‘Slum tourism’ treads between aid and exploitation



Agence France Presse

Published — Sunday 3 June 2012

Last update 4 June 2012 10:08 pm

| نسخة PDF Print News | A A

“I decided to experience the real Jakarta,” said a tourist, stepping gingerly between puddles of putrid water and a scurrying rat in a scene that would never make a postcard.
Rohaizad Abu Bakar, 28, a bank employee from Singapore, said he could not believe his eyes as he wandered around the slum in the Indonesian capital, a jumble of hundreds of shacks, some less than a meter from a railway line.
Nearby, a small girl picked up a discarded juice bottle in search of a sip while a man wearing tattered shorts lay slumped on a dirty old mattress. Only a blue plastic tarpaulin offered shelter from tropical downpours.
So-called “poverty tourism” is on the rise in Jakarta.
Organizers say it raises awareness and brings aid to the destitute of the city, but accusations of exploitation are never far away and critics say poverty should not be a tourist attraction.
A few hundred families cram into the slum in the Tanah Abang neighborhood, minutes from gleaming shopping malls where the likes of Gucci and Louis Vuitton compete to lure the newly-minted beneficiaries of Indonesia’s economic miracle.
Abu Bakar opted against the picturesque landscapes of other parts of the country to instead join a “Jakarta Hidden Tours” trip, which aims to show visitors the squalid conditions of the nation’s poor.
“Tourists stay in their ghetto. We show what is really Jakarta,” said Ronny Poluan, 59, an Indonesian documentary maker who created the non-profit organization in 2008.
Recent years have seen “poverty tourism” mushroom globally, from the favelas of Brazil to the slums of Dharavi in Mumbai, popularized by the film “Slumdog Millionaire.”
“We have about 10 tours per month, with two to four tourists each time. More and more people are coming, some now even come just for my tour,” Poluan said.
“I’ve had tourists from as far away as Washington. They’re not only backpackers, but also businessmen, bankers,” he added before being cut short by shouting reverberating around the slum.
“Kereta! Kereta!” (“A train, a train“) cried mothers rushing to grab children playing on the track as a roaring locomotive approached, whipping up clouds of dust and garbage as it surged toward the flimsy-looking shacks.
The train recently claimed the life of one little girl who died as she ran after her cat.
The slum dwellers, like half of Indonesia, live on less than two dollars per day. Each tourist pays 500,000 rupiah ($54) to visit, with half of that going to the tour company, and the rest funding doctor visits, microfinance projects or community projects such as school building.
“I don’t give cash. I pay the doctors directly for example,” said Poluan.
But that does not reassure some critics.
“I’m against slums being turned into tourist spots,” Wardah Hafidz, an activist with the Urban Poor Consortium, told AFP. “It’s not about shame. People should not be exhibited like monkeys in the zoo.
“What residents get from these tours, in cash or whatever form, only strips them of their dignity and self respect, turning them into mere beggars.
“They not only become dependent on handouts, but come to expect them. It doesn’t help them to believe they are capable of standing on their own two feet or getting them out of the spiral of poverty,” she added.
Nonetheless, residents say they look forward to the daily influx of foreigners witnessing their lifestyles.
“I like that foreigners want to know about us. It’s good they want to know about us,” said Djoko, a father in his fifties, as he removed labels from a pile of glass and plastic bottles before selling them for recycling.
Tourists deny voyeurism, instead saying that what they witness inspires them to action.
“If I had not seen it, I would not have done anything about it,” said Caroline Bourget.
A teacher at Jakarta’s French school, she is now discussing setting up a mobile school in the slum to give disadvantaged children a better chance in life.
“Here we are at the heart of reality,” she said.
 

What's happening around Saudi Arabia

ABHA: Several Saudi businesswomen started traveling with a group of friends after recent regulations which allow women to travel without their mahram. These women said they find great fun to travel as a group with their friends and their children, wh...
RIYADH: The United Nations, Arab League and Gulf Cooperation Council welcomed the Kingdom-led coalition’s announcement of a five-day cease-fire, that took effect at midnight on Sunday, to push humanitarian relief in war-ravaged Yemen to the beleaguer...
ALKHOBAR: Jobless Saudi women constitute 70 percent of the unemployed. The Ministry of Economy and Planning said 58 percent of the jobless have preparatory school level education. According to the statistics, the annual unemployment growth rate among...
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has found traces of a civilization that was domesticating horses about 9,000 years ago, 4,000 years earlier than previously thought. The discovery has shed new light on the origin of the Arabian horse, which has remained a great...
RIYADH: The Ministry of Labor in the Makkah region found 250 laborers working on various construction projects during restricted hours of the day. Punitive measures will be taken against the employers of these workers. According to a ministerial decr...
JEDDAH: When poverty is your guest for 15 years, gardens, parks, streets and pavements become your abode under the unavoidable scorching sun. One has to face hardships of hunger and survive on breadcrumbs. This is the situation of a 60-year-old Saudi...
JEDDAH: The negative attitudes of society in dealing with harassment and abuse cases prevent victims from reporting a great number of such cases to the authorities.Despite this, about 3,982 cases reached the country's criminal courts in 1435 and 1436...
AL-QATIF: The Omani security forces have arrested a man who, they said, accidentally fired a bullet that hit a young Saudi girl in a hotel in Musandam on Saturday. Four-year-old Zainab bint Mohammed Labad of Al-Awamiyah was playing in the hotel lobby...
Ramon Corvera, deputy chief of mission at the Argentinian Embassy in Riyadh.* Which particular aspect of Saudi Arabia you like the most? The natural beauty of the desert.* What is your favorite and oft-repeated Arabic word? Masha’Allah.* Which book i...
JEDDAH: The creativity and entrepreneurship community program of Umm Al-Qura University brought together 80 creative entrepreneurs to exchange their experiences and knowledge on Monday. Fawaz Saad, the dean of the institute for innovation and entrepr...
RIYADH: The August issue of ‘Nature’, the monthly magazine of King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), will focus on Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) corona, which has affected 1,055 people in the Kingdom since June 2012.The to...
LILLE, France: Saudi Arabia’s firm stand against the phenomenon of violence as well as religious, ethnic and cultural fanaticism came in for praise at an international symposium, which concluded here.The participants of the symposium on "Media Covera...
DAMMAM: Saudi Arabian Boy Scouts Association (SABSA) is participating in the 23rd World Scout Jamboree with the slogan “A Spirit of Unity,” which starts July 28 and runs until August 8 in Kirara-hama, Japan. A total of 32,000 scouts from 144 national...
JEDDAH: The Ministry of Labor was able to increase the number of Saudi women employees from 70,000 to 428,000 during the past four years, Abdul Munim Al-Shehri, assistant undersecretary for special programs, has said . The ministry is now working on...
JEDDAH: A court issued a 10-year prison sentence against a health employee in Al-Ahsa and fined him SR1 million for getting involved in forgery and fraud as well as embezzling public funds in contracts to import medical equipment for the Children and...

Stay Connected

Facebook