Week Five

This week at work, I continued my project by compiling information from the previous interviews and conducting research to help answer whether Bangladesh’s laws are bringing justice to trafficking victims and survivors. I was also able to schedule an appointment with an attorney who works for the DOJ at the American Embassy here in Bangladesh. FaridpurHe works with the government here to refine and establish judicial processes. We were able to discuss the answers I had received, and issues I came across in my interviews, and compare those with his experience working with the government here. We were also able to discuss the use of Human Trafficking Task Forces in the United States, and the potential creation of the same kind of task forces here in Bangladesh. Our Hotel in Faridpur

On Friday afternoon Rezwana, our supervisor, and I traveled to Faridpur. The trip to Faridpur is generally about 5 hours by road and a short ferry ride. On the way to Faridpur, however, we encountered a traffic jam ( there was an accident up the road from us). Waiting for a while, our driver eventually followed a couple of other drivers, maneuvering to the other side of the highway, and began driving down the shoulder on the other side of the road, creating a wrong-way caravan if you will. After a few miles, we came to a spot where the police had blocked the way and were directing people to turn around or back into the correct lanes. We navigated back onto the correct side of the road and continued on our route.

Food Vendor on the FerryIf anyone knows me, they know I bring food with me anywhere I go. I generally have some food item in my purse at all times. On this particular day, in addition to the food in my bag, I brought a couple of small bananas with me from my house. When Rezwana saw my bananas she commented on how tiny they were, and on the fact that I hadn't brought enough for everyone in the car; she also pointed this out to our supervisor when he got in the car. While this turned into a joke that lasted the entire weekend, I also learned something about Bangladeshi culture: bring enough to share with everyone. No, really. Nobody in the car was truly offended (especially since I had other food I could share as well), but they did explain to me that, generally, in their culture one will bring enough of the item to share with everyone present. Lesson learned.

FaridpurWe were hoping to arrive at the ferry in the daylight, but because of the accident, we were now running later than planned. We boarded and walked around the ferry while crossing the river. On the boat, there were vendors selling food and drink - everything from full meals to snacks. We purchased snacks from a vendor (boiled eggs for Rezwana and me, and a rice snack for our supervisor) and afterward had a cup of tea before returning to our vehicle and disembarking. After a short drive, we finally arrived at our hotel, where they had dinner waiting for us. Dinner consisted of the typical Bangladeshi meal: rice, meat, cooked vegetables, dal, and fresh cucumber slices.

Tiny Coffee after BreakfastThe next morning we set out from our hotel to get breakfast. We ate at a local restaurant where I had rice and eggs, and everyone else had flatbread and eggs. After finishing breakfast, we drank some delicious coffee and then set out for our workshop.

The workshop consisted of judges, prosecutors, police officers, legal aid workers, NGO workers, a couple of victims, and several members of the press. Before the workshop started, I was given the opportunity to sit and interview the victims. When I was introduced to the victims, I recognized one; she was the same girl I had spoken with during my first interview! It was nice to see her again, and she seemed to be doing well. I interviewed the other woman, a labor trafficking victim who had been abroad for three years. When I asked her what her plans were, she said that she would probably try to go elsewhere again for work. Unfortunately, this happens all too often, especially in this area of the country. Because the city is on a flood plain and is occasionally destroyed, the government is hesitant to invest in its development, and there are not a lot of job opportunities in the area. These factors make people more willing to take risks in the hopes of finding work. Workshop in Faridpur

After the workshop began, there was a short break, and during that time, the program director asked if I would be willing to say something to the group about my research. When it was my turn to speak, I spoke briefly about what I had learned from my interviews with people in their same roles, and how I had discussed the struggles of the process with so many. I then encouraged them to work together to achieve progress, and whenever they become frustrated with the process, or the lack of progress, to remember that it’s all about the one: one rescued; one repatriated; one rehabilitated; one trained for job placement; one successfully reintegrated. Sometimes it may not seem like a lot is happening, but there is a huge impact, because to that one person it’s a new opportunity.

Stopping at the Market to Buy BananasFollowing the training, we went to lunch with the staff from our partner organization and then headed home. On the way, my supervisor spotted a market and decided to stop, and guess what he decided to purchase? If you answered bananas, you would be correct. We all had a good laugh and enjoyed the not-as-tiny bananas. Arriving at the ferry during the day proved to be a much more adventurous ordeal. Buses, cars, and semi-trucks all jockeyed forward, vying for a spot on the next ferry. Our driver skillfully maneuvered us, carefully skimming around the buses and trucks and finally onto the ferry.

Once again, we decided to walk around for a bit while the ferry was sailing, so we navigated our way up three levels to the top deck of the ferry. I pointed to an empty spot near the front of the ferry along the railing, and the three of us quickly moved into that spot. Bridge on the FerryWhile we were standing there, the captain saw me and asked where I was from and then invited the three of us into the bridge area! We stepped into the caged-off area, stopping at the door to the bridge. He motioned us inside, so we slipped off our shoes, explored the bridge. He was such a nice gentleman! We enjoyed the opportunity to see the views from the bridge and watching him navigate the ferry.

Once we disembarked from the ferry, we returned to the highway and continued to Dhaka. A quick note about navigating the highway: It. Is. Mayhem. It is almost a game of chicken. Countless times I would look up and see two vehicles (most often buses) side-by-side barreling towards us at 60-70mph only to finally pass the vehicle they were beside, or to duck back in behind it again. It was undoubtedly another adventure and one where I am happy I trust my driver. We reached the Cars, Trucks, and Buses on the Ferry“Welcome to Dhaka” sign at 6:09 pm, but didn’t arrive at my house until 9:30 pm; that is Dhaka traffic. Whenever I feel bad for myself in these situations, I remind myself that our driver still has a 2-hour commute before he arrives home, so I don’t have room to complain.

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Next week Rezwana is taking me to a few places in Old Dhaka! Stay tuned!