Bangladesh is a highly dynamic country
that has experienced over the years profound demographic, economic,
social, political and cultural changes. Alongside these changes
there have been marked improvements in key areas such as overall
growth and performance. Any optimism derived from these improvements
however is tempered by the fact that inequality seems to be increasing
and poverty levels stubbornly persist, and in some cases worsen.
The objective of WeD Bangladesh is to explore the processes that
produce these outcomes, as well as understand the ways people construct
and then value their sense of wellbeing.
One of the most visible changes to occur in Bangladesh
is the gradual urbanisation of the country. This is evidenced in
the real increase of urban populations as well as the gradual coverage
of new areas by urban growth. The expansion of the country’s
capital epitomises this process. One of the consequences of this
transformation is that there is a much more obvious sense of connectedness
and integration in the country. The WeD Research in Bangladesh rests
on the proposition that the process of connectedness and integration
generates complex patterns of benefits and disadvantages.
Two of the districts are distinguished by their distance
from Dhaka. The first district (Manikganj) is close to and enjoys
very good communication with Dhaka while the second (Dinajpur) is
quite distant from the capital and the communication is much more
restricted. In each of the two districts, we chose one urban site
(within the main town district) and two rural sites. One rural site
was chosen close to the main district town and the other far from
it in a remote site.
Selected Sites of Manikganj
Close Site: Bichitrapur
Bichitrapur is a village with approximately 350 households
and is situated about 4.5 km from the district town of Manikganj.
The majority of the population is Muslim although there is also
a significant Hindu population with various castes and sub-castes.
The village has one high school, four mosques, six temples and one
market place. All of these are dispersed in various village quarters
known locally as paras. Villagers are employed in a range of activities
including farming, weaving, labouring, small businesses, official
jobs (both governmental, non- governmental and private), education
and health. Some households also have members working abroad. Overall
facilities in the village are good but the well-to-do sections enjoy
more and better quality services. Most of the internal roads are
kacha (unpaved dirt roads), but a pakka road (paved) crosses through
the village. This road allows villagers easy access to the district
Remote Site: Achingaon
Achingaon is located 18 km from the main urban administrative
headquarters of Manikganj. There are records indicating that the
village is at least 100 years old. The population is Muslim and
there are approximately 250 households in the village. All of the
households belong to one of 10 samajes (social groupings) present
in the village. In terms of infrastructure, the village has very
few facilities. There is no electricity, all the roads are kacha
(unpaved dirt roads) and the level of overall sanitation is poor.
The village has a mosque, a madrasha (Islamic school) and a primary
school. Most villagers are employed in either agricultural activities
or in small business ventures both inside and outside of the village.
Migration is a major feature of village life with people moving
either to Dhaka or abroad in search of employment. A number of Non
Governmental Organisations are working in the village.
Urban Site: Aloknagar
Aloknagar is an area that lies at the very heart of
Manikganj. It is very close to the main road that leads to Dhaka,
the capital city and therefore is an important site of commercial,
administrative and political activities. It also contains an attractive
and expensive residential area. Given that Aloknagar is an urban
site, it offers a good level of basic services and amenities as
well as more luxurious facilities. The population is very diverse
in terms of religion, occupation and status. Some of the main social
features associated with this site are high inequality, increasing
drug addiction, political tension and a rise in religious fundamentalism.
Selected Sites of Dinajpur
Close Site: Shantipur
Shantipur is 5km from the district town of Dinajpur
and has approximately 800 households. 75% of the population are
Muslims, 22% Hindus and 3% belong to a tribal group known as the
Santals. The primary source of employment is agriculture and over
60% of the households depend on this for their survival. There is
a modest level of services and amenities within the village. Some
of the roads are paved and there is a market and bus stand very
close to the village. Different NGOs are working in the village.
Remote Site: Telkupigaon
Telkupigaon has 750 households and is situated approximately
15km from Dinajpur. The population is 75% Muslim and 25% Hindu.
The vast majority of the population depend primarily on agriculture
as a source of income and employment. Services and amenities are
scarce and only partially accessible. There is no nearby market
or bus stand. A number of NGOs work in the village.
Urban Site: Baniknagar
Baniknagar is located in the municipality area of Dinajpur town
and around 1,000 households reside there. It is an important commercial
area and there is a wide range of shops. Like many other urban sites,
the population is very diverse in terms of religion, provenance,
occupation and economic status. There is a strong middle class working
or residing in the area and there are also pockets of slums. While
there is a wide range of good facilities and amenities, privileged
residents of the area fare better in terms of access.