So, last week I talked a little about the kind of fashion women wear in Bangladesh and why. The young, unmarried wear shalwar kameezes and the married, older women wear saris. Working women – particularly in the garment and hospital area will often be found wearing shalwar kameezes too as they are more practical. But the sari is elegant and denotes status. This is a key factor as no one wears a sari to keep cool!
But the downside to saris and the ornas (long fine scarves) that have to be worn with the shalwar kameeze is that many of the village women cook on earth ovens called chulas. Unfortunately, these clothes easily catch the flames and then burn very quickly.
Getting accurate statistics for Bangladesh is difficult but one survey carried out in 2004 found that there were over 187,000 burn accidents in the year and I see no evidence of this diminishing. More than 90% of all burn accidents happen to women in the kitchen area. Though most will survive the accident, those that don’t often suffer a horrible death and those that do can be badly disfigured.
At LAMB burn victims are seen regularly and, I am told, it is not a pretty sight. A hospital set in rural Bangladesh, dealing with the very poorest, we often see the very worst cases. The survival rate for women is not good after around 30% or so body coverage and I am glad I do not get to see these cases on the whole. My little corner of LAMB is the school and I am content to live there when I hear of some of the cases that come through the gates to the hospital part.
So, if the fashion for women in Bangladesh is not especially practical for most and not very cool to wear – why do women wear these things? Well, I would not try to suppose I know – being a man and not being a Bangladeshi. But I have made some observations about what I see advertised as ‘beautiful’ in Bangladesh and in Dhaka, the capital, especially, and I will share some of these thoughts next week.