Generational Slums

The Fabric of Slum Communities in South Asia

Slum communities in South Asia, despite facing significant challenges, provide residents in more permanent slums with better prospects for building a future compared to those in temporary neighborhoods. This article explores the factors contributing to the perception of permanence in these impoverished neighborhoods and the thriving economic activities that foster a strong sense of community among residents.

The term “permanent” used to describe slum neighborhoods in South Asia is not solely based on the sturdiness of the structures but also on the fact that many residents have no plans to relocate. According to surveys, a remarkable 93% of residents in certain impoverished communities in South Asia have expressed their contentment and stated that they are not going to move. This reflects the deep-rooted connections and the sense of belonging these communities have cultivated over time.[1]

Certain communities in South Asia house numerous shops and manufacturing units. In one suburb for example, there are over 8,000 shops and 1,200 manufacturing units, making it a bustling economic hub.[2] Industries such as pottery, leather, textiles, recycling, and more thrive in these impoverished communities. Around 5,000 businesses operate from approximately 15,000 one-room workshops in one suburb in South Asia alone. This concentration of economic activities creates a strong sense of community, as different professions cluster together, sharing spaces and fostering communal identities.

Despite ongoing attempts by local authorities to redevelop certain disadvantaged communities in South Asia, residents show remarkable resistance to having their lives, homes, and businesses disrupted. Many families have been living and working in these areas for generations, contributing to the stability and resilience of these communities. The sentiment is vividly expressed by residents who assert, “You’ll have to shoot us before building your towers here.”

Social networks play a vital role in providing support and contentment to residents of South Asian slums. Residents who have established strong social connections within their communities tend to value their lifestyles and resist the idea of relocation. These networks enable them to advocate for comprehensive infrastructure and services. Moreover, studies have shown that approximately 12% of residents categorize their neighborhoods as slums, indicating that a significant majority appreciate the strengths and opportunities available within their current environment.[3]

Slum communities in South Asia offer valuable insights into the resilience and dynamics of those living in more permanent slums. The high rate of residents expressing contentment with their current living conditions (93%) showcases the profound sense of stability and belonging fostered in these communities, including through the impactful work of GFA World’s slum ministry.

Through initiatives such as prayer, healthcare, education, vocational training, and the message of God’s love, GFA World pastors and Sisters of Compassion contribute to the overall well-being and cohesion of these disadvantaged neighborhoods. The concentration of economic activities and the strong bonds formed through social networks further enhance their sense of community. Recognizing and understanding these statistics and dynamics is crucial for developing targeted interventions and policies that empower residents to improve their lives and build a brighter future within their existing communities. By supporting organizations like GFA World and their slum ministry, individuals can actively contribute to these efforts and make a lasting impact on the lives of those in need.

Learn more about generational slums

[1] “Mumbai Slum Scared of Losing Decades-Old Businesses – Global Times.” n.d. Accessed June 14, 2023.
[2] Papadimitriou, Anastasia. 2019. “The World Mind.” The World Mind . March 2019.
[3] 2017. “The Case for Rethinking India’s Slum Resettlement Policy,” June 9, 2017.