Raised in Dhaka, Bangladesh, one of the poorest and most densely populated countries in the world, Urbashee Paul’s was a childhood marked by impediments and impermanence.
At barely 5 years old, Paul, who is now an economics doctoral student at Northeastern, witnessed moments that came to define the first part of her life.
Women, cradling babies in their arms, would trot to the front door of her family’s home, hands extended, begging for food.
Young children would hop from car to car, person to person, hustling goods on the streets to help their families make ends meet.
In the village of Nalitabari, where her father was from, Paul would often see farmers bearing calloused hands and feet from doing hard labor in the fields without protective shoes and gloves.
The Pauls themselves spent many nights huddled around a hurricane lamp amid pitch darkness, waiting for their power to be restored.
Food and electricity weren’t the only things in short supply in mid-1990s Dhaka; opportunity was just as scarce, especially for girls and women. So when her mother’s job at a non-governmental organization focusing on boosting female entrepreneurship in Bangladesh enabled them to move to Sydney, Australia, the Pauls, intent on giving their daughter a better life, wasted no time seizing the opportunity.