvation and so I will feel as though I owe you, but deep down, my heart is very sore and my confidence is again shattered.
It would be understandable for companies or organisations that use these pictures for record keeping and accountability, but it doesn’t make sense for individuals to use these times to fatten their egos from our livelihood.
Living in an informal settlement/less developed area has many disadvantages - It is not easy to grow up with a single parent, surviving hand to mouth, witness all the social ills on a daily basis and still be expected to grow up with no psychological or emotional damage.
Also, consider that the majority of those in the informal are raised by parents who didn’t have a good upbringing themselves. When you have to grow up in an environment, where bed time stories are gunshots, witnessing murder at 10 years old, and faced with so much peer pressure - it gets to you, it makes one angry, defeated and helpless. It is not easy.
Our dignity is already violated in so many ways, and we do not need anymore of this.
As a humble request, let us please, when we are strategising on the way forward, especially after the Covid-19 outbreak -consider having a different perspective on the people who live in these less developed areas.     
I do realise that Covid-19 is affecting everyone, but it is also worth noting that what works for the developed areas might not work for the less privileged areas. 
We do not only need help when there is a pandemic, we do not want to be seen as feeling pity toys. We are all equally human, people in the informal settlements also have dreams, aspirations and should constantly be engaged, listened to and addressed best on how they know their problems can be solved.
There is indeed a dire need to have a new perspective on informal settlements/less privileged areas and come up with solutions that will truly benefit them sustainably. 
If we really say we care about the people in the informal settlements, then we should do better. 
We must go to them every time, and consult, so they have a say on the solutions that they are provided with - only then can we somehow equalise the gap between the privileged and the less privileged.
By: Beatha Iileka - 2019 APLI Fellow
Founder, United Youth Charity Association.

Staff Reporter
2020-04-22 10:29:53 | 3 months ago


  1. User
    Naeman Natangwe Angula

    I am fully concur with your in-depth and well researched insight perspective. Our informal settlements are really recklessly forgotten in all aspects of life by the government and corporate sectors when it comes to consistent sustainable assistance. The politicians and some individuals only remember the less privileged citizens occasionally during elections and when there are national crisis like currently Covid-19, once the lockdown declared over, the politicians will layback and forgot if there are follow poor Namibians facing endless daily challenges. It is therefore a high time that they consider initiating permanent and sustainable initiatives aimed to address and overcome these daily obstacles faced our less privileged citizens.