Field visit – Mahala Housing Trust, slums in one part of Ahmedabad.
The visit to the actual head office of the Mahala Housing Trust (MHT), Self-employed woman association (SEWA) was very interesting and informative. We were shown a power point presentation which entailed many important facts and the legalities of mobilising women in poor communities to improve their lives through housing, habitat services and land rights. It gave me a positive outlook on what is being done for woman and their families in India today.
Our group was then taken to a slum area that had been redeveloped and we were shown around part of it. There was a communal shower and toilet block for those in the community that did not have bathroom facilities in their small houses yet which was encouraging and it was well looked after. The woman in charge of the development of this community was beautifully dressed and seemed very enthusiastic about what had been achieved in the slum area in such a short time period, approximately 2 years to rebuild 50 small houses with plumbing, power and running water.
Later we saw a slum area that was in the demolition phase and gathered there were clean well dressed woman, children and men eagerly awaiting our arrival and so excited to show us around their slum. Across the road was the beginning of the new housing development which had just dug the foundations. It all seemed set to be on the right path.
On reflection later that afternoon I couldn’t stop thinking about the slums, about the whole visit to the slums especially the demolished site. The new slum area was quite clean and okay but there were still glimpses of over population and a physical strain on the area.
The yet to be developed slum area visit felt a little staged as the local women were eagerly asking for bigger homes or more room perhaps thinking we were responsible for funding the build. They knew we were coming and presented a good happy front but around them was still devastation and unclean unsafe habitats. On the outside it did not look too bad but on a further walk through it was not very sanitary and harsh for them to live this way while waiting for new homes to be built across the street. I struggle with their lifestyle but they seem to be happy with what they have.
Then later tonight dinner at Vishala, traditional Gujarati food set in a village setting was a magical night after the day at the slums. It was clean, spacious, comfortable and well-developed in an outdoor setting. It was like the yin and yang of environments today and I couldn’t help but feel a little guilty that I enjoyed the surroundings of tonight far more than of the slums earlier in the day.
There was a short performance by a lady doing tricks and dancing, a wonderful meal then a puppet performance by a lady and man. We got to have ice cream for dessert I chose rose-water and it was quiet nice and creamy but sweet.
Before we left tonight we looked at the small gift shop they had there and I bought some lovely scarves and purses as gifts.
Very mixed feelings about today and reflecting back on what I saw, heard, smelt and tasted. I even got emotional back at the hotel before we went to dinner because of my reflections on the day and my illness played a small part of that as well I guess but it hurt my heart about the poverty levels and living conditions that are still here in India with the enormous population numbers. I know that people are trying to make a change and make it a better place but it all takes time and money and I don’t believe it is happening fast enough to cater for the indigenous peoples here. There still is a very wide gap between the rich, middle class, poor and very poor.