On Wednesday morning we had decided to leave Dhaka for a few hours in order to get some time to see the countryside and get a better understanding of the situation facing the country as a whole. I was struck by how densely populated this country really is when passing a never ending stream of suburbs and then cities and villages. The trip gave a few additional insights into the textile industry of the country as we visited small producers where a majority of the workers were children, some probably not older than eight or nine.
After catching up on some work the evening was spent at the Dhaka University. As the event had only been advertised during one day and it was in the evening I honestly did not expect that many students to show up to my lecture on the topic of Human rights, tolerance and the road to democracy I was thrilled to find well over 100 students waiting for us when we entered into the room. After giving my speech the pro vice chancellor and professors of the social science department gave a few very nice concluding remarks before we had a nice session of discussion with the students and teachers.
I was thoroughly impressed, in particularly of the dialogue with the students. When I talked about the need for tolerance or the need to break Bangladesh's circle of violence by abolishing the death penalty it was clear in the eyes of the students that these were messages that resonated within them. There were quite a few questions and it seemed we could have stayed for many hours but for the fact that time was running a bit late and we had not yet had dinner. As we left the lecture hall I think I must have shook almost everyone's hand and I was moved once again by the heartfelt hospitality that had been extended to me by everyone since my arrival, but I think I felt it even a little more as I was leaving the University hall than before.
After a few concluding talks and photos in the offices of the professors we went down to our car, had yet another good discussion with a number of students that still had not left the campus before finally setting of through the busy streets of Dhaka to have some dinner with the faculty staff that had been instrumental in setting up the lecture. Our visit to Bangladesh was about to come to an end with only one day remaining...
On the last day of the visit to Bangladesh I visited the European Union mission to the Country as well as the Swedish embassy. Ideally I would have wanted to do both these visits in the beginning rather than at the end of the trip but unfortunately this was not compatible with the schedule of the conference and other activities. We had however been extremely well prepared by detailed briefings of both the European Commission and the Swedish embassy. The two meetings thus had more a character of summing up the various discussions, sharing experiences and thoughts that can be of mutual interest.
Cecilia with EU Ambassador Dr. Stefan Frowein
In the morning I met with EU Ambassador Stefan Frowein for several hours and then with the Swedish deputy head of mission Mr. Samuel Egerö. We promised to compile the findings of the visit into a report which will be completed in the coming days. As we got ready to leave Bangladesh we did so many experiences richer and with a deeper understanding of the country and the important challenges it faces in both the short and long term.
To know more about my visit at the University of Dhaka, read Anisur Rahmans article on Human rights, tolerance and democracy in Holiday.