Claggett, Briani

Bangladesh

Knowledge Generation, Synthesis and Translation (Tobacco Control - Bangladesh)

The Intern will work with the Bangladesh Center for Communication Programs under the supervision of the Director, Mohammad Shahjahan, to support the implementation of a range of tobacco control activities, including, but not necessarily limited to: The development and conduct of capacity building workshops on strategic communication, message design and community mobilization; documenting evidence-based tobacco control success stories with a view towards developing related journal publications;  enhancing the Bangladesh Tobacco Control Research Network; and, working with Government in rolling out its strategic plans for tobacco control in Bangladesh.                                                           

My time in Dhaka, Bangladesh was definitely a learning experience in more ways than one. Yes, I learned about global health and the skills needed to complete my project. But I also learned some valuable lessons about myself and what I can expect from my career in global health. Living and working in a developing country has opened my eyes to the challenges and rewards that I’m sure to encounter in my career.

For three month I worked for a national communications NGO in Dhaka, Bangladesh. My assignment was to develop a print material that would promote dietary diversity in the complementary feeding practices of children in the slums. During this experience I really got an appreciation for the cultural, social, and economic considerations that are required to impact the health of a population. I had to ask myself, “What is this population going through? How is their culture or economy affecting their health? What social norms or practices could be contributing to the problem?” Being a foreigner added an extra obstacle because I personally face completely different cultural, social, and economic circumstances. But this added challenge gave me an opportunity to step outside of my own situation and see what life is like for my target population.

This experience also offered me a chance to learn something about myself that I had previously overlooked. My time in Bangladesh pushed me out of my comfort zone and made me realize how brave I can be. To save some money on my daily commute in Bangladesh I decided to take the public bus. Taking the bus doesn’t seem like something that would require much bravery unless you’ve ever witnessed how the bus system works in Dhaka. The buses are pretty beat up, extremely crowded, and often have people hanging out of the door if there’s no space inside. Not all bus drivers drive in a manner that is considerate to the many passengers who are standing in the aisle, so it is quite easy to get tossed around. The buses also don’t always come to a complete stop when letting passengers on and off. You might have to run along-side the bus to hop on or hit the ground running just to get off. I thought I was simply being cheap and saving money by taking the bus. But my co-workers were all shocked that I, as a foreigner and a female, would take the bus everyday by myself.

This bravery isn’t unique to myself. I think bravery is a requirement for anyone conducting fieldwork in global health, whether we realize it or not. Not everyone is willing to step outside his or her comfort zone and go live and/or work away from home. Why do we decide to leave our family, friends, and loved-ones to travel across the world and work in a developing country? Hopefully it’s because we are motivated to help people and somehow make a difference in the health of others. So whether we’re working on water and sanitation in Peru or jumping on and off crowded buses in Bangladesh, it requires bravery and a genuine desire to help people.

I am extremely grateful for my Global Health Established Field Placement experience. Learning about global health from a classroom is completely different from witnessing it first hand. This GHEFP experience afforded me the opportunity to supplement the training I had received in the Hopkins lecture halls with real-life experience that I will undoubtedly draw-upon in my career to come. 

 

Captions: upper; Briani conducting interviews at a community gathering location in the Beguntila slum of Dhaka. 

lower; Group photo after Briani conducted some interviews in the Beguntila slum of Dhaka.

Caption: Briani with two co-workers wearing sarees during one of her last days in Bangladesh

Caption: At Lalbagh Fort during a tour of Old Dhaka

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October 2020

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