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The Bangladeshi Sweatshop Workers.

It is with no surprise that some nations in our world are burdened with cyclical poverty and doing a lot of work, for very little gain. Bangladesh, has been one of the many countries that have been riddled by this exploitation. The nation was awarded its independence in 1971 changing its name from East Pakistan, to Bangladesh.

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Today, the garment making industry makes up 80% of Bangladesh’s economy. Majority of big brands out in western nations are notoriously known to have their clothing manufactured in Bangladesh for a fraction of the cost they would pay to manufacture in their own country. Actually, it is estimated these workers are paid 3000 Bangladeshi takas, while 5000 takas is the minimum it takes to survive in Bangladesh with the bare minimum.

Firefighters battle a fire at a garment factory in Bangladesh

We cannot however bring up Bangladeshi sweatshop workers without referencing the 2012 Dhaka fire. A garment factory near the main city of Dhaka, caught in flames because of a short circuit. The factory produced clothing for many well-known brands across the West. As a result of poor factory conditions, over 100 workers lost their lives. Even three years later, Wal-Mart, one of the companies who had manufacturing ties to this facility, refuse to pay dues to those permanently affected by this fire.

This new sort of imperialism has to own up to accountability, and even more so, equality in order to pay those who work for them fair and equal wages.

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The Skater Girls of Kabul

Afghanistan is a nation that has been riddled by violence and so the people live in an undeniably hostile climate. So when Afghanistani-American writer Khaled Hosseni stated, “there are a lot of children in Afghanistan, but little childhood”, you cannot help but wonder about the truth in that statement.

One of the groups that have been hit the hardest are women. From an adverse cultural environment, to the ruling of one of the harshest anti-feminist militant groups around, women in Afghanistan have been subjugated to a harsh life that has been separated from the public sphere. However, we are able to see a rise of female empowerment coming back to Afghanistan, that too, in unexpected ways.

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Oliver Percovich visited Afghanistan in 2007 and saw the lack of female involvement within young children who played sports. He took his love for skateboarding and started to train young girls how to skateboard in order to empower them and ignite in them a love for sports. The project, Skateistan, a non-profit organization, allows for children to be empowered and be encouraged to seek education. While their main goal is to allow children to have the skills and equipment to skateboard, it also keeps an eye on the children to make sure they receive education. Jessica Fulford-Dobson was able to visit Afghanistan and document the process with her camera and turn it into an exhibit, “The Skate Girls of Kabul”.

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Empowerment and education are both important for females across the globe. We have seen a rise for the advocacy of this situation through Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist and the recipient Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. Yousafzai does indeed live closer to Afghanistan,in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa region where many Afghanis have settled. She culturally shares her ethnicity with most Afghanis and has lived under Taliban rule, like most girls in Afghanistan. However through her, we can learn many lessons on education and female empowerment, including the support females require in some regions in South Asia in order to have access to education.

The Indian Agriculture Fallacy

I think Indian Farmers are perhaps the first social-political issue that has accounted for a number of restless and frustrated moments for myself. But first some background about the economic structure of India’s agricultural industry and how it came to be.

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In the nineties, India switched over to more laissez-faire and neoliberal policies as a result of globalization. India had allowed its agricultural industry to be privatized. Companies such as Monsanto came in and introduced both pesticides and genetically modified seeds with the plan to use land every single year. The issue? As a result of feudal landlord system and droughts, farmers knew very well what the land could and could not do, and they all knew pesticides were risky as well as genetically modified seeds. The failure of these crops to grow, along with overused lands left farmers with little to no money to pay for pesticides or seeds. Leading to debt, heavy debts.

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Tens of farmers commit suicide daily in India. The government has allowed for compensation to be given to families in which a farmer commits suicide. This unfortunately for most, has become an incentive. However, female farmers who commit suicide are exempt from this, as they are regarded not as farmers, but wives of farmers.

To learn more about the atrocities behind and of farmer suicides, you can watch the documentary, Nero’s Guest, by the editor of The Hindu and Rural Affairs Minister, Palagummi Sainath, who goes into detail about the matter in both a passionate and quirky way.

Pakistan’s Third Gender

South Asia has to be one of the most fascinating regions. Its vast varieties of cultures, languages and people create for one of the most diverse areas of the world of all time. My name is Sehar Malik. I am a 22 year old Pakistani-Canadian. I am very passionate about socio-political and economic issues in South Asia. Hence, the birth of Soch. Soch means to think or a thought in a variety of different South Asian languages. Here I shall post my thoughts on current socio-political issues in South Asia.

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Both my parents were born in Pakistan and with five trips back to the motherland since I was born, I can attest to the magnetism of Pakistan. The streets, the food, the people. One of the most fascinating, as well as the most heartbreaking stories to be told in Pakistan, and across most of South Asia, belong to the hijras, which can be translated into Eunuchs, or what most of South Asian theorists refer to it as “The Third Gender”.

The term itself hijra was associated with people who biologically were hermaphrodites , yet it encompasses those who consider themselves to be transgender or transsexual and even as far as to stretch it over to the male queer community. Hijra is also used as a demeaning term in South Asia, associated with a lack of manliness.

hero-original-1400426901Hijras in Pakistan carry with them a double-edged sword. Some believe that Hijras have mystical powers and both their blessing and their curse weigh heavily. For that reason alone, they are paid to attend to special occasions such as weddings and the welcoming home of a new baby. However, Hijras are subjugated to prostiturion as means to earn an income. Many hijras whose families disown them and they feel to be left out from society will join other hijras, usually in a brothel style system, with one madame to rule them all, and prostitutes.

However Pakistan has slowly, but surely seeing a change towards the attitudes surrounding hijras. Almas Bobby (who gained fame through the interview her name is hyperlinked to), the President of the Transgender Foundation of Pakistan, has been openly welcomed by parliment, who on her advice, have deemed the weddings of hijras to be in accordance with Islamic Sharia Law and identified as cisgender marriages. They also will be counted in the Pakistani Census as their own minority group. Documentaries, like “Kiss the Moon”, by Khalid Gill show a humanistic, empathetic and relatable side of the community.However, for the society of Pakistan to accept them without any negative connotations, or assumptions, will take a while for now.

VICE has both met hijras in India, as well as in Pakistan, and wrote about them.