For the millions of youth living in slums, daily life can be grim. Kids start their lives on poverty's front lines, without access to education, infrastructure or sanitation. They are subject to hunger and disease, and are thrust prematurely into adult responsibilities.
Whether due to resource constraints, capacity constraints, lack of urban planning and management, or lack of political will, many cities struggle to keep up with the increasing demand of an exploding urban population.
Because residents of informal settlements in Mexico City are under constant threat of eviction, they do not make infrastructure necessary investments, thereby reducing their health and quality of life.
Megacities create megaproblems. Say "cities" and the negative associations come cascading out: noise, dirt, housing projects, shantytowns, concrete, crowding, crime, drugs, pollution, gridlock, stress, alienation. But they also spur people to figure out megasolutions.
When we suggest commemorating Human Rights Day by talking about housing, we're not being reductionist, nor are we just talking about housing: we're talking about access, about opportunity, about communities finding their voice.
This is not Slumdog Millionaire, and this is not Thomas Friedman's rose-tinted view of Bangalore's high-tech millionaires. Boo's India is an India we need to hear more about, as we grapple with our own most pressing problem of an economic inequality straining credibility.
The people of the slums have come to define a way of life and a culture that doesn't necessarily see them jumping at the opportunity to leave it all behind to pay rent and maintenance for a city-centre condominium.
"I want people of the world to know that people like me come from Bwaise. I know you know about the floods, about the poverty, about the sex work. But I want you to know that there are also inspired, committed young people!"
This past December, I returned to Kolkata for the first time since 2004, this time with my husband, Kiran. Here is our story -- Kiran's photographs, my words -- of poverty, inspirational people, and, ultimately, hope.