The urbanisation is one of the major trends of the 21st century more problematically in the developing countries where rural-urban migration and the centralisation of the socio-economic services in the large cities leave no choice for the poor migrants other than create and develop their own informal shelters. The occurrence of urban slums has been a concern for decision-makers ever since it became apparent that the top-down ‘provider’ model would not meet housing demands in low-income cities. Instead ‘enabling strategies’ are advocated. An integral part of such strategies is the policy of upgrading. This policy has gained support after it was realised that informal settle¬ments could no longer be considered ‘transitory’, that squatter evictions did not address the root causes of the shelter problem, and that housing through conventional schemes were not economically viable. Numbers of upgrading projects have been implemented but it is noted that in meeting the needs of under-privileged groups there is a need for better partici¬patory methods to empower such groups.The general objective of the project is to understand the specific relationship between upgra¬ding and community participation in a city with severe slum problems. The project focuses on models for participatory planning as an instrument to improve perfor¬mance when upgrading informal settlements. Simultaneously, the study will examine the enabling strategy community participation for solving housing prob¬lems in developing countries which intends to involve the residents in setting goals. The research plan includes an overview of upgrading of informal settlements of large cities with high aims for community participation. The major fieldwork will consist of a comprehensive analysis of Manshiet Nasser, Cairo as an information-rich case, sup¬plemented by comparisons with documented cases in India and South Africa. The implemen¬ted participatory upgrading projects in Manshiet Nasser will be evaluated, based on criteria such as effectiveness, im¬pact, relevance, sustainability and efficiency. Multiple methods of data collection will be used in a triangulating fashion such as: interviews with key persons and residents from the community using photographs of problematic housing situations as a way to stimulate discussions; women focus group; and ‘sitting in’ at meetings of the community. The research project is expected to provide a better understanding of the specific relationship between squatter upgrading, community participation and gender order. The project should shed light on the conflicts between goal achievements and processes of community participa¬tion. By using innovative methods – and by making comparisons with participation processes in other large cities where women are active – it is hoped that patriarchal power structures be exposed and that obstacles for women’s participation in house improvements traced.