For my FK Fellowship, I have been at Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) for the last ten months. I have been able to experience a wide range of aspects of Bangladeshi life, culture, and living as well as a different working environment at TIB.
My typical day starts with the early morning “Allah Hu Akbar” call on the loud speaker from the nearby mosque that is intended for the Islamic majority of Dhaka. I try and get some sleep as it is too early for me to do anything else. At 9:30 am, I reach office and start working at my desk. TIB is different than TIN for several reasons; the language used is Bengali, the staff is much larger, and it retains a more corporate environment.
After office, I usually prefer to roam around Dhaka’s streets that are filled with meat varieties, clothing hawkers, paan (betel leaf), local fruits and crowded with Rickshaws. The traffic noises and the scorching hot weather often turn my leisure walk into a ‘not-so-leisure’ one. At times, Dhaka’s vibe seems to slow down but the friendly “Salaam Walley Kum” (peace be onto you) from just about everyone nudges me along.
Occasionally, I get the opportunity to travel outside of Dhaka and see the rural parts of Bangladesh which often involves crossing precarious single bamboo bridges and single lane roads in flood prone areas. The people of rural Bangladesh are very hospitable and are very prompt to offer paan or lemonade (which I have to decline every time after having read travel advisories against water in Bangladesh from the US state department).
My weekends are filled with much excitement as I usually go hunting for profitable transactions in Dhaka. One of the most popular destinations for me is the “New Market” where clothes are sold for low prices although one has to be very careful about the quality. I also find myself frequenting the leather market, shoe market and jeans market for the aforementioned ‘profitable transactions’.
Dhaka had been under political siege for the past seven months, it has now returned to normality albeit a tad too late as my fellowship is nearing its end. I am however thankful for what I have been able to experience here in Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘Golden Bengal’.
Corruption is a major hindrance to good governance in Bangladesh. In my field trips to rural parts of Bangladesh as well as short trips around Dhaka, I have seen the impacts of corruption. Corruption in Bangladesh occurs on multiple levels. Perhaps the biggest corruption that I experienced was the Padma Bridge construction. Bangladesh transportation is still heavily reliant on the ferry system to cross the large rivers in Bangladesh because of the delays in the construction of the Padma Bridge, largely due to corruption. At the small level too, I saw various instances of corruption. On one occasion, while watching a video, I came to learn that climate funds in flood areas had been embezzled and the victims of the flood and storm had been provided with a house that had no walls (only a roof). Months later, when I actually went to visit the house, I saw that finally, the house had been built but only after much delay and suffering to the flood victims.
I have come to learn and appreciate much about the way that TIB works against corruption. The most appreciable aspect of TIB’s campaign against corruption is the involvement of youth all throughout Bangladesh. On a voluntary basis, youth (mostly students), engage with the field offices of TIB where they not only learn about the anti-corruption movement but also participate in it through various programs, advocacies, and events. By becoming involved and exposed to the anti-corruption movement of TIB, many of these youth volunteers (YES members) eventually go on to work in the development sector as leaders against corruption and some of them end up working for TIB itself.
The management of TIB is another very appreciable aspect which I have been able to learn from during my fellowship. The leadership took TIB from a 5 employees organization to a more than 200 employees organization. The leadership meticulously manages each employee, the operations as well as its research and other core functions through an organizational hierarchy that is well designed and executed. This fellowship strengthened me and reinforced my management skills and organizational leadership skills. It has provided me with much experience so that in the future, should I be a part of or head a similar organization, the lessons will come handy.
The central idea of the FK fellowship is the exchange of knowledge among different countries. In the past 10 months, I have come to learn and experience much that I can take back to my home country.