Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Meeting with two UUSC partners

While President Sinkford was in Soweto, South Africa and more recently while visiting Nairobi, meetings were held with two of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee's partners: The Coalition Against Water Privatization (CAWP) and the Kenyan Association of Street Vendors and Informal Traders (KENASVIT). Each of these partners are doing amazing, inspiring and effect work.

We spent an evening and then half a day with the leaders of CAWP who exemplify the best of grass-roots, people-powered, social change work. Their organization was founded in 2003 in response to a decision by the Johannesburg City Council to begin installing pre-paid water meters at the residences of tens of thousands of Soweto citizens. Not only was this policy contrary to the South African Constition's guarantee of clean drinking water for its citizens, but the fees established were impossibly high. CAWP has organized both local and national community coalitions opposing this policy, and in April 2008 won a major legal victory which determined that the pre-paid water meters are illlegal. The City of Johannesburg has appealed the decision, and in the mean-time continues to enforce its policy.

The coalition has developed a variety of constructive tactics which include openly assisting residents of Soweto to by-pass the water meters, and civic actions such as returning thousands of water meters to the city officials, and organizing mass demonstrations - the latest of which attracted 2000 demonstrators and received powerful media attention.

In the community where CAWP began:

And then yesterday, while visiting Nairobi, President Sinkford met with leaders of KENASVIT to hear about the social-change work they are doing on behalf of street vendors and informal traders - a segment of society that makes up more than 20% of the Kenyan economy. While KENASVIT is involved in a variety of important advocacy efforts, including preventing harrasment of their constituents by police, we talked mostly about two programs that the UUSC helped KENASVIT develop following the post-election violence in Kenya early in 2008: a Peacebuilding campaign, and a revolving loan fund to help venders recover from damages caused by the violence. In the following videos you'll hear from leaders of these programs and of local KENASVIT affiliates:

A meeting was also held with a third UUSC partner, Rock Woman Group, which we'll report on shortly.