Last week was a whirlwind. We spent three days in Dhaka, touring the city and participating in a public health seminar that Moushumi apa, Galib bhai, and the FCAB team coordinated. We also visited the Parliament but left before Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina made her appearance – which we found out about over breakfast the morning after. Then, three days were spent in Ashulia with CWCH to eke out the intervention material and EPI field study details. And now, to close off this quick recap, we’re back in Sirajganj!

Something that’s been interesting is managing our time and communication between FCAB and CWCH. Though we are here as FCAB interns, the IYCF project is a collaboration between these two organizations, so we’re also working closely with CWCH. Clear and transparent communication is always key; practicing that and ensuring that everything has been conveyed has proven to be a little more complicated – and it’s mostly because assumptions are made that it has been. It’s also been difficult asserting ourselves in the sense of time and work prioritization, as we don’t want to cross the line of being rude or inconsiderate but we also don’t want to be too passive in the process.

It’s also interesting working with FCAB because they are a seedling when you compare it to the many other organizations that have been working here in Bangladesh. FCAB is still defining and setting the tone for its growth, and being able to observe and participate in these conversations has been a great learning experience. At a dinner that Moushumi apa hosted, Michelle asked Dr. Zafrullah Chowdhury, the “father of Public Health” in Bangladesh, what he saw as the biggest problem with public health in this country. He answered capitalism. Capitalism! It was a late night and my concentration had been waning, but Dr. Chowdhury so quickly and clearly providing that answer brought my focus back. It almost felt refreshing to hear – though that is likely my own politics and biases coming into play. Frankly, I agree. It’s one of the biggest problems facing – to widen the scope just a little – public health as a field…or, if you want to widen the scope even further, it’s a pandemic. With private sector organizations coming through with quick fixes and “magic bullets,” and less support being given to strengthening health systems from within – it’s going to be a tumultuous path forward as FCAB grows and navigates different partnerships and projects in a way that is equitable and conscientious of its own developments and the impact it is going to have on the larger community. It’s also one of the reasons I’m excited for the IYCF project – because we’re doing it in alliance with the government, and including them in the steps we take; we want government intake because that’s an effective way to ensure policy and population impact.

During my time here, I’ve been reading “Development as Freedom” by Amartya Sen – which, to be honest, has been difficult, heavy, and a long-term commitment – and I was reminded of something he wrote as I was writing this post:

“The ends and means of development call for placing the perspective of freedom at the center of the stage. The people have to be seen, in this perspective, as being actively involved – given the opportunity – in shaping their own destinies, and not just as passive recipients of the fruits of cunning development programs.” (53)

I don’t mean to negate what I just said – but it’s not just about policy and population impact; it’s also about what our people, our communities, want and need – and the question becomes how does FCAB – and any other organization working in this space – effectively achieve or balance this? I don’t have the answers – but because FCAB is at this crucial juncture in their own development, it’s an important point to keep in perspective and practice.