At the annual end-of-year get-together organized by Spaces for Change | S4C, in partnership with the Communities Alliance Against Displacement (CAD), over a hundred children from the informal communities in Ago-egun, Ebute-Ilaje, and Isale-Akoka, converged in Bariga, Lagos, to celebrate the forthcoming season of Christmas and the holiday festivities. The annual event usually serves as an opportunity to reflect on and assess CAD’s year-long advocacy for the improvement of living conditions in Lagos’ informal communities and enlist young voices in their localized campaign for urban reforms.
Bariga’s coastal communities, famed for their population density and cultural diversity, are situated along the margins of Lagos’s extensive network of waterways. These communities are characterized by significant environmental challenges including inadequate infrastructure, limited access to clean water, poor sanitation, dilapidated housing, and limited economic opportunities. Most residents rely on fishing and small-scale trade for their sustenance. In recent years, climate change has compounded these challenges. Frequent and severe flooding—a direct consequence of climate change—has instigated a continuous cycle of damage and disrepair, leaving many homes, infrastructure, and livelihoods, constantly threatened. Additionally, frequent demolitions often targeting low-income and informal communities like Bariga affect educational infrastructure, resulting in incessant disruptions to children’s education as well as their academic and psychological well-being. Financial constraints compounded by the need to prioritize immediate survival needs such as shelter and food, often force residents to relegate education to a secondary concern.
At the event, children creatively used art, drama, and music to articulate these struggles. They performed skits demonstrating the impacts of flooding on their homes and schools and exhibited paintings that captured their challenges in accessing clean water and contending with environmental degradation. The stage plays featured dramatization of their daily commute over unstable makeshift bridges and the absence of healthcare facilities during emergencies like floods. Songs performed, reflecting resilience and hope, underscored their determination to overcome these adversities. A particularly notable feature of the event was the interactive exhibitions where children showcased models of their ideal housing and infrastructure. While these models represented their vision for a stable and secure living environment., they offer opportunities to initiate dialogue about sustainable and humane urban development. By presenting these models, the children are envisioning an urban future where inclusive planning that prioritizes their rights and needs is in place.
A major highlight of the event is the educational games that enlightened guests about the riverine lifestyle, environmental conservation, and the impact of urban development on these communities. The event concluded with a collective appeal from the children to local authorities, and the broader community for inclusive urban planning, better infrastructure, and recognition of their fundamental rights to live in the city. In summary, the Christmas party in Bariga transcended a mere celebration. It was a poignant vehicle for local advocacy, drawing critical attention to the plight of informal communities living on the coastlines. The voices of the children, brimming with hope and resilience, called for a future where sustainable housing solutions will replace mass evictions and forced displacement.