Bangladesh: The Rising Voices of Women in a Drowning Country

Even in the most extreme circumstances when survival is at stake, Bangladeshi women stand out for their capacity to unite and together overcome climate change’s effects on their lives.

A summary of Bangladesh’s situation, a video filmed and posted by CaroOxfam

Sufia holds her child while she brings to memory the most painful day of her life, the day she lost her son. Her home was being flooded with water and when she turned to nurse her newborn baby, her five-year-old son was carried away by the flood. “I could not find my son, I searched so hard”, says Sufia breaking into tears in the video filmed and posted by Oxfam. Sadly, to lose a loved one to the extreme weather conditions in Bangladesh is not an uncommon situation.

Bangladesh is one of the most affected countries by climate change in the world. Although Bangladesh’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emission is low, floods and natural disasters are becoming more and more frequent. Its vulnerability lies on its geographic location as a coastal country and its high population density.

On the blog The Daily IIJ, Bangalee blogger Jahangir Akash highlights the alarming numbers of affected Bangladeshis:

Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, is the city most threatened in Asia by climate change. If things continue as they are, in the future, the economy will fail and human life itself will be threatened. At present, there are 10.3 million people living in Dhaka. In 2025, the population will have increased to 20.5 million.

A Country Under Water

In her blog Anushay’s point Bangladeshi blogger Anushay Hossain posts about how unsettling it was to grow up in a country that was going under water:

I grew up knowing my country was drowning. My childhood memories are full of flashing images of annual monsoon rains making rivers out of our roads, lakes out of our rice paddy fields, washing away farmers’ harvests, pushing the rural population into our already overpopulated capital city. The rumor in the playground was that in twenty years Bangladesh would be completely underwater. Today that statement is no longer a rumor, but very much a reality.

During natural disasters women are more likely to suffer the consequences than men. Jean D’ Cunha, regional program director of the United Nations Fund for Women based in Thailand said that some women in Bangladesh died during a flood in 2001 because their traditional long dress and burka hindered their movements and prevented them from escaping the rising waters. But despite their disadvantages, Bangladeshi women find ways to adapt to climate change’s impacts.

Blogger Ben Beaumont writes in the Oxfam blog about Hasina, a woman who had to move six times due to floods. Now she is the president of local women’s group called Shanti Mohila Committee in the Shariatpur district. Each member of the group collaborates a small amount of money to both prepare for the floods and assist women afterwards:

What struck me most was the energy and passion of this group of 20 or so women. (…) women in this community haven’t always been so vocal – in conservative, rural areas like this, women often play very traditional roles, and stay at home with the family. But now, Hasina and her friends are full of confidence – earning and saving money as day labourers, and providing for their families (…) And, as the floods get more unpredictable, it’s the women who are at the centre of their community’s response.

Bangladeshi Women’s March

Blogger Jess Mccabe also posts on the blog The F Word about Bangladeshi women coming together as an outstanding example of women taking a stand on climate change’s issues:

Back in November 2008, around 2,000 women took to the streets of Dhaka, in Bangadesh, wearing masks of G8 leaders, to call for action on climate change.


‘Protect our agriculture, protect our country, protect our lives from the damaging effects of climate change’, they chanted, waving their fists to make their demands.

Climate Change Rally. Photo by Oxfam and used under a Creative Commons license.

Climate Change Rally. Photo by Oxfam and used under a Creative Commons license.

The words of blogger Anushay reflect the positive steps Bangladeshi women have taken towards adaptation to global warming, but outline the urgent need for women around the world to get involved and take a stronger stand:

Back home in Bangladesh, the list of innovative ideas to combat and more importantly, adapt to climate change is endless. (…) But there has to be more. Women may be in the frontlines of climate change, but they are not only its victims. Their personal and intimate experience of the harsh impacts of climate change means that within them lies very real solutions to combat it. If the voices from the women’s rights movement don’t pick up this issue, loudly, clearly and unanimously, climate change will not only drown out countries, but the agents of change, women, with it. And that is simply not an option.

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