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Her Name
Was Laboni

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. Photo: Claudio Montesano Casillas

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.

As Laboni’s biological father, Minto Sheikh took a DNA test in May 2013 hoping to identify his missing daughter. Photo: Claudio Montesano Casillas

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. Photo: Claudio Montesano Casillas

Laboni’s grave in Jurain, Old Dhaka. She is identified by the number ‘155’. Jurain is 50km away from Savar. Photo: Claudio Montesano Casillas

Cover 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. Photo: Claudio Montesano Casillas

Claudio Montesano Casillas
Claudio Montesano Casillas is a documentary photographer born in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico. He established his roots in three separate cultures, Mexican, Italian and Swiss, and he has developed an ability to both recognise and capture the richness of people, cultures and their respective evolution. Currently, he is based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. See more at his website, or follow him on Instagram.

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