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SDI and SA SDI Alliance meets Pope Francis at World Meeting of Popular Movements in Rome

By News, SDI No Comments

By Bunita Kohler (on behalf of SA SDI Alliance)

From 27 – 29 October 2014 the World Meeting of Popular Movements was held in Rome. It was initiated by the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace together with the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences along with a number of social movements.

The meeting was largely aimed at organisations and movements of excluded and marginalised communities. The event brought together over one hundred delegates from different backgrounds. Delegates represented precarious workers, temporary workers, migrant workers, the landless, homeless and people most at risk. Many bishops and other church workers also participated in the event.

WMPopular Movements Rome1

The theme of the meeting was defined as: Terra, Domus and Labor (Land, Housing and Labour). Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI) was among those invited and was privileged to send ten delegates to the event.

The first day of the conference focused on popular movements sharing their realities, struggles and thoughts on the lack of decent work opportunities , decent shelter and adequate land. On Day 2 Pope Francis addressed the conference and thanked everyone for accepting the invitation to discuss serious social issues.  He described the meeting of popular movements as a positive sign, a sign that the poor are no longer satisfied with mere promises.

“The poor are no longer waiting, they are organized. They put solidarity into action. Solidarity is not just a few sporadic acts of generosity. It means struggling against the structural causes of inequality”.

”You smell of your neighbourhoods and you are a gale of hope for your communities.   Love of the poor is at the heart of the Gospel and the social teaching of the church. God entrusted land to humans to protect and cultivate the land. Land reform he said is not just a necessity but a moral obligation.  Every family should have a home. We must build neighbourhoods and live together with our neighbours.The lack of job opportunities is an outcome of a social option that considers profit more than human beings, a system that views people as disposable objects which demonstrates the worst form of exploitation and a “waste culture”.What we see today is a “Globalisation of indifference” – the world has become an orphan as God has been forgotten.”


The Pope called for a revolutionary programme and a social structure that once again put people at the centre.

Pope Francis was positive that Popular Movements could be the revolutionary force to create a new order and give new energies to society. Popular movements should encourage new forms of participation and leadership that would include rather than exclude. They should create leaders that are subservient and humble and that gives space to the youth, a leadership that is noble and gentle and leaders who are truthful and who will lead by example.

In his final remarks to the delegation the Pope committed to walk side by side with the Popular Movements.

“My wish”, he said, “Is to accompany you on your journey. We will make our way together”

In summary, day two was indeed a historic and emotional day for all the delegates. The Pope treated us like brothers and sisters, was cheerful and very clearly expressed his beliefs and views on the disorder that reigns in our world today. He expressed solidarity with the causes of TERRA, DOMUS and LABOR. He said that the poor needed to be the protagonists, not the “ones being helped”. The poor are able to help themselves when they defend their right to land, housing and jobs.

Day two was a day that spoke to the hearts and minds of us all, an emotional time in which the Pope entered into our “homes”.   We experienced the Pope speak from the heart and we witnessed his respect for human life and his deep love and respect for human beings.

The third and final day was devoted to concrete commitments for continued interaction among the popular movements and their collaboration with the church.  The discussions on day three focused on finding solutions and alternatives to ensure a house for everyone, land for everyone and a job for everyone.

For our movement, Shack Dwellers International, this was an opportune moment to build links, to create greater solidarity and to commit to on-going coordination with other landless, homeless and jobless movements in order to strengthen the voice of the poor internationally.

South African delegates attending mass at the Vatican. Left to Right: Wilma Adams (SDI), Rose Molokoane (SDI & FEDUP), Bunita Kohler (CORC)

South African delegates attending mass at the Vatican. Left to Right: Wilma Adams (SDI), Rose Molokoane (SDI & FEDUP), Bunita Kohler (CORC)


Grooming future leaders ‘ the youth federation on youth day’

By CORC, FEDUP, ISN, uTshani Fund No Comments

by Thandeka Tshabalala on behalf of FEDUP

About 70 youth federation members gathered at Kwamashu in Durban to discuss challenges that are facing the youth and how they can use the federation (FEDUP) rituals to influence change in their lives and communities.

Rose Molokwane enjoying her time with the youth.

Rose Molokwane enjoying her time with the youth.












To set the platform Rose Molokwane, the national federation coordinator shared her story about her experience when she joined the federation and the importance of grooming a youth federation in South Africa.

“I was 31 years of age when I joined the federation in 1991 and today I am happy to share my experience with the youth, the purpose of the meeting is to prepare the youth and help in changing their mindsets to influence change in their communities, like we have” she said.

She further stated that her aspiration as the national coordinator of the movement is to build a sustainable and successful organization and it is vital that the youth are at the forefront of bringing change in their communities.

“ We need an organized youth that will be able to create an agenda of change in their lives, our children grew up seeing their mothers creating an impact and opportunities for the poor in their communities. It is now time that we pull you (youth) next to us so that you can learn from us. There are so many service delivery protests in South Africa and it is heartbreaking to see the youth leading them thus we need to groom new youth leaders that want to learn about new avenues to negotiate with the state” said Rose.

Rose further challenged the youth to think about the ‘youth’ rights, how they can achieve them and who was responsible for making sure that their rights were protected.

re- thinking the youth rights

Bunita Kohler, the managing director of CORC (Community Organisation Resource Center) additionally challenged the youth to think about

“ the brave youth of 1976, the youth that had very little resources but persevered for what they believed to be right for them. As activist we felt that we could do something in our communities, we had a vision, thus it is important that the youth of today has a vision, what is it that you want to see in your life? What are we striving for and how do we want to achieve it? Which Values will we embrace in order to achieve these goals?”

In acknowledgement that the youth is experiencing a lot of challenges in their communities she urged the youth to use knowledge from the ‘old’ experienced federation members to advance themselves.



The Youth reports  on challenges and ways to overcome them 

The youth presented their regional challenges such as unemployment, poverty, drug abuse, unplanned pregnancies, derelict living conditions, lack of education and support to establish youth activities. They all discussed a way forward in overcoming some of these challenges such as:

Creating platforms for Partnerships

  • The youth discussed using partnerships as a platform to bring positive change in their communities. From their main big challenge – unemployment, they all agreed to partner with government departments and NGO’s that assist in skills development and creating job opportunities.
  • Partnerships with the local councilor were seen to be important in unlocking local resources and using them to get more community involvement in youth projects.

Pule shared his story about  the benefits of creating partnerships 

  Savings has enabled the youth to negotiate with government. We belong to a savings group called yona yethu a savings scheme with 120 members. Some of the members have formed a co-operative which will enable us to gain more support from the government and also allow us to bring more income for our households.   At the mean time the group  washes dirty dustbins after the municipal trucks have collected the gabbage  , we clean them using chemicals and take them back to the owners at a certain fee.   We have further engaged with the solid waste management  department and city parks about the vacant land in our settlement that is used as dumping sites. We have proposed to clean them and then change them to parks for the children in the settlement to use. In order to stop people from dumping again we further engaged with the local councilor to speak with the community and appoint certain community members to be responsible for keeping an eye on anyone dumping. We meet weekly to discuss new views and challenges.

An organized youth-for- change

  • The youth realized that they needed to be organized in order to make an impact in their communities. An organized youth would be able to fight against poverty, landless issues, and lack of housing, unemployment and dealing with drug abuse. The youth was tasked to mobilize more youth members and form youth activities that will assist in influencing change in their communities.
  • The youth also asked experienced federation members to help them to create a youth federation organisation structure.

Adopting the federation rituals

  • Because savings is the backbone of the federation, the youth was urged to start forming savings groups in order to leverage more resources from the state and other partners. In the past the federation has used savings to leverage resources from the state through the people housing process (PHP). The savings helps the federation members to contribute in the building costs of their houses , increasing their subsidies to build bigger houses that can accommodate their family needs.
  •  They requested that they have more regional Exchanges to see what other youth members are doing in their communities so that they can exchange knowledge.

In order to spark more youth involvement in creating partnerships Harambee and the NYDE  (National Youth development Agency) presented about their programs.Most of the youth were excited in seeing that they can influence change in communities by ‘just’ giving information to the youth. Rose further reminded them that information was vital to bring about change thus she urged the youth to collect data from the enumeration reports that would be relevant to them such as regional youth challenges, number of unemployed youth.

A group photo during the historical site visit.

A group photo during the historical site visit.












Celebrating being the youth

The youth was taken on a cultural tour to enhance their knowledge on the South African history. The two sites at Inanda route Mahatma Gandhi and John Libalele Dube historical sites were chosen to inspire the youth about leadership that instigates change in communities despite facing challenges. They further celebrated youth day with cultural activities – some highlighting the challenges they are faced with in their communities.