A post about the beautiful aspects of the slum. However, was my visit to the slum in Jaipur ethical?
Beauty in a slum? You might be thinking. It was Confucius who taught us that “everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it.” In the slums of Jaipur, polluted by waste, people live in urban poverty, but despite their unfavorable living conditions they are rich of happiness, of faith, and of love. To me that is beauty.
That being said, I do not overlook the horrors of this poor community living in the slum. I understand well that their lives are not easy, and full of daily struggle. Furthermore, that my visit there brought joy for some hours, while playing with- a teaching English to the children. Helping them to forget the reality for a few hours. However, I rather would like to focus on the human relationships. The closeness of community, and the warmth and hospitality of people with so little.
Following are some of the images I took during my visit to one of the smaller slums in Jaipur, India.
Is slum tourism ethical?
Slum tourism have gotten much criticism. Which I can easily understand and relate to. Slum tourism, turn people’s lives into safari parks. It often objectifies poverty, giving rich tourists an interesting experience, without giving anything back to the community.
Kennedy Obede who grew up in a large slum outside of Nairobe, said the following about slum tourism:
“Slum tourism turns poverty into entertainment, something that can be momentarily experienced and then escaped from. People think they’ve really “seen” something — and then go back to their lives and leave me, my family and my community right where we were before. ”
Furthermore, he explains how the visits from the tourists made him feel undignified:
“Nor do the visitors really interact with us. Aside from the occasional comment, there is no dialogue established, no conversation begun. Slum tourism is a one-way street: They get photos; we lose a piece of our dignity.”
I have to admit, that I have visited several slums during my travels. In Ghana, Sri Lanka, I personally did not get anything back from visiting the slums. Neither did the communities. And these visits can be easily be related to negative effects of slum tourism as described by Kennedy Obede, in my opinion.
The first time I visited the slum in Uganda, was like this too. However, the visit contributed to that we actually started a project for creating jobs for the unemployed young adults living in that specific slum. And a football project for the children. These projects are still today up running today. The same in Bolivia, where we have a mobile school in the slum.
Though, I did not do any impact on this slum in India. Besides teaching the children in the school some phrases in English. However, this visit was different. And it do not fit in to the description of the quote of Kennedy Obede. Firstly, the children loved being taken photos of. They begged me to take photos. Telling: Me! Me!, as an indicator for take photos of them. They brought their friends for take more photos, together. Just like most places around in India. Moreover, I did interact with them. This is also a slum that very few tourists visit. There are no guided tours, and I went with a local friend that was working in a project in the slums. Just me, without any other foreigners.
Furthermore, this time, I looked for the beautiful aspects of the slum. Because it is our attitude that determines the impact of slum tourism. Slums are not one dimensional collections of poverty and deprivation. However, if that is what you look for, that is what you will find.
Have you ever visited a slum? What do you think about slum tourism?