I’m Made in Bangladesh

Zafar Sobhan

These young men and women embody the spirit of the nation and there are thousands if not millions more out there just like them, each with his or her own story of success achieved against the odds

For too long Bangladesh has been a punch-line, short-hand for poverty, misery, and disaster, both natural and man-made. For too long Bangladesh has existed in the shadow of our larger neighbours and has been known primarily for its failings and failures and not its achievements and accomplishments.

No more. Dhaka Tribune’s I’m Made in Bangladesh campaign says that enough is enough. We want to tell the world about everything that we have accomplished as a nation and that we stand straight and tall and proud of our Bangladeshi identity.

This emotion is the spirit of the times and we see it everywhere around us. It has nothing to do with political identity and it exists despite the crises and challenges that we are currently going through as a nation. The Bangladeshi people are far more than our feckless political leadership.

Make no mistake: our political and other crises are but temporary speed-bumps on our journey. What is permanent is the knowledge and belief that we can overcome any adversity as a nation and that nothing can divert us from our path to greatness as a country, as we reach for the stars and show the world just what it means to be made in Bangladesh.

We have seen the worst and overcome it. In 1971 we emerged from our Liberation War as a war-torn, devastated, impoverished country, the economy and infrastructure in ruins, millions either dead or displaced, including so many of our best and brightest. More than 80 percent of the population lived below the poverty line and life expectancy was below 50 years.

Since then we have weathered floods and famine, coups and counter-coups, assassinations, cyclones, industrial disasters — setbacks that would have brought any other country to its knees. But not us. Not only have we survived through all of these hardships, but we have thrived.

Even as our population has doubled since independence and we remain the most densely populated country in the world, we have become self-sufficient in food production and found a way to care for our people. Bangladeshis today are the best educated, healthiest, and best nourished that we have ever been in our history.

Primary education rates are approaching 100 percent and, as noted by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, many of our social indicators — especially when it comes to gender — are better than our neighbour India’s. This is what the world renowned professor Hans Rosling famously calls “the Miracle of Bangladesh.”

We now have world-class industries and our non-profit sector is the envy of the world. In Brac and Grameen Bank, we have created two of the most unique, creative, innovative, and effective social welfare organisations in the world, and they are merely the tip of the iceberg.

Every day millions of Bangladeshis wake up with the resolve to make this country of ours a better place for their fellow country-men and women and to create opportunity for all.

We now even have a cricket team that is the pride of the nation, filled with world-class talent, but, equally important, playing together as a team with dedication and commitment.

Everywhere I go in this country I see Bangladeshis with a new sense of purpose and a new sense of pride. That is what the I’m Made in Bangladesh campaign is all about: capturing and channeling this sense of national pride and spirit of accomplishment.

We Bangladeshis no longer think of ourselves as citizens of a small country. We are not small. We are big. We are the eighth largest country in the world by population, the 34th largest economy measured by GDP PPP, and second to none when it comes to energy, inventiveness, and dynamism.

This spirit is captured by the I’m Made in Bangladesh spokesmen and women: Salma Khatun, who grew up being told that girls played with dolls and not bats and balls, but who is now the number one T20 all-rounder in the world. Mahfuzur Rahman Tushar, a madrasa student from the streets of Dhaka who is now an international racecar driver. And the Chondrobot team, who have built a robot for NASA.

These young men and women embody the spirit of the nation and there are thousands if not millions more out there just like them, each with his or her own story of success achieved against the odds. This is the story of Bangladesh that we want to tell, that we want to bring to the world.

I’m Made in Bangladesh is a badge of honour and one that we should wear with pride.

Let us take this message to every nook and corner of the country, to every village and every market-place, to every river-bank and sand-bar island, from the mangrove forests to the hills, from the wetlands in the south to the tea plantations in the north.

Let us all stand together as one, farmers and fishermen, garment workers and factory owners, businessmen and beggars, entrepreneurs and artisans, and let the world know, with pride and purpose: I’m Made in Bangladesh.

Source: Dhaka Tribune

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