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Bangladesh Is Evolving And This Is What India Can Learn

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Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina looked forward to a golden period of India-Bangladesh relations in her recent visit to India. Today, India-Bangladesh relations have matured greatly and are at their historical best.

As a socio-economic development professional, one gets concerned as to what extent these relations are important? Are we not going to see things beyond diplomatic relations? Should we ignore the fact that Bangladesh is now set to step out of the list of the least developing countries and experiencing high and consistently rising economic growth rate of 8.1% (GDP) in the fiscal year 2018-2019, while at the same time India is battling the economic slowdown with companies cutting jobs and people getting unemployed?

Shockingly, this is happening despite the Government of India initiating several flagship job creation programmes like Mudra loans, Skill India and Make in India. Keeping in mind that there is a fiscal slowdown in many parts of the world, it’s surprising how come a country with the slowest economic cycle is successful in improving its socio-economic status. India, on the other hand despite being the world’s second-fastest-growing economy for quite a long time failed in maintaining its socio-economic status.

Unlike India, Bangladesh has a booming industrial sector, majorly textile (35% of the GDP), which encourages self-employment whereas in India, the service sector contributes more and lesser contribution comes in from other industries. Bangladesh is developing and urbanising fast despite the fact that the World Bank declared it a lower-middle-income economy in 2015 with a growth rate of 6.6%.

Bangladesh’s GDP growth rate over four years and sector-wise GDP growth contributors. (Source: ADB)

Over the years, Bangladesh has made some remarkable gains in terms of human development indicators. It is high time for India to learn from Bangladesh’s new Human Capital Index. It is significant as for the poorest people, it is the only capital which they own. India should learn how to spend its capital effectively for improving outcomes in health and education, productivity and economic growth.

According to the World Bank’s Human Development Indicators 2019, Bangladesh is now ahead in:

Indicators Bangladesh India
Life Expectancy At Birth 72 69.1
Infant Mortality Rate (per 1000 live births) 25.1 31.5
It is in only under the Maternal Mortality Rate (per 1000) that India does significantly better at 170 compared to 210 for Bangladesh.

Bangladesh’s development in all these aspects is a clear lesson of how a country with a strong track record of poverty can be successful in poverty reduction just with the help of right policies and actions.

Bangladesh’s achievement of gender parity in school enrollment works as the icing on the cake, though the indicators for education are mixed for both India and Bangladesh at 6.4 and 5.8 respectively.

Not to forget that both our Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman dreamt of an exploitation-free and just society. Bangladesh is also marching ahead in terms of women’s literacy which itself speaks about the changes in the social structure and based on which, it is expected to achieve 8.0% growth in economy in 2019 and 2020, India on the other hand, is expected to grow by 7% in 2019 and 7.2% in 2020 (according to an estimate of the Asian Development Bank).

What Led To The Evolution?

Since its inception, Bangladesh had the backing of one of the world’s largest NGOs, BRAC. Working towards nation-building, BRAC is termed as Bangladesh’s second government with power and accountability. It has helped with innovations and initiatives that impact normal citizens in their socio-economic development. One of the major reasons for Bangladesh’s booming industrial sector is BRAC’s microfinance loan which funds small enterprises. BRAC as an NGO has a different approach to development and is successfully working hand in hand with the government in Bangladesh.

Even when the NGOs work in government partnership they sometimes fail tremendously on the scale of human development in India. Instead, what we see at the start of each financial year are a whole lot of new programmes and schemes that either run counterproductive to the existing schemes, are insufficiently funded or are just window dressing to satisfy the constitutional duty of being a welfare state.

Apparently, we can see that India is moving in reverse motion despite the support of 3.4 million NGOs for a population of 1.37 billion, i.e. 1 for every 600 people. Here we are with hundreds of schemes for the socio-economic welfare of the citizens yet we are unable to achieve significant improvement. We are majorly lacking in understanding the needs of our target audience and this is what we need to learn from our neighbour Bangladesh.

Featured image for representative purpose only.
Featured image source: Prime Minister’s Office, Government of India/Wikipedia.
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  1. Shahzeb Danish

    Very nice article Noor. Informative and razor sharp backed with facts.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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