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As climate change destabilises agricultural life in Bangladesh, increasing pressure is put on rural populations to move to the city in search of better-paid work. But life in the city is not easy for these new migrants. Without networks or savings, they are even more vulnerable to existing inequalities and discrimination.
Even more vulnerable to exploitation are women and girls.
In One Every Second, audiences learn about Pakhi, an 18-year-old who migrated to Dhaka after her family’s house was washed away by floods.
To survive and support her family, she joined the sex industry before she had even turned 15 years old.
We speak to the documentary-makers, Otto Simonsson and Johannes Englich to learn more.
How did you discover this story? Tell me a little bit about your research process. How did you find Pakhi and Meera?
Otto: The research process started with a bird’s-eye view of the issue. I read through the literature on climate displacement and came across a small body of research on its disproportionate impacts on women and girls. It was clear that climate displacement could increase the risk of sexual exploitation for girls, but there was no specific research on how it could push them into prostitution. I decided to explore the issue on the ground and hired a local person in Bangladesh to search for women and girls in the sex industry with this specific background. The rest is history.
What were some of the key challenges you faced when reporting or filming the documentary? What were the biggest learnings for you
Otto: This was our first documentary. It was uncharted territory for both of us. The key challenge was to navigate through the cultural and linguistic differences, while the greatest lesson was to build the documentary around the personal story rather than the specific issue and, in so doing, create a better flow in the documentary. Since we were not afraid to make mistakes and learning by doing was our mantra, we are now better prepared for our next documentary project.
What outcomes would you like to see as a result of the article and documentary? What responses have you received already?
Otto: The main goal of the article and the documentary was to simply raise awareness and let the decision-makers determine the appropriate course of action in response to the issue. The feedback, both from experts and politicians, have been positive and we were even invited to the European Parliament in October 2018 to screen the documentary and participate in a panel discussion.

Act now and follow the stories that matter, even if they do not pay as much. There will be no future career opportunities in journalism, unless we have a planet to live on.

Do you plan to do more work in this form?
Otto: I hope to work together with Johannes on documentary projects in the future. This project was self-funded and significantly lowered my standard of living in the wake of its completion, but we have applied for funding this time around and keep our fingers crossed for resources to cover a different issue of importance.
What advice would you give to budding climate journalists? 
Otto: I would advise budding climate journalists to act now and follow the stories that matter, even if they do not pay as much. There will be no future career opportunities in journalism, unless we have a planet to live on.
Johannes: I would advise budding climate journalists to think carefully about their equipment and minimize its size and weight as much as possible, especially if they cover an issue abroad and need to travel with their equipment. For instance, I used a smaller camera (Sony A7S II) for this documentary project. In addition, I would advise them to use a lens with image stabilization, because it could let you skip a whole shoulder rig. It attracts a lot less attention, which could be useful to prevent too many interruptions in the process of filming.
Can you tell me more about the process of planning and choosing your shots? Is this something you do beforehand or does it develop naturally as you speak with your subjects?  
Johannes: It was hard to plan anything in advance for this documentary project. We had limited time with Pakhi and we were not able to plan the shots, while there was also a linguistic barrier to further complicate our work. She cooked lunch for her parents before the interview and I simply tagged along. Since she wanted to remain anonymous, I could not film her face and had to remain behind her. I think it made her feel more comfortable and there were times when I wondered if she even noticed that I was recording.

I would advise budding climate journalists to think carefully about their equipment and minimize its size and weight as much as possible, especially if they cover an issue abroad and need to travel with their equipment. 

Lily Jamaludin

About Lily Jamaludin

Lily Jamaludin is a Malaysian writer and researcher. Previously, she helped design education opportunities for stateless youth in Borneo, and assisted in eviction-prevention initiatives in the Bronx. She’s excited to mobilise more young writers from developing countries to influence national debate around climate change.