Bangladesh: Dhaka and Child Labour

A young boy, working in an engine repair shop, shows his oil covered hands.

I’ve been trying to make a post from Bangladesh for the last few days but have been stopped by a terrible Internet connection and a hotel staff that, though exceptionally friendly, seems oblivious to the problem.

Two days ago I asked the manager if it was possible to improve the connection, to which he replied “no problem Sir, I will send the internet cable to your room”. By 10:30 p.m. no one had shown up so I gave up and went to bed only to be woken up at midnight by an urgent knocking at my door. One of the cleaning staff, who I think is about 17, greeted me politely and proudly offered me an Ethernet cable. Half asleep I thanked him and shut the door, only to realize after ten minutes of searching that there was no place to plug it in to.

The next morning I returned the cable to the manager, who then immediately asked me to add him to Facebook.

Bizarre service aside, Dhaka has been an intense and visceral experience. It is the middle of Ramadan, so traffic is suffocating. I spend a minimum of two hours a day commuting to and from locations, and the shooting is arduous. Because there is essentially no tourism industry here, especially so in the areas I am visiting, I am a huge spectacle for the local people. If I stop walking for more than one minute an audience gathers around me, often as many as 20 people standing in a semi circle and staring. It is unnerving to look away from the viewfinder and find myself totally surrounded.

But the Bangladeshis are incredibly photogenic and very open to having their pictures taken, so the images have been great, though the subject matter is heavy. Child labour is endemic in Bangladesh, though I am learning the issue is not as cut and dried as I thought.

The Wi-Fi seems to work for a 20-30 minute window at 7 a.m. every morning, so I’ll try and keep the posts more regular from now on.

This is part of a larger project on Child Labour in Bangladesh.

A slum along the train tracks near Kaoran Bazaar, Dhaka.

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