I met Laboni’s family at the Rana Plaza site earlier this year. The entire world had seen pictures of the victims of the garment factory’s collapse in 2013, which killed more than 1,100 people. I had seen them too. But they did not match the feeling of seeing a family grieve the loss of a loved one. I thought about Laboni’s life and how it was much more than just a tragic death. How she was a smart young woman with many dreams, who wanted to work hard to get herself and her family a better life. I wanted to unravel that history.

I visited Laboni’s village, Mohira Para, with her father and her little sister. Located in Ishwardi, in the Pabna District, this is where she grew up before searching for a better life in the capital, Dhaka. I photographed these places and collected old family photos.

From the family archives (2004), Laboni at age 11 posing in front of the Shah bridge and the Padma river in Bangladesh. When she was young, Laboni used to hang out here a lot with friends and family. The Padma river bank is a great place for picnics.

The ready-made garment industry in Bangladesh is worth 24 billion dollars. An alternative to the restrictive and tough agricultural sector, it provides jobs to many unskilled workers, especially women who travel to the country’s capital in search of independence in the shape of formal income. Every year, millions of people migrate from rural areas to the urban zone hoping for a better life. But though the salary of a garment worker may be higher than that of a farmer, the living and working conditions can turn city life into a nightmare.

Laboni was born in February 1993. In 2006, she migrated from Ishwardi to Savar, Dhaka District. This is her story.

The view from the Lalon Shah bridge over the Padma river. This road bridge allows cars to cross the Padma river between Ishwardi and Bheramara, Pabna District, Bangladesh. This is where Laboni grew up.
A classroom inside the school named after the first president of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, founded in 1995. Laboni attended this school in Ishwardi for four years from sixth to tenth grade, when she stopped her education.
The view of Ishwardi (Bengali: “God’s place”) a Western village of the Pabna District in Rajshahi Division, Bangladesh. It has a population of approximately 350,000.
As Laboni’s biological father, Minto Sheikh took a DNA test in May 2013 hoping to identify his missing daughter.
Auntie Morzina, 55, mother of Shanta, 26, says she was a second mother to Laboni. Morzina owns a large property in Savar where she rents out nine rooms. While Laboni was staying in Dhaka with Morzina she met her future husband, Shahin. Shahin rented one of Morzina’s rooms.
A garment factory in Savar, Dhaka District. As a married woman Laboni was permitted to start working. At the age of 17 she joined her husband in the same garment factory. Part of her salary supported her family.
Shahin, 28, survived the accident and remained inside the building for 10 hours after the collapse. He was hospitalised for 16 days. After the incident, Shaini received his compensation and decided to leave the crowded city and find shelter back in his village. He is no longer working, due to post-traumatic stress disorder and a permanent spinal injury.
A “Made in Bangladesh” label found at the Rana Plaza site. Even today, labels of the international brands that produced their clothes in Rana Plaza can be found at the site. Laboni produced clothes mostly for the UK market.
Laboni’s grave in Jurain, Old Dhaka. She is identified by the number ‘155’. Jurain is 50km away from Savar.
Minto Sheikh (42) and Asma (35) sitting outside their provisory house in Savar. In 2013, they moved from Ishwardi to Savar to obtain compensation for their loss. The compensation would secure Laboni’s two sisters’ future and allow them to get an education. In Ishwardi, Minto used to work as a bus ticket controller. He now is a rickshaw driver.
Boishakhi (8), inside her house with Laboni’s school diploma in hand. Laboni left Ishwardi when Boiskakhi was very young, so she does not remember her oldest sister well.

Top image: Laboni and Shahin at a celebration. They got married when she was 15 years old and Shahin was 20. At first, her family opposed their wish to get married.