WHAT IS A SLUM?

  • Jonit Bookheim
  • 29 Apr, 2012

Although their characteristics vary between geographic regions, slums are usually areas of cities inhabited by the very poor or socially disadvantaged.  Slum buildings vary from simple shacks to permanent and well-maintained structures. Most slums lack clean water, electricity, sanitation and other basic services.  (Source)

We partner with several women’s cooperatives in India to produce our clothing.  This is the Mumbai slum where one of those cooperatives is located.  There are over 400 cooperative members, and most of them live here in one-room homes.  Water is collected from communal sources throughout the area.

 

The cooperative has been located here since its founding 28 years ago.  In the 90s, electricity and water were brought in.  The cooperative is organized into sewing groups of 15-20 women who work in workshops throughout the neighborhood, and co-op social worker, Sampada, took me on a tour to visit some of them.  On the way I snapped these pictures.

 

There is definitely a negative connotation to the word slum, but it’s important to see that they can be just as dynamic and close-knit as any community, if not more so.  You can live in a slum and be going to college or hold a nice job.  There are little shops throughout that carry bottled water and snacks.  It is a different way of living than what we’re used to here in the U.S.  It’s extremely close quarters with not much personal space.  An entire family lives in a room not much larger than a walk-in closet.  One room houses the kitchen and all their possessions.  Bedding is spread out on the floor at night and put away in the daytime. Lots of activities are done outside in the walkways, like washing dishes and laundry, which makes for a very communal atmosphere and getting to know one’s neighbors.

The perception is that slums are dirty, but one thing we love about walking to the co-op in the morning is that women are washing the walkways with soapy water and brooms in front of their homes, so there’s a nice fresh scent.

This is a typical kitchen.

Stray cat

Sampada told me that the two story buildings are not one home, but two, with a family on each floor.  Check out the second story balcony in the photo above…and the close up below.

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