Published: June 9th 2012June 9th 2012
On Monday I went to my first slum community. I have no sense of direction in this city beyond my mental image of google maps so I have no idea where it was. I am still really hung up on sticking out like a sore white chick thumb and added to advice not to stare I can't report too much on what the place looked like. We entered by scooter off one of the main roads and straight away you are on dusty lanes about 3-5 metres wide. These are full of women preparing stuff outside their shacks, kids in various states of dress, other vehicles and your standard helping of scruffy dogs.
I met a group of teenage boys who are attending a class once a week on gender equality. It was only then that I began to understand the challenges of working in these communities. At around 16 and 17 the boys are expected to get involved in political groups. Sometimes they just have to lie to the leaders about where they are going and there was a tense moment when a man came in to find one of the boys. At some stage in the programme an individual might decide that they want to confront their father about beating up their mother or sister and this is also a tricky, and possibly dangerous, process. Often the women won't support their sons in doing this because they think it will only make the situation worse. Drugs, porn and alcohol are readily availble in some areas and the boys can be under a lot of pressure from peers to get involved in activities that increase the likelihood of them treating women like crap. And there are countless other problems beyond these.
I have been torn between my desire to say hi to the really cute puppies that are camped out near to the apartment and my fear that they are actually rabies-carrying pests out to kill me. Really don't want to end up like the British woman who recently died after being nipped in India. So I shall resist the urge and also save myself from getting fleas.