The Seven Myths of ‘Slums’ – Challenging Popular Prejudices About the World’s Urban Poor

As a counterpart to the book Megaslumming about life in Kibera, STWR published a report in 2010 that focused on the global picture and broad solution to the problem of slums. A key element that was missing from the book was the inspiring work of urban poor groups and community networks in many cities of the South, a cause that is championed by innumerable grassroots movements and many NGOs around the world. The Seven Myths of Slums argues that the first step toward realising a ‘world without slums’ lies in supporting the resourcefulness, capacity and organisational ability of the people who actually live inside these settlements – a fact that is long recognised by development practitioners, but still ignored by many governments who continue to displace the urban poor from their places of living and livelihood.

The report also argues that conventional thinking on development issues is often characterised by many assumptions, clichés and rationalisations about the very poor who live in rapidly urbanising cities. In challenging some of these core myths we are able to move beyond a response to poverty motivated by guilt or fear, and instead focus on the structural causes of powerlessness that result in insecurity and deprivation. The report aims to give a general perspective on a range of key issues related to human settlements – including the impact of economic globalisation, the role of national governments, the significance of the informal sector of employment, the question of international aid, and the (little mentioned) controversy surrounding global slum data and development targets.

In its overall message, the report says that a world without slums and poverty cannot be realised without a transformation of our existing political, economic and social structures. If urbanisation trends and cities are to become socially inclusive and sustainable, the report concludes that our only choice is to consider alternative goals and more holistic models for development that prioritise social objectives ahead of corporate profit, with a fairer sharing of resources on the national and global level.

Link to a PDF of the report
Link to a summary of the seven myths
Link to press release