I spent the second half of my summer interning with UNICEF in Cox’s Bazar. The city was culturally very different from Geneva and gave me the opportunity to understand and observe a different part of the world.
Cox’s Bazar is a town on the southeast coast of Bangladesh which also serves as a major domestic tourist destination. The town has beautiful sandy beaches which are a major tourist attraction. The majority of the population is muslim and conservative in outlook.
Since Cox’s is a border town with access to the open water, there are reports of trafficking rings operating in the city making it particularly risky for female expatriates. The town also seemed to have a very conservative outlook on the role of women outside of homes. I was barely able to see women out and about on roads. Conversations with local colleagues filled me in on nuances like women are encouraged to not step out of the house alone but be accompanied by male family members. Also, staying outside post dark is not considered appropriate for women.
The recent influx of refugees has brought in a lot of international humanitarian workers to the city and one can observe this changing the dynamic of this beautiful coastal town. On one hand, drinking and partying is frowned upon with it being illegal for local Bangladeshi citizens to drink, but on the other hand, one can see certain night clubs offering drinks and music to internationals. Several restaurants have also opened up providing Thai, Indian and Continental cuisine for expatriates. The locals are warm and curious about foreigners and it is interesting to see this dynamic play out in day-to-day interactions.