A Brazilian Neighborhood Evaluates Its Quality of Life

Article excerpt

WE Research

DO WOMEN AND MEN VALUE THEIR quality of life differently in the squatter settlements of developing countries? The concept of QOL is not just an indicator of the level of one's "private life." It is a concept that integrates all needs, perceptions, expectations, satisfactions and subjective elements of people living in an urban community.

Four scholars, Lecitia Marques Osorio from Brazil, Claudia Aranibar Miranda from Bolivia, Obehi Momodu from Nigeria and Sri Maryati from Indonesia, were supported by six German universities to research this question. The project was designed as part of the development of an International Women's University Technology and Culture (IFU).

While both women and men are exposed to environmental degradation in cities, women and children have to face greater adverse effects, particularly in settlements that lack proper sanitary facilities because they spend more time in the home and neighbourhood. These health hazards pose an additional burden on the household. Women tend to be the primary providers of necessities such as building material, food, and domestic fuel. They continually face the deteriorating urban environment and development with its pollution, disease, and contamination. Improving basic services and the urban environment therefore benefits women more than it does men. Such measures can therefore be considered part of a "gender-equitable development strategy."

Explosive population growth is expanding urban areas and crowding city centres in developing countries. While upperincome groups manage to protect their interests in high quality, well-serviced enclaves, the large majority are threatened by inadequate provision of security, emergency services, health care, housing and clean water supply. Our researchers chose Planetario Village in Porto Alegre as the Brazilian case study. They wanted to:

*analyze the relationship between quality of life, environment, and gender;

*detect critical issues or inequities, as well as positive situations;

*propose ways of improving that relationship; and

*establish international comparison between different cases.

Porto Alegre is considered Brazil's "Capital of the Quality of Life" because of its healthy environment and high social indicators on health, education, security, and access to basic services. Yet, in innercity squatter settlements, favelas, people live in deplorable conditions. The small, overcrowded homes, put together from scrap materials, mostly on government land, lack infrastructure such as water or garbage collection. These areas violate planning laws, which require prior approval from the local council as well as infrastructure installation. Residents can't afford the price of the land and forced evictions are common. Planetario Village came into existence in 1960s. The population grew during the 1980's as people flooded in from surrounding poor areas. Porto Alegre decided to apply the Land Regularization Program, designed to provide low-income people with land and housing, to the Planetario Village. The municipality would allow the community to stay in its central location, supply the public infrastructure and build permanent, well-designed houses. A right-wing councillor representing the surrounding middie- and upper-class neighbourhoods took the municipality to court, arguing that the poor ought to live in the periphery, not on valuable inner-city land. But Planetario's inhabitants and the municipality won. …