Essay on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Issues of Poverty in Bangladesh

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About 32% of the population in Bangladesh does not have the minimum amount of income required for a person to afford basic necessities, hence they would fall under the absolute poverty category (Imam, Islam & Hossin, 2017). There is also a further 19% of the population falls into extreme or chronic poverty (Imam, Islam & Hossin, 2017). However, Bangladesh continues to amaze with its incredible economic growth and development (Rajan, 2018). Despite this, half the population of the country continues to suffer from some type of poverty. The main contributors of this economic growth are the migrant workers, farmers and garment factories (Rajan, 2018), thus there are a fair amount of job opportunities, so what seems to be the problem? Why is a country flourishing economically, while half of their people are still stuck in poverty? Well, I believe it is due to inequality and discrimination inside workplaces, where either they are not given job opportunities due to their race, gender or religion (Islam, Sayeed & Hossain, 2017), or the fact that they are being paid less then the amount needed to live due to them having no other option (“Oxfam reaction to Savar Building Collapse”, 2013). This also leads to the problem of Bangladesh exploiting their works into poverty and the issue of Multi-dimensional poverty.

Bangladesh is a small South Asian country in-between India and Myanmar, previously a part of Pakistan, they had successfully gotten their independence on March 26th, 1971, after years of oppression and being seen as a blimp on the Pakistani population. (Rajan,2018). After their independence, things did not get much better as the country were struggling to find an identity socially, and politicians were fighting to gain power over the county (Rajan,2018). Years of political corruption and tragedy in the country has left the common people in a miserable state, where poverty has taken over their lives and the issue of multi-dimensional poverty comes into play. Poverty leads to many other negative side effects, such as not being able to afford health care or education which makes it hard for one to get a job, which may lead to them taking a risky job just to earn enough to eat a meal, this is called multi-dimensional poverty (Straus & Driscoll, 2019), and this is the nightmare which is considered a reality in Bangladesh. Bangladesh also face a problem with inequality and discrimination, in fact due to the political divide in Bangladesh, people even discriminate against people with different political view (Rajan, 2018).

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Furthermore, in Bangladesh, women are seen as the inferior gender whose only responsibility should be caring for their husbands and looking after the homes, this mindset makes it very difficult for families with single mothers to make a living causing them to fall into poverty (Islam, Sayeed & Hossian, 2017). However, Bangladesh have tried to diminish these ways of thinking and discrimination in the past with little to no success, this is mainly due to the government’s disinterment in the matter (Islam, Sayeed & Hossian, 2017). Another study attributed the poverty problem to the poor urban development policy (Sydunnaher, Islam & Morshed, 2018), the policies do not address the poor education the people in rural areas are getting, hence leaving them unqualified to find a better job, which leads them to poverty as they barely make enough to live.

There is also a problem with people being human trafficked in Bangladesh and forced into work (Azad, 2018). Human trafficking is not only a serious problem in Bangladesh, but it seems ad if the government and the police turn a blind eye to them. It seems the high level of corruption in the government and police has caused the police to only focus on cases involving high-status people (Azad, 2018). Hence if a poor women’s daughter gets kidnapped, and if she does not have the funds to bribe the police into doing their job, then she would either must look for her herself or give up on finding her daughter completely. Human traffickers are very aware of the utter incompetence of the police when it comes to low-income or rural families hence, they mostly, if not only target them (Azad, 2018). They mostly target kids and they force them into work such as prostitution or housework (Azad, 2018), taking all the money they make and threatening them that they would kill them if they ran away (Azad, 2018). All these would strongly oppose the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 3 states that everyone has the right to live their own life in security and freedom (“Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, n.d), however, that doesn’t seem to be the case for the poor in Bangladesh, as they get stripped of their rights and they get their freedom taken away from them with no one helping them.. Also, a large number of people are willing to work for extremely low wages, it leads to them being exploited by many foreign businesses that are trying to cut costs (Rajan, 2018). This exploitation is one of the biggest problems Bangladesh is currently facing and a tragedy that befell Bangladesh on April 24th, 2013, brought this issue to light for all the world to see.

Since Bangladesh is known for it’s cheap labor and huge garment factories (Ranjan, 2018) many counties then to export their clothes from Bangladesh, but at what cost? The people working in these factories continue to get less then 40 US dollars a month, which is not enough to live a proper life in Bangladesh (“Oxfam reaction to Savar Building Collapse”, 2013) but also the unkept and unhygienic states of the places that they work. The best way to illustrate the cost is through a recent tragedy that befell Bangladesh, the Savar Building collapse, which showed the world just how bad the poverty situation in Bangladesh is. The saver building known as Rana Plaza held 5 garment factories, however, the condition of the building was anything but safe (Chowdhury, 2017). The building collapsed on April 24th, 2013 when more then 1100 workers met their untimely end (Chowdhury, 2017). But how does this tragedy reflect on Bangladesh’s poverty situation, after all it is just a building collapsing. Well, workers inside the building would reputedly report cracks on the walls that looked risky and awkward sounds that was a sign that something is not right, however no matter how many times they had reported these problems they were simply ignored (Chowdhury, 2017). They knew something terrible was going to happen but they couldn’t just quit their job, after all they were barely making ends meet, and finding another job with little to no education in Bangladesh might end up with these people having to beg on the streets (Chowdhury, 2017). Although the owner of the building knew about the state the building was in, he let the workers work there. Their lives meant nothing to him, as all he thought about was making money for himself and the workers just had to live with that reality (Chowdhury, 2017). But is that okay? Just because the people in Bangladesh have accepted their faith does that give the rich permission to exploit them. After all, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 5, states that no person should be exposed to undignified or inhumane treatment (“Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, n.d), so would this not be considered inhumane? After all, the owner of the building did not see their lives as valuable hence he put them at risk.

So, what are the government and non-governmental organizations doing about these inequalities? To put it simply, not much. Although efforts are being made to improve workers' rights, without the help of the government it seems hopeless (Chowdhury, 2017). After the Savar building, the Rana Plaza collapsed it seems Bangladesh formed an alliance with foreign and local NGOs to monitor the factories so that something similar does not happen again (Chowdhury, 2017). However, this does not solve the heart of the problem, which is half the population that are in poverty being driven into dangerous work, so that they can make less then what is needed to live.

The Government of Bangladesh seems to spend most of their budget on getting children to attend schools (Ahmed, khondkar & Quisumbing), hence due to these heavy investments about 90% of children are enrolled in school (Ahmed, khondkar & Quisumbing). The Government accomplishes these great feet by giving incentives to the families that send their children to school in the form of agricultural goods such as wheat, however, only a certain selected number of households get this benefit as they are a part of a research program called the FFE program (Ahmed, khondkar & Quisumbing). Although this is great in getting children to go to school, it does not fix the issue of poverty, in fact it leaves the parents dependent on the children for they must attend school to get the benefit and it does not address what would happen after the child has graduated. It is implied that the child has better qualifications hence they should be able to find a better job however, that is not guaranteed as there is an increased amount of migrant workers, making a surplus of labor and not enough jobs (Rajan, 2018). In the end they would be forced to work for the minimum wage which would not be enough to survive, hence they would stay in poverty.

From my years of living there and getting an in-depth look at the labor market there, I would say the lack of education and training opportunities are what is driving poverty. Bangladesh seems to be stuck in a poverty trap, which means they would need outside assistance from other counties (Straus & Driscoll, 2019), and it seems after the Savar building collapse more countries are giving them more attention (Chowdhury, 2017). A study by Martin and Hulme (2003) has shown that better training programs are what benefit poor households most, since this gives them the skills required to go out and find better work. However, I believe the government needs to fund these programs more so that it can reach more people in rural areas. Furthermore, only providing unemployment benefits are not enough on their own, they tend to discourage some people from working, but combining it with training and education that can help a household gain a sustainable income on their own is what truly helps elevate a country out of poverty (Martin & Hume, 2003). However, these programs are costly, so government aid is necessary for their success (Martin & Hume, 2003). Thus, I believe in order to truly solve the issue of poverty in Bangladesh, the government and the NGOs need to come together to help the common people. Additionally, I believe Bangladesh should educate people on gender discrimination and the negative impacts it holds, which should diminish workplace inequality. Furthermore, Bangladesh has a lot of potential in improving its poverty situation due to the many smaller NGOs that lack the funds to monitor and evaluate their projects efficiently (Ahmed, khondkar & Quisumbing). They hold a wealth of knowledge and if the government spends a bit more of its budget funding these organizations, they may get better solutions to fix the poverty problem (Ahmed, khondkar & Quisumbing).


  1. Azad, A. (2018). Recruitment of Migrant Workers in Bangladesh: Elements of Human Trafficking for Labor Exploitation. Journal of Human Trafficking, 5(2), 1-21.
  2. Ahmed, A., Khondkar, M., & Quisumbing, A. (2011). Understanding the context of institutions and policy processes for selected anti-poverty interventions in Bangladesh. Journal of Development Effectiveness, 3(2), 175-192.
  3. Chowdhury, R. (2017). The Rana Plaza disaster and the complicit behavior of elite NGOs. Organization, 24(6), 938-949.
  4. Imam,F., Islam,A.,M., & Hossain, M. (2018). Factors affecting poverty in rural Bangladesh: An analysis using multilevel modeling. Journal of the Bangladesh Agricultural University, 16(1), 123-130.
  5. Islam, D., Sayeed, J., & Hossain, N. (2017). On Determinants of Poverty and Inequality in Bangladesh. Journal of Poverty, 21(4), 352-371.
  6. Matin, I., & Hulme, D. (2003). Programs for the Poorest: Learning from the IGVGD Program in Bangladesh. World Development, 31(3), 647-665.
  7. Oxfam reaction to the Savar building collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh. (2013, April 26). Retrieved from
  8. Ranjan, A. (2018). Bangladesh: A political history since independence. Commonwealth & Comparative Politics, 56(1), 134-136.
  9. Straus, S., & Driscoll, B. (2019). International Studies: Global Forces, Interactions, and Tensions. Los Angeles: Sage
  10. Sydunnaher, S., Islam, K., & Morshed, M. (2018). The spatiality of a multidimensional poverty index: A case study of Khulna City, Bangladesh. GeoJournal, 1-14.
  11. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (n.d). Retrieved from
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