The women’s everyday struggle in Bangladesh

I have been lucky to visit Bangladesh quite a few times. A beautiful country with amazing people. On the other side – the sad story is poverty! Here I present a B&W portrait series of workers in Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka. This is women who all have one thing in common: a daily battle for survival against a degrading environment, insecurity, fear of sickness, the threat of eviction and the reality of malnourishment. Brick factories are scattered around the city and bake the foundation of the building boom of the country. Most women in these factories work 12 hours a day, and the daily wage is around one dollar – if they are experienced. The bricks are used to erect buildings and build roads, but those that are damaged, broken in transit or left lying around are collected together to be hammered into smaller chunks. These are used as filler for concrete, or mixed with sand to function as a base for the roads. On an average, over 8.66 billion bricks are produced annually in Bangladesh which are valued at $450 million, and which makes up approximately one percent of the country’s GDP. If an old building is destroyed, its bricks are recycled too. Here again people work all day cleaning off the cement from the used bricks and smashing them into smaller pieces. The fact that so little is wasted reveals an environmental point in all of this, but the underlying motive comes down to the demands of capitalism: it’s cheaper to employ these people to work on the bricks than it is to buy new ones. Common occupational hazards include eye problems, TB, lung diseases and asthma. There is no medical leave, no treatment available on the premises. No maternity leave. No trade union rights. No letter of appointment. No minimum wage. They are the lowest-paid in the world. Captures/story by Pål Sundsøy (sundsoy@gmail.com).
Sorting for survival.
It is early morning in Dhaka. This woman starts a 12-hour day separating the different bricks from each other. Even if she knows that the salary is around one dollar per day, she has not much of a choice.

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Insecurity.
The day is still young and women riding with the factory-bus to start a new hard day

_2

Technique
When the bricks have been checked carefully the are carried away to be transported by trucks

_3

Blending in.
Two women patiently smashing bricks that will be used as sand to function as base for roads

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Small afternoon break. The sand is being dumped by the road in Old Dhaka. Roadworkers, represented by this woman and her children, are using it to cover a portion of the road.

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Evening work. It has become evening in Dhaka. This woman is hammering some bricks, while drying her clothes. She has her own private factory next to her house

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Wait. Children waiting for their mothers to come home. From Dhaka slum area.

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