10 Improvements in Women’s Rights in Bangladesh
Bangladeshi women are no strangers to fighting for what they believe in. In 1952, the women of Bangladesh fought against the patriarchal regime alongside their husbands for the recognition of the Bengali language. Below are 10 improvements in women’s rights in Bangladesh.

10 Improvements in Women’s Rights in Bangladesh

  1. Health. The USAID assisted in joint communication between husbands and wives regarding women’s health. Therefore, decision-making is mutual and focuses on the future of the family, including healthier pregnancies for both mother and child. Bangladeshi women formed NGOs to mobilize and provide door to door health services, family planning and income-earning opportunities.
  2. Agriculture. Bangladeshi women are not only homemakers, but they are also income earners. Female farmers utilize a new technology, known as the fertilizer deep treatment method. This method uses less fertilizer and produces a higher return on investment. Additionally, Bangladesh also encourages women to sell in markets and pursue other areas of earned income, such as culturing fish and shrimp.
  3. Gender-Based Violence. The USAID works to implement the Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Act of 2010 in training 50 percent of Bangladeshi women. Further, Bangladesh also supports grassroots efforts of social protection groups as well. Groups act as the ears and eyes of the community, as well as enforcing current human rights laws and providing resources to legal channels. Groups include social workers, doctors, religious leaders, teachers and students.
  4. Voting Rights. The country has set an example of women’s equality in voting. In 1972, the Constitution of Bangladesh guaranteed women the same voting rights as their male counterparts. The constitution also guaranteed equal opportunities, such as serving in parliament. For example, in 1991, there was the election of the first female Prime Minister, Khaleda Zia. Today, Sheikh Hasina holds the seat as Prime Minister. Furthermore, Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury holds the seat as House Speaker.
  5. Women and Children Repression (Special Act). In 1995, Bangladesh passed the special act for severe punishment for anyone guilty of forcing women to marry against their will, as well as marrying for dowry. In 2018, the high court also banned and prohibited the two-finger test; it deemed this test irrational and belittling to rape victims. Instead, the government adopted a more appropriate form of health care protocol in line with the World Health Organization.
  6. Education. Research finds that access to education and employment plays a positive role in helping women avoid becoming victims of dowry-related transactions. Illiteracy stifles the opportunity for growth and empowerment for women. The Centre for Policy Dialogue completed a study and found that if homemakers received pay for what people believe is
    non-work, they would receive 2.5 to 2.9 times higher pay than paid services income.
  7. Mass Awareness. Bangladesh also encourages mass discussion, debates and programs to bring awareness to gender inequality. According to lawmakers, mass public initiatives must include legislations and policies; this includes awareness that people teach and model at home.
  8. Working Women. Bangladeshi working women increased from 16.2 million in 2010 to 18.6 million in 2016-17. In 2017, the Gender Gap Index reported Bangladesh in the first spot amongst South Asian countries.
  9. Education. In 1990, the implementation of stipends exclusively for female students in efforts to end gender disparity for secondary schools occurred. Also, 150,000 primary school girls improved their reading skills. Participation increased from 57 percent in 2008 to 94.4 percent in 2017. Moreover, 10 million rural and underprivileged women in 490 Upazilas of 64 districts gained technology access. Bangladesh tops the Gender Gap Index in education in the primary and secondary education category.
  10. More Achievements. Bangladesh initiatives thus far include a reduction in infant and child mortality, poverty alleviation, increased female entrepreneurs and increased education and health. Other initiatives include strengthening workplace treatment and security for women against violence. There have also been income-generating initiatives to train over 2 million women at a grassroots level. Finally, Prime Minister Hasina created the Reserve Quota aimed at increasing the number of women in government, judiciary and U.N. peacekeeping missions and roles.

These 10 improvements in women’s rights in Bangladesh continue to set an example for other countries where inequality is extremely pervasive. While Bangladesh still requires significant work, these improvements bring more opportunities for Bangladeshi women to succeed in the future.

Michelle White
Photo: Flickr

HYDRO IndustriesWater is essential to life, but unfortunately, there are people all over the world who do not have access to clean water. Pollution, poverty and weak infrastructure are often the causes of a lack of clean water. The world’s poor population has often been obligated to travel great distances in order to get clean water. Dirty water often leads to unsanitary conditions and the spread of disease. Thousands die each year from diseases due to a lack of clean water. Fortunately, a company called HYDRO Industries has a new way to provide water to those in need all over the world.

HYDRO Industries

HYDRO Industries is partnering with BRAC, one of the biggest non-governmental organizations in the world, to bring clean water to Bangladesh. BRAC was founded in Bangladesh, so this is their way of giving back to the community. In Bangladesh, five million people lack access to safe water, and 85 million people do not have access to proper sanitation. The current setup is not working well enough, so a new way to provide water is needed. The two organizations plan to begin their operation in Bangladesh in the spring of 2020.

HYDRO Industries will provide its products and BRAC will use its connections with local communities to establish the water treatment plants. The project aims to help around 25,000 people in the first phase and then continue to improve their product and increase the number of people they are serving. HYDRO hopes to expand all over Bangladesh and neighboring Nepal and India.

How Important is Clean Water?

  • Almost 800 million people do not have access to safe water
  • Two billion people don’t have a good toilet to use
  • A child under five dies every two minutes because of dirty water and poor toilets
  • Every minute a newborn dies because of infections from an unsanitary environment and unsafe water
  • For every $1 invested in clean water, there is a $4 increase in productivity
  • Every day, women around the world spend 200 million hours collecting water
  • Almost 300,000 children under age five die annually from diarrheal diseases

The world’s poor population sometimes has to spend hours looking for clean water. If the water is no longer a worry, they will have more time to be productive and focus on their economy. Clean water also reduces the likelihood of disease. Better health and productivity can result in a better community in the world’s poorest places.

What Does HYDRO Do?

HYDRO is a Welsh tech company that creates innovative water treatment plants that can treat water and raise it to drinking standards. The company also uniquely treats the water. Instead of using chemicals to purify water, they use electric power, which makes the entire process more sustainable and effective than chemical-based purification.

Bangladesh is not the first place that HYDRO is planning on helping. In fact, the organization has already provided clean water to multiple poverty-stricken areas around the world. In 2016, HYDRO provided clean water for 82 East African villages. There the water treatment plants provided locals with 8.5 million liters of water every day.

Finding a new way to provide water to those in need is important to work. HYDRO Industries has an innovative method that could potentially help millions of people around the world. Using electric power, HYDRO’s water treatment units can provide water at levels above western standards. Clean water is such an immense benefit to people all over the world. Clean water helps people fight disease and death. Providing a consistent and clean source of water close to people’s homes makes communities more productive and provides a better chance of reducing poverty.

Gaurav Shetty
Photo: Flickr

Economic Growth in BangladeshBangladesh, a diverse and culturally rich nation located in South Asia, is known for its beautiful green scenery and numerous waterways. It is currently the 8th most populous country worldwide. When it first became an independent country in 1971, Bangladesh was incredibly poor with 82 percent of the population living below the extreme poverty line. At the time, the country experienced a negative rate of 14 percent; political tensions were high and the nation was continuously devastated by famine and flood. Today, the situation is much different.

Growth on Many Fronts

Bangladesh now has an average economic growth rate of 8 percent, well above the regional average growth rate of 5.5 percent. In the first quarter of 2019, Bangladesh was the 7th fastest growing economy in the world, with a real GDP growth rate of 7.4 percent. Notably, between 2008 and 2017, per capita income in Bangladesh has increased by 149 percent helping to boost human development indicators for the country.

Bangladesh’s remarkable economic growth has raised a significant portion out of the population out of poverty. The poverty rate of Bangladesh fell from 48.9 percent in 2000 to 24.3 percent in 2016 and the proportion of employed workers living in extreme poverty dropped from 73.5 percent in 2010 to 14.8 percent in 2016.

Contributors to Economic Growth in Bangladesh

With a combination of progressive social policies and economic reforms, Bangladesh has been able to attract a large number of foreign investment and find new markets, resulting in a thriving economy despite the world’s stagnating state.

Bangladesh’s economic liberalization, successful adaptation and modernization policies have allowed the country to compete in the global market place and attract foreign investors. Net foreign direct investment rose by 42.9 percent, concentrating on the power, food and textile sectors.

The Garment Industry

The success of the garment industry is one contributor to strong economic growth in Bangladesh, accounting for 84.2 percent of exports in the country. Growth in garment exports increased from 8.8 percent to 11.5 percent in 2018, reflecting strong demand from the U.S. and newer markets like Canada, Japan, India, China and Korea.

Despite continued success in the garment sector, it is risky to rely on a single industry for the majority of exports. Bangladesh is aiming to diversify its export basket, increasing competitiveness in other sectors as well. The Export Competitiveness for Jobs project, supported by World Bank Group, is an example of the effort Bangladesh’s government is taking to increase diversity in exports. 

Empowering Women

Additionally, Bangladesh has taken serious steps to empower women with efforts from non-governmental organizations such as Grameen and BRAC as well as the government to educate girls and give women a greater voice in both households and society. These efforts have helped to improve children’s health and education, which are key indicators of economic development. Additionally, the authority promotes lending to small and medium-sized enterprises as well as women entrepreneurs, introducing policies that promote economic inclusion, creating more active transactions and other economic activities.

Moving Forward with a Vision

Since 1975, Bangladesh has been listed by the U.N. as one of the least developed countries (LDCs) but has recently met the criteria to graduate from that status by 2024, which is a sign indicating the country’s capability to enable sustainable development. The government has its own agenda to become a middle-income country by 2021, celebrating the nation’s 50th birthday.

Thanks to sound economic policies, rapid modernization and progressive demographic development, Bangladesh is now able to build an economy that can successfully thrive in a volatile world. With the right policies and timely actions, Bangladesh is on the trajectory to achieve its “Vision 2021”.

– Minh-Ha La
Photo: Flickr

How Bangladesh Reduced Poverty
Bangladesh is a country of 159 million people in the Bay of Bengal next to India. Bangladesh struggled with poverty and economic problems after gaining its independence in 1971. However, the country has recently seen economic growth along with a steady decline in poverty. How Bangladesh reduced poverty holds lessons for other countries and one can attribute it to a variety of factors.

Investing in Public Services

In the past six years, Bangladesh has lifted 8 million people out of poverty. The rate of extreme poverty fell from 17 percent to 13 percent, and the overall poverty rate declined from more than 31 percent to 24 percent. Bangladesh has also made great strides in education, health, infrastructure and energy. Primary school enrollment rates have risen from 80 percent in 2000 to more than 90 percent in 2015, and secondary school enrollment has increased from 45 percent in 2000 to 62 percent in 2015. This jump in education heralds a bright future ahead as Bangladesh invests in its youth.

In terms of health care, the country has achieved an amazing 40 percent decrease in maternal mortality rates, as well as ensuring that 63 percent of pregnant women received maternity care from a trained medical professional in 2015, up from 53 percent in 2007. Bangladesh has also improved its infrastructure by building new roads and water pipelines. People now have better access to schools, health facilities and workplaces, and the pipelines have increased access to drinkable water in rural areas. Lastly, Bangladesh has added over 2,000 megawatts of energy to the national grid and provided solar energy capabilities to over four million households in remote areas. These improvements help households go about daily activities and provide more consistent access to the internet for individuals and businesses. All of these improvements help explain how Bangladesh reduced poverty and may serve as an example for other countries.

Implementing Special Economic Zones

Bangladesh reduced poverty and increased its GDP and living standards thanks to the government’s decisions and international aid. The creation of special economic zones that encourage foreign investment was one major factor in Bangladesh’s economic growth. These zones ensure legal protection and fiscal incentives for investors and allow freer movement of goods and services. These policies make these zones in Bangladesh a safe and profitable place for foreign companies to invest.

Currently, garments and textiles are Bangladesh’s biggest industries, but it is expanding into technology as well thanks to these economic zones. For example, Bangladesh exported 12 industrial robots to South Korea in 2018. While Bangladesh currently has 12 special economic zones, there are plans to create 100 special economic zones and technology hubs to foster future growth. This investment creates jobs and brings money into the economy. Bangladesh is currently trying to direct that new money into new businesses and build the country’s service industries.

The International Development Association

In addition to government policy, the World Bank and the International Development Association (IDA) were also crucial to Bangladesh’s improving fortunes. Many of the country’s achievements in infrastructure, health, energy and education have come with the help of IDA financing. The IDA has given Bangladesh over $28 billion in grants and interest-free credit. This funding has been crucial to the country’s recent accomplishments. The combination of IDA funding and special economic zones has given Bangladesh the jobs and infrastructure needed to pull themselves out of poverty. International aid has been a crucial factor in Bangladesh’s development.

Bangladesh has made remarkable strides in both economic growth and quality of life. Economic policies that encourage foreign investment and help from the IDA both help explain how Bangladesh reduced poverty in the last decade.

– Josh Fritzjunker
Photo: Flickr

Health Care in Bangladesh
Bangladesh is a country in South Asia that borders Myanmar, India, Nepal and Bhutan. In 2019, the country’s estimated population was about 163 million people. Additionally, the country’s economy has shown an increase in exports and remittances in 2019. According to the World Bank, the country’s extreme poverty rate has reduced by half but people still consider it a developing nation. The country’s under-five mortality rate has declined in recent years as well as its maternal mortality rate. There has been an increase in malnourished children and lung diseases, however. There has also been an increase in health and safety in workplaces. Organizations both in the country and worldwide are helping to increase health care in Bangladesh.

5 Organizations Improving Health Care in Bangladesh

  1. World Health Organization (WHO): Based in Switzerland, WHO is a United Nations agency that focuses on international public health. In Bangladesh, the company provides medical aid such as vaccinations, medical research and alerts on medical outbreaks and emergencies. It also helps develop health policies, as well as monitor illness and disease trends in an attempt to prevent outbreaks. By offering these resources, the World Health Organization is improving Bangladesh’s health faster than before, which the organization’s research shows. The organization’s research shows that in 2018, 94 percent of new or relapse Tuberculosis cases received treatment, compared to around 60 percent in 2008. By introducing advanced medical techniques to the country, vaccinations and monitoring, WHO has been able to decrease the number of individuals who die from the illness.

  2. Bangladesh Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE): Bangladesh’s Ministry of Labor and Employment runs this organization and is responsible for the safety of factories, workplaces and their employees. Its job is to ensure the welfare, safety and health of all workers in Bangladesh. It ensures this by enforcing the country’s labor laws, as well as constantly updating policies to ensure employee safety. The organization has three departments including the Labor Department, the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments and the Department of Trade Union Registration. By breaking the organization into smaller departments, workplace health and safety has improved, as well as the number of businesses in the country. This increases jobs as well as job security because there is less fear of injury or illness from the workplace.

  1. Public Health Foundation of Bangladesh: The World Health Organization has established the Public Health Foundation of Bangladesh, which is a volunteer-based organization. HR experts, researchers, scientists, clinicians, nurses, sociologists and other health science experts lead this group. The goal of the group is to conduct research and provide education that will develop the Bangladesh health in both society and health care systems. The organization aims to improve health care access to Bangladesh citizens by making health care more affordable and easily accessible for individuals below the poverty line.

  1. World Lung Foundation: Established in 2004, the World Lung Foundation aims to increase global response to lung disease, an illness that kills around 10 million individuals annually. In 2017, lung disease made up 8.69 percent of the country’s deaths, which equals up to 68,462 people. The organization is decreasing the number by providing programs in Bangladesh, as well as emphasizing tobacco control, the negative effects of air pollution and how lung disease leads to illnesses such as Tuberculosis and acute respiratory infections. By educating Bangladesh citizens, Tuberculosis, maternal and infant mortality rates have dropped.

  1. USAID: A U.S. based agency, USAID has set up programs to help improve health and nutrition in Bangladesh. Because of this, the organization has helped decrease the under-five mortality rates, as well as maternal mortality rates. USAID has also expanded the use of family planning, improved and integrated health systems into Bangladesh, as well as strengthen the health care system and government. This leads to overall better access to health care, healthcare policies and better health practices.

Bangladesh’s extreme poverty rate has reduced by half, but the country’s population has been rising. With an undesirable health care system, organizations such as WHO and USAID have helped the country’s overall health improve, and has also decreased mortality rates. The DIFE and Public Health Foundation of Bangladesh have ensured the safety and health of individuals in the workplace and in society. Also, organizations such as The World Lung Foundation bring awareness to some of the leading mortality rates.

– Destinee Smethers
Photo: Flickr

 

Sanitation in Rohingya Refugee CampsMass persecution and forced deportation of the stateless Rohingya people in Myanmar have created over 1 million homeless refugees in Southeastern Asia. Historically facing discrimination, the Rohingya are a Muslim minority group in western Myanmar (formerly Burma). They have been regarded as stateless, meaning without citizenship or any rights associated with it, since 1982, and the recent Buddhist nationalist movement has led to increased religious tension. They have mainly fled to Bangladesh, many of them have no choice but to leave Myanmar and enter Bangladesh illegally. This is partly due to their lack of freedom under the Myanmarese government’s labeling of stateless.

Sanitation and Water Issues

The largest refugee camp area in Bangladesh is Cox’s Bazar, where over 900,000 Rohingya people have taken up residence across 27 different locations. The area, not designed to hold this many people for so long, faces extreme overcrowding. The overcrowding is so dire, Bangladesh has been searching for ways to send back the refugees. It has been difficult for many to have adequate sanitation in Rohingya refugee camps. There has even been a worry that existing wells have been constructed too close to the latrines. If this is the case, mass disease outbreaks could occur without sanitation improvements. However, organizations like the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Oxfam have been working to improve these conditions.

Cox’s Bazar is very susceptible to long dry seasons, from November to April or even May. Long dry seasons lead to the main water reservoirs that the refugees use for their water drying up. Shallow tube wells that some organizations have constructed are also very susceptible to drying. The dry season has been much worse recently due to the climate changes associated with El Niño. To make matters worse, the rain has come only in dramatic cyclones. To ensure sanitation in Rohingya refugee camps, including clean water access and improve sanitation, organizations developed and implemented deep-well tubes.

Deep tube wells penetrate the ground past surface-level aquifers and reach the more stable water table beneath. These wells allow for more consistent water access. The water is then piped up to above-ground tanks with solar energy, where it can be monitored and the quality of water can be maintained at safe levels. Constructed in many strategically placed areas of Cox’s Bazar, there are over 20,000 shallow and deep tube wells in place. With the rapid construction of these wells, the UNHCR and Bangladeshi government have reached the goal of 20 liters per person every day.

Rohingya Women and Issues of Safety

The issue of proper latrine construction and maintenance has also been an issue that plagues the Rohingya refugees, particularly women. Many women and girls do not feel safe using the latrines, or even walking to them. They are typically in very difficult-to-reach areas of the camps. Refugees often must walk down steep, muddy slopes to reach the toilets and showers. Other than the trek, the latrines typically have no roofs or doors, and sometimes have little to no walls. In an area with hundreds of thousands of people, a third of Rohingya women did not feel safe taking a shower or using the toilet, according to a study conducted by Oxfam in 2018.

Refugee women need to feel safe and comfortable. Oxfam has been working with the women to design new latrines. These efforts also help women become more involved in the decision-making processes in the camps. The newly designed latrines have a full four walls, as well as a door, a sink and a stall. By involving more women in infrastructure projects such as these, they become more empowered and eager to participate in decision-making processes. This creates a lasting effect, especially in the younger Rohingya generations, that ensures greater stability among gender equalities in a place where women are largely left out of critical decision discussions.

The Future of Rohingya Refugees

The number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh is higher than ever. But these refugees have seen major improvements through the engaging and effective efforts from many humanitarian organizations, both governmental and non-governmental. While there are still challenges to overcome, continued improvements in water access means improved sanitation in Rohingya refugee camps and clean water for refugees. Oxfam works to provide upgraded latrines and toilet sanitation for better privacy and safety for women and children. In addition, the construction of thousands of deep-tube wells ensures that no disease outbreaks will take place on account of contamination from the toilets.

While the situation in Myanmar and Bangladesh remains tumultuous, those affected experience rapid developments in their living conditions. More refugees are likely to enter Cox’s Bazar, but sustained support from the international community ensures that more refugees than ever are able to have improved sanitation in Rohingya refugee camps.

Graham Gordon
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Human Milk and Infant Nutrition 

Breastmilk possesses invaluable qualities that nourish, nurture and protect infant health. Most people are aware that the properties of breast milk help to fight against infections in infants. However, it is lesser-known that breastfeeding stimulates hormone responses that establish bonds crucial to healthy emotional development. There is a general lack of awareness surrounding the global inequalities of breast milk, particularly in nutrient quality and status. Society perpetuates the cycle of poverty when they remain naive of the issues affecting poor women.

Not only is the nutritional value of breast milk unequal across nations, but women in developing countries are disproportionately affected by poverty and malnutrition. This further hinders the production of nutrient-rich human milk in low-income areas. Women are also less likely to receive health and nutrition education than men. Despite the fact that women are natural suppliers of infant nutrition, they forfeit nutritional intake under the given circumstances.

Women’s issues in developing nations also face a disparity in the quantity of data. Lindsay Allen, a scientist who studies human milk and micronutrient deficiencies in developing countries, addresses this issue with the MILQ Project. She emphasizes that understanding differences in human milk condition is key in bridging the human milk and infant nutrition gap.

The MILQ Project in a Nutshell

To study the human milk quality of women in developing countries, Allen collected samples from well-nourished lactating mothers in Bangladesh, Brazil, Denmark and The Gambia. With these reference values, she gained a better understanding of the quality of breast milk concerning maternal nutrient intake and infant status. Allen used a consistent frame of reference for extracting research (from the time of delivery until nearly 9 months postpartum) to increase the accuracy of results. She found that there is considerable variance in micronutrient value in breast milk, an issue that remains a misconception among common social ideology.

More specifically, the concentration of thiamin in breast milk and infant status was found to be closely linked to maternal intake. Maternal deficiencies are likely the cause of correlating infant deficiencies, but with supplementation, thiamin levels and infant status were able to adjust accordingly. Research shows that vitamin B6 concentration in infants is also strongly linked to breast milk amounts and maternal status. Additionally, supplementation also improves human milk concentration in a short amount of time.

Sociocultural Norms Leave Women’s Issues Unattended

In addition to the limited evidence base for human milk and infant nutrition, there is also an extreme lack of resources when it comes to nutritional recommendations for lactating mothers. The only mentioning of nutritional lactation support given by the World Health Organization (WHO) was in 2016. The WHO asserts that postpartum women may be prescribed supplementation of iron and potentially folic acid to reduce the risk of anemia for areas in which it is considered a public health concern.

Regarding iron deficiency statistics, the WHO states that “data indicates that while iodine status has improved among pregnant and lactating women in Europe, the eastern Mediterranean, Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific regions, there has been little progress in the African region.” Researchers are learning that lactation nutrition goes beyond iron and folic acid. Studies like the MILQ Project are progressive steps towards bridging the gap in human milk and infant nutrition.

Breast Milk Goes Beyond Nutrition

The biochemical correspondence that takes place between a mother and her infant is a complicated interaction. The recent developments have made it possible to explore the molecular chemical structure of breast milk and infant nutrition. Various other health and therapeutic benefits that extend beyond its nutritive assets can now be validated through research. Infants that receive breast milk of optimal nutritional quality gain access to profound benefits. Areas where infants face micronutrient deficiencies may encounter more of a struggle. This creates a gap between the nursing mother and her infant in terms of the health benefits, as well as their biochemical interaction. Nursing, along with skin to skin contact, allows both mother and baby to produce oxytocin, a hormone that triggers other positive chemical reactions in the brain and is essential in forming bonds.

Recent improvements in methodology have allowed for the study of the chemical nature of breast milk. However, it is still not surprising that few studies have been carried out on this subject. These scientific advancements can aid in developing strategies surrounding nutrition, healthy feeding practices and therapeutic methodologies for infants. These societal advancements will further assist in bridging the gap in human milk and infant nutrition.

In Allen’s MILQ Study, vitamin concentrations in breast milk in developing areas were considered insufficient to obtain adequate infant status. Nutrient deficient mothers are not able to provide all of the necessary nutrients and micronutrients to their infants. The review shows that vitamin concentration levels are often less than half of optimal levels in comparison to the U.S. When it comes to human milk and infant nutrition, there is a global and gendered gap limiting the world’s understanding of the inequalities of human milk.

Helen Schwie
Photo: Flickr
 

 

10 Facts about Human Trafficking in Bangladesh  
Bangladesh is a country in South Asia that faces many hardships due to poverty. Many residents are struggling to survive, and in turn, crime follows. A crime like human trafficking is detrimental to Bangladesh and the millions of victims it affects. Here are 10 facts about human trafficking in Bangladesh to broaden the scope of what effects poverty has on human trafficking.

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Bangladesh

  1. Bangladesh is a hub for trafficking. The geography of Bangladesh plays a major role in its human trafficking issues. It is located near the Gulf region that links to South Asia. Traffickers transport people on boats to one of the 20 specific drop-off zones in any of the 16 districts in the area. Traffickers could also transport victims to many other South-East Asian countries. There were around 25,000 trafficking victims from January to April 2015 and the drop-off zones were in Maheshkhali, Cox’s Bazar Sadar, Teknaf and Ukhia. Bangladesh’s Coast Guard also reported the rescue of 116 people between the ages of 16 and 25 from the Bay of Bengal in June 2015. Using boats as the main vessels of transportation started in 2003 and caused an increase in human trafficking.
  2. Limited available jobs can lead to vulnerability. Bangladesh is not only a hub because of its geography, but also its limited jobs and resources. Someone can easily become deceived into becoming a human trafficking victim because they would like to obtain a job. The unemployment rate is 4.30 percent with an average salary of $60 a month. There are 27 million in Bangladesh facing extreme poverty and 31 percent living in chronic poverty in less developed areas. Within these circumstances, people in poverty to this degree are willing to take any job opportunities they can find. Human traffickers use this to their advantage and lure unknowing people into job scams; the traffickers promise a good career in another country, but in reality, they will use desperate people for any number of torture, prostitution and labor schemes. Giving way to more economic growth would reduce the number of people who fall victim to human trafficking substantially.
  3. Women are especially prone to human trafficking. Among the 10 facts about human trafficking in Bangladesh is that women make up the most trafficking victims and they have little protection. Reports determined that Pakistan was a transit location for two million women and that Cox’s Bazar had trafficked 3,500 young girls in a matter of 10 years. Women are susceptible to forced prostitution and face abuse, rape and possibly murder. Traffickers traffick 400 women a month in Bangladesh. This trafficking has become a larger-scale operation and around 200,000 women, some as young as 9, have gone to different countries unwillingly.
  4. Sex trafficking is a rising form of human trafficking. There are different forms of trafficking and sex trafficking is one of the most profitable. This kind of trafficking makes up for half of all trafficking profit and only accounts for 5 percent of victims. The victims often suffer in this industry for years and it becomes a lifestyle. Since prostitution became legal in 2000, workers receive little protection. An estimated total of 100,000 women and young girls are working as prostitutes, but less than 10 percent are working voluntarily. Forced sex work is an issue affecting women and girls all over Bangladesh, but the country rarely criminalizes it. Out of 6,000 people that authorities arrest for sex trafficking-related crimes, only 25 people received a conviction.
  5. The BNWLA advocates for progress in women’s safety. The Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association (BNWLA) is an organization that emerged to protect women. The BNWLA formed in 1979 focusing specifically on the legality of human trafficking. It advocates for new laws, fights for prevention and protection, and supports local woman lawyers to make a change. The BNWLA successfully advocated for a Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection Act) that eventually passed in 2010. This act was a huge feat and protected women and children against four kinds of abuse.
  6. Organized crime and gang violence tactics are ever-changing. When there is a large population of people living in a country where there is extreme poverty, organized crime is highly likely to occur. Gang leaders (better known as mastaans) are always looking for new ways to get some fast money. Manipulation of children to aid gangs in human trafficking is a tactic that is especially heartless but has shown to be successful. Organized crime involving children is becoming alarmingly popular; estimates determine that there are 1.7 million children with crime exposure crime and that number is rising. Mastaans take advantage of how vulnerable children are in poverty and use them merely as another means of profit. Legislation has made some progress to reduce the risk of children’s exposure to the life of organized crime or human trafficking with the New Children’s Act, but there is little consistency with enforcement.
  7. Lack of education is another factor in human trafficking. Education in Bangladesh lacks a proper structure for children 14-18. The dropout rate for that age group was 65 percent and over half of household heads do not have any education. Seventeen percent of these household heads were on the low end of literacy. Since it is not a requirement for children to attend school, they have to find ways to keep occupied. They do not have anyone closely watching them like children in school and it makes them vulnerable to human trafficking.
  8. Consequences and laws against trafficking are at a minimum. Bangladesh has made progress in its strides towards ending global poverty with the emergence of The Human Trafficking Deterrence and Suppression Act in 2012. While any progress is good, there are many gaps in the enforcement of legislation. In 2017, there were 778 reports of human trafficking with a single conviction. Numbers like these are astounding and show a huge lack of governmental support in ending human trafficking. Protection services in Bangladesh receive limited support as well; services for victims of human trafficking have proven to not thoroughly address the needs of the victim, nor do they include adult men at all. Major governmental reform is necessary to stop human trafficking.
  9. Local organizations are pushing for better treatment. The Thengamara Mohila Sabuj Sangha (TMSS) is a woman-focused, local nonprofit organization founded in 1986 that aids survivors of human trafficking to start new lives. The goal for TMSS is to create businesses and jobs and give any extra support to those struggling to live in Bangladesh. TMSS has many departments within the organization including finance, events/training, market research and development.  Little access to health care is a huge issue that TMSS addresses with a growing number of immunizations, pre and post-natal care and overall education. From 2004-2009, tetanus immunizations in women aged 15-49 grew from just 335 to 1,231 women. The health education from 2004-2009 grew from 13,248 to 55,440. TMSS has been a huge benefit to Bangladesh by providing these potentially life-saving immunizations and education.
  10. The United Nations Global Initiative. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is reaching out to strengthen Bangladesh’s ability to fight trafficking on a legal and financial level. Mr. Syed Muazzem Ali, the High Commissioner of Bangladesh to India, works with the UNODC regional office for South Asia. Mr. Ali notes that there have been tremendous amounts of progress in Bangladesh including improvements in life expectancy, total fertility rate and infant mortality rate. Human trafficking became a topic of interest for the UNODC in March 2007 with The United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking. Within this initiative, the UNODC listed Bangladesh as a country especially in need of change against human trafficking. Through this initiate, countries like Bangladesh had to hold more accountability for human trafficking and acquire education on factors that aid trafficking.

These 10 facts about human trafficking in Bangladesh determine that it and the many forms it takes is a serious issue that puts the lives of men, women and children in grave danger. The life of extreme poverty in Bangladesh increases both the risk becoming a victim of human trafficking and becoming involved in organized crime. Weak consequences for trafficking clearly leads to little change, and governmental actions must happen to make these changes. Optimistically, organizations locally and internationally (like TMSS and UNODC) are putting their best effort forward to give the people of Bangladesh access to health care, education and funding to end human trafficking.

Kat Fries
Photo: Flickr

China's Belt and Road Initiative
Chinese authorities have dubbed the One Belt One Road Initiative as the Project of the Century. Spanning 78 countries with a total investment representing 70 percent of the world’s population, 55 percent of its GDP and 75 percent of its energy reserves, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is the world’s largest-scale development project. The One Belt One Road is conceptually based on the historic Silk Road, a network of trade routes established during China’s Han Dynasty from the second century B.C. until the 14th century A.D. stretching from China to the Mediterranean.

Broken down into two parts, BRI is composed of a land-based Silk Road Economic Belt, which will connect China with Central Asia, Eastern Europe and Western Europe, and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, a sea-based route that will give China’s southern coast access to the Mediterranean, South-East Asia, Central Asia and Africa. The One Belt includes six economic corridors by land and the maritime One Road has two directions, one reaching the Indian Ocean from China’s coastal ports and extending to Europe and the other from coastal China to the South Pacific.

This modern Silk Road is a massive undertaking of unprecedented scope that will take the next 20 years to build. China is investing over $1 trillion to implement the infrastructure projects, funded through low-cost loans to the cooperating countries, including highways, railways, ports, bridges, pipelines, energy grids and power plants. Here are some of the most significant routes and projects in 10 countries affected by China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative Projects in 10 Countries

  1. The Mombasa-Nairobi Railway: The maritime route to Africa connects China to Africa. Kenya is one of the largest recipients of the Belt and Road Initiative in Africa. The Mombasa-Nairobi Railway is the first new railway in Kenya in the past 100 years and among the first modern infrastructure projects in east Africa. The new railway has already increased Kenya’s GDP and boosted local and foreign tourists, who can now take the Nairobi-Mombasa Madarak Express train to cross Tsavo National Park in just four hours instead of 18. Chinese enterprises have also begun construction on a wind power project in Kapedo, Kenya.
  2. The China-Pakistan Corridor: The China-Pakistan Corridor connects south-western China through Pakistan to the Arabian Sea. In Pakistan, the Karot hydropower station on Ji lahm River was the first foreign investment of the BRI and its main project in Pakistan. China also began construction on the Karachi-Lahore Highway project with Pakistan’s National Highway Administration, the largest transportation infrastructure project in the China-Pakistan corridor.
  3. The Five Nations Railway: In Afghanistan, BRI plans include the Five Nations Railway, which would run from China to Iran through Afghanistan, as well as the north-south railway corridor connecting Kunduz to Torkham on Pakistan’s border.
  4. The Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Corridor: The Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Corridor connects Southern China to India via Bangladesh and Myanmar (BCIMEC). In Bangladesh, the CMEC has led to the construction of the Sheila GanJie Power Station Project, which will improve the local electricity shortage in Bangladesh. Bangladesh has a great need for ports to import energy or raw materials and export finished products. The last port to have been developed in Bangladesh was when it gained independence in 1971. The BRI will establish a new deep-sea port at Payra, which will include an oil refinery, a coal terminal to service a power plant and a container terminal.
  5. Myanmar Infrastructure Projects: In Myanmar, China plans to build a deep seaport, a trading estate and a special economic zone (SEZ) or an area designated for facilitating the industrial activity in Kyaukphyu, Rakhine State. Infrastructure projects will also be implemented in the remote western state, where it is much needed as the violence between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists continues.
  6. The China-Mongolia-Russia Corridor: The China-Mongolia-Russia Corridor connects North China to Eastern Russia via Mongolia (CMREC). In Mongolia, two high-speed railways along this corridor, the Mongolian Vector running from Mongolia-Brest to Belarus and the Zhengzhou-Hamburg running from China to Germany via Mongolia, are bringing Mongolian markets to European firms. Development plans have begun for the building of an international UHV electric transmission super grid along CMREC routes. Another high profile BRI project in Mongolia is the Tavan Tolgoi Rail Project, which aims to link Tavan Tolgoi, the world’s most massive untapped coal mine, to the Chinese border by 2021.
  7. The China-Central Asia-West Asia Corridor: The China-Central Asia-West Asia Corridor connects Western China to Turkey via Central and West Asia. Turkey is a priority country for the BRI because of its quickly growing pipeline projects, especially the Lake Tuz Expansion, which will increase the capacity of an underground gas storage facility from 1.2 to 5.4 billion cubic meters. Lake Tuz (Tuz Gölü) is currently home to the world’s largest gas storage project under construction and it is expected to be completed in 2023.
  8. The Tehran-Mashhad: Iran is an essential part of the global framework of the BRI due to its tactical location. The BRI has implemented the Tehran-Mashhad, high-speed rail project, which unlike most of the single-tracked, slow and circuitous railways centered around Tehran, will be double-tracked and electrified. Iran plans to electrify all of its railroads, revolutionizing the country’s transportation, by 2025.
  9. China Indochina Peninsula Economic Corridor (CICPEC): Vietnam is in a position to reap the most opportunity from the BRI in the Indochina region. China built a 1,205-mile North-South Expressway from Hanoi to Can Tho, connecting eight major cities including Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh City, Vientiane, Hanoi and Nanning. However, fears that the special economic zone laws would undermine Vietnamese sovereignty have caused unrest, leading to public demonstrations against SEZ law. Vietnam’s history of economic dependencies on China has made the Vietnamese citizens reluctant to cooperate with the BRI.
  10. The New Eurasian Land Bridge: The New Eurasian Land Bridge connects China to Europe and Western Russia (NELB). Kazakhstan will likely become a bustling financial hub of the Belt and Road Initiative as well as one of China’s main trading partners in the BRI. Khorgos has completed the Khorgos Gateway Dry Port, an important logistical town along the original Silk Road more than 1,000 years ago. The BRI has also completed a new land-border crossing with a four-lane road, connecting Khorgos with its Chinese counterpart Horgos.

Although there are many more countries that China’s Belt and Road Initiative will impact, these 10 countries highlight some of the key players and the most important development projects. So far, there have already been many notable successes, as well as failures and obstacles. The BRI has the potential to lift millions out of poverty.

Sarah Newgarden
Photo: Flickr

 

Rape Epidemic in India
The rape epidemic in India garnered international attention in 2012, when several men brutally raped and beat a woman, Nirbhaya, on a bus. The event immediately spread across the globe and sparked massive international outrage. This pushed the government to promise new laws. However, it did not make any tangible changes. A minor positive change was a social shift resulting in more women finding the strength to report cases of sexual assault. Perhaps the most gruesome fact from this brutal event is the regularity of gang-rape in India. Nirbhaya’s case, while one of the most horrifying stories of rape, is only one among thousands.

Solutions in Bangladesh

There is a precedent for solutions to these types of problems. One solution is for the law to change in a way that punishes those who physically or sexually abuse women. Bangladesh has effectively lowered its acids attacks on women to just 75 in 2014 whereas it was previously 492 cases in 2002. It accomplished this by mandating the death penalty as the crime for acid attacks. Since Bangladeshi men now fear the severe ramifications for an acid attack, they refrain from hurting women with this method. However, if Bangladesh and India enacted rigorous laws for all types of abuse on women, then at the very least, those particular men would not be able to abuse women at as drastic of a level as they are currently.

Snehalaya Provides Aid to Abused Women and Children

Women who suffer abuse can still have hope since many NGOs are actively working to support the victims and help them get back their dignity and return to a normal life. One example is Snehalaya, which provides a safe space for women and children who are suffering abuse, and helps over 15,000 people per year. Snehalaya strives to use “grassroots outreach and education” to lower the amount of domestic abuse and violence that occurs in India. Women who are victims of sexual abuse can count on Snehalaya to provide the proper support group to push them towards a normal life, which is even more important because sometimes a woman’s parents may not accept her after she has become a victim due to social stigma.

Another solution for the rape epidemic in India is women’s empowerment through properly educating women, which is what Sayfty strives to do. It strives to provide women the tools to be safe from acts of sexual violence and to teach women how to defend themselves. While the first solution provides a legal means for female empowerment and the second provides a way to help them after they become victims, Sayfty is essential because it empowers women to stand up for themselves while suffering abuse or at least provides them with knowledge of how to get away from predators and get help.

The efforts of millions of women who are finding the bravery to call out abusers are defeating the rape epidemic in India. The laws in India are slowly changing to match modern social attitudes. NGOs are empowering women to lead their own fight. Though change is slow, it is inevitable, and more women are getting the justice they deserve every day.

Anish Kelkar
Photo: Flickr