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Empowering Local Women in Coastal Areas - Bangladesh

Women in Bangladeshi communities at risk from climate change are organizing themselves into resource centers to share information on how to adapt. “Coping With Climate Risks by Empowering Local Women in Coastal Areas” is involving women in developing environmental solutions based on traditional practices, building female-led resilience to the impacts of climate change already being felt.

Fast facts:

  • 4 women’s resource centers established; local communities replicating 4 more
  • 20 marginalized women involved in each resource center
  • 40,500 community members total in target group

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The problem

Alipura and Banshbaria unions in southwestern Bangladesh are bounded by the Tetulia and Sutabaria rivers at the confluence of the Bay of Bengal. In these remote, wet, biodiverse regions, climate change impacts are reducing crop yields and placing households at risk of food scarcity. For example, recent cyclones severely damaged crops, decreased fish stocks, and compromised freshwater sources. With their close proximity to water bodies, villages and farmland in the region are at risk from rising sea levels, saltwater intrusion, floods, droughts, and further cyclones. Communities there are turning to government relief services, which provide only short-term assistance.

Women in Bangladesh have typically been excluded from government processes, while local community power structures tend to work against them. Although women in the project area are responsible for vital tasks such as securing potable water, firewood, and food, they lack access to knowledge and support for these activities. Since these responsibilities are almost entirely dependent on the natural environment, women here are disproportionately affected by climate change impacts.

The solution

Coping With Climate Risks by Empowering Local Women in Coastal Areas has activated women to form groups and resource centers oriented toward sharing information, skills, and resources on how to adapt to climate change impacts. Teams of about 20 women in each village establish and operate seed banks, plant nurseries, build vegetable gardens, rear livestock, and coordinate climate change awareness campaigns.

Helping the planet

Through the activity, community members have come to understand that their traditional agricultural practices are no longer sustainable, and have adapted and diversified to new, more efficient farming techniques. Implementation of more sustainable practices conserves freshwater and other natural resources – especially important for the surrounding wetlands, which are rich in biological diversity and play a vital role in controlling floods and tidal surges that could further damage the natural environment.

Helping people

The women’s resource centers empower the previously marginalized population by giving them access to and control of agricultural products, which increases their bargaining position and negotiating power. The women are now able to access support structures, while sharing skills and resources. Women are thus leading in the struggle to build more resilient, self-sufficient communities.

The seed reserves, plant nurseries, and social plantations have expanded economic opportunities, while such efforts have also reduced risks and increased resilience at the village level.

Spillover effect

The community-based associations are contributing to the food security and social protection pillars of the Bangladesh national climate change plan, showing how the regional efforts can fit into larger structures. That local communities are replicating the four women’s resource centers established by the project also demonstrates its capacity for successful expansion.





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