On the way to Dharavi we drove through the red-light district where young girls and women work the sex trade. This gave us the opportunity to talk about the reality of prostitution in India, about sex trafficking children and women here from Nepal, Bangladesh and elsewhere. It's important that we as travelers raise awareness and support organizations working to break up human trafficking by providing support for children and women to find safe harbor, break the sexual exploitation cycle and find a better life. Jen and Heather, our Yoga instructors, with Twist Vinyasa Yoga Edmonds came to this part of Mumbai before our yoga group met up in Goa and brought toys for the children of working prostitute mothers.
Wildland Adventures is a signator to the Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct and supports ECPAT - the international campaign to end child prostitution, child pornography and trafficking of children for sexual purposes including children who are trafficked to the United States and exploited within the USA.
We also stopped on a bridge overlooking the Dobi Ghat, the world’s largest open-air laundromat where some 10,000 people work daily, including about 5,000 who run around Mumbai picking up and delivering laundry throughout the city. IT's simply amazing how they keep it straight tagging clothing to separate colors into different areas for washing and drying and then delivering each piece back into the rightful owner’s hands.
Dharavi is a community where Christians, Hindus and Muslims live and work amongst each other, some in mixed neighborhoods while others we walked through were distinct by religion or trade: the four largest industries in Dharavi are recycling, leather, garments, and pottery. Rubbish makes its way here from all over the world where workers earn 200-300 rupees a day ($5) to break it down, sort it out, re-package it, and either haul it away to manufacture plants outside or to process it in a slum factory for resale and reuse. I saw piles of yogurt containers in English, Israeli and Hindi stacked high, old VHS video cassettes getting broken up, old paint cans getting cleaned and painted for re-use, and one room chock full of brightly colored plastic kids toys just like the ones our now 24 year old son played with in our Seattle home.
We meandered by embroiderers from Uttar Pradesh state, the potters area with open water shallow wells for mixing clay, and through the Muslim neighborhood where cow and goat skins were brought in to make fine leather garments (they moved the tanneries outside of the slum years ago); one leather garment businessman told me they export directly to major brand clothiers in Europe. In fact, there are some 10,000 small cottage industries in Dharavi exporting their wares bringing in an amazing $665 million dollars of income per year!
What’s so great about a Reality Tour is they want to show us the unique strengths, opportunities, challenges and issues of the community living here. So, for travelers who want to delve deep into the narrow, winding, dark and dank alley ways where 300,000 people live in an area half the size of Central Park with 20 times the density of the rest of this crowded city around it, this ½ day walking tour can be both disheartening and uplifting. Here, residents pay for rent, electricity and in some cases running water. Some homes are made of cardboard and plastic, but we visited one of many families who own their own two story home consisting of a 15 x 15 foot square area downstairs and up with a small side area for bathing and a tiny kitchen space.
At the end of our tour we visited the Ashayen Community Center established by Realty Tours and supported by slum tour proceeds. Here we talked about their jobs programs to help young adults find work, their health care education initiatives including the establishment of an acupuncture center for treating slum dwellers, a program helping girls transition from youth to finding their way in the world, sports programs, and more. Out of our discussions we decided to help facilitate the next Wildland travelers who come here to bring soccer uniforms that would really help create even greater team spirit among the kids and their families in Dharavi!
Ask us about joining the Realilty Tour of Dharavi slum on any of our Willdland Adventures in India passing through Mumbai.
Keeping in wild,