I haven’t written too much about my work because I don’t know where my field notes will end up so confidentiality must be practiced. I’ll share a smige:
Currently I am working with a center that provides skills training (with certificates) for women who are trying to leave prostitution. In an old part of the city, I spend a few mornings a week with about 20 young women who learn to sew and make crafts for a living. There is one shop here is Bangladesh that sells their work as well as one in Norway.
My goal is to learn about these women in all ways possible: their backgrounds, their stories, their dreams. How did they end up as prostitutes? Why did they come to this center? Is this center helping them the best they can? How do they feel working here? As my Bangla improves, I am being a good anthropologist and performing participant observation. As the women are getting to know and feel comfortable with me, I sit on the floor with them and help them do their crafts. My body is even learning to sit like them for long periods of time (feet flat, knees bent touching shoulders).
My project, like most of my life, is overambitious. It takes months to understand then break into the professional world of this country—proven after speaking with some British women who said it took one year to begin their project on anti-trafficking with a team of ten. I am alone fighting this fight and sometimes I can be my work enemy. So my final work will most likely drift a lot from what I aimed for, but I plan to absorb as much of my topic as possible in the meantime. Fulbright is an amazing opportunity in that I have this flexibility to explore everything I want.
So the women at this center is a great start to hopefully a solid project. But as we learn about each other, I am just enjoying their company and love. Today, I sat on the ground listening to the girls gossip around me, tearing the thick strings out of square piece of green cloth. It felt therapeutic—to work with my hands, creating something, surrounded by these beautiful women all struggling to better their lives. With my current knowledge of Bangla, I’m not good for much except a good laugh and taking photos. But it’s a start—because we can always offer affection. More often than not, it’s returned. My sisters here certainly give it back tenfold…
And it’s vital with this week being an emotional week as I think about this time last year, and a young, unfortunate death. Even more emotional when I think about all those who are affected, mainly my best friend. I urge you all to show affection to those you care about—no reason necessary other than you can.