David Cameron In India: Economic empowerment in the Mumbai slums

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Economic empowerment in the Mumbai slums

I'm sorry I couldn't post a video yesterday: over the next couple of days I hope I'll be able to update you more regularly.

I've had a quick look at your comments - they're great and I'll try to reply to some of the specific questions later. Someone said they hoped I wasn't being shielded from the reality of poverty in India today: the video clip on this post should reassure you. (Although not the guy who seems to have a problem with my hair.)

Yesterday morning, before the news of the minibus accident, I visited the Bandra Community Empowerment Programme in Dyaneshwar Nagar, one of around 500 slums in Mumbai. Many of the people living there are unemployed or underemployed; others work as auto rickshaw drivers, labourers on construction sites, domestic help and so on. Their low earnings and poor education - especially amongst the women - means there are high levels of debt, made worse by the monopoly of money lenders who charge high interest rates. Lack of access to proper medical care leads to high rates of TB, dysentery and HIV/AIDS.

Visiting the project was an incredibly sobering experience. I was thinking about the speech I was due to make on globalisation later that day. As you'll see when I post some clips from the speech later on, one of the ideas I'm trying to get across is that while globalisation, open markets and economic liberalisation bring huge benefits and have helped to reduce poverty massively, we've got to do more to mend the broken bottom rungs on the ladder from poverty to wealth. We need to match economic liberalism with economic empowerment, to give everyone the chance to share in the opportunities of globalisation.

This project in Mumbai is a vivid example of economic empowerment in action. It's incrediby inspiring, and you can find out more about the organisation behind the programme at www.oasisindia.org