Many of us still don’t know the difference between charity and development. While the total amount of foreign aid to Bangladesh since its independence is nearing $50 billion, the income gap has continued to increase. The inequalities persist in a range of human living conditions, not just in a financial sense. This film is concerned with some of those living conditions, starting with health, access to nutritious food and to safe and reliable drinking water.
These are matters of grave urgency since the discovery of arsenic in the water almost two decades ago. The film explores the many failures to reach marginalised people and communities as a whole. However, the observation that the inequalities have not been effectively addressed despite the efforts should not be used as an excuse to stop; it should be used as an argument to start doing things differently.
The most important inequality that will need to be reduced is in the power to decide over one’s living conditions. It is one thing to reach out to the poor with water supplies and medicine, but if nothing is done to the circumstances that created the inequalities in the first place, then we haven’t managed to move beyond the mere provision of charity. The process of social mobilisation that the Arsenic Mitigation and Research Foundation is facilitating has started to empower those that are normally marginalised from decision making processes. Already there are several positive signals that this is strengthening the communities’ sense of control over their own lives.