Women are responsible for carrying water home, storing it, and managing household supplies but are still ignored when it comes to important water management decisions. Incorporating women’s voices into water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) issues empowers the women themselves while simultaneously leading to better results. For instance, including women in the movement to curtail open defecation in rural Bangladesh led to success because the specific needs and desires of the women were then met. Specifically, because of this input, the toilets that were to be placed in rural communities were designed with gender specific needs in mind as well as placed in locations amenable to local women. Photo Credit: Dilip Banerjee
Bangladesh is very susceptible to climate change due to the country’s low elevation, high population density and inadequate infrastructure. As extreme weather conditions are being exacerbated by climate change, the people of Bangladesh are being displaced out of their homes. Most climate migration occurs to the capital, Dhaka, where they find themselves living in peripheral urban slums characterized by inadequate housing conditions, overcrowding and poor sanitation. The women of Bangladesh are among the first to face the impacts of climate change, and they are disproportionately affected. Women account for the vast majority of mortality as a result of natural disasters, for example, 90% of those who died as a result of the 1991 Bangladesh Cyclone were women. The inordinate impact is driven by women’s impaired access to land and resources, lower employment opportunities and decision-making compared to men. Moreover, women who migrate are often pushed to join the sex industry as it is one of the few ways they are able to support their families. Photo Credit: Reuters
Santona Rani, President of the Rajpur Women’s Federation, is working to increase climate and community resilience in her flood-prone area of Tajpur, Lalmonirhat in northern Bangladesh. Climate change is increasing the detrimental effects on crops and productivity. Her organisation is made up of twenty groups that work to assist 500 vulnerable and marginalized women. It works alongside ActionAid’s Promoting Opportunities for Women Empowerment and Rights (POWER) to boost independence through sustainable agriculture that fosters climate resilience. They also work to address the unjust gender roles that exist within the society; aiming to increase income and recognise the amount of work women do, provide training around leadership, women’s rights, financial aspects, sustainable farming and communication skills, as well as endeavour to prevent violence against women. Their work is community based, and involves interactive theatre shows, informative leaflets, and a seed bank and grain store that protects against the damages of flooding or natural disasters. Photo credit: ActionAid.
Island farmers in the Bay of Bengal, particularly women, such as Shondha Rnai and Rokya Begum, express concerns over their farmlands. Their farms are threatened by rising sea levels, lack of freshwater, and saltwater intrusion from neighboring shrimp farms. The water crisis is resulting in loss of agricultural productivity, conversion of rice paddies to shrimp farms and most importantly, forced migration. Photo credit: Eduardo Garcia Gil
Sheema Sen Gupta, head of UNICEF Bangladesh, explains how the country is one of the most affected by climate change, and that one of its clearest consequences is the massive migration from rural to urban areas. Besides other urban problems that arise from this, child marriage as a solution for keeping girls “safe” is a big concern. The government is carrying out programmes to educate and inform young people about keeping an eye for each other, reaching out for help when there is risk of child marriage, and seeking counseling to avoid it. A short documentary also explores the topic further, looking into the stories of Brishti and Razia, both 14-year-old girls. Photo credits: Reuters/Andrew Biraj
In the last 35 years, Bangladesh has witnessed an increase in groundwater salinity by about 26%. Most activities related to water use and fetching are women’s work Bangladesh, and with water sources either drying up or becoming saline due to climate change, the already back-breaking work of looking for water by women continues to increase. Women and children on Bangladesh’s coast are increasingly contracting water-borne diseases, in addition to suffering from pregnancy-related conditions such as preeclampsia and hypertension, resulting from higher levels of salty water intake. Khadija Rahman, who lives on Bangladesh’s southwest coast, tells her story. Photo credit: Neha Thirani Bagri
Environmental groups from around the world (Climate Action Network, Timberwatch, Global Forest Coalition, and Friends of the Earth International) have joined together to protest the development of a coal power plant near the Sundarbans forest of Bangladesh. They believe the development would endanger women’s lives, irreparably damage the mangrove forest’s ecosystem, and threaten the livelihood of millions—including farmers, fishers, and forest dwellers. Displacement (due largely to the power plant’s construction) positions local women to live with an increased risk of gender-based violence, prostitution, and trafficking.
Driven into cities after losing land, farms and crops due to climate change disasters, poor Bangladeshi families, in fear of sexual harassment, bad reputation and loss of honor for the family, marry off their girls at an early age, explains Shahana Siddiqui, a gender specialist at Dhaka’s BRAC University. This short documentary approaches two 14-year-old girls, originally from villages in Jamalpur, whose families had to migrate to the capital after they lost their farms to natural disasters. Watch the film to know more about Brishti and Razia, one already married and divorced and the other trying to postpone her marriage as much as she can, despite her father’s wishes. Photo credit: Thomson Reuters Foundation
A group of 80 rural Bangladeshi women have taken up photography to illustrate the burdens of climate change on their communities in their remote coastal forested home of Sundarbans. Their photographs show vibrant colors, starkly contrasted with dangerous narratives of potable water shortages, malnutrition, and lack of healthcare, hygiene and sanitation resources. Through their photography, these women have exposed daily realities, and their work raising awareness of the catastrophic effects that climate change is having on their home. Their photographs are also being used to improve infrastructure and amenities in negotiation processes with authorities. Photo credit: Koan Collaboration
Palash Mondal, Team Leader of the Building Resilience of the Urban Poor (BRUP) Project at CARE Bangladesh, discusses the contributions of women in the face of climate resilience. The CARE initiative in Bangladesh sees women playing a transformational role on the forefront of social, economic and environmental hardships. CARE implements actionable resilience towards climate and disaster risk management in Bangladesh, thus playing a paramount role in the management, conservation and utilisation of natural resources. Photo credit: CARE
Chandrika Banarjee is the director of the Bengali NGO Women’s Uplifting Organisation, which focuses on the health and environmental rights of women in southern Bangladesh. She discusses how the coastal water crisis in her country impacts women's health and economic opportunities. Photo credit: Indranil Mukherjee/AFP
In Bangladesh, the Rampal Coal plant was slated to extend over almost 2000 acres of fertile farming land, fish ponds, and the fragile Sundarban mangrove forest, which protects this low-lying nation from rapid sea level rise. Umma Habiba Benojir, a student leader at Dhaka University, and hundreds of other people, many women, marched hundreds of kilometers to protest the coal plant. Photo credit: Mowdud Rahman
Marina Parvin, a researcher using feminist participatory-action methodologies, collaborated with women including Aneema Rani Muda to investigate climate change adaptation strategies and policy responses among the Munda Indigenous people of Shyamnagar, Bangladesh. These Indigenous communities, especially women, are suffering the most due to dependence on natural resources. Bangladesh emits 44 times less carbon dioxide than the United States, yet is feeling the brunt of climate impacts such as erosion and sea level rise. To fight climate change, these women are adapting strategies such as rainwater harvesting and hanging gardens, and to generate a source of income, they have started crab farm. One of the Munda women, Rajkumari Munda, was even selected as a member of the Village Policing Committee. Photo credit: Asia Pacific Forum on Women and Development
In this interview with Dr. Sharmind Neelormi, steering group member and the Asian coordinator of GenderCC, the Bangladeshi expert on climate justice expresses concern for the lack of attention given to poor women who are disproportionately vulnerable to the effects of climate change. In particular, she calls for more action by national governments who continue to neglect this vital issue. Photo credit: Proggna Paromita Majumder
Bangladesh has more women in top political positions than any other country, thanks to investments in health, education and women’s leadership. For example, Rani Mondal benefited from a small loan and training which allowed her and her friends to start a crab business, giving her the financial security to protect her family in case of flooding or other climate-related disasters. Others, such as Sheheh Parvin, sit on local committees to manage communal natural resources, while Sheikh Hasina is the country’s two-time Prime Minister. Photo credit: Anna Ridout
A report by Human Rights Watch shows that in some areas affected by climate change, young girls are feeling social pressure to marry for security. For example, floods and cyclones increase the salinity of soils in coastal agricultural areas like Bangladesh's fragile Sundarbans mangrove forest, which depresses crop production and leads to malnutrition, poverty and out-migration. Young girls like Sultan are encouraged to marry young, "before their houses are swept away." Photo credit: Reuters
The Naoya Sakam Gonogobeshona group Adarpara, Godagari of Rajshahi in Bangladesh has taken up collective efforts to re-orest the land in and around their communities, starting with their homes and public spaces such as roads sites and cemeteries. The women are also uniting for vital conversations about women’s relationship to the environment and role in helping balance the Earth’s systems, and the connections between gender and climate change. Work has been carried out in collaboration with Research Initiatives Bangladesh (RIB) and Global Alliance for Green and Gender Action (GAGGA). Photo credit: Research Initiatives Bangladesh
Puspo Murmu is an Indigenous Santal woman of Saltola village, Bangladesh who has transformed what was once a degraded plot into a flourishing home ecosystem. Puspo notes how many of the biodiverse local trees that she has planted have distinct medicinal, cultural, survival and livelihood uses. Her and her community members also reflect on how Puspo’s work has brought diverse communities of birds and other animals back to the area. Photo credit: Research Initiatives Bangladesh
Sharmind Neelormi, an Associate Professor at Jahangirnagar University in Dhaka, argues in this interview with the Gender Justice and Global Climate Change Research Network that to create meaningful climate policy, it is important to include women and marginalized people. Neelormi works on action-oriented research, reviewing climate change papers with a gender lens and advocating for the rights of female farmers with special focus on food security. She is also promoting gender-sensitive adaptation strategies at the community level and plays an active role in Gender CC. According to her, capacity-building and education are sure to promote sustainability. Photo credit: Rock Ethics Institute
Rizwana Hasan is a recipient of the 2009 Goldman Prize, from Asia, more specifically, Bangladesh. Hasan is an environmental attorney who led a legal fight about the issues of ship breaking, a common practice in her country, including toxic contamination of the waters and health threats for the thousands of workers in this industry. Hasan is the executive director of the public interest law firm Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association. Photo credit: The Goldman Environmental Prize.