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Report on the Bangladesh Study Tour


(An elementary school in a slum district)

From Saturday, August 30 to Saturday, September 6, 2014, eight undergraduate students undertook an international study tour in the South Asian nation of Bangladesh. This constituted the Practicum for Convivial Global Society.

As preparatory studies before the tour, the participants, including myself, made presentations based on literature searches on research topics of our own choosing and watched documentaries about the women who work in the clothing factories of Bangladesh. Also, in July, Associate Professor Hanako Nagata of Ibaraki University College of Humanities spoke on “Industrialization and Gender in Bangladesh,” and we learned about the history and current situation of the country’s garment manufacturing industry.

During the tour, we observed the programs run by BRAC, the world’s largest NGO, and visited a Japanese-owned garment factory, the projects of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and a school for the visually impaired, among other destinations. On each occasion, we were given an explanation by a member of the host organization, followed by questions and answers and the opportunity to conduct interviews with the people involved.

BRAC was founded with the objective of eradicating poverty in Bangladesh; its activities range widely, from agricultural development and education to medical care and loan finance. We were invited to observe programs in nonformal education, microfinance, and community empowerment. In Japan one is seldom aware of the work of NGOs, but in Bangladesh we were able to sense for ourselves that NGO activities have taken root in everyday life.

At the Japanese-owned garment factory we visited, we learned that the manufacture of the clothes we ourselves ordinarily wear involves many different processes and the manual labor of many people. The visit made us think about what it means to assess the value of goods appropriately in their price, and this stimulated us to reflect on our day-to-day consumption behavior.

(Microfinance in action)

At the JICA office, we learned about the issues that Bangladesh faces as it achieves remarkably rapid development, and we were introduced to a number of JICA projects which seek to keep pace with accelerating economic growth and overcome the fragility of the society. Also, on a field trip to see JICA volunteers at work, after listening to a lecture on the garbage problem we gained a firsthand view of the frontline of Dhaka’s waste management situation.

Although the tour lasted only a week, actually going to Bangladesh, talking in person with people who live there, and seeing their way of life allowed us access to the kind of real-world information that reference books and data cannot provide. The tour was also a lesson in the flexibility needed to cope with the demands of a world in constant flux as globalization advances at an ever-faster rate, and in the mental readiness to live together with people of different cultures and backgrounds.

We would like to express our heartfelt thanks to all those whose dedicated efforts made the study tour possible, especially the tour leaders, Associate Professor Harumi Kitabayashi and Project Lecture Miho Fukui. Each of us will draw on this precious experience as we move on to the next step in our work, whether it be further studies or action, in the awareness that we are all members of the convivial global society.

(Fumie Ishikawa, Second year student, Division of Human Life Studies,
Faculty of Human Life and Environmental Sciences)

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