Thursday, March 5, 2009

Frustrating Mindsets

Granted I haven't made a thorough scientific or researched study of it, but last week I realized one of the most valuable lessons I've learned in Bangladesh about development in third world countries is that NGOs and governments need to effect change that's self-sustaining. It can't be created with the western mentality and organizational structures, but should be formed taking the culture of the countries is into account. After seeing what is happening to Rishilpi in Jessore, along with my own observations of other things in Bangladesh, it's my opinion that projects will decay once the organization pulls out.

Sad, I know, but true nonetheless.

Examples of Bangladeshi thinking that frustrates my western mindset:

Giving up when the set formula doesn't work. Proof of this is my old Aussie housemate who worked in the ICDD-RB research hospital. She complained that doctors would give up when the prescribed set of meds and treatment wouldn't work on a patient, whereas Australian doctors would experiment with alternative methods until the ailment was cured.

Ayas, cooks, and house help. They rarely bother to go the extra mile to do something when not told to do it. not necessarily out of laziness, but a lack of initiative. This means that at another time it has to be done at your specific instructions or by someone else, which is inefficient and just a little silly if you take a step back and look at the whole situation.

Maintenance. Buildings throughout Bangladesh are generally moldy, peeling in paint and filled with cockroaches, rat poo, and other unpleasantness when a little maintenance, could keep the nastiness in check. Take the bungalows we stayed in last week. Easily they could be quaint getaways nestled in the paddy fields and tea gardened hills of Srimongol. Instead, they're border line sanitary cement buildings. It told my girls that our cabin could be adorable with a coat of bright-not-tacky-Bangla-paint, gingham curtains at the windows and a couple of cheerful throw rugs scattered on the floors.

I don't have a perfect solution, just a suggestion. Perhaps change should be either through education or changing of mindset, or through innovative organizational structures that take the mindset of the culture into account.

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