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© Kazi Salahuddin Razu/NurPhoto via Getty Images Two man seen transporting used drums by a hand-pulled vehicle near the Buriganga River in Dhaka Bangladesh on October 4, 2019.

The rise and rise of Bangladesh – but is life getting any better?

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of www.ehtss.com

Tasnia Akter has come home. It’s a public holiday in Bangladesh, the one time of year the 25-year-old can leave the mayhem of the city behind and see her family: her mother, her aunt. And her daughter.

“There she is!” Her little girl is standing in front of the two-bedroom tin hut in a remote village 200km (125 miles) north of Chittagong, south-east Bangladesh. Mother and daughter embrace.

If she could, the young seamstress would still live here. The air is fresher, there is more space, and some of her friends still live in the village. There’s just one problem: “There isn’t any work.” Agriculture has ceased to be a feasible source of income. Money doesn’t grow on trees – it is spun in the textile looms of the city.

And so this family copes as best it can, the older women raising the child while Tasnia works six-day weeks, sewing T-shirts and jeans for global consumers, for about 8,400 taka (£80) a month.

These three generations are a neat microcosm of an entire nation. The older women, who grew up in the years after independence in 1971, worked in unpaid labour, trying to survive in the grinding poverty for which the country became renowned in the 1970s.

The young girl, a 21st-century child, schooled and spirited, will in all probability enjoy better prospects. And in the middle, Tasnia Akter, from the “factory generation”, one of approximately 4.5 million textile workers who have transformed the fortunes and reputation of Bangladesh.

The crucial question is this: is Akter a glorious paragon of the “rise and rise” of Bangladesh, with its 50-year journey to becoming a middle-income nation powered by hard-working women? Or is she a sickening example of an exploited labourer who ruins her health for companies making high margins and consumers who buy cheap jeans?

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