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Life: Born in a Slum - A photo essay by Saikat Mojumder

Sajila is a working mother living in the Korail slum in Dhaka city. She got her husband, mother-in-law and three children (two daughters and a son) in her family. As her husband cannot afford all the maintenance of the family alone, Sajila works as a day labourer to support him.

Our story begins when Sajila is expecting again. The poverty-ridden family could not be happy with the possibility to have the family even more extended; nonetheless, Sajila continues nurturing her hope to have another male-child this time.

Quite understandably, it was not possible for Sajila to have the extra cares or medical support an expecting mother should get. The family will starve if she does not work, so she continues with her heavy work as a day-labourer. This was definitely the last thing a pregnant woman should go through.

However, I began my photo shoot on Sajila when she was four-month pregnant. She lives in a small, suffocating and unhealthy room in the Korail slum, which is surrounded by lake. As it is in most of the slums, there is also no doctor or medical service available here in this slum. There are indeed some midwives helping the pregnant mothers in the slum though. But their ability is very much questionable and giving birth to a child under their supervision is unsafe, it even leads the mothers and children to death often.

Death-rate at the pregnancy period in Bangladesh is 440 among every 100000; highest in the world. Death rate at child birth is even higher. Since 2007, the rate is 151(either child or the mother) in every thousand. As for the children, the number is 61 per thousand. The reason behind this high death-rate is most of the child-birth in our country is maintained by untrained midwives.

Due to economical insolvency and lack of proper medical service, Sajila also decides to give birth to her child under the supervision of a midwife. Sajila believes, if she has God by her side, she will make it safely, for all her three children have been born this way.

Her economical condition was even worse during her pregnancy and she even had to starve for several days. Even though, Sajila did not forget to take advice from the midwife about the dos and don’ts. Finally on the due date, she gives birth to her child under the guidance of that very midwife. Without any modern facilities or medicines, in an unhealthy atmosphere, Sajila have her baby boy delivered normally. It might sound incredible to many, but Sajila walks herself to home with her son only after an hour.



Sajila (34) a pregnant woman sits amidst the bleak environment of the slum on 24 February 2009, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Sajila is a working mother living in the Korail slum in Dhaka city. She got her husband, mother-in-law and three children (two daughters and a son) in her family. As her husband cannot afford all the maintenance of the family alone, Sajila works as a day labourer to support him. Photo © Saikat Mojumder



Sajila (34) is comforting her little son while she herself was tolerating terrible pain on 17 April 2009, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Photo © Saikat Mojumder


Even in her pregnancy, Sajila had to do other household works besides her job as a day laborer on 22 March 2009, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Quite understandably, it was not possible for Sajila to have the extra cares or medical support an expecting mother should get. The family will starve if she does not work, so she continues with her heavy work as a day laborer. This was definitely the last thing a pregnant woman should go through. Photo © Saikat Mojumder


Sajila is taking rest during idle mid-day on 9 April 2009, Dhaka, Bangladesh. She lives in a small, suffocating and unhealthy room in the Korail slum, which is surrounded by lake. As it is in most of the slums, there is also no doctor or medical service available here in this slum. Photo © Saikat Mojumder


Sajila in her labour pain on 17 April 2009, Dhaka, Bangladesh. There are indeed some midwives helping the pregnant mothers in the slum though. But their ability is very much questionable and giving birth to a child under their supervision is unsafe, it even leads the mothers and children to death often. Photo © Saikat Mojumder




The process of childbirth is being carried out traditional way on 17 April 2009, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Due to economical insolvency and lack of proper medical service, Sajila also decides to give birth to her child under the supervision of a midwife. Sajila believes, if she has God by her side, she will make it safely, for all her three children have been born this way. Photo © Saikat Mojumder


A new life is born- the mid-wife holds up the boy, Sajila lays beside on 5 May 2009, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Her economical condition was even worse during her pregnancy and she even had to starve for several days. Even though, Sajila did not forget to take advice from the midwife about the dos and don’ts. Finally on the due date, she gives birth to her child under the guidance of that very midwife. Without any modern facilities or medicines, in an unhealthy atmosphere, Sajila have her baby boy delivered normally. It might sound incredible to many, but Sajila walks herself to home with her son only after an hour. Photo © Saikat Mojumder


No special arrangement for the newborn, it is laid down on the floor while Sajila's other three children are having their meal right beside on 8 May 2009, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Photo © Saikat Mojumder


Sajila milks the baby boy in her room, unhealthy and suffocating 8 May 2009, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Photo ©
Saikat Mojumder

About Saikat Mojumder

Saikat Mojumder is a photographer from Bangladesh who recently finished his graduation from South Asian Institute of Photography (Pathshala).


7 comments:

  1. Giorgia says

    the story, the mood, the photos... breath-taking!


    Anonymous says

    Outstanding!


    Raja Chidambram says

    it is not just a photo essay. it is the other side of the developing countries. outstanding capture. i like the exposure.


    Gwenllian says

    What wonderful photos, especially the last one. They tell an important story with sensitivity and without judgement.


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