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Oxfam and the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), with support from the European Union, are carrying out research on ‘The role of government services in gender equality and women’s empowerment’ under the project for ‘participation of public institutions in democratic good governance.’ It places emphasis on reducing the gender gap.

Aklima Khatun (pseudonym) of Amtali, Barguna, is a victim of climate change. This 24-year-old woman has had accidental abortions twice. On top of that, the family is poor. She often falls ill due to lack of nutrition.

The head of the family, farmer Abdur Rahim Talukdar (43), says he has taken loans to cultivate the fields, but now is at a loss. He cannot run his family or repay his loans. Bilkis Akhter (23) of Bhandaria in Pirojpur, Halima Khatun 29 or Tala in Satkhira, Hafsa Begum (21) of Patiya in Pirojpur and many others are all suffering from women’s health issues.

In the shelters, it is extremely essential for there to be separate areas for women to breastfeed their infants. There also needs to be separate toilets for women
Mahbuba Nasrin, director and professor of Dhaka University’s Institute of Disaster Management and Vulnerability

Former president of the Obstetrics and Gynaecology Society of Bangladesh (OGSB), Samina Chowdhury, said, “Women fall into grave danger during calamities and floods. Adequate nutrition and healthcare for women needs to be ensured at the shelters. Healthcare items must be included in the relief. The requirements of the local people must be taken into cognizance and adequate facilities ensured for women and girls at the local health centres.”

As in others regions of Bangladesh, in the coastal regions too the majority of farmers are men. Due to economic paucity, abuse of women and children is increasing in many farmer families. So is child marriage. This information was gathered when talking to women in these areas. These matters can pose as obstacles to Bangladesh attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

Not too long ago, countries of the developed world would mockingly dismiss the issue of global warming. Though these countries were the most responsible for the increase in global warming, they still do not want to take on the blame. Yet it is the common people, women in particular, of countries like Bangladesh who are bearing the brunt of the indifference of these big countries.

The 15-year SDG plan of the United Nations talks of ensuring peace and prosperity in the world by 2030. These goals include, among others, ensuring poverty alleviation, food security, healthcare and quality education as well as gender equality. Abut according to several studies and media reports. The country’s agriculture and production is being directly hampered by the direct impact of climate change. The people of these areas are losing their agricultural produce, their homes and homesteads. Their children are dropping out of school. They are facing all sorts of diseases and malnutrition due to one calamity after the other, increased salinity and lack of drinking water.

Cyclones and tidal surges have increased in the coastal regions. Repeated calamities are wiping out the croplands, fisheries and other resources of these areas. The lives of the coastal people have become uncertain. Poverty is on the rise. Healthcare for women and girls is threatened. Maternal mortality is on a rise.

Director and professor of Dhaka University’s Institute of Disaster Management and Vulnerability, Mahbuba Nasrin, said, “About what is to be done for coastal women during calamities, I would say that the shelters must be made women-friendly. Things were really bad before. In recent years there has been significant improvement. In the shelters, it is extremely essential for there to be separate areas for women to breastfeed their infants. There also needs to be separate toilets for women.”

There is need to take up inclusive planning and implementation, with the coastal regions in mind. Additional care is required for the safety of women and girls. And in the preparation and implementation of any plans, it must be made sure that these are women friendly. If not, basic issues like life safety and women’s health protection will simply remain uncertain.

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