Version classiqueVersion mobile

Amman

 | 
Jean Hannoyer
, 
Seteney Shami

Sixième partie. Politiques urbaines

Child Rights to Space: The perceptions of Planners and Families in Low-Income Neighbourhoods of Amman

Les droits des enfants à l’espace dans les quartiers pauvres de Amman : Perception des familles et des planificateurs

Leila T. Bisharat

Résumé

À la suite d’actions de réhabilitation entreprises dans des quartiers pauvres de Amman, on attendait de mesurer les progrès réalisés dans leur situation sanitaire et particulièrement pour la protection de l’enfance. Les leçons de cette expérience montrent d’abord l’inadaptation des plans et méthodes d’intervention dans les zones en question. La qualité de vie pour les enfants, et en particulier leur droit au jeu, ont été constamment sous-estimés ou ignorés par les planificateurs, les donateurs, les banques, les chercheurs et la communauté locale elle-même. L’étude suit les étapes des décisions qui ont conduit à renforcer les restrictions préalables au mouvement des enfants et à l’expression d’eux-mêmes. Elle montre les efforts déployés pour inverser cette tendance et les résistances rencontrées auprès des institutions et des familles. Elle soulève finalement la question générale des politiques urbaines à Amman en rappelant la priorité à donner aux enfants dans les choix futurs.

Texte intégral

1“State Parties recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child...”

Article 31, The Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by Jordan’s Parliament, signed and proclaimed by His Majesty King Hussein in 1991.

2“We borrow environmental capital from future generations with no intention or prospect of repaying...We act as we do because we can get away with it.”

The Brundtland Commission, Our Common Future.

THE PLANNING CONTEXT

  • 1 Johannes Linn, Cities in the Developing World, World Bank Research Publication, Oxford, 1985, Alan (...)

3At the outset of the 1980’s, urban planners globally had agreed on a series of lessons learned from the public housing failures of the 1960’s and 1970’s1. The new approach emphasized the following:

  • To integrate squatters into the fabric of the city in a way that will ensure they have a healthy, safe, and affordable housing and working environment.

  • To harness the creative energies and resources of the poor.

  • Not to evict squatters but instead to provide opportunities for legalized tenure with access to basic infrastructure services and possible employment.

  • 2 Patrick McAuslan, Urban Land and Shelter for the Poor, London, Earthscan, 1985.
  • 3 Peter M. Ward, ed. Self-Help Housing : A Critique. London, Mansell, 1982.

4Doing so, it was expected, would release human potential to contribute to both the city and the nation’s economy. This would be in contrast to municipal action in some countries that had sought to oust the poor from the cities. Rather than leaving the city neat for the middle class and the elite, that policy had produced alienation and misery2. Where favalas or gecekondu had been ploughed under and whole neighbourhoods dispersed, sometimes at gun point, the same families only reappeared behind another hill to squat by night on yet a new site, hardened and more determined to confront the city3.

  • 4 Amman, 1979 Census results for the conurbation of Amman.

5These findings fell on especially fertile ground in Amman. This city had no backlog of public housing failures. Instead, it had repeatedly experienced and successfully managed the challenge of absorbing wave after wave of newcomers and refugees. The enterprise of families had built the city’s vibrant new service economy. The city was still one of intermediate size, slightly over one million4, considered by many planners to still be on the rising path of growth where economies of scale have not yet peaked. Planners were ready to work creatively for housing solutions, with a minimum of bureaucratic red tape. They recognized that large swaths of urban property, once marginal land, had become densely populated by poor households who held no legal, or at best quasi-legal rights (hujja) to the plots they occupied.

6Dense, precipitous slopes adjacent to the city centre, squatted after 1948, and more distant hillsides occupied after 1967, formed bands of underserved or unserviced areas primarily because they lacked the legal tenure required for the extension of municipal services. Legal recognition, combined with purchase from the original landowners at reasonable market rates, the provision of basic infrastructure, long-term housing loans and some form of community development seemed obvious ingredients in the mix to a viable, long-term solution. There was room as well as readiness for testing what could work best in the Jordanian context at a larger scale. It was in this planning environment that the Urban Development Department, a new ad hoc agency, opened in late 1980. Under the wise leadership of Dr. Hisham Zagha, for a whole decade it tackled and resolved some of the most intractable problems of understanding, entering and improving squatter areas.

THE MEASUREMENT OF HUMAN WELFARE

  • 5 Michael Bamberger and Eleanor Hewitt, A Manager’s Guide to Monitoring and Evaluating Urban Developm (...)
  • 6 David Morris (1979) Measuring the Condition of the World’s Poor : The Physical Quality of Life Inde (...)

7Planners and researchers alike had no ready, well-tested formulae for evaluating the impact of interventions for human development5. Early work in the determinants of child survival suggested that levels of infant mortality (deaths during the first year of life) could be a highly sensitive indicator of the overall physical and social well-being of the community as a whole6. Previously, the general approach to measuring welfare had been to rely heavily on economic indexes that measure the level of income or production per capita. Instead of measuring only GNP or income per capita, an index referring to the physical quality of life looked more promising. It included: infant mortality rates, the length of expected life and educational resources. The urban programme interventions posited could significantly affect all these indicators. Improvements in the length of expected life come from the summary of lifetime gains, covering therefore as much as seventy years. Educational resources, too, take time to build – perhaps as much as a generation. Among this set of indicators, the most sensitive to current changes would be infant mortality (deaths in the first year of life). These deaths are heavily influenced by immediate environmental conditions surrounding pregnancy, childbirth and the household. Identifying them and measuring their determinants could summarize not only current conditions but also point to where further interventions were needed to accelerate improvements. Although the use of the “physical quality of life index” has not become widespread, its main indicators have taken centre stage in the development literature of the 1990’s. The World Development Report (1990, 1991 and 1992), The Human Development Report (1991 and 1992) as well the The State of the World’s Children Report (1992 and 1993) draw intensively on the experience reflected in this literature. UNICEF’s new publication, The Progress of Nations, does this in an especially succinct form (1993, 1994, 1995), ranking countries on their use of national resources to ensure improvements for children.

NEIGHBOURHOODS UNDER THE MICROSCOPE

  • 7 Leila Bisharat et al. A Baseline Health and Population Assessment for the Upgrading Areas of Amman.(...)
  • 8 Leila Bisharat and Hisham Zagha, Health and Population in Squatter Areas of Amman : A Reassessment (...)

8The Urban Development Department, despite its diminutive beginnings around five small project sites and its modest objectives, made a substantial contribution to this experience. Its director took an early risk to encourage a combination of physical measurement of the sites with health assessments. He opened room for interdisciplinary teams to design and implement measurement frameworks that would produce information to guide action as well as contribute to the theoretical understanding of impact assessments. A baseline assessment of all project sites in 1980-19817 did just this. Repeated again on the same sites in 19858, it yielded substantial planning and theoretical results. Project benefits in terms of improved child survival and healthy life years gained came through the analysis with striking clarity, as did the main determinants of these gains.

9Improved housing quality, such as the better dwellings associated with legalized tenure and standard water and sewage connections, came at the top of the list. Close behind were associated behavioural changes, measured by the use of soap, that acted independently of the improved physical connections. Differences in the education of mothers as determinant of child survival, even in these relatively homogeneous physical settings, emerged with unmistakable clarity. More had to happen than just physical upgrading to make large differences in child survival. Although the project had built in literacy and community development components, they did not form the main thrust of the interventions.

  • 9 L. Bisharat (1988), “Improving Environment for Child Health and Development Health : Surveys as Inp (...)
  • 10 C. Stephens and T. Harpham, (1991) Slum Improvement: Health Improvement? (London: London School of (...)
  • 11 S. Shami and L. Taminian, “Reproductive Behavior and Child Care in a Squatter Area of Amman”, Regio (...)
  • 12 R. Doan and L. Bisharat. (1992) “Female Autonomy and Child Nutritional Status: The Extended-Family (...)
  • 13 R. Doan and L. Bisharat, (1992) “Class Differentiation and the Informal Sector in Amman, Jordan”, I (...)
  • 14 Mary Deeb (n.d), The Influence of Family Formation Patterns on Childhood Mortality and Morbidity in (...)
  • 15 Harvard University. Funded under a proposal approved by the UNICEF Regional Office, a team from Har (...)

10This intensive collaboration between action and research over nearly a decade is described elsewhere9. It has left the five original project sites, and their 1666 households, among the most carefully examined urban slums in the world10. They have been tracked longitudinally, measured, photographed, drawn plot by plot, captured in cross-sectional surveys and examined by anthropologists using long-term participant observation11. Information from these households has contributed to our understanding of child nutritional status and female autonomy12. It has also allowed us to understand more about the economical bases of class differences among the poor13. We have learned more about how households are formed and how childcare is shared not only among different family members but also between neighbours who offer each other support14. Nowhere have household composition records been so meticulously maintained with physical descriptions of the dwelling environment as at the Urban Development Department. This made it possible to combine survey results and project records with a computerized replication of the physical environment15.

11In 1992 the Urban Development Department’s 1982 upgrading of the most neglected site won the Agha Khan Award for Architecture. This award spoke of the successful coalition between families and households in improving the quality of the urban living environment within the traditions of the neighbourhood’s inhabitants. If awards for contributions to research and training in the social and medical sciences had a similar benefactor, these same project sites would have won a set of meritorious commendations. The reflections that follow in the next sections should be taken as a self-critique of the field rather than a reflection on the inadequacies of project interventions and intentions.

IS CHILD SURVIVAL AN ADEQUATE MEASURE OF HUMAN WELFARE?

12The experience of the 1980’s would strongly suggest that it is. And yet, let us review the context in which it was posited. The primary intention was not to assess how good, or bad, things were for children and what ought to be done about them. Instead, it was to use child mortality (or its converse, child survival) as a proxy for overall human welfare. The concern was not primarily for children, although the project teams paid considerable attention to counselling parents when problems were identified and building health outreach activities into new community centres. Instead it was for finding the best summary indicators for measuring impact, along with the determinants of poor health and illness.

13No one asked “What is the quality of children’s lives?”, “What do they do each day?”. Instead the structured surveys tightly confined questions to areas already indicated in the literature to produce useable measures for estimating key social and environmental determinants of health status: prenatal care, delivery conditions, preventive care, especially breastfeeding and im-munizations, health care during illness, such as the management of diarrhoeal dehydration and acute respiratory infections, nutrition, exposure to a contaminated environment measured by parasite load and the child’s current nutritional status (weight for age). The array of possible intermediate determinants could be grouped into five sets: standards of personal hygiene; maternal reproductive behaviour; diet and feeding practices; care practices; immunizations and sickness. Independent variables operating through the intermediate determinants included: mother’s education, household income, quality of housing and the sex of the child.

14Surveys of the late 1980’s and the early 1990’s, such as the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), sponsored by USAID, and the Papchild Surveys, sponsored by AGFUND, the League of Arab States, UNFPA and UNICEF, closely echo the theoretical framework of the Urban Development Department’s Baseline and Follow-Up Surveys. Much of the thinking in the Amman experience contributed to this later work. And yet, by 1985, it was already clear in Amman that we knew very little about how children in the project sites actually spent their day. What did they look forward to each day? Where did they play? Who were their friends and how did they communicate with adults? What were their images of the city and its improvements, of their own future? What were the dangers they faced in the vast construction site of upgrading and family enterprise? All our responses came from adults. Only the measures of nutritional status and parasite load came from direct contact with the children themselves.

  • 16 Rapid Assessment Procedures have made substantial progress in many fields since the mid-1980’s but (...)
  • 17 S. Shami and L. Tamimian. “Reproductive Behavior and Child Care in a Squatter Area of Amman”, Regio (...)

15I sensed early on how severe were the limitations of the structured survey, no matter how well-designed or pretested, to observe what really happened in the neighbourhoods. Walks in the neighbourhoods, tea with a family, watching work in progress as well as the daily accounts of those working and living in the sites gave far livelier insights into the dynamics of everyday life. Even today, however, the work of “participant observers” has yet to break the bastions of measurement specialists who demand rigorous sampling procedures and large numbers of observations on which to base conclusions16. Teaming with two anthropologists to help design the follow-up assessment and carry out a series of in-depth observations of child behaviour in the sites produced the only work of the period that gave a rich contextual slant on what was happening within households on a daily basis. This work by Shami and Taminian suggested that child survival gave far from adequate measures of the quality of children’s lives, let alone overall human welfare17.

DESIGN PARAMETERS THAT LIMITED CHOICE

  • 18 The World Bank. For information on the World Bank’s strategy of the period, see World Bank, Urban S (...)

16The Urban Development Department’s initial five working sites were selected for their upgrading potential within the eligibility requirements of the World Bank at that time18. Loans as well as the core elements of technical and managerial assistance came with the World Bank support. The Urban Development Department acted as the executing agency with Jordan’s Housing Bank serving as its financial partner. Policy and programme objectives of the World Bank set conditions on the loans as well as the forms of assistance provided though consulting firms. Improvements were to be designed for those already living on the sites. As far as possible, squatters were to be assisted in purchasing the plot they currently occupied. Plots had to be affordable within the range of household incomes present at that time on the sites, except for the most destitute. Site design (footpaths, infrastructure) was expected to minimize the realignment of plot lines or the elimination of dwelling plots. Any household forced to move from the plot it occupied was to be compensated with the opportunity to purchase another plot, preferably on the same site and close to the original one occupied.

17The sale of legalized plots to the original squatters included costs generated by :

  1. The purchase of the site from its original landowner at market prices

  2. The provision of basic infrastructure: water mains, sewers, electricity

  3. Stabilized footpaths, access points and public spaces

  4. The construction of perimeter walls and a “sanitary core” (one site only)

  5. Project design.

18The larger the number of plots generated for resale, the greater could be the reduction in the standard minimum price for a serviced plot on the site. This meant that space not designated as housing plots, i.e. public spaces in the neighbourhood, continually surfaced as deterrents to affordable plots.

  • 19 Urban Development Department. (1988) UDP1 Completion Report. p. 11.

19A creative tension developed between national project staff, advisers and the World Bank review missions. As each design feature was scrutinized for its cost implications, public space and the construction of community or vocational centres whose costs would be distributed across all plots had to be pared down repeatedly. Open spaces, cul-de-sacs, even enlarged entryways to plots fell to the review criteria. National project staff and in-house advisers working on the sites pressed for more communal space where families, especially women and children, could congregate. Members of the Amman Municipal Council as well as reviews at the Cabinet level argued for larger plots to permit more dwelling space within the housing units. Civil defence concerns argued for larger access roads that would permit vehicles to enter the rabbit warren of plots and footpaths laid out in the squatting process. Plot sizes had to be increased by 50 percent and circulation areas by 200 percent over appraisal standards19.

20Compromise could be reached more easily by paring down “unessential” communal space than by prolonging negotiations for reduced purchase costs for the land, reworking infrastructure design specifications, rejecting bids or refusing to accept certain government requirements. Land acquisition costs rose from nineteen to twenty-five percent of the total project costs. Retaining walls, later recognized as unnecessary for building or for child protection, also raised site preparation costs. Increased infrastructure standards also raised costs.

  • 20 UDD, op. cit., p. 19.

21Children’s needs for space had no voice but that of the project staff. The gains the staff won, often in terms of a few centimeters of additional footpath space, have made visible differences in safe play areas in both the upgrading and new sites. Diminutive kindergartens and a building for a maternity and child health centre in one site came as hard-won concessions to community development demands. As project staff worked more and more closely with the community, an alliance emerged to recapture communal space. As phrased by the reviewers themselves, “The demand for community facilities exceeded the original forecasts and developed along with community programmes. This caused more technical problems in the design of extensions for these facilities”20. It caused some serious play problems for children. The new facilities were formal, enclosed structures that squeezed out open space and made the new safe environment open to only certain members of the community, at specified times of the day. When staff themselves recognized that no open space remained for even an undersized pocket play area, there was no margin left for manoeuvring. The built environment had maximized its coverage of all available land. Adult space had devoured present child space and severely restricted options for the future.

22Gains in safety (see below), especially shaded, safe movement vectors at the doorstep for toddlers and small children were the only community-wide play gains for children. The project staff’s insistence on retaining stabilized footpaths in the design, and forcing changes in infrastructure standards wherever possible to accommodate these narrow pedestrian ways have given the upgraded sites their only visible, child-friendly element. By doing so, they have set an example worth replicating in other neighbourhoods of Amman, including those of the middle class and the wealthy, where no child-friendly footpaths or sidewalks exist at most doorsteps. Where present, they evaporate within a few metres, unlike the footpaths of the upgrading sites which wind safely in and out of the neighbourhood, binding one household comfortably with another. Small private corners to congregate also allow toddlers to sit with mothers as they chat or older children to cluster together on their own. This, too, is an improvement over “better endowed” areas of the capital where there is no neighbourhood space whatsoever for children and where even teenage boys must perch on the edge of perimeter walls to chat together and watch passers-by.

23Outdoor space in Amman severely restricts physical activity of all kinds, thus promoting a projected form of the sedentary behaviour expected of children within the dwelling unit itself. Outdoor spaces are viewed as dangerous spaces to be negotiated at risk, not to be enjoyed.

24“Dangerous” space may sometimes be captured as play space, as when older boys temporarily lay stone goal posts across a street to play football. It is a fleeting, precarious game where only older boys are able to stake a claim.

DEMOGRAPHIC PARAMETERS THAT LIMITED CHOICE

  • 21 L. Bisharat and M. Tewfik, “Housing the Urban Poor in Amman : Can Upgrading Improve Health”, Third (...)
  • 22 L. Bisharat and H. Zagha. op. cit. p. 41.

25The households living on these sites both at the beginning of the project interventions and over the following decade had characteristics that already limited the options for child space. Average persons per household across the sites ranged from 6.4 to 7.1 in 1981. These measures actually rose slightly over the initial course of the project, perhaps as other family members moved in or remained to benefit from the shared returns to investing in a secure, improved dwelling environment. On two project sites, more than half of the households had over seven persons living in the dwelling unit. While residential densities on the upgrading sites themselves were moderate to high (starting at 700 persons per hectare) density within the dwelling units themselves was among the highest observed in the Middle East and North Africa region21. At the project’s outset, families were crowded into barely two small rooms, with persons per room averaging over 4 on all but one site. Upgrading made a significant improvement to reducing measurable crowding within the dwelling; on all sites, persons per room dropped below four, but nowhere did it fall below three22.

26Although these households came to the sites within the last generation as migrants, their large size had been produced by rapid declines in child mortality and continued high levels of childbearing among women. Women on average bore 7.4 children at the time the project started in 1980 and showed no evidence of significantly changing that pattern over the project period. This produced a highly youthful population, with half of the inhabitants of the sites under age fifteen. Within the dwelling unit itself, a mother would be likely to have two to three children under age five as well as their older siblings sharing the space.

RISKS FOR CHILDREN WITHIN THE DWELLING AND THE NEIGHBOURHOOD

  • 23 L. Bisharat and H. Zagha, Reassessment.
  • 24 L. Bisharat et al, Baseline Health and Population Assessment.

27Two important risks of environmental crowding for children were recognized early in the project. One, accidents, can be attributed to crowding inside the dwelling as much as to an unsafe play environment outside the house. Across all the sites, ten percent of infants and toddlers had experienced accidents in the brief two-week recall period used in the surveys. Burns from kerosene stoves in the crowded dwelling areas, falls from unstable walls, and cuts were common. Upgrading, with its improved opportunity for separate kitchen space, made a distinct impact on reducing accidents from burns within the house23. Before upgrading, accidents had ranked in importance immediately after the main killers of small children, diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections24.

28This second main environmental risk, acute respiratory infections, including pneumonia and bronchitis, was exceptionally high. Fully one third of children under age three had an acute respiratory infection at the time of the first survey. There was a definite positive correlation between the number of children under twelve in the household and the incidence of respiratory illness. Among households with less than four children under the age twelve, the respiratory disease incidence was twenty-four percent, while for those with four or more children under twelve, the incidence was thirty-eight percent.

  • 25 US Department of Health and Human Services, Summary Findings from National Children and Youth Fitne (...)

29In neither the baseline survey nor during the reassessments did the survey teams record how children actually used space. Increased risk of infection is known to rise with poorly ventilated, shared sleeping space and lack of outside play. Child growth, especially in stature, is known to respond positively to increased physical activity. In fact, physical activity is viewed today as important to child growth as is food25. While the survey designs measured nutritional status and looked extensively at feeding practices, they never included even casual observations of children’s physical activity.

CHILDREN’S USE OF OUTDOOR SPACE

  • 26 Unit for Housing and Urbanization, Harvard University and the Urban Development Department, Ministr (...)

30In a post facto effort to address this deficiency, UNICEF and the Urban Development Department supported a reassessment of two project sites in 1990. Lessons learned were expected to contribute to sustainable improvement strategies for lower income urban communities26. However, discussion at the design phase underlined the general view of planners and project staff: child use patterns lead to the gradual deterioration of the physical environment where children’s activities are expected to take place. The initial assumption was not one of a child’s right to space. Similarly, during the field interviews, adults repeatedly raised their objections to pocket spaces originally designated for children. Neighbouring households saw their property devalued by child “noise and disorder”.

31Nevertheless, the evaluation showed one major achievement mentioned earlier. The path and cul-de-sacs provided a safe transitional zone between public and private space. In the absence of recreational areas or formal playgrounds, these constituted a special resource for children. Outdoor play remained very limited, however. Among children under six, three quarters played inside the house. Mothers noted the lack of play areas and open space for their children and so preferred to keep them indoors. Rooftops provided a new play area after upgrading. These flat surfaces ranked as the second most important play area for children.

  • 27 “Report on the Reassessment Stage”, 1990, pp. 51-55.

32For the first time in 1990 the evaluators sought the views of children in primary school about how they saw these new spaces. Few moved any distance from the dwelling; most gathered on the rooftops or immediately in front of the house. These areas provide extremely limited physical space for movement, usually less than seventy square meters. With a usual gathering of at least seven children, each child has no more than ten square meters of space in which to manœuvre. Children did not perceive how limited their space for movement actually was, although mothers commented on the problems of accumulated solid waste in vacant plots27.

33Girls were much more likely to be limited to congregating inside the house itself or on the rooftops. Girls were nearly twice as likely to play on the rooftops, fifty-seven percent of girls aged six to twelve, as against thirty-four percent of boys in the same age group. Girls also were twice as likely to congregate at the front doorstep, while boys used the street. Both girls and boys used the planned footpaths nearly equally. Here again, we see how the project staff had achieved more equitable access for children to safe space, regardless of sex, by struggling to maintain the stabilized footpaths initially included in the project design. Designated “green areas” also were a favourite for girls, although the evaluators recognized that these were limited in area and in access. These were a few small open spaces that could not be incorporated within sellable plots. Most were fenced off, preventing use, especially by smaller children.

  • 28 “Reassessment” (1990), p. 60.

34For girls, the community centres, built spaces, offered a special project benefit. The success of this project effort is attested to by the high percentage of children aged six to twelve who felt they could go to the community centre or library on their own. Nearly half of the children on one site who used the little library enjoyed it and ninety-two percent felt they could go on their own. This facility is run by the Friends of the Children Association, a community-based NGO that provides educational and recreational alternatives for children. Virtually every child interviewed expressed satisfaction with being able to go to the library and use the community centres. This was in marked contrast to early stages in the project’s development when children on another site vandalized the centre because of “the antagonism felt by the community towards the UDD and the costs associated with the upgrading”28.

35Children remained dissatisfied, however, with the lack of play space, especially in the denser site near the centre of Amman, and the “government hours” which meant centres run by the government were closed when most children could use them. Few children (less than seven percent) benefited from kindergartens initiated with UNICEF assistance. Since that early assistance, UNICEF has revised its approaches to one of reaching parents themselves with improved knowledge and skills for understanding the needs of early childhood development and to organizing community-based home and neighbourhood solutions to shared child care. But children’s need for space to move and relate to one other still remains poorly understood.

36Not surprisingly the overwhelmingly universal demand from children was for playgrounds, open, safe, play areas. By contrast with middle income areas of Amman, these sites are well endowed with child-friendly spaces because of the stabilized footpaths, cul-de-sacs and community centres. It is worth noting that the one designated municipal park area was not accessible to children without adult supervision. Rather than investing in large municipal playgrounds, where distance may make access difficult, and lack of supervision may make them unfriendly or inaccessible to children, there is an immediate need to make neighbourhood footpaths, sidewalks and culs-de-sacs, “tot lots” and vest-pocket parks. Mothers can keep a watchful eye on these sites as can neighbours.

37Everywhere, the automobile competes with children’s needs for space and safety. Public as well as family choices throughout Amman have enshrined the motor vehicle to the detriment of children. This project made the economic and social calculus of space very clear. Market forces and adult needs determined costs and priorities. Affordability for adults and cost recovery for project investors dominated decisions. Open spaces used by children bring no measurable return to investment and were a cost for the project. They reduced site affordability for potential plot owners and decreased cost recovery potential for the investors. Throughout the upgrading sites, we have observed how these pressures as well as government demands for vehicular access combined with household preferences to bring vehicles into the sites. This combination of interests sacrificed even those small paths where children could play in relative safety.

CONCLUSION

  • 29 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Summary Finding from National Children and Youth Fitn (...)

38Play is the right of the child, included in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, because it is a serious requirement of every child’s adequate mental and physical development. Children concentrate on play with an all-absorbing seriousness of purpose that confounds and even alienates most adults. The adult world is excluded. Only those who say “it is never too late for a happy childhood” join in the fun. Intense concentration is a prerequisite of learning. Play is not a frivolous activity, but one where pursued as the child would like, yields large differences in self confidence, physical growth and mental accomplishment. Globally, the adult world is only now recognizing how badly neglected these needs are everywhere. Household space and discipline may restrict activity and exploration. School administrators, like parents, aim at controlling children’s activities rather than allowing free play. Even the best of schools throughout the world give less than adequate space and time for movement, and a premium is set on structured supervision. Children, it is found, also need free time in school and at other times during the day to move about without restriction and play in a safe, secure environment beyond the dictates of parents and other adults29. During these exploration and activity periods, they are growing as well as learning how to solve problems, how to negotiate with each other for conflict resolution. Unrestricted, not just pocket, space is needed.

  • 30 C.W. Slemenda. et al., “The Role of Physical Activity in the Development of Skeletal Mass in Childr (...)

39While learning may continue at any age, there are limits on an active, productive childhood that will yield an adult able to continue learning. There is a serious and growing body of evidence that suggests that limitations on free, physical activity may impair developmental growth, including basic gains in stature30. Restricted free play opportunities, with no adult encouragement to explore, have long been recognized to limit mental growth and social adjustment as well.

40The squatter sites upgraded by the Urban Development Department of Amman over the course of the 1980’s provide a microcosm for observing how planners, bilateral donors, funding institutions, non-governmental organizations, the government as well as families themselves failed to recognize children’s needs for space and give these needs value. While children under age fifteen constituted nearly half of the beneficiary population of the upgrading sites, their needs for space escaped the project calculus. Adult needs always came first. The sole advocates of children, and then at the margins of project negotiations, were project planners and community development staff working on the sites. Even they proved more concerned about controlling the activity of children – bringing it indoors into a structured environment and preventing degradation to upgrading improvements – than they did about providing for child-friendly spaces as children would have them. Girls bore the burden of these “improvements” more than did boys. While all children had their lives increasingly relegated to the rooftops and inside the dwelling as upgrading took place, girls were far more likely to have their movements restricted.

41Benefits to investing in space for children did not form part of the project calculus. Current market conditions, not future returns on investment, formed the basis for estimating the parameters of plot affordability and cost recovery on investment. Decisions to restrict play space, once taken, not only affected present activity but also set the maximum extent of an envelope of space to be regularly eroded by more important needs, especially those of vehicular traffic.

42Nevertheless, the stabilized footpaths, culs-de-sacs and entryways to the plots provided safe playspace and access routes for toddlers as well as older children that would be a luxury elsewhere in Amman. These diminutive spaces stand in stark, sad contrast with the absence of such spaces elsewhere in the capital. In the neighbourhoods of Amman with “legal tenure”, the domination of profit concerns for the owners of individual plots, reinforced by lack of municipal action to restrict profiteering on real estate speculation, mean an even heavier loss for those children living in adjacent middle income and wealthy neighbourhoods. They lack the project staff of the Urban Development Department who spent years representing their small clients to negotiate changes in infrastructure standards that would allow the maintenance of stabilized pathways between houses as well as the insertion of modern water, sewage and electricity infrastructure. They also have no project staff to press their case for safe sidewalks that will allow a child to run and jump unencumbered and safe from one plot line to another.

43Each purchaser of plot on a UDD site had to contribute to these neighbourhood improvement costs, unlike elsewhere in Amman where the plot owner is responsible only for the immediate perimeter of his own plot. This means that children gained uninterrupted safe pathways linking one house with another and then leading through other neighbouring parts of the site. Finally, on the project sites as well as elsewhere in Amman, children have self-perceived, potential “benefactors” who sincerely believe that children need formal, supervised playground space. Such spaces not only are expensive but likely to be inaccessible to most children. Instead, simpler neighbourhood solutions are needed, but they must be ones where the community itself will take more responsibility. If the voice of children had been heard in this project, and elsewhere in Amman, vacant lots, scattered with refuse, would be heavily taxed unless they were turned into safe playspaces. Speculation on such lots produces benefits that accrue only to the owners at the time of sale. Otherwise they lie as dormant, gold bullion for the future and remain daily danger zones for children. It is they who lose their basic right to safe play. This loss is one that will cost the society at large in another generation the losses of greater ingenuity for problem solving as well as for conflict resolution and social cohesion.

44This project’s experience has shown that without immediate considered action, the future of Amman’s children will be confined to the rooftops. Such locations are neither adequate for playing ball nor for running. While one may posit a society of chessplayers, evidence shows that physical and mental growth go hand in hand. Without child-friendly spaces, this city is likely to face a future of tense alienation between the old and the young as well as of unfulfilled expectations on the part of parents and school administrators. Learning achievement does not depend primarily on textbook materials. Childplay, especially physical activity, is at least as important. Putting children first makes eminent sense. The development calculus needs basic revisions to take it beyond child survival to quality of life.

Notes

1 Johannes Linn, Cities in the Developing World, World Bank Research Publication, Oxford, 1985, Alan Turner, ed. The Cities of the Poor : Settlement Planning in Developing Countries, London, Croom Helm, 1980.

2 Patrick McAuslan, Urban Land and Shelter for the Poor, London, Earthscan, 1985.

3 Peter M. Ward, ed. Self-Help Housing : A Critique. London, Mansell, 1982.

4 Amman, 1979 Census results for the conurbation of Amman.

5 Michael Bamberger and Eleanor Hewitt, A Manager’s Guide to Monitoring and Evaluating Urban Development Programmes : A Handbook for Programme Managers and Researcher, Report No. UDD-68, The World Bank, Washington, D.C., 1985.

6 David Morris (1979) Measuring the Condition of the World’s Poor : The Physical Quality of Life Index, (Pergamon Press : New York).

7 Leila Bisharat et al. A Baseline Health and Population Assessment for the Upgrading Areas of Amman. Regional Papers of the Population Council, West Asia and North Africa. (Cairo 1982).

8 Leila Bisharat and Hisham Zagha, Health and Population in Squatter Areas of Amman : A Reassessment after Five Years of Upgrading, Amman, 1986.

9 L. Bisharat (1988), “Improving Environment for Child Health and Development Health : Surveys as Input into and Evaluation of Upgrading Programmes in Amman, Jordan”, Urban Examples, No. 15. L. Bisharat, (1987) “Research on Infant and Childhood Health as an Ally of Action in Urban Projects for the Poor”, Proceedings of the 11th World Congress of the International Sociological Association.

10 C. Stephens and T. Harpham, (1991) Slum Improvement: Health Improvement? (London: London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine).

11 S. Shami and L. Taminian, “Reproductive Behavior and Child Care in a Squatter Area of Amman”, Regional Papers of the Population Council, West Asia and North Africa, Cairo: 1986. A. Sawalha (1993) Familial Relations and Survival Strategies of Female-Headed Households in Amman, Jordan, UNICEF Sponsored Arab Family Project, Unpublished paper.

12 R. Doan and L. Bisharat. (1992) “Female Autonomy and Child Nutritional Status: The Extended-Family Residential Unit in Amman, Jordan”, Social Science and Medicine, 31 (7) pp. 783-791.

13 R. Doan and L. Bisharat, (1992) “Class Differentiation and the Informal Sector in Amman, Jordan”, International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, vol. 24, pp. 27-38.

14 Mary Deeb (n.d), The Influence of Family Formation Patterns on Childhood Mortality and Morbidity in Amman, Jordan, Unpublished paper from the doctoral dissertation of the author at the Department of Population Dynamics, Johns Hopkins University.

15 Harvard University. Funded under a proposal approved by the UNICEF Regional Office, a team from Harvard University worked with the Urban Development Department to carry out an assessment in 1990 and 1991 that looked at the quality of life in the upgraded sites after ten years of living with interventions. Like the earlier work, it was to give special emphasis to children. Rather than measuring health, it was expected to measure children’s views of their environment. Some of the discussion in the latter part of this paper is based on questions posited in this assessment and some partial Findings.

16 Rapid Assessment Procedures have made substantial progress in many fields since the mid-1980’s but they have yet to be fully enshrined among standard methodologies.

17 S. Shami and L. Tamimian. “Reproductive Behavior and Child Care in a Squatter Area of Amman”, Regional Papers of the Population Council, West Asia and North Africa, Cairo, 1986.

18 The World Bank. For information on the World Bank’s strategy of the period, see World Bank, Urban Sector Review, No. 3965-JO, June 1983.

19 Urban Development Department. (1988) UDP1 Completion Report. p. 11.

20 UDD, op. cit., p. 19.

21 L. Bisharat and M. Tewfik, “Housing the Urban Poor in Amman : Can Upgrading Improve Health”, Third World Planning Review, 7 (1) p. 15, 1985.

22 L. Bisharat and H. Zagha. op. cit. p. 41.

23 L. Bisharat and H. Zagha, Reassessment.

24 L. Bisharat et al, Baseline Health and Population Assessment.

25 US Department of Health and Human Services, Summary Findings from National Children and Youth Fitness Study, II. 1987.

26 Unit for Housing and Urbanization, Harvard University and the Urban Development Department, Ministry of Works and Housing. “Sustainable Improvement Strategies for Lower Income Urban Communities : Report on the Reassessment Phase of Assessing Sustainability in East Wahdat and Jofeh”, Amman, 1992.

27 “Report on the Reassessment Stage”, 1990, pp. 51-55.

28 “Reassessment” (1990), p. 60.

29 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Summary Finding from National Children and Youth Fitness, Study II, 1987.

30 C.W. Slemenda. et al., “The Role of Physical Activity in the Development of Skeletal Mass in Children”, The Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, Vol.6(11), 1991,pp. 1227-1233.

Auteur

Director, Planning and Coordination Office UNICEF Headquarters, New York

© Presses de l’Ifpo, 1996

Conditions d’utilisation : http://www.openedition.org/6540

Cette publication numérique est issue d’un traitement automatique par reconnaissance optique de caractères.

Acheter

Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search