Jhuma’s home, a small mud house, stands alone on a little raised piece of land in the middle of a vast inland sea. She lives in the haor, a seemingly endless stretch of wetlands in Sunamganj in northern Bangladesh. Everything around her is covered by water. She cannot see land, as far as she looks, for more than half of the year. More children drop out from schools in these areas than anywhere else in the country. 20 million people live in the haor region that spreads across seven districts. Less than 1% finish high school.
As a young child in Sylhet, Bangladesh, I remember my daily life being attached to the land. Thrills came from chasing my cousins barefoot down hot, dirt roads; from sneaking out to watch older kids play soccer in the neighboring green fields; from helping my grandmother water her crops. When it would rain, as it frequently does in Sylhet, I would anxiously wonder when it would stop.