Champions as a model of systemic change in urban public spaces

Asiye eTafuleni’s ‘champions’ programme is a cross-cutting intervention that identifies, trains and supports local leaders or change agents to mobilize their peers, influence public opinion and advocate for legal rights and policy reforms. Three categories of local champions have been identified and trained:

Health Champions

Health champions were established to enable improved occupational health and safety in the public workplace. The Health Champions Training Programme initiative incorporated health promotion as a significant element and endeavoured to create an innovative training programme that with local institutional support could create occupational health services that prevent ill health at the worksite level. The initial manual which focused on Covid-19 was expanded to include additional Occupational Health and safety modules and the format was changed to a more user-friendly illustrated Workbook and User Guide.

Street Champions

Photo cred: Durban Metro police and UIP agents conducting confiscations outside Early Morning Market, Durban

The Street Law Champions are a cohort of informal traders who are capacitated to increase informal traders’ agency around their legal rights. AeT works with the street champions, supporting them as change agents within informal worker communities. This initiative is built on earlier work and arises from the failure of municipal judicial systems in timeously and fairly addressing enforcement and other rights related challenges faced by informal workers. The establishment of community based support mechanisms provides space for the trader community to receive advice and information about remedial procedures to be followed, immediately and in their public space workplaces. Furthermore, this has provided informal workers with a platform to voice their concerns and issues to an impartial body, as Street Champions can refer complainants to AeT’s Incident Forums. Currently, regulation, enforcement, and adjudication mechanisms are all handled by municipal organs which support each other.

AeT is facilitating training workshops based on the KYR booklets with street law champions on the rights and responsibilities of informal workers in public spaces.

Photocred: AeT with street law champions during a training session in August 2023.

AeT’s Street Champion training toolkit (Workbook and Facilitator’s Guide) will soon be made available as resources accessible in the public domain.

Zero Waste Champions

The Zero-waste Champions arose out of a larger zero waste project that AeT is collaborating on with groundWork and the Urban Futures Centre. The overall project includes research, waste-picker integration in municipal systems, and piloting zero-waste interventions in Warwick, Durban. In addition to providing community based support for the larger project, the intention is that the Zero Waste Champions will influence peer, public and municipal worker behaviour towards achieving sustainable solid waste practices. Although the focus is on waste, and climate change mitigation, the Zero waste Champions comprise part of the larger group of informal workers who are developing greater agency with regards to engaging with public authorities to improve the working conditions for public space trading. There is now substantial evidence to show that socially just zero-waste models create jobs.

Photocred: Zero waste champions at the composting site in Botanic gardens, Durban

Photocred: Zero waste champions ( Noloyiso and Ayanda) testing the temperature for composting processes in the botanic gardens. Organic waste is ferried from the Early morning market to the botanical gardens weekly for composting purposes.

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