On Al Jazeera’s Deliverance: The Slum

Photo from Flickr

Gener’s story is a story of the origin of slums — of how all power, resources, and opportunities are poured into one metro alone, prompting the neglected rural citizens to migrate.

Slums are crime and poverty-ridden communities deprived of basic social services such as health, food, and job security. They are often located in mega-cities and are treated as the former’s dumping sites. However, Al Jazeera’s Deliverance: The Slums’ reveals that there is more to the aforementioned characteristics that make slums a community — the essence of a shared struggle for survival. This “essence” was best exemplified by the subjects of the documentary: Remy, a self-taught community midwife; Jane, a part-time community reproductive health worker; and Gener, a family breadwinner.

First, through Remy, we witnessed the harsh conditions of the sector of women and children in impoverished communities. Although some would argue that her line of work is illegal, she is nothing but a product of the inaccessibility of the neoliberal restructuring of our healthcare system. No pregnant person is totally willing to be treated by an unregistered midwife unless the profit-driven system pushes them into desperation — revealing the privilege of choice and the illusion of free will in our society. Hence, it is safe to say that a stillborn baby hidden in a plastic bag and buried in a corrugated carton is not a dystopic phenomenon, but a common occurrence for a lot of people.

Second, through Jane, we witnessed how backward our public health sector is in the country. Although there are external pressures especially from conservative institutions that hinder the normalization of reproductive health in our society, it is still valid to direct its poor implementation to the national government. Nongovernment organizations with limited funding like Likhaan Center for Women’s Health are left to bear the supposed mandate of the government; hence, the concept of “irresponsible family planning” should not only be attributed to poor parents who are merely denied access to sex education and contraceptives. Moreover, our macho-feudal and patriarchal culture shifts the blame for teenage pregnancy towards girls who are probably victims of sexual abuse, and not towards the predatory men who impregnate them; and promotes discouraging permanent birth controls for women over reversible ones for men.

Lastly, through Gener, we witnessed the struggles of the sector of urban poor. It was evident how the treatment of slums as dumping sites affects their livelihood as fisherfolk. It is an injustice that up to this day, families like Gener’s who provide us food cannot afford one and resort instead to mere condiments. Furthermore, the incident where his motor was stolen exemplifies the antagonization between the working class; which hinders them from collectively recognizing their struggles as systematic ones that can be directed to those in power, instead of among them. Gener’s story is a story of the origin of slums — of how all power, resources, and opportunities are poured into one metro alone, prompting the neglected rural citizens to migrate. This migration has long congested the metro and forced migrants to fend for themselves by building communities from scratch and the essence of shared struggles. Slum communities are not naturally a haven of poverty and crime — it is conditioned that way because of government inaction and negligence.

Deliverance came in many forms throughout the documentary—from Remy delivering infants with little to no certainty of life, Jane delivering women from yet another “irresponsible” pregnancy, and to Gener delivering food to the table after five days of no catch. The question is, when will these people be delivered from the shackles of the slums?

Written by Allen John Dela Cruz on October 2021 for Community Engagement, Solidarity, and Citizenship (CESC)

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