Sajila is a working mother living in wretched conditions at the Korail slum, the largest and most populated urban slum located in the capital city of Dhaka. She resides there with her husband, mother-in-law and three children. In abject poverty, her husband cannot afford to play as the sole provider for the family, therefore, Sajila works as a day labourer to support him.
Our story unfolds when Sajila is expecting. The possibility of having an additional member in a poverty-ridden family was not the most pleasurable news yet Sajila, a mother of two daughters and one son continued to nurture her hope to give birth to a baby boy. I started my photo story of Sajila when she was four-months pregnant. She lives in a small insalubrious, congested room in the slum with a view of the lake surrounding the premise. Like most urban slums, the lack of a doctor or access to proper health services is non-existent. Sajila had no access to primary maternal treatments or health care as a woman normally would during the course of motherhood. Her economic state posited her in a vulnerable situation. If she discontinued her work to tend to her unborn baby, she jeopardizes feeding her family, and if she continues to work as day-labourer, her exposure to hazardous industrial conditions enhances health risks for both her and her unborn child. Sajila continued to work, at times starving during her pregnancy because she could not afford basic human necessities.
Due to the lack of medical treatments and health care services, a maternal nursing community comprised of local midwives from the slum conduct deliveries of pregnant mothers during childbirth. However, because they are not trained, most slum dwellers do not trust their care. In fact, in Bangladesh the risk of maternal and infant mortality rate looms large because of births handled by untrained personnel.
Regardless, Sajila followed the instructions and advice of the dos and don’ts of motherhood provided by the local midwife. She believes that if she has God by her side, she will give birth safely; all three of her children have been born that way. On her due date, in an unsanitary and precarious environment without medicine or hygienic medical instruments, Sajila gave a natural birth to a baby boy under the guidance of the same midwife. An hour later Sajila walked home alone with her newborn child. [Official Website]
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