The Stigmatisation of Zinc Fences

We move into those spaces, where zinc fences line narrow corridors that serve as pathways to mostly dilapidated houses and we say it is a ghetto – a haven for criminals. We assume the purpose of those fences is to provide shield for indigenous gunmen who dodge behind those metal coverings, away from the police bullets or that of rival gangs.


Seldom, do we stop to consider that those zinc fences, some salvaged from the garbage heap, serve the same purpose as our fancy grills in our more picturesque locations. Seldom do we imagine that those zinc fences provide a shield from, not just the bullets of criminals, but the piercing eyes of those who will see the undignified lack (of sanitation facilities, resilient housing) behind those barriers. Seldom to we think that those zinc serve to offer privacy to women and girls who have no bathroom and have to tidy themselves in the open yard using bath pans. Seldom do we envisage that those zinc fences prevent stray bullets from piercing the “yute” who’s studying on the floor by candle light.

I hate when we talk about re-development in inner-cities, the first thing we talk about is removing zinc fences. Our first task is to build up – building capacities; building esteem; building a collective vision for transformation.

I had an enumerator who was working in a particular community shocked to find a young man, hidden behind those zinc fences, with 11 CSEC subjects and his brother in 4th form with 2 already. The enumerator was shocked because those things do not happen behind zinc fences.

The next time you think about talking about the removal of zinc fences, try to think about someone asking you to remove your fancy grills (burglar bars).

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