Sheela Patel, founder of the Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centres (SPARC) and chair of Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI), has been awarded the prestigious David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award for her work with urban poor communities.
The award was presented September 21 at the Synergos University for Night event in New York City, an annual gathering to honor people and/or organisations that exemplify the principle of working together for the common good.
Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan was also honoured at the event. Previous recipients include Queen Rania of Jordan and the co-chairs of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—Bill Gates, Melinda Gates and William Gates Sr.
Founded in 1984, SPARC is one of the largest Indian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working on housing and infrastructure issues for the urban poor. The organisation helps the urban poor increase their voice in government in order to ensure that they have decent housing, infrastructure and other resources. SPARC operates through an alliance with the National Slum Dwellers Federation and Mahila Milan, a women’s organisation with a focus on economic empowerment.
Under Ms. Patel’s leadership, SPARC has been responsible for the construction of housing for over 8,500 families and more than 500,000 toilets and latrines. Currently, SPARC has programmes in 70 cities throughout India.
It works in partnership with local grassroots groups, government agencies, and other actors to build support for housing and microcredit programmes for pavement dwellers living in shacks alongside roads, support-related research, and implementation of relevant policy initiatives. The results are action and policy partnerships that are changing the way society meets the needs of the urban poor.
Ms. Patel is also Chair of Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI), a transnational network of local slum dweller organisations that have come together at the city and national level to form federations of the urban poor. SDI has been a member of the Cities Alliance since 2008.
SDI is helping connect poor urban communities around the world so that the successful mobilisation, advocacy and problem-solving strategies developed in one location can be transferred and adapted to other cities, countries, and regions.
Started in 1997, University for a Night is a unique annual gathering of leaders from business, government, civil society and philanthropy. It offers an opportunity for people from diverse places, backgrounds and interests to learn from each other, to share experiences and ideas, and make connections that will help address issues of global poverty and equity.
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