About 31pc women in climate vulnerable areas are victims of abuse

Prothom Alo illustration

About 31 per cent women in climate vulnerable areas have been subjected to physical, mental, financial and sexual abuse last year. However, due to a lack of awareness about the types of different abuse they often fail to realise that they have been victimised.

As a result, despite numerous instances of abuse, only 16 per cent of women reported the incidents. These findings emerged from a survey conducted by the Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) in char, haor, coastal, and hilly areas. The survey was conducted under a project titled 'Community-based Resilience, Women's Empowerment, and Action (CREA)'. 

Findings of the baseline survey conducted under CREA project were revealed in a virtual programme on Wednesday. The survey looked into the impacts of climate change in 28 unions in 14 upazilas of 14 climate vulnerable districts in the coastal, char, hill tracts and haor regions.

It also explored the current socio-economic state of the vulnerable communities in fighting that impact and and assessed government agencies' responsiveness to their needs, particularly those of women and girl children.

The survey report recommended preventing abuse through women empowerment, raising awareness against repression and child marriage as well as quick responses to complaints.

A total of 1,022 men, women, youth, adolescent, ethnic minority member, physically disabled, transsexual and third gender community members had participated in the survey.

Of them, respectively 51 and 23 per cent were women and men aged above 35 years. Almost 60 per cent of the respondents have studied up to the primary level while less than one per cent of them were graduates.

About 87 per cent of the families were patriarchal. Of the respondents, 26 per cent were day labourers and 39 per cent of the women were homemakers.

It was stated in the event that MJF is implementing the four-year project stretched from 2022 to 2026 with assistance from the Sweden embassy.

The objective of the project is to increase the skills and leadership qualities of women and girls, to make them capable of combating climate change on the whole and the poverty caused by it, as well as to end child marriage and domestic violence.

On behalf of MJF, the filed level survey activities are done by Associates for Innovative Research and Development (AIRD). AIRD representative and associate professor of public administration at Jagannath University, Bappi Rahman presented the survey findings.

Complaints submitted to chairman mostly

It was stated in the survey report that the maximum number of complaints was submitted in the char area and the rate is 25 per cent. Meanwhile, 13 per cent complaints came from the coastal area and almost 9 per cent complaints came from the haor area with no complaints in the hill tracts.

Maximum complaints were made to village arbitrators and to the chairman and members of the union parishad. Some of the women have been subjected to different abuses multiple times and have complained in several places.

The survey reported that almost 70 per cent of the complaints have been submitted to the union parishad chairman and members. Meanwhile, 59 per cent complained to the village arbitrators and almost 27 per cent complained at the police stations.

Apart from that, only a few have reported to the committee for prevention of violence against women, non-government organisations (NGO) and to others including the upazila nirbahi officer (UNO). The survey also stated that many women don’t report domestic violence because of social humiliation and a lack of awareness.

As much as 26 per cent of the women and girl children have said that they can move freely in their locality but how far they are allowed to go depends on the permission of their male family members.

What’s done to face risks

Almost 24 per cent of the participants have said that they have tried to bring changes in their way of farming and occupation to face the climate change-related risks.

They are adapting to the situation by building dams, using rain water and producing saltwater resistant crops. About 17 per cent women have said that they have slightly changed the time of sowing seeds considering the impacts of climate change.

Meanwhile, 45 per cent of the respondents have said that they are beneficiaries of the government’s social safety net programme. Of them, maximum amount of people are becoming beneficiaries in the coastal areas.

Almost 71 per cent of the respondents from the coastal area fall under the coverage of one or another social safety net programmes.

Meanwhile, 39 per cent of the participants in the char area, 38 per cent in the hill tracts and more than 16 per cent in the haor region are covered by various social safety net programmes.

However, many have complained that it requires bribe as well as connection to the political parties and local government representatives to be enlisted as beneficiaries.

The survey report also commented that poverty can be reduced by engaging people in different types of livelihood and marketing system suitable for the climate vulnerable areas.

While speaking as the special guest in the programme, joint secretary at the ministry of environment, forest and climate change Lubna Yasmine said the issues that have been addressed in the survey will help make plans for the future.

And the government would be able to plan what other steps need to be taken to overcome the risks related to climate change. Bangladesh requires USD 1,100 annually to face the risks. There remains the question, from where this amount of money will come. Despite many limitations, the government is running many activities to face the risks, she added.

MJF executive director Shaheen Anam said that steps have to be taken considering climate change as a warlike situation. Residents of the climate vulnerable regions are now in the marginal state.

Such step should be taken for them that it bring changes in their social, domestic and financial life as well as livelihoods. The young generation should get involved in this initiative as volunteers. Let the youths become responsible citizens and spend some of their time on social work, she added.

Among others, UNO in Sirajganj’s Belkuchi upazila Afia Sultana Keya and UNO in Barguna’s Patharghata upazila Md Rokonuzzaman Khan also spoke during the programme moderated by MJF director (programme) Banasree Mitra Niyogi.

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