Humanitarian to a nation

Originally published in Saudi Aramco World

Humanitarian to a Nation, Written by Richard Covington, Photographed by Shahidul Alam / DRIK

Pakistani philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi at the Edhi Centre in Clifton, Karachi.
Pakistani philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi at the Edhi Centre in Clifton, Karachi.

In the cool interior of a mental ward in Karachi, a short, powerfully built man with a flowing snow-white beard and penetrating dark-brown eyes is standing at the bedside of a distraught young woman. She has covered her head with a sheet and is pleading for news of the two children her husband took from her.

“I know you are suffering terribly, but this is no way to bring back your children,” says the man with stern compassion. “You have a college degree. You can do many things to help the other patients.”

More photos on flickr: Continue reading “Humanitarian to a nation”

Visions for Empowerment

 

Dear friend,
The story of BRAC has been told and retold in countless ways ever? since it started? out as?a small relief operation in the aftermath of Bangladesh’s bloody War of Liberation.
In this,?at ?its 40th year and at the peak of recognitions as the word’s largest non-governmental?organisation, BRAC has excavated through its archives to present ?its own version of the?story visually.
Through photographs collected across four decades, and spannng three continents,?”Visions of Empowerment” is on at the Drik Gallery from October 12-20.
As the world gets ready to observe the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty,?please come share this remarkable story.
Asif Saleh
Senior Director Strategy, Communications and Capacity
BRAC and BRAC lnternational
Venue
Drik Gallery
House 58 Road 15A (New)
Dhanmondi R/A, Dhaka 1209
Bangladesh
Time
Inauguration 4:30 pm
October 12. 2012

International NGOs serve imperialism; Africa needs own independent development organizations

By Nosakhare Boadi
Published Dec 2, 2011

International non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are global contractors, hired to execute the foreign policies of imperialism. They largely work without questioning the existing social system.
Surely they complain about poverty and the suffering of the world’s poor, but most blindly only look to solutions within the confines of the system of imperialism and global capitalism. This is impossible.
As Jamaicans say, they “too follow fashion.” NGOs fashion themselves in the cloak of the ?left? and put on a show of resistance. But most have no vision to finance this resistance nor to accomplish their goals beyond the free surplus ?milk? of the system that sustains their very existence. This is the dialectic of ?poverty reduction.? Their enterprise is a contradiction in terms.
International NGOs believe wishfully that imperialism will finance them to orchestrate its own demise. They fail to understand that the system derives its wealth and surplus exactly because it imposes poverty on the people of the world. Continue reading “International NGOs serve imperialism; Africa needs own independent development organizations”

Aid and influence

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Surge in Global Migration Expands Scale of an Aid Group?s Influence

Words By Jason DeParle
Photographs by Shahidul Alam
Published: New York Times August 30, 2011

DHAKA, Bangladesh ? As global migration has rapidly expanded, so has the influence of a little-known group whose eclectic work shapes migrants? lives across six continents.


Mohammad Shofiqul Islam is 35 years old. He sold his pharmacy in Khulna (and borrowed money from relatives ) to pay a recruiter (dalal) $5,000 for a job working in a Chinese restaurant in Libya. When he got there, he had an invalid visa and no job. He is one of about 34,000 Bangladehis whom IOM helped bring home from the war. was caught in the war for 15 days, and only reluctantly agreed to come home. He didn?t want to come back because he has no job at home and owes big debts. He paid about $80 to a Libyan driver to take him to the Tunisa border, where IOM had set up a tents for fleeing workers. ``My father, my wife, tney are all calling me, telling me you must come back to Bangladesh?I thought if we go to Tunisia, we live. If I stay in Libya, I die.?? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World for The New York Times




Shofiqul Islam, a worker whom the International Organization for Migration helped to leave Libya and return to his Bangladesh home after two years. "I'm very grateful," he said. Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World for The New York Times

Here in Bangladesh it has staged folk dramas to warn against sex trafficking, put solar panels on a remote border post and rescued tens of thousands of Bangladeshi workers caught in the Libyan war, at times with daring sea ventures that defied rocket attacks.

Part research group, part handyman crew, the International Organization for Migration has become the who-you-gonna-call outfit for 132 member countries grappling with the surge in migration, both legal and unauthorized. Its rapid growth is a sign that migration has outgrown most countries? ability to manage on their own. ?I haven?t made it to a country yet where migration hasn?t been high on the list of priorities,? said William L. Swing, the director general.
Yet even as its duties grow, the group operates under tight constraints that reflect the special worries migration can arouse. The United States and other rich donors largely dictate its agenda and ensure that it does not erode their power to decide which migrants they admit and how many.
?It helps them bring in the people they want and keep out the people they don?t,? said Joseph Chamie, a researcher at the Center for Migration Studies in New York.


Prospective Bangladeshi workers on pre-departure orientation course preparing them for the challenges of living abroad. The course is run by the Bangladeshi government and supported by IOM. Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World for The New York Times




Prospective Bangladeshi workers on pre-departure orientation course preparing them for the challenges of living abroad. The course is run by the Bangladeshi government and supported by IOM. Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World for The New York Times


To understand the group?s rapid growth and varied duties, consider Bangladesh, where the $10 billion that migrants send home accounts for 13 percent of the economy ? making the export of people nearly as vital as the export of shirts. But migrants borrow heavily to finance their trips, and the labor recruiting industry is rife with scams.
Continue reading “Aid and influence”

Give photography a chance

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By Giedre Steikunaite

Fish ??Partha Sarathi Sahana/Majority World

A photograph?s story is not only the one told in the image. Who took a picture, and why, also matters. Now who takes pictures of the developing world, and why?
?The vast majority of the published images that we see of the developing world are taken by predominantly white, predominantly male photographers from the ?north? or the ?west? (whichever language you use) and we think a) that this is unfair and b) that it leads to a distorted view lacking balance. The distorted view is intrinsically dangerous as it perpetuates stereotypes,? said Dr Colin Hastings, responsible for strategy and financing at?Majority World, in an interview with?igenius.
How about giving Majority World photographers a chance to represent the world they live in themselves?
Majority World, a global initiative set up to provide a platform for indigenous photographers from the Majority World to gain fair access to global image markets, is in its third year. Their?online library contains loads of photographs, both individual and featured, ranging from Adolphus Opara?s?Slum Aspirations to Aaron Sosa?s?Daily Havana to Saikat Ranjan Bhadra?s?Grey Reality. The idea is to shift the current practice of the global North photographing the global South and allowing the South to do it itself.
Photographers in the developing countries face numerous challenges. At first it was said that they don?t exist, then that they ?don?t have the eye?. But apart from these prejudices, there are serious problems photographers have to deal with: lack of access to the internet, costly cameras, scanners, and computers, lack of awareness of Northern markets, no money to travel and build up a portfolio, poor business and marketing skills and, probably worst of all, untrusting potential clients, who are nervous to assign an unknown photographer in a distant land.
Dal Lake, Srinagar, Kashmir. ??Prakhar/Majority World

Let?s come back to those white males who dominate the global photography market with their orthodox reflections of the Majority World. And aid. ?Development isn?t simply about money. What about developing mutual respect; enabling equitable partnerships; providing enabling environments for intellectual exchange? What about creating awareness of the underlying causes of poverty? These are all integral parts of the development process. When all things are added up, cheap images providing clich?d messages do more harm than good. They do not address the crucial issue: poverty is almost always a product of exploitation, at local, regional and international levels. If poverty is simply addressed in terms of what people lack in monetary terms, then the more important issues of exploitation are sidelined,? wrote Shahidul Alam, an international photojournalist and Chairman of?Majority World in?The New Internationalist in 2007.
Back then, the situation started to change, if only very slowly. In that same article, Mr Alam agreed that due to the media?s deteriorating financial situation, some adjustments had taken place: with media?s budgets squeezed, it?s getting harder to fly Western photographers to make some shots in a far away land.
This is where local photographers come in handy, but the fact is yet to be recognized by news outlets. And it ain?t so sunny out there, either. ?Certain rules still apply of course, such as the vast differentials in pay between local and Western photographers,? wrote Mr Alam.
I asked Dr Colin Hastings who works tirelessly to promote Majority World photography, how to encourage global media organizations to use images made by local photographers. He said we need to make a distinction between purchasing images pre-taken and uploaded into an existing photo library (known as ?stock photography?) and ?assignments?, where a photographer is commissioned to take specified types of image for a particular purpose.
?As for stock images, all we ask is that Majority World photographers have equal opportunities to get their images into photo libraries and showcased across the world and available for sale. At present they are marginalized and face many disadvantages. It is providing an equal playing field that is at the heart of what Majority World is about, enabling them to have the resources that Western photographers just take for granted.
?When it comes to assignments, Western media, editors and photographers tend to go out with a predetermined agenda often to find images to confirm their existing preconceptions and stereotypes often based on information that is way out of date. This is an issue of editorial bias, i.e. do you really want to find out the truth (whatever that is).
?Well, you are more likely to find out from someone who is of the culture, speaks the language, understand the nuances and the history, than from someone who jets in for a few days, is essentially a voyeur from the outside of the culture, and may be viewed with a mixture of incredulity and suspicion by those being photographed… To say nothing of the ethical issues about whether anyone ?should? be or has the right to take photos in any situation.
?It is right to acknowledge that it is not a simple matter to employ and brief an unknown photographer at a distance, especially where there are language and other cultural barriers to communication. But that can also be too easily used as an excuse. There are suitable and reliable photographers out there who do fine work. Part of our role is to take the risk out of this process by finding the most suitable photographer and acting as a communications facilitator.
?We have to help the client to change their behavior and ways of doing things and also help the photographer to understand and to respond to the clients? needs.? It?s complex!?
Three years ago, Dr Hastings expressed his wish for every postcard sold in a tourist destination in the global South to be taken by a local photographer. ?My vision is to see a whole range of beautiful high quality photographic products – cards, calendars, diaries or digital products images – taken entirely by Majority World photographers,? he said.
We?re not there yet, but hopefully on the way.
Photos: fish by?Partha Sarathi Sahana, water by?prakhar

World Press Photo Opens in Dhaka

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Well, the show is still stuck at the airport, and Marc has been
loitering around the streets of Dhaka, but we are still hopeful that the
biggest show of the year will open tomorrow (7th January) at 4:00 pm at
the Drik Gallery. The exhibition will be opened by former Chief Justice
and Chief Adviser to the caretaker government Justice Muhammad Habibur
Rahman.
——
We live in difficult times. Not only do we need to combat the
suppression of press freedom locally, but we also need to fight the
unrestrained propaganda that camouflages as news in mainstream western
media. The use of the media for propaganda is not new. While embedded
journalism has only recently been institutionalised, the mechanism has
been in place ever since the US failed ‘to manage’ the media during the
invasion of Grenada. However, the global reach of some western media
organisations give them a reach that is unprecedented. The new forms of
imperialism are also supported by tacit support from local
representatives of western governments, as well as the developmental and
cultural organisations they support. Ironically, these are the very
organisations that promote ‘free press and democracy’ in our countries
while local media organisations operate under the silent pressures of
tied aid and thinly veiled threats of ‘withdrawal of support’.
It is ten years since we first brought World Press Photo (WPP) to the
region. Now WPP is not only a regular feature in our calendar, but the
show has also travelled to India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The WPP workshops
have also been held in Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka. Showing the
finest photojournalism exhibition in the world has had a visible impact
in our development of press photography. Bangladeshis have won awards,
been accepted for Masterclass, and been represented in both the adult
and child juries of WPP.
Despite these successes, it is our ability to withstand these local and
international pressures, which will determine whether we can ever become
a media of the people. Political and financial independence doesn’t come
easy. However, it is not the west or our politicians, or our sponsors
who hold the key. The compromises we make along the way, the favours we
accept, and our selective blind-spots will eventually circumscribe our
freedoms. Through this exhibition we celebrate the professionalism, the
dedication, the compassion and the love for this freedom that many
photojournalists demonstrate.
Shahidul Alam
Chairman of the Jury 2003