By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis fsp
Rose Molokoane is participating in a meeting of Popular Movements and the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. Rose is the National Coordinator of FEDUP (Federation of Urban and Rural Poor in South Africa) and is a co-founder of Slum Dwellers International. She spoke with Vatican News about Slum Dwellers, about what she hopes to bring to Saturday’s meeting and the importance of Pope Francis’s promotion of Popular Movements.
Slum Dwellers was founded in 1996 and is now operational in thirty-three countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Homelessness, landlessness and poverty are the three issues Slum Dwellers is addressing. “Women transforming the slums of our cities” is their vision. They promote “resilient and inclusive cities that improve the lives of the urban poor.”
Rose emphasizes that “everyone who is part of this organization is trying to become self-reliant”.
Slum Dweller's strategy involves forging partnerships with local civic leaders and national governments, and identifying the real issues affecting people.
Popular Movements creating change
The main message Rose wants to bring to Saturday’s meeting is that “we still have a lot of people who are homeless, landless, we have people who don’t have security”. Her dream is that Popular Movements come together and “draft our own policy” and use such policy to influence national governments. “If we are not doing it together,” Rose says, “but doing it individually, we will find that the international world never understands what the people are talking about.”
Rose also recognizes the importance that these Movements come up with relevant policies or ideas that are “internationally drafted” and proposed to international bodies. “We are not just sitting back and waiting for the governments to do it for us,” Rose insists.
“We are there to do it for ourselves, but we need their support”, she said – moral, technical and financial.
“It is us who have to change our own lives. It is us who have to influence the policies of government especially when it comes to land and housing because those are the areas where people get dignity, where the households get confidence, privacy and working together as a neighbor."
What Pope Francis's support means
Pope Francis understands Popular Movements because he himself comes from a country “that is affected by poverty, lack of security, lack of houses for the poor," Rose says. He knows and understands what he is talking about, she continues.
“[The Pope] is a listening individual. He is doing things in action. He is trying to make different member states, different countries, understand how to work together with the people at the community level. He is trying to use his experience of his country to say to member states, ‘this is how we should work with people – creating partnerships. He is going all around the world visiting different countries, sending the same message: that governments should listen to the people who are doing things for themselves, that governments come up with policies that are pro-poor…that will create a better life for the poor”.
Rose says she has great respect for the Pope’s idea that homeless, landless and jobless people should come together to seek solutions and raise their voices together so people will listen. She hears an urgency in the Pope’s invitation “not to waste time and sit back”. The pandemic has made it clear that “we need to work together, and raise our voice and our issues together.”