I had originally planned on studying reproductive health and family planning in India for my thesis, but once I began my research I felt totally overwhelmed by the different policies and issues affecting each region of the country. So, when the opportunity arose for me to hang with a reproductive health NGO in Bangladesh over spring break I switched my thesis focus to Bangladesh, a smaller, younger, much more homogeneous country. At the time I had no idea that Bangladesh’s family planning efforts were some of the most innovative, provocative, and challenging projects in this field of work.
This amazing opportunity came about through my boyfriend, Cody, who does documentarian work for Pathfinder International, a world-renowned family planning and reproductive health NGO. He arranged to do some filming for the NGO during my spring break so that I could tag along and take photographs for the organization while also acquiring invaluable research for my independent study.
The trip ended up being one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Bangladesh is a much different country than any of the others we have visited and working with the NGO made the nature of our visit much more intimate than a trip in the very non-touristy country would have otherwise been. We were accompanied by at least one NGO worker every day in our visits, which allowed us access to and translated communication with some of the most remote villages in the country.
We spent the first four days in southeastern Bangladesh, near the Myanmar border. Our typical daily schedule involved several hours of travel though the craziest traffic I have ever seen, a visit to a static clinic, and a visit to an underserved or unserved population. Once in these communities we interviewed clients, female paramedics and depotholders (community volunteers who live amongst the populations they serve). Although the far majority of Bangladeshis are Muslim, many of the communities we visited were made up of either tribal Buddhists or Hindus. Despite their poverty, the village people were amazingly optimistic, hospitable, and eager to share their homes and lives with us.
(Article by Jessica)