By Balentina T. Lamare, CHLP Fellow, 2015-16 Batch
My experience in Bhopal is one of the most memorable ones I have had to date. I made my journey along with two of my co-fellows, Shangmi and Dala, which was an exciting experience. While travelling by train, we had lots of fun, interacted with co-passengers and also had discussions over many social issues that people across India are facing in this generation. When it comes to my field experience in urban slum of Bhopal, I found it to be a good exposure to the lifestyle of the people in these slum areas. During the two months of field work, I had the opportunity to interact with different people in different organisations and through this I was able to collect a lot of information about the problems and issues that people across the country are facing e.g. right to land, gender equality, right to free medicine, the Bhopal gas tragedy and so on.
The most touching part of my field experience in Bhopal was when I first entered the slum areas. I could not imagine how the people in slums were living in such unhygienic conditions and unhealthy lifestyle. This slum community is poor with respect to the social determinants, that SOCHARA has taught us, to be paid attention to as part of our community health work. So during the interaction with the people of this slum, I observed that there were a few small shops, but even these unfortunately, were selling unhealthy foods and were hence promoting poor food habits e.g. Ghutka, chips etc. While interacting with the community people I became aware that most of them eat Ghutka to kill their appetite as they are able to eat only one meal a day. I realised that eating Ghutka was also a sign of “Poverty”, mostly the children didn’t get sufficient food and were hence malnourished. Madhya Pradesh has the highest malnutrition in India at 60%. This was reflected in this Bhopal slum.
Within the community, my experience with the AWW’s, ASHA, ANM was a wonderful experience as it was the first time I had the opportunity to see their practical work in the community with lactating mothers, pregnant women and children. Although the AWW was unable to give me a clear picture of malnutrition in the slum, and on immunization day I was told that there is no malnutrition, unfortunately I did come across quite a few malnourished children in the community.
There were plenty of young lactating mothers. I always wonder why many women produce many children despite their poverty. I felt that it was a lack of awareness and illiteracy. There are many organisations that visit the slum, but the community informed me that these have not been active within the community till date.
The main occupation of the people here, is daily labour and construction for men, and domestic work for women; and they get paid only Rs.2000/- to Rs. 2500/- per month. People in this slum live in very unhygienic and unhealthy conditions. Witnessing how people live in such conditions made me reflect and wonder as to when India will develop; I think it will take many years for India to develop like other countries of the world. The people in the slum lack all the facilities provided by the Government. My experiences in the slum filled me with mixed emotions, anger at some moments and empathy and sadness when I see the children and women because of their vulnerability. To conclude, working with urban slum I don’t know how to express my feelings in depth but the picture of the slum comes into my mind often. Being placed in a slum community, I learnt more about the problems faced by them e.g. education, water, health, environment, sanitation, waste management because these are the daily problems they are facing. This experience will help me in future in any area I work. It has also given me first hand experience working with an urban slum and I hope to have more experiences like this in days to come.