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The Influence of Gender Relations on Women’s Involvement and Experience in Climate Change Adaptation Programs in Bangladesh:

The Influence of Gender Relations on Women’s Involvement and Experience in Climate Change... The nexus between poverty and climate change is a major concern, especially in a country like Bangladesh where lack of resources is a significant problem in both rural and urban areas. Climate change affects a wide demographic of the population in Bangladesh, and among those affected, women are more vulnerable to climate change impacts, as is evident from the history of climate-induced disasters in the country. Climate change increases women’s socio-economic vulnerabilities by directly impacting their family’s food security, water consumption, and livelihood. Hence, their roles and contributions are critical in responding through adaptation. Nonetheless, in Bangladesh, challenges remain to incorporate women as distinct actors and active agents in climate adaptation programs considering the gender power dynamics that exist. In this context, this study focuses on women’s contributions as individuals or as a group and reveals their significant influence in climate change adaptation practices. Keywords climate change, women, adaptation practices, gender relations vulnerable to poverty, food insecurity, water crises, loss of Introduction traditional livelihood, and lack of social well-being. BCCSAP Climate change has clearly manifested itself through a range (2009) confirmed that a large proportion of the population of of weather events and climatic hazards in Bangladesh. The the country has already been displaced from rural areas to country is facing diverse impacts such as sea-level rises, urban centers in a quest for a better life. This displacement increased tropical cyclones, salinity inundation in arable has meant an increased risk of safety and security for the peo- lands, intensified droughts, precipitation variability, and fre- ple involved (Shamsuddoha, Khan, Raihan, & Hossain, quent flooding due to its expansive coastline, low-lying delta, 2012). Among the climate victims, women are the most vul- and large river systems that support its agricultural-dependent nerable as they make up a large proportion of the poor popu- economy (Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action lation in both urban and rural contexts. In addition, attributed Plan [BCCSAP], 2009). In Bangladesh, climate is not merely gender roles, the gender division of labor, and dependency on an environmental phenomenon but is also interconnected nature make women vulnerable in a different way to men. with many socio-cultural and economic factors. These create Thus, poverty and gender inequality appear to be important increased vulnerabilities for many people. Evidence from a factors in shaping vulnerability and resilience within affected global perspective has revealed that natural resources–based communities in a country like Bangladesh. and agricultural-dependent populations are the primary vic- tims of climate change (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC], 2014). According to Bangladesh Bureau of East West University, Dhaka, Bangladesh Statistics (BBS, 2011), more than one third of the population 2 Griffith University, Queensland, Australia of Bangladesh lives in rural areas and they are the main driv- Corresponding Author: ers of the rural-agricultural based economy of the country. Mumita Tanjeela, Assistant Professor and Chairperson, Department of Therefore, climate events directly and indirectly affect these Sociology, East West University, Jahirul Islam City, Aftabnagar, Dhaka people’s lives in multifaceted ways making their lives even 1212, Bangladesh. more arduous. Affected populations are increasingly Email: mtanjeela@ewubd.edu Creative Commons CC BY: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License (http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage). 2 SAGE Open In response to the climate change threat, Bangladesh first state that in African and Asian countries, drought and short- began its adaptation program by preparing the National age of water significantly increase women’s workload in Adaptation Programme of Action (2005) in-line with the terms of collecting water and firewood. Even in urban areas, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change women spend several hours queuing for water, which reduces (UNFCCC). In 2009, the BCCSAP was also developed and social participation or opportunities for economic activity is currently the main generator of policy documents in rela- (Brody, Demetriades, & Esplen, 2008). Food and Agricultural tion to adaptation programs and activities. In Bangladesh, Organization (2010) affirms these findings and projects that climate change adaptation (CCA) programs mostly converge women will suffer from food insecurity, social dislocation, with disaster risk reduction and disaster resilience strategies and increased poverty due to climate change. A study on underpinned by a social protection perspective (Islam & rural women in Nepal by Regmi (2011) reveals that an uncer- Sumon, 2013). To implement the adaptation programs, many tain climate threatens women’s livelihood, which in turn development partners at the field level are carrying out impacts on their income and household food security. diverse types of livelihood activities to ensure social safety Most of the existing literature identifies the marginalized and enhance resilience to cope with the changing situation. position of women, prevailing gender relations, economic Community-based disaster preparedness and disaster dependency, and lack of social and political power as factors management programs are more common at the field level to that reinforce their vulnerabilities to environmental problems build disaster resilient communities where women play (Nelson et al., 2010). According to Milne (2005), power rela- active roles (Ayers & Forsyth, 2009). Like many other coun- tions that exclude women from power structures shape the tries, Bangladeshi women are the victims of climate change gender dimension of climate change, particularly in rural and at the same time an important agent for household and contexts. Furthermore, gender-insensitive programs limit community led response to climate change. Yet, the positive women’s access to community services and infrastructure, roles they play, the challenges they face, and the benefits hence creating significant difference between men and they gain in responding to the enormous challenges that cli- women in terms of the power of resilience (Silva & mate change presents, particularly in vulnerable countries/ Jayathilaka, 2014). These scholarly works suggest that the communities, have not been well studied. effect of climate change is a highly gendered phenomenon This article describes some diverse examples of CCA pro- determined by prevailing gender power relations. grams/projects in Bangladesh: the Cyclone Preparedness Program (CPP) in Bagerhat district, the Assistance to Local Gender Relations and Power Dynamics Communities on Climate Change Adaptation (ALCCCA) in Bangladesh project in Naogaon district, and the Community Based Early Bangladesh is a traditional patriarchal society, where males Warning System (CBEWS) on Landslide in Cox’s Bazar play a dominant role within the family, the community, and municipality. These cases provide the opportunity to identify society as a whole. This situation is pervasive within states, the role of women in the programs, examine the roles that political institutions, and legal systems as the consequence of women have had in influencing processes and outcomes, deeply rooted unequal gender relations. According to Kabeer identify the challenges they face in these roles, and explore and Mahmud (2004), in Bangladesh, there is a strict patriar- how their contributions might have a positive impact on chal structure that includes “the practice of female seclusion, community resilience in the Bangladesh context. By explor- patrilineal principles of descent and inheritance [and] patrilo- ing these dimensions, we can identify how women can con- cal principles of marriage” (p. 94). Another study by the tribute and benefit from active participation in CCA projects United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF; 2010) states that and how this might translate to other vulnerable communi- the mobility of Bangladeshi women is controlled and male ties in similar types of countries. This information is impor- family members often make the decisions. In particular, hus- tant for development of gender sensitive policy, providing bands usually make economic decisions around women’s policy makers with improved understanding of opportunities health and employment-related issues. Due to prevalent cul- and benefits for women’s increased involvement in CCA in tural and socio-economic conditions, women experience the future. structural discrimination such as access to and control over resources, property rights, less opportunity for employment, Gender and Climate Change and under-representation in the political sphere (Ahmed & Maitra, 2010). Climate is not a gender-neutral phenomenon. Impacts of cli- Currently, in Bangladesh, the male–female ratio is mate change are closely related to the gender division of 50.1:49.9, which indicates an increasing female population, labor for women across the world. Balgis (2009) points out since an earlier census (2001) where the ratio was 51.9:48.1 that the main responsibility for water and energy supply (BBS, 2011). The most recent statistical data indicate that in related to household food security falls firmly on women’s urban areas, 67% of men are employed whereas only 18% of shoulders in rural areas of developing countries, which are women have formal employment. In rural areas, only 8% of the home of the most affected sectors. Eunice and Gry (2011) Tanjeela and Rutherford 3 women are formally employed compared with 63% of men progress within the last 8 years. In 2007, its rank was 100; (BBS, 2011). The statistics imply a large gender disparity in however, within South Asian countries, its position is now at relation to women’s economic status both in urban and rural the top (World Economic Forum, 2015). areas. However, the official unemployment status of women Understanding these gender dimensions of Bangladesh’s hides the informal labor contributions women make to the society is critical for better engaging women in local-level economy. According to Kabeer and Mahmud (2004), wom- CCA, as it is at the community and household level, where en’s restricted mobility in the public domain reinforces them many adaptation actions are being taken and can be either to work as unpaid family laborers or to engage in implemented. informal work within the home. Women also receive lower wages than men when in paid employment in both rural and Theoretical Framework Underpinning urban areas and the status of employment, occupation, and This Research hours of work are determined by males (Ahmed & Maitra, 2010). A study conducted by OXFAM and Somasthe (Moni, The theoretical framework of this study combines theories 2015) claims that despite not being recognized as farmers, of Feminist Political Ecology, Feminist Environmentalism, 61.1% of the female labor force in Bangladesh is involved in and Ecofeminism to facilitate a comprehensive lens to bet- agriculture, even though women’s labor force participation ter understand the roles of women in CCA. All of these in agriculture is an under-presented phenomenon in the approaches theorize gender and gender relations in a spe- country. cific way depending on their particular stances. One dis- In Bangladesh, households are mainly headed and con- tinction is that while the Ecofeminists emphasize the trolled by men (88%) and only 12% of households are led by spiritual connection between women and nature (Shiva, women, though the proportion of female-headed households 1989), the proponents of Feminist Environmentalism argue has increased more in urban than rural areas since the 2001 instead that women’s connection with nature is more con- census (BBS, 2011). Interestingly, female-headed house- crete or materialist, and takes place throughout their life holds experience less poverty (26.6%) than male-headed due to their closer proximity to the natural environment households (32%), although the female-headed household’s (Agarwal, 1992). Feminist Political Ecology, on the con- monthly average income is lower than that of the male- trary, is a subfield of Political Ecology which examines the headed households (BBS, 2012). This is because women gendered dimension of environmental crises from a broader adopt many strategies to maintain household food security. institutional perspective involving government, politics, An extreme example of this is that 1.9% of women in rural and other institutions that shape the overall social system areas and 1% in urban areas report skipping meals each (Hovorka, 2006; Rocheleau, Thomas-Slayter, & Wangari, month (National Institute of Population Research and 1996). Training, 2013). The three theories provide the necessary tools for examin- Despite the persisting inequalities, Bangladeshi women ing the relationship between women and environmental deg- have historically shown great resilience and courage in con- radation in Bangladesh. Therefore, these theoretical fronting social, economic, political, and environmental prob- approaches provide a feminist analysis as a means to under- lems (Azim, 2010). After independence in 1972, the women’s standing women’s experiences of the environment in equality movement in Bangladesh gained momentum Bangladesh, particularly in relation to climate change. through the influence of various organizations including Elements of the above-mentioned theories, such as women’s nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), women’s groups, connection with nature; gendered knowledge, roles, and and other civil society organizations (Mohsin, 2010). In responsibilities; gender power relations; and women’s recent years, a large number of NGOs have played a vital agency, were used to analyze the eco-political link between role in improving women’s visibility in rural Bangladesh: the women and climate change, with special reference to wom- microcredit sector is one such initiative. Rural women of en’s contributions to CCA. Bangladesh are the main drivers of the microfinance sector. In addition, women’s involvement in some formal sectors Method (public and private) such as ready-made garments, shrimp processing, cosmetics, shoes, and pharmaceutical industries The study was designed as qualitative research and collected is significant and women’s economic participation rate has data by following qualitative data collection techniques such increased from 29.2% to 36% in the period from 2005-2006 as observation, focus group discussions, and in-depth inter- to 2010 (BBS, 2012). In the Ready Made Garments (RMG) views. Several steps were followed in designing this study. sector, about 80% to85% of workers are women, and this Related literature was reviewed from a range of books, jour- sector has played a significant role in the country’s economic nals articles, reports, and electronic sources and then cases success over the last two decades (Khatiwada, 2014). were selected based on specific criteria such as severity of Currently, Bangladesh’s position in the global gender gap effects, type of activities, and adaptation initiatives by state index is 64 out of 145 countries, and it has made significant and non-state actors. 4 SAGE Open Table 1. Methods Used to Collect Data. Method Participants Number Primary data collection Focus group discussion (FGD) Community members (a group of 10-12 participants) 9 (approximately 90 participants) One mixed group; two female groups (3 FGDs in three of the selected programs, total 9 FGDs) Interviews with local program Local-level government officials, workers of non- 15 (5 interviews from each field) stakeholders government organizations, community leaders, local government representatives Field observation Respective areas and programs 3 selected programs Key informant interviews Policy makers, government officials, non-government 15 KI from national and international officials, gender and environment activists, experts practitioners, academicians In depth interviews Women directly involving in adaption programs 6 (2 women from each area) Secondary data collection Documentary research, institutional policy mapping, and program documents analysis Note. More women were in the FGDs compared with male participants; of a total of 90 participants, 60 were women and 30 were men. Women’s groups henceforth stated as FGD.WG and mixed group as FGD.MG. Interviews with program stakeholders henceforth stated as LI (Local Interviewee). National-level key informant interview stated as KI. In-depth interview with individual women stated as IDI. PhD thesis. Informed consent was asked prior to data collec- Selection of Locations and Programs tion from all study participants, and they provided their writ- Three adaptation programs were selected for the study con- ten consent to participate in this study. To maintain the sidering three climate-induced hazards—drought, cyclones, privacy, anonymity, and confidentiality of data, it was and landslides in the northern, southern, and south-eastern explained to each of the respondents that his or her identity parts of Bangladesh, respectively. In Bangladesh, govern- and the information he or she would provide would be ment and its development partners have formally carried out confidential. a range of adaptation programs. Therefore, these three major A qualitative thematic method was used to analyze the climate-induced hazards and corresponding adaptation pro- data. After each interview had been completed, a transcript grams were selected to garner a broader view of the overall was written in Bengali. First, familiarization with the data topic. The selected programs were CPP in Bagerhat district, was achieved by reading and rereading the transcripts several ALCCCA Project in Naogaon district, and CBEWS on times. After familiarization with the data, the principal Landslide in Cox’s Bazar municipality. researcher coded the transcripts to ensure intercoder reliabil- ity. Initially, from the narratives of the texts, a code list was developed for data analysis. Based on the codes, themes Data Collection, Ethical Approval, and Data were identified for framework analysis, and the framework Analysis adapted and finalized based on the findings and emergent Both primary and secondary data were collected for the themes as part of the iterative process of qualitative data research. The main sources of primary data were from field analysis. observation, focus group discussions, semi-structured inter- In addition to primary data analysis, a content analysis of views with local people, in-depth interviews with women, secondary documents on climate-induced hazards and and interviews with key informants at the national level. affected communities to determine climate change impacts Respondents were selected through purposing sampling and vulnerability trends was done. Government documents method. First author (principal researcher) visited each field and other studies focused on Bangladesh were analyzed to area 2 or 3 times to understand and gather experiences about investigate gender consideration in policy processes. the impacts of climate change on people’s daily life activi- ties. These observations helped to understand real life prob- Findings lems, practical needs, and coping practices of locals. Table 1 presents a summary of the methods and number of partici- Description of the Selected Adaptation Programs pants in the study. and Level of Women’s Involvement Ethical approval for this study was approved by the Griffith University Human Research Ethics Committee The CPP is a national community-based climate-induced (GIR/03/13/ HREC), as this study is a part of first author’s disaster risk reduction program run by the Government of Tanjeela and Rutherford 5 Bangladesh and the Red Crescent Society across many Women contribute more to their family and household work even in agriculture. For example, women of our locality do seed coastal districts of Bangladesh. It aims to develop and preservation, sow seeds, help in planting the paddy and have all strengthen the disaster preparedness and response capacity the responsibilities after harvesting. They perform these along of coastal communities (Amin, 2012). For the program, five- with their daily household chores, yet they have to listen to men member volunteer teams were formed consisting of both complaining that women do not do much work but society does females and males selected from the communities. The pro- not appreciate or acknowledge it much. (IDI.5, 2014). gram assigned different responsibilities and roles to male and female volunteers. In each community, five volunteer groups This program has created opportunities for women in general (early warning dissemination, rescue, evacuation, first aid by supporting livelihood-based adaptation activities. Such service, and relief distribution) carry out different activities activities have led to an increase in their resilience and capac- and each CPP volunteer group consists of two female and ity to cope. Women’s involvement in this adaptation inter- three male volunteers. vention includes providing livelihood assets such as For the CPP, it was observed that women were not vegetable seeds, chickens, lambs, and opportunities for involved in resource distribution such as relief work, which women to control the community mango forestry. Such mea- involves monetary issues, with men mostly in control of this sures are important in strengthening women’s roles as active realm. Both gender power relations and gender stereotyped partners of community-based adaptation. As an adaptation work divisions play a vital role in defining the level and measure, most of the women emphasized the importance of engagement of women in any program or project. As livelihood activities that, in turn, reinforce the processes of Cornwall (2003) discussed in the context of community for- empowerment at a household and community level. est management, “the means by which women are excluded In the CBEWS on Landslide program implemented in [through] hegemonic gender norms, may echo and rein- Cox’s Bazar city, the target community’s socio-economic force, as well as replicate patterns of gendered exclusion structure was different from the other two program cases in that have [a] wider resonance” (p. 1329) in society. This terms of living conditions, occupations, attachments to the strong division of labor suggests that women’s involvement environment, and daily life experiences as it is an urban set- is limited to the caring role that women are usually known ting. The program target settlement has grown over the for in their community. Unsurprisingly, women are actively decades due to a large number of the population migrating excluded from roles that would grant them power status or from their previous homelands mostly due to sea-level rise. decision-making authority within the community. Due to However, the settlements face a severe risk of landslides, and this practice, during FGDs, women expressed their power- as it is not possible to shift the community from this location, lessness and opportunities for less management capacity in the project’s target was to develop disaster resilience through public work. awareness raising and capacity building (KI.12, 2014). The ALCCCA Project (drought prone area Shapahar, For this program, three young volunteers (one female and Naugaon) was implemented through involving and engaging two male) were trained from each community. In this urban the local community. In total, 60 male and female groups area, more women are visible in public spaces such as the were formed, and each group consisted of 30 members. Each market places, construction work, and informal labor sectors, group was known as Gono Gobeshona Dal (GGD), which and the overall community attitude in this setting is not as means community research group. The group members iden- conservative as in rural areas of Bangladesh. Here, female tified their own problems and needs in the drought context of volunteers did not receive a negative response from the com- their locality through participatory research. Accordingly, munity when working alone with male volunteers. In addi- the groups were designated with different roles and responsi- tion, some NGO workers, mostly women, helped to shape bilities, which were defined by group members. The com- the community’s mind-set about women’s visibility in com- munity was supported by local needs-based livelihood munity activities. This finding confirms that there is a sig- activities as a means of adaptation. nificant difference in gendered norms and values between The number of female members was quite high as more the rural and urban societies of Bangladesh. A female volun- female groups were required to be formed within the com- teer from the South Baharchhara Ward tells of her experi- munity by the project. Therefore, a larger number of female ence. Her story, while positive and affirming the value of facilitators and group mobilizers developed and provided a increased gender representation, also identifies that there supportive environment to strengthen female leadership was still gender imbalance in the teams formed: skills. Consequently, female engagement at every stage, even in the planning process, developed, as reflected in the inter- We (girls and boys) usually work together during any type of view with a female leader of a women’s group (Tilna village) disaster. We observe and record rainfall trends and accordingly in Sapahar Upazila. She presents a more analytical outlook disseminate warnings and evacuate. We have needed to rescue about social and female-centric issues closely related to cli- elderly people, children, pregnant women and people with mate change and activities in her community’s day-to-day disabilities many times. I did not get any resistance from the life: community as they saw we were doing work for its safety and 6 SAGE Open local people understand that any community work cannot be the root of rice plants due to the dampness caused by trapped done properly if women are excluded. However, I feel that the water during heavy rainfall. The pests ate and destroyed crops, project could include another female volunteer in each group for which reduced rice production significantly. (FGD.WG3, 2013) better results. (IDI.8, 2014) Their responsiveness demonstrates that women are aware of agriculture-related problems, even though traditional patriar- Role of Women in Adaptation Programs chal views do not consider women as farmers, so do not The increasing visibility of women as community volunteers value their knowledge. in the CPP program had a positive impact for women, ado- Finally, in the CBEWS project, trained young females lescent girls, and children who take shelter in the evacuation have played a major role in raising awareness within the com- or cyclone centers. Positive changes have been noticed munity as volunteers. The findings of this project concur with among other local women regarding disaster awareness those of Coleman and Mwangi (2013), who argue that wom- because of the CPP. Female members of the CPP team played en’s visibility can bring positive impacts and generate posi- a significant role in raising awareness of local women and tive attitudes and interest among women to engage in those encouraging them to move to safe places after receiving a activities that are not familiar to them. As found in the study, disaster warning. As a result, women’s involvement in the the involvement of female volunteers can create a sense that program has created a positive space to address women’s the inclusion of women is vital to the success of any project. issues effectively, as one volunteer observes, A female volunteer aged 20 years from the Jadi Pahar ward speaks about her involvement in the project: Earlier most of the women did not want to move to cyclone shelters leaving their household assets such as food, poultry, and I joined the ADPC volunteer team after observing the suffering cattle. Moreover, they did not feel comfortable to move without in our community, especially women, the elderly and children husband or any male members of the family. That’s why earlier during every rainy season. Earlier landslides destroyed many more women and children died during cyclone. (FGD.WG2, families and took several lives in our area. Now we are more 2013) aware of how to respond before the hazards and what preparations are needed. My involvement in this project has made me valuable in my community. (IDI.10, 2014) In addition, women in this program were mainly involved in early warning dissemination, first aid service delivery, and Other young female volunteers have expressed their interests evacuation of the elderly, pregnant women, and children dur- in becoming future leaders of their community and maintain- ing the pre-disaster stage and in the post-disaster stage return ing their involvement in social activities. This positive inter- to their homes. In many cases, female volunteers were left est by women is consistent with the research by Sutton and with the sole responsibility for early warning dissemination. Tobin (2011) who found that younger people and females This was particularly a large burden during emergency peri- were more likely to engage in CCA and mitigation than the ods, when every household within their community needed elderly and men, respectively. to be visited. Women were generally not active in the other two committees of work that focused on relief and rescue, particularly the relief committee as this is socially consid- Discussion ered men’s work. Female volunteers are often required to Findings of this study reveal that none of the case programs/ take care of injured or sick people during any disaster, and to projects examined for this research involved all group mem- do this, they are provided with first aid training and toolkits. bers equally. Consequently, the capacity of the majority of Correspondingly, in the ALCCCA project, it was revealed members was under-utilized and all did not obtain equal ben- that women groups have become aware of the climatic efit from the programs. As a result, only a small portion changes in their area and are more conscious of the prob- (leaders or volunteers) were actively involved in a project’s lems. This highlights that women’s engagement in village activities, whereas the involvement of other group members research groups enhances their knowledge, in contrast to the could be considered as passive because they neither had traditional belief of society that women are more concerned options to give opinions nor influence decisions. These about household matters and lack interest about outside unequal power dynamics were mostly found within the CPP issues. Interestingly, women of this area were found to be and CBEWS. In addition, inequality in the composition or highly aware of the present changing climate situation and representation of men and women at a leadership level other environmental problems: resulted in uneven power relations among women and men, as women were allocated specific activities which are Climate change is happening because of the weather pattern socially considered as less important activities. This reflects change. We have been noticing that rain does not come when perceived roles and identities of men and women in expected. When it is time for the paddy plantation in the monsoon period, it is not raining. When rain comes, it has no Bangladesh society at large as discussed in “Gender relations use. This year a new problem has emerged. The pests attacked in and power dynamics in Bangladesh” section (2.0). Tanjeela and Rutherford 7 Overall findings of the study strongly suggest that wom- women, she has to take care of children and family matters en’s participation in these climate change–related programs along with the project/program’s related responsibilities. in Bangladesh remains largely controlled and shaped by gen- Based on gender responsibilities, a clear dichotomy per- der division of labor, social norms, and customary tradition. sists between public and private domains in patriarchal soci- This situation supports the findings of Cornwall and Gaventa eties, and women are customarily discouraged from engaging (2001) who connect women’s socio-demographic status with in activities related to the public sphere. Most women do not women’s engagement and involvement in community activi- want to make any trouble in their family life by taking addi- ties. An example of this from our study is the inability of tional duties. If they do, they need to maintain a work bal- women from ethnic minority groups in drought prone areas to ance between home and outside activities. The conflict fully engage in project activities due to their specific gender between domestic responsibilities and involvement in com- roles and socio-economic status. During the field visits, it was munity activities places many women in an unenviable situ- noticed that women from the local ethnic community (Santal) ation. Consequently, it is difficult for women to combine could not join in the scheduled FGD because they were work- both types of work because gendered responsibilities prevail ing in the agricultural fields. Later, it was found through FGD within the household domain. The burden of major domestic that all women from this ethnic community had to work either activities and non-cooperation from other family members on their own agricultural land or as an agricultural laborer. are therefore a major barrier for women, limiting effective This is very different from the local Muslim women in the participation in activities outside their households. community who only perform duties related to agricultural Despite these remaining issues, the three described pro- work at home. This is another dimension of a culturally grams brought opportunities for more women to be seen and diverse society and reinforces an additional, important point heard in public spaces and in leadership positions, challeng- that even when belonging to the same class or same society, ing the traditional notions of women’s roles and improving women do not constitute a homogeneous group. program outcomes. For example, in the second case in the Although gendered distribution of power, assets, and drought prone area, women were part of the local govern- resources within the family reproduce gender inequality, ment’s budget preparation; a situation unheard of for a rural women need to respond first during any natural or environ- woman even a few years ago. The analysis of the cyclone mental disaster as a part of their household responsibility and land slide cases also revealed other positive changes, (Women’s UN Reporting Network, 2017). Therefore, intra- indicating the empowerment of women. In the past, during a household’s gender dynamics is an important factor in disaster, women refrained from moving to a safe place with- responding or adopting coping strategies by women out a male family member. But these cases identified that this (Neelormi & Ahmed, 2012). Traditionally, in the household, situation has changed noticeably and women are now more Bangladeshi women (as daughters, daughters-in-law, and aware of their own and their children’s safety. Traditional mothers-in law) share unequal power relations due to cus- gender norms have changed due to women’s involvement in tomary socio-cultural norms. An example of this observed these programs. Besides the improvement in self-protection, through FGDs and interviews was daughter-in-laws not more women participating in the public arena creates more being able to challenge the decisions of their mother-in-laws opportunity to speak about their own issues and to be the due to the family hierarchy. In most patriarchal societies, voice for other women, increasing possibilities to bring including in traditional Bangladeshi households, there is change. As one woman described, commonly a dialectic relationship between a mother-in-law and a daughter-in-law. Within household gender dynamics, Earlier most of the women did not want to move to cyclone daughters-in-law are always more underprivileged than shelters even when being forced. But now women feel daughters, and divorced or widowed daughters are more comfortable and confident to go to cyclone shelters because they know that we will be beside them and we will take care of them. neglected. Every married woman of this study informed the We could motivate women to take shelter in a safe place during researcher that they needed to finish their household respon- a cyclone. We are also concerned about women’s problems, sibilities before joining the FGDs and it was the same situa- requirements and safety in temporary shelter places. (FGD. tion when they attended project or group meetings. WG2, 2013) Household responsibilities appear a vital factor determin- ing women’s level of involvement in community activities, Furthermore, women are better capable to fully compre- and if women engage themselves in additional activities, such hend the trouble that they face due to gender identity in as those required for participation in the case programs public spaces, especially in evacuation centers and relief described here, they have to accept a double or triple work queues during disasters and post-disaster periods. As a burden. A FGD participant from Mongla Union in Bagerhat result, women’s involvement in the CCA program has cre- districts says, “If I come to regular meetings without finishing ated a positive environment to address women’s issues dur- my household duties my husband will divorce me. My mother- ing disaster more effectively. The increasing visibility of in-law also expects the same responsibilities and duties from women as community volunteers thus has a positive impact me though I have sisters-in law at house.” Like many other 8 SAGE Open for women, adolescent girls, and children who take shelter time, and patience for the full thesis. Their guidance and suggestions are immensely valuable in the overall improvement of the article. in the evacuation or cyclone centers. Positive changes have been noticed among other local women regarding disaster Declaration of Conflicting Interests awareness. Thus, a disaster resilient community can be a strong part of CCA when a program considers women as The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. proactive agents in bringing change. Notwithstanding many positive and inspiring achieve- Funding ments, Bangladeshi women need to confront several existing structural and socio-cultural constraints. Persistent unequal The author(s) received no financial support for the research, author- ship, and/or publication of this article. gender power relations within the household, community, or society undermine women’s capability and restrict their Note engagement in certain types of activities that can prove them equal to men. This situation is reinforced by many unequal 1. A report published in the Daily Prothom Alo, January 14, gender norms and practices, which are the main challenges for women in becoming more active partners in CCA. Gendered power structures create a male-biased environ- References ment within all social and political institutions and discour- Agarwal, B. (1992). The gender and environment debate: Lessons age women’s involvement. Due to this cultural mind-set, from India. Feminist Studies, 18, 119-158. women’s contributions are mostly undermined and underval- Ahmed, S., & Maitra, P. (2010). Gender wage discrimination ued. As a result, they are deprived of institutional and gov- in rural and urban labour markets of Bangladesh. Oxford ernmental support, which places them in an even more Development Studies, 38, 83-112. vulnerable position. Indeed, women are still considered to be Amin, R. (2012). Motivating volunteers: A case of cyclone pre- paredness programme volunteers in Bangladesh (Doctoral the- recipients of, not active partners in, formal climate change sis). BRAC University, Dhaka, Bangladesh. adaption processes. These factors thus undermine women’s Ayers, J., & Forsyth, T. (2009). Community-based adaptation to cli- struggles, ignore their voices, and do not fully acknowledge mate change. Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable their contributions to family or society. Development, 51(4), 22-31. Azim, F. (2010). The new 21st-century women. In F. Azim & M. Sultan (Eds.), Mapping women’s empowerment: Experiences Conclusion from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan (pp. 261-278). Dhaka: This study was underpinned by feminist theories of the envi- University Press Limited & BRAC Development Institute. ronment, which consider gender, particularly women, as a Balgis, O. E. (2009). Women: In the shadow of climate change. The critical factor in explaining and solving any environmental UN Chronicle, 46(3-4), 54-55. problems. Overall, the study findings also imply that gender Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics. (2011). Population and housing census: Socio-economic and demographic report. Statistics relations is a significant concern that actively shapes wom- and Informatics Division, Ministry of Planning, Government en’s mobility and their access to resources and power within of Bangladesh. Dhaka, Bangladesh. the community. In addition, “intra and inter household” Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics. (2012). Gender statistics of power dynamics is also a crucial factor for women in the Bangladesh. Statistics and Informatics Division, Ministry of context of climate change adaptation in Bangladesh. Planning, Government of Bangladesh. Dhaka, Bangladesh. Furthermore, women’s experience is an underrepresented Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan. (2009). aspect of the climate change discourse in Bangladesh, Dhaka, Bangladesh: Ministry of Environment and Forest, because women’s contributions continue to be dismissed and Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. Dhaka, are not fully captured due to traditional gender perceptions. Bangladesh. Therefore, changing gender relations is a crucial step toward Brody, A., Demetriades, J., & Esplen, E. (2008). Gender and cli- a gender equal community that acknowledges women’s mate change: Mapping the linkages. A scoping study on knowl- edge and gaps. Cambridge, UK: Institute of Development needs, roles, and contributions in the era of climate change. Studies, Brighton. In turn, this will empower women to contribute fully to any Coleman, A., & Mwangi, E. (2013). Women’s participation in forest program or activity, whether it is climate change adaptation management: A cross-country analysis. Global Environmental or disaster management. Change, 23, 193-205. Cornwall, A. (2003). Whose voices? Whose choices? Reflections Acknowledgments on gender and participatory development. World Development, This article is written based on the first author’s PhD thesis. 31, 1325-1342. Therefore, she would like to acknowledge her two supervisors Dr. Cornwall, A., & Gaventa, J. (2001). From users and choosers to Giorel Curran and Dr. Elizabeth Van Acker, Center for Governance makers and shapers: Repositioning participation in social pol- and Public Policy, School of Government and International icy (IDS Working Paper No. 127). Brighton, UK: Institute of Relations, Griffith University, Australia, for their contributions, Development Studies. Tanjeela and Rutherford 9 Eunice, A., & Gry, S. (2011). Women: Key to food security and Regmi, S. (2011). In the field-climate change impacts on rural wom- climate change. Appropriate Technology, 38(4), 40-42. en’s unpaid/paid labor in Nepal. Women and Environments Food and Agricultural Organization. (2010). Framers in a chang- International Magazine, 38, 38-39. ing climate: Does gender matter? Food security in Andhra Rocheleau, D. E., Thomas-Slayter, B., & Wangari, E. (1996). Pradesh, India. Rome, Italy. Feminist politics and environmental justice. In D. Rocheleau, Hovorka, A. (2006). The no. 1 ladies’ poultry farm: A feminist B. Thomas-Stayler, & E. Wangari (Eds.), Feminist politi- political ecology of urban agriculture in Botswana. Gender, cal ecology: Global issues and local experiences (pp. 3-23). Place and Culture, 13, 207-255. London, England: Routledge. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (2014). Climate Change Shamsuddoha, S., Khan, H. M., Raihan, S., & Hossain, T. (2012). Synthesis Report (pp. 33-112). Geneva, Switzerland: IPCC. Displacement and migration from climate hot-spots in Islam, A., & Sumon, A. (2013). Integration of climate change Bangladesh: Causes and consequences. Dhaka, Bangladesh: adaptation, disaster risk reduction and social protection in Action Aid Bangladesh. Bangladesh: Contemporary views and experiences. In R. Shaw, Shiva, V. (1989). Staying alive: Women, ecology and survival in F. Mallick, & A. Islam (Eds.), Climate change adaptation India. London, England: Zed Books. actions in Bangladesh (pp. 71-92). Tokyo, Japan: Springer. Silva, D. K., & Jayathilaka, R. (2014). Gender in the context of Kabeer, N., & Mahmud, S. (2004). Globalization, gender and pov- disaster risk reduction; a case study of a flood risk reduc- erty: Bangladeshi women workers in export and local markets. tion project in the Gampaha District in Sri Lanka. Procedia Journal of International Development, 16, 93-109. Economics and Finance, 18, 873-881. Khatiwada, S. (2014). A quiet revolution: Women in Bangladesh. Sutton, G., & Tobin, C. (2011). Constraints on community engage- Retrieved from www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/ ment with great barrier reef climate change reduction and miti- comment-analysis/WCMS_234670/lang--en/index.htm gation. Global Environmental Change, 21, 894-905. Milne, W. (2005). Changing climate, uncertain future: Considering The United Nations Children’s Fund. (2010). Situation Assessment rural women in climate changes policies and strategies. and Analysis of Children and Women in Bangladesh. Canadian Woman Studies, 24(4), 49-54. Bangladesh: UNICEF. Mohsin, A. (2010). Coming out of the private: Women forging voices Women’s UN Reporting Network. (2017). Reaffirming women as in Bangladesh. In A. Firdous & M. Sultan (Eds.), Mapping first responders for natural disasters. Women’s UN Report women’s empowerment: Experiences from Bangladesh, India Network. and Pakistan (pp. 11-34). Dhaka, Bangladesh: University Press World Economic Forum. (2015). The Global Gender Gap Report. Limited & BRAC Development Institute. Cologny, Switzerland: World Economic Forum (weforum). Moni, J. (2016, January 14). Krishite Barchhe Narir Bhumika (Women’s Contribution in Agriculture is Increasing). The Daily Prothom Alo. Retrieved from http://www.bhorerkagoj. Author Biographies com/print-edition/2016/01/15/70580.php Mumita Tanjeela awarded her PhD degree from the School of National Adaptation Programme of Action. (2005). Ministry of Government and International of Griffith University, Australia Environment and Forest Government of the People’s Republic in 2016. Tanjeela is presently working as the chairperson of of Bangladesh. Dhaka, Bangladesh. department of Sociology at East West University. Before joining National Institute of Population Research and Training. (2013). East West University in May 2017, she worked with the Bangladesh Demographic and Population Health Survey. Department of Women Affairs of the Ministry of Women Dhaka, Bangladesh. Affairs, Bangladesh. Neelormi, S., & Ahmed, U. A. (2012). Loss and damage in a warmer world: Whither gender matters, gender perspective on Shannon Rutherford BSc (Hons) PhD Public Health with an under- the loss and damage debate climate and development knowl- graduate degree in environmental science and a PhD in environmental edge network (CDKN). New Delhi, India: CDKN Asia. health. Shannon has worked in both university and government set- Nelson, C. G., Mark, W. R., Amanda, P., Ian, G., Christina, I., Richard, tings for over 25 years in the environmental science and environment R., . . .Liangzhi, Y. (2010). Food security, farming and climate and public health field. She is currently teaching in the masters of change to 2050: Scenarios, results, policy options. Washington, Public Health and masters of Global Public Health program at DC: International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Griffith University. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png SAGE Open SAGE

The Influence of Gender Relations on Women’s Involvement and Experience in Climate Change Adaptation Programs in Bangladesh:

SAGE Open , Volume 8 (4): 1 – Nov 14, 2018

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Abstract

The nexus between poverty and climate change is a major concern, especially in a country like Bangladesh where lack of resources is a significant problem in both rural and urban areas. Climate change affects a wide demographic of the population in Bangladesh, and among those affected, women are more vulnerable to climate change impacts, as is evident from the history of climate-induced disasters in the country. Climate change increases women’s socio-economic vulnerabilities by directly impacting their family’s food security, water consumption, and livelihood. Hence, their roles and contributions are critical in responding through adaptation. Nonetheless, in Bangladesh, challenges remain to incorporate women as distinct actors and active agents in climate adaptation programs considering the gender power dynamics that exist. In this context, this study focuses on women’s contributions as individuals or as a group and reveals their significant influence in climate change adaptation practices. Keywords climate change, women, adaptation practices, gender relations vulnerable to poverty, food insecurity, water crises, loss of Introduction traditional livelihood, and lack of social well-being. BCCSAP Climate change has clearly manifested itself through a range (2009) confirmed that a large proportion of the population of of weather events and climatic hazards in Bangladesh. The the country has already been displaced from rural areas to country is facing diverse impacts such as sea-level rises, urban centers in a quest for a better life. This displacement increased tropical cyclones, salinity inundation in arable has meant an increased risk of safety and security for the peo- lands, intensified droughts, precipitation variability, and fre- ple involved (Shamsuddoha, Khan, Raihan, & Hossain, quent flooding due to its expansive coastline, low-lying delta, 2012). Among the climate victims, women are the most vul- and large river systems that support its agricultural-dependent nerable as they make up a large proportion of the poor popu- economy (Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action lation in both urban and rural contexts. In addition, attributed Plan [BCCSAP], 2009). In Bangladesh, climate is not merely gender roles, the gender division of labor, and dependency on an environmental phenomenon but is also interconnected nature make women vulnerable in a different way to men. with many socio-cultural and economic factors. These create Thus, poverty and gender inequality appear to be important increased vulnerabilities for many people. Evidence from a factors in shaping vulnerability and resilience within affected global perspective has revealed that natural resources–based communities in a country like Bangladesh. and agricultural-dependent populations are the primary vic- tims of climate change (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC], 2014). According to Bangladesh Bureau of East West University, Dhaka, Bangladesh Statistics (BBS, 2011), more than one third of the population 2 Griffith University, Queensland, Australia of Bangladesh lives in rural areas and they are the main driv- Corresponding Author: ers of the rural-agricultural based economy of the country. Mumita Tanjeela, Assistant Professor and Chairperson, Department of Therefore, climate events directly and indirectly affect these Sociology, East West University, Jahirul Islam City, Aftabnagar, Dhaka people’s lives in multifaceted ways making their lives even 1212, Bangladesh. more arduous. Affected populations are increasingly Email: mtanjeela@ewubd.edu Creative Commons CC BY: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License (http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage). 2 SAGE Open In response to the climate change threat, Bangladesh first state that in African and Asian countries, drought and short- began its adaptation program by preparing the National age of water significantly increase women’s workload in Adaptation Programme of Action (2005) in-line with the terms of collecting water and firewood. Even in urban areas, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change women spend several hours queuing for water, which reduces (UNFCCC). In 2009, the BCCSAP was also developed and social participation or opportunities for economic activity is currently the main generator of policy documents in rela- (Brody, Demetriades, & Esplen, 2008). Food and Agricultural tion to adaptation programs and activities. In Bangladesh, Organization (2010) affirms these findings and projects that climate change adaptation (CCA) programs mostly converge women will suffer from food insecurity, social dislocation, with disaster risk reduction and disaster resilience strategies and increased poverty due to climate change. A study on underpinned by a social protection perspective (Islam & rural women in Nepal by Regmi (2011) reveals that an uncer- Sumon, 2013). To implement the adaptation programs, many tain climate threatens women’s livelihood, which in turn development partners at the field level are carrying out impacts on their income and household food security. diverse types of livelihood activities to ensure social safety Most of the existing literature identifies the marginalized and enhance resilience to cope with the changing situation. position of women, prevailing gender relations, economic Community-based disaster preparedness and disaster dependency, and lack of social and political power as factors management programs are more common at the field level to that reinforce their vulnerabilities to environmental problems build disaster resilient communities where women play (Nelson et al., 2010). According to Milne (2005), power rela- active roles (Ayers & Forsyth, 2009). Like many other coun- tions that exclude women from power structures shape the tries, Bangladeshi women are the victims of climate change gender dimension of climate change, particularly in rural and at the same time an important agent for household and contexts. Furthermore, gender-insensitive programs limit community led response to climate change. Yet, the positive women’s access to community services and infrastructure, roles they play, the challenges they face, and the benefits hence creating significant difference between men and they gain in responding to the enormous challenges that cli- women in terms of the power of resilience (Silva & mate change presents, particularly in vulnerable countries/ Jayathilaka, 2014). These scholarly works suggest that the communities, have not been well studied. effect of climate change is a highly gendered phenomenon This article describes some diverse examples of CCA pro- determined by prevailing gender power relations. grams/projects in Bangladesh: the Cyclone Preparedness Program (CPP) in Bagerhat district, the Assistance to Local Gender Relations and Power Dynamics Communities on Climate Change Adaptation (ALCCCA) in Bangladesh project in Naogaon district, and the Community Based Early Bangladesh is a traditional patriarchal society, where males Warning System (CBEWS) on Landslide in Cox’s Bazar play a dominant role within the family, the community, and municipality. These cases provide the opportunity to identify society as a whole. This situation is pervasive within states, the role of women in the programs, examine the roles that political institutions, and legal systems as the consequence of women have had in influencing processes and outcomes, deeply rooted unequal gender relations. According to Kabeer identify the challenges they face in these roles, and explore and Mahmud (2004), in Bangladesh, there is a strict patriar- how their contributions might have a positive impact on chal structure that includes “the practice of female seclusion, community resilience in the Bangladesh context. By explor- patrilineal principles of descent and inheritance [and] patrilo- ing these dimensions, we can identify how women can con- cal principles of marriage” (p. 94). Another study by the tribute and benefit from active participation in CCA projects United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF; 2010) states that and how this might translate to other vulnerable communi- the mobility of Bangladeshi women is controlled and male ties in similar types of countries. This information is impor- family members often make the decisions. In particular, hus- tant for development of gender sensitive policy, providing bands usually make economic decisions around women’s policy makers with improved understanding of opportunities health and employment-related issues. Due to prevalent cul- and benefits for women’s increased involvement in CCA in tural and socio-economic conditions, women experience the future. structural discrimination such as access to and control over resources, property rights, less opportunity for employment, Gender and Climate Change and under-representation in the political sphere (Ahmed & Maitra, 2010). Climate is not a gender-neutral phenomenon. Impacts of cli- Currently, in Bangladesh, the male–female ratio is mate change are closely related to the gender division of 50.1:49.9, which indicates an increasing female population, labor for women across the world. Balgis (2009) points out since an earlier census (2001) where the ratio was 51.9:48.1 that the main responsibility for water and energy supply (BBS, 2011). The most recent statistical data indicate that in related to household food security falls firmly on women’s urban areas, 67% of men are employed whereas only 18% of shoulders in rural areas of developing countries, which are women have formal employment. In rural areas, only 8% of the home of the most affected sectors. Eunice and Gry (2011) Tanjeela and Rutherford 3 women are formally employed compared with 63% of men progress within the last 8 years. In 2007, its rank was 100; (BBS, 2011). The statistics imply a large gender disparity in however, within South Asian countries, its position is now at relation to women’s economic status both in urban and rural the top (World Economic Forum, 2015). areas. However, the official unemployment status of women Understanding these gender dimensions of Bangladesh’s hides the informal labor contributions women make to the society is critical for better engaging women in local-level economy. According to Kabeer and Mahmud (2004), wom- CCA, as it is at the community and household level, where en’s restricted mobility in the public domain reinforces them many adaptation actions are being taken and can be either to work as unpaid family laborers or to engage in implemented. informal work within the home. Women also receive lower wages than men when in paid employment in both rural and Theoretical Framework Underpinning urban areas and the status of employment, occupation, and This Research hours of work are determined by males (Ahmed & Maitra, 2010). A study conducted by OXFAM and Somasthe (Moni, The theoretical framework of this study combines theories 2015) claims that despite not being recognized as farmers, of Feminist Political Ecology, Feminist Environmentalism, 61.1% of the female labor force in Bangladesh is involved in and Ecofeminism to facilitate a comprehensive lens to bet- agriculture, even though women’s labor force participation ter understand the roles of women in CCA. All of these in agriculture is an under-presented phenomenon in the approaches theorize gender and gender relations in a spe- country. cific way depending on their particular stances. One dis- In Bangladesh, households are mainly headed and con- tinction is that while the Ecofeminists emphasize the trolled by men (88%) and only 12% of households are led by spiritual connection between women and nature (Shiva, women, though the proportion of female-headed households 1989), the proponents of Feminist Environmentalism argue has increased more in urban than rural areas since the 2001 instead that women’s connection with nature is more con- census (BBS, 2011). Interestingly, female-headed house- crete or materialist, and takes place throughout their life holds experience less poverty (26.6%) than male-headed due to their closer proximity to the natural environment households (32%), although the female-headed household’s (Agarwal, 1992). Feminist Political Ecology, on the con- monthly average income is lower than that of the male- trary, is a subfield of Political Ecology which examines the headed households (BBS, 2012). This is because women gendered dimension of environmental crises from a broader adopt many strategies to maintain household food security. institutional perspective involving government, politics, An extreme example of this is that 1.9% of women in rural and other institutions that shape the overall social system areas and 1% in urban areas report skipping meals each (Hovorka, 2006; Rocheleau, Thomas-Slayter, & Wangari, month (National Institute of Population Research and 1996). Training, 2013). The three theories provide the necessary tools for examin- Despite the persisting inequalities, Bangladeshi women ing the relationship between women and environmental deg- have historically shown great resilience and courage in con- radation in Bangladesh. Therefore, these theoretical fronting social, economic, political, and environmental prob- approaches provide a feminist analysis as a means to under- lems (Azim, 2010). After independence in 1972, the women’s standing women’s experiences of the environment in equality movement in Bangladesh gained momentum Bangladesh, particularly in relation to climate change. through the influence of various organizations including Elements of the above-mentioned theories, such as women’s nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), women’s groups, connection with nature; gendered knowledge, roles, and and other civil society organizations (Mohsin, 2010). In responsibilities; gender power relations; and women’s recent years, a large number of NGOs have played a vital agency, were used to analyze the eco-political link between role in improving women’s visibility in rural Bangladesh: the women and climate change, with special reference to wom- microcredit sector is one such initiative. Rural women of en’s contributions to CCA. Bangladesh are the main drivers of the microfinance sector. In addition, women’s involvement in some formal sectors Method (public and private) such as ready-made garments, shrimp processing, cosmetics, shoes, and pharmaceutical industries The study was designed as qualitative research and collected is significant and women’s economic participation rate has data by following qualitative data collection techniques such increased from 29.2% to 36% in the period from 2005-2006 as observation, focus group discussions, and in-depth inter- to 2010 (BBS, 2012). In the Ready Made Garments (RMG) views. Several steps were followed in designing this study. sector, about 80% to85% of workers are women, and this Related literature was reviewed from a range of books, jour- sector has played a significant role in the country’s economic nals articles, reports, and electronic sources and then cases success over the last two decades (Khatiwada, 2014). were selected based on specific criteria such as severity of Currently, Bangladesh’s position in the global gender gap effects, type of activities, and adaptation initiatives by state index is 64 out of 145 countries, and it has made significant and non-state actors. 4 SAGE Open Table 1. Methods Used to Collect Data. Method Participants Number Primary data collection Focus group discussion (FGD) Community members (a group of 10-12 participants) 9 (approximately 90 participants) One mixed group; two female groups (3 FGDs in three of the selected programs, total 9 FGDs) Interviews with local program Local-level government officials, workers of non- 15 (5 interviews from each field) stakeholders government organizations, community leaders, local government representatives Field observation Respective areas and programs 3 selected programs Key informant interviews Policy makers, government officials, non-government 15 KI from national and international officials, gender and environment activists, experts practitioners, academicians In depth interviews Women directly involving in adaption programs 6 (2 women from each area) Secondary data collection Documentary research, institutional policy mapping, and program documents analysis Note. More women were in the FGDs compared with male participants; of a total of 90 participants, 60 were women and 30 were men. Women’s groups henceforth stated as FGD.WG and mixed group as FGD.MG. Interviews with program stakeholders henceforth stated as LI (Local Interviewee). National-level key informant interview stated as KI. In-depth interview with individual women stated as IDI. PhD thesis. Informed consent was asked prior to data collec- Selection of Locations and Programs tion from all study participants, and they provided their writ- Three adaptation programs were selected for the study con- ten consent to participate in this study. To maintain the sidering three climate-induced hazards—drought, cyclones, privacy, anonymity, and confidentiality of data, it was and landslides in the northern, southern, and south-eastern explained to each of the respondents that his or her identity parts of Bangladesh, respectively. In Bangladesh, govern- and the information he or she would provide would be ment and its development partners have formally carried out confidential. a range of adaptation programs. Therefore, these three major A qualitative thematic method was used to analyze the climate-induced hazards and corresponding adaptation pro- data. After each interview had been completed, a transcript grams were selected to garner a broader view of the overall was written in Bengali. First, familiarization with the data topic. The selected programs were CPP in Bagerhat district, was achieved by reading and rereading the transcripts several ALCCCA Project in Naogaon district, and CBEWS on times. After familiarization with the data, the principal Landslide in Cox’s Bazar municipality. researcher coded the transcripts to ensure intercoder reliabil- ity. Initially, from the narratives of the texts, a code list was developed for data analysis. Based on the codes, themes Data Collection, Ethical Approval, and Data were identified for framework analysis, and the framework Analysis adapted and finalized based on the findings and emergent Both primary and secondary data were collected for the themes as part of the iterative process of qualitative data research. The main sources of primary data were from field analysis. observation, focus group discussions, semi-structured inter- In addition to primary data analysis, a content analysis of views with local people, in-depth interviews with women, secondary documents on climate-induced hazards and and interviews with key informants at the national level. affected communities to determine climate change impacts Respondents were selected through purposing sampling and vulnerability trends was done. Government documents method. First author (principal researcher) visited each field and other studies focused on Bangladesh were analyzed to area 2 or 3 times to understand and gather experiences about investigate gender consideration in policy processes. the impacts of climate change on people’s daily life activi- ties. These observations helped to understand real life prob- Findings lems, practical needs, and coping practices of locals. Table 1 presents a summary of the methods and number of partici- Description of the Selected Adaptation Programs pants in the study. and Level of Women’s Involvement Ethical approval for this study was approved by the Griffith University Human Research Ethics Committee The CPP is a national community-based climate-induced (GIR/03/13/ HREC), as this study is a part of first author’s disaster risk reduction program run by the Government of Tanjeela and Rutherford 5 Bangladesh and the Red Crescent Society across many Women contribute more to their family and household work even in agriculture. For example, women of our locality do seed coastal districts of Bangladesh. It aims to develop and preservation, sow seeds, help in planting the paddy and have all strengthen the disaster preparedness and response capacity the responsibilities after harvesting. They perform these along of coastal communities (Amin, 2012). For the program, five- with their daily household chores, yet they have to listen to men member volunteer teams were formed consisting of both complaining that women do not do much work but society does females and males selected from the communities. The pro- not appreciate or acknowledge it much. (IDI.5, 2014). gram assigned different responsibilities and roles to male and female volunteers. In each community, five volunteer groups This program has created opportunities for women in general (early warning dissemination, rescue, evacuation, first aid by supporting livelihood-based adaptation activities. Such service, and relief distribution) carry out different activities activities have led to an increase in their resilience and capac- and each CPP volunteer group consists of two female and ity to cope. Women’s involvement in this adaptation inter- three male volunteers. vention includes providing livelihood assets such as For the CPP, it was observed that women were not vegetable seeds, chickens, lambs, and opportunities for involved in resource distribution such as relief work, which women to control the community mango forestry. Such mea- involves monetary issues, with men mostly in control of this sures are important in strengthening women’s roles as active realm. Both gender power relations and gender stereotyped partners of community-based adaptation. As an adaptation work divisions play a vital role in defining the level and measure, most of the women emphasized the importance of engagement of women in any program or project. As livelihood activities that, in turn, reinforce the processes of Cornwall (2003) discussed in the context of community for- empowerment at a household and community level. est management, “the means by which women are excluded In the CBEWS on Landslide program implemented in [through] hegemonic gender norms, may echo and rein- Cox’s Bazar city, the target community’s socio-economic force, as well as replicate patterns of gendered exclusion structure was different from the other two program cases in that have [a] wider resonance” (p. 1329) in society. This terms of living conditions, occupations, attachments to the strong division of labor suggests that women’s involvement environment, and daily life experiences as it is an urban set- is limited to the caring role that women are usually known ting. The program target settlement has grown over the for in their community. Unsurprisingly, women are actively decades due to a large number of the population migrating excluded from roles that would grant them power status or from their previous homelands mostly due to sea-level rise. decision-making authority within the community. Due to However, the settlements face a severe risk of landslides, and this practice, during FGDs, women expressed their power- as it is not possible to shift the community from this location, lessness and opportunities for less management capacity in the project’s target was to develop disaster resilience through public work. awareness raising and capacity building (KI.12, 2014). The ALCCCA Project (drought prone area Shapahar, For this program, three young volunteers (one female and Naugaon) was implemented through involving and engaging two male) were trained from each community. In this urban the local community. In total, 60 male and female groups area, more women are visible in public spaces such as the were formed, and each group consisted of 30 members. Each market places, construction work, and informal labor sectors, group was known as Gono Gobeshona Dal (GGD), which and the overall community attitude in this setting is not as means community research group. The group members iden- conservative as in rural areas of Bangladesh. Here, female tified their own problems and needs in the drought context of volunteers did not receive a negative response from the com- their locality through participatory research. Accordingly, munity when working alone with male volunteers. In addi- the groups were designated with different roles and responsi- tion, some NGO workers, mostly women, helped to shape bilities, which were defined by group members. The com- the community’s mind-set about women’s visibility in com- munity was supported by local needs-based livelihood munity activities. This finding confirms that there is a sig- activities as a means of adaptation. nificant difference in gendered norms and values between The number of female members was quite high as more the rural and urban societies of Bangladesh. A female volun- female groups were required to be formed within the com- teer from the South Baharchhara Ward tells of her experi- munity by the project. Therefore, a larger number of female ence. Her story, while positive and affirming the value of facilitators and group mobilizers developed and provided a increased gender representation, also identifies that there supportive environment to strengthen female leadership was still gender imbalance in the teams formed: skills. Consequently, female engagement at every stage, even in the planning process, developed, as reflected in the inter- We (girls and boys) usually work together during any type of view with a female leader of a women’s group (Tilna village) disaster. We observe and record rainfall trends and accordingly in Sapahar Upazila. She presents a more analytical outlook disseminate warnings and evacuate. We have needed to rescue about social and female-centric issues closely related to cli- elderly people, children, pregnant women and people with mate change and activities in her community’s day-to-day disabilities many times. I did not get any resistance from the life: community as they saw we were doing work for its safety and 6 SAGE Open local people understand that any community work cannot be the root of rice plants due to the dampness caused by trapped done properly if women are excluded. However, I feel that the water during heavy rainfall. The pests ate and destroyed crops, project could include another female volunteer in each group for which reduced rice production significantly. (FGD.WG3, 2013) better results. (IDI.8, 2014) Their responsiveness demonstrates that women are aware of agriculture-related problems, even though traditional patriar- Role of Women in Adaptation Programs chal views do not consider women as farmers, so do not The increasing visibility of women as community volunteers value their knowledge. in the CPP program had a positive impact for women, ado- Finally, in the CBEWS project, trained young females lescent girls, and children who take shelter in the evacuation have played a major role in raising awareness within the com- or cyclone centers. Positive changes have been noticed munity as volunteers. The findings of this project concur with among other local women regarding disaster awareness those of Coleman and Mwangi (2013), who argue that wom- because of the CPP. Female members of the CPP team played en’s visibility can bring positive impacts and generate posi- a significant role in raising awareness of local women and tive attitudes and interest among women to engage in those encouraging them to move to safe places after receiving a activities that are not familiar to them. As found in the study, disaster warning. As a result, women’s involvement in the the involvement of female volunteers can create a sense that program has created a positive space to address women’s the inclusion of women is vital to the success of any project. issues effectively, as one volunteer observes, A female volunteer aged 20 years from the Jadi Pahar ward speaks about her involvement in the project: Earlier most of the women did not want to move to cyclone shelters leaving their household assets such as food, poultry, and I joined the ADPC volunteer team after observing the suffering cattle. Moreover, they did not feel comfortable to move without in our community, especially women, the elderly and children husband or any male members of the family. That’s why earlier during every rainy season. Earlier landslides destroyed many more women and children died during cyclone. (FGD.WG2, families and took several lives in our area. Now we are more 2013) aware of how to respond before the hazards and what preparations are needed. My involvement in this project has made me valuable in my community. (IDI.10, 2014) In addition, women in this program were mainly involved in early warning dissemination, first aid service delivery, and Other young female volunteers have expressed their interests evacuation of the elderly, pregnant women, and children dur- in becoming future leaders of their community and maintain- ing the pre-disaster stage and in the post-disaster stage return ing their involvement in social activities. This positive inter- to their homes. In many cases, female volunteers were left est by women is consistent with the research by Sutton and with the sole responsibility for early warning dissemination. Tobin (2011) who found that younger people and females This was particularly a large burden during emergency peri- were more likely to engage in CCA and mitigation than the ods, when every household within their community needed elderly and men, respectively. to be visited. Women were generally not active in the other two committees of work that focused on relief and rescue, particularly the relief committee as this is socially consid- Discussion ered men’s work. Female volunteers are often required to Findings of this study reveal that none of the case programs/ take care of injured or sick people during any disaster, and to projects examined for this research involved all group mem- do this, they are provided with first aid training and toolkits. bers equally. Consequently, the capacity of the majority of Correspondingly, in the ALCCCA project, it was revealed members was under-utilized and all did not obtain equal ben- that women groups have become aware of the climatic efit from the programs. As a result, only a small portion changes in their area and are more conscious of the prob- (leaders or volunteers) were actively involved in a project’s lems. This highlights that women’s engagement in village activities, whereas the involvement of other group members research groups enhances their knowledge, in contrast to the could be considered as passive because they neither had traditional belief of society that women are more concerned options to give opinions nor influence decisions. These about household matters and lack interest about outside unequal power dynamics were mostly found within the CPP issues. Interestingly, women of this area were found to be and CBEWS. In addition, inequality in the composition or highly aware of the present changing climate situation and representation of men and women at a leadership level other environmental problems: resulted in uneven power relations among women and men, as women were allocated specific activities which are Climate change is happening because of the weather pattern socially considered as less important activities. This reflects change. We have been noticing that rain does not come when perceived roles and identities of men and women in expected. When it is time for the paddy plantation in the monsoon period, it is not raining. When rain comes, it has no Bangladesh society at large as discussed in “Gender relations use. This year a new problem has emerged. The pests attacked in and power dynamics in Bangladesh” section (2.0). Tanjeela and Rutherford 7 Overall findings of the study strongly suggest that wom- women, she has to take care of children and family matters en’s participation in these climate change–related programs along with the project/program’s related responsibilities. in Bangladesh remains largely controlled and shaped by gen- Based on gender responsibilities, a clear dichotomy per- der division of labor, social norms, and customary tradition. sists between public and private domains in patriarchal soci- This situation supports the findings of Cornwall and Gaventa eties, and women are customarily discouraged from engaging (2001) who connect women’s socio-demographic status with in activities related to the public sphere. Most women do not women’s engagement and involvement in community activi- want to make any trouble in their family life by taking addi- ties. An example of this from our study is the inability of tional duties. If they do, they need to maintain a work bal- women from ethnic minority groups in drought prone areas to ance between home and outside activities. The conflict fully engage in project activities due to their specific gender between domestic responsibilities and involvement in com- roles and socio-economic status. During the field visits, it was munity activities places many women in an unenviable situ- noticed that women from the local ethnic community (Santal) ation. Consequently, it is difficult for women to combine could not join in the scheduled FGD because they were work- both types of work because gendered responsibilities prevail ing in the agricultural fields. Later, it was found through FGD within the household domain. The burden of major domestic that all women from this ethnic community had to work either activities and non-cooperation from other family members on their own agricultural land or as an agricultural laborer. are therefore a major barrier for women, limiting effective This is very different from the local Muslim women in the participation in activities outside their households. community who only perform duties related to agricultural Despite these remaining issues, the three described pro- work at home. This is another dimension of a culturally grams brought opportunities for more women to be seen and diverse society and reinforces an additional, important point heard in public spaces and in leadership positions, challeng- that even when belonging to the same class or same society, ing the traditional notions of women’s roles and improving women do not constitute a homogeneous group. program outcomes. For example, in the second case in the Although gendered distribution of power, assets, and drought prone area, women were part of the local govern- resources within the family reproduce gender inequality, ment’s budget preparation; a situation unheard of for a rural women need to respond first during any natural or environ- woman even a few years ago. The analysis of the cyclone mental disaster as a part of their household responsibility and land slide cases also revealed other positive changes, (Women’s UN Reporting Network, 2017). Therefore, intra- indicating the empowerment of women. In the past, during a household’s gender dynamics is an important factor in disaster, women refrained from moving to a safe place with- responding or adopting coping strategies by women out a male family member. But these cases identified that this (Neelormi & Ahmed, 2012). Traditionally, in the household, situation has changed noticeably and women are now more Bangladeshi women (as daughters, daughters-in-law, and aware of their own and their children’s safety. Traditional mothers-in law) share unequal power relations due to cus- gender norms have changed due to women’s involvement in tomary socio-cultural norms. An example of this observed these programs. Besides the improvement in self-protection, through FGDs and interviews was daughter-in-laws not more women participating in the public arena creates more being able to challenge the decisions of their mother-in-laws opportunity to speak about their own issues and to be the due to the family hierarchy. In most patriarchal societies, voice for other women, increasing possibilities to bring including in traditional Bangladeshi households, there is change. As one woman described, commonly a dialectic relationship between a mother-in-law and a daughter-in-law. Within household gender dynamics, Earlier most of the women did not want to move to cyclone daughters-in-law are always more underprivileged than shelters even when being forced. But now women feel daughters, and divorced or widowed daughters are more comfortable and confident to go to cyclone shelters because they know that we will be beside them and we will take care of them. neglected. Every married woman of this study informed the We could motivate women to take shelter in a safe place during researcher that they needed to finish their household respon- a cyclone. We are also concerned about women’s problems, sibilities before joining the FGDs and it was the same situa- requirements and safety in temporary shelter places. (FGD. tion when they attended project or group meetings. WG2, 2013) Household responsibilities appear a vital factor determin- ing women’s level of involvement in community activities, Furthermore, women are better capable to fully compre- and if women engage themselves in additional activities, such hend the trouble that they face due to gender identity in as those required for participation in the case programs public spaces, especially in evacuation centers and relief described here, they have to accept a double or triple work queues during disasters and post-disaster periods. As a burden. A FGD participant from Mongla Union in Bagerhat result, women’s involvement in the CCA program has cre- districts says, “If I come to regular meetings without finishing ated a positive environment to address women’s issues dur- my household duties my husband will divorce me. My mother- ing disaster more effectively. The increasing visibility of in-law also expects the same responsibilities and duties from women as community volunteers thus has a positive impact me though I have sisters-in law at house.” Like many other 8 SAGE Open for women, adolescent girls, and children who take shelter time, and patience for the full thesis. Their guidance and suggestions are immensely valuable in the overall improvement of the article. in the evacuation or cyclone centers. Positive changes have been noticed among other local women regarding disaster Declaration of Conflicting Interests awareness. Thus, a disaster resilient community can be a strong part of CCA when a program considers women as The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. proactive agents in bringing change. Notwithstanding many positive and inspiring achieve- Funding ments, Bangladeshi women need to confront several existing structural and socio-cultural constraints. Persistent unequal The author(s) received no financial support for the research, author- ship, and/or publication of this article. gender power relations within the household, community, or society undermine women’s capability and restrict their Note engagement in certain types of activities that can prove them equal to men. This situation is reinforced by many unequal 1. A report published in the Daily Prothom Alo, January 14, gender norms and practices, which are the main challenges for women in becoming more active partners in CCA. Gendered power structures create a male-biased environ- References ment within all social and political institutions and discour- Agarwal, B. (1992). The gender and environment debate: Lessons age women’s involvement. Due to this cultural mind-set, from India. 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Tanjeela is presently working as the chairperson of of Bangladesh. Dhaka, Bangladesh. department of Sociology at East West University. Before joining National Institute of Population Research and Training. (2013). East West University in May 2017, she worked with the Bangladesh Demographic and Population Health Survey. Department of Women Affairs of the Ministry of Women Dhaka, Bangladesh. Affairs, Bangladesh. Neelormi, S., & Ahmed, U. A. (2012). Loss and damage in a warmer world: Whither gender matters, gender perspective on Shannon Rutherford BSc (Hons) PhD Public Health with an under- the loss and damage debate climate and development knowl- graduate degree in environmental science and a PhD in environmental edge network (CDKN). New Delhi, India: CDKN Asia. health. Shannon has worked in both university and government set- Nelson, C. G., Mark, W. R., Amanda, P., Ian, G., Christina, I., Richard, tings for over 25 years in the environmental science and environment R., . . .Liangzhi, Y. (2010). Food security, farming and climate and public health field. She is currently teaching in the masters of change to 2050: Scenarios, results, policy options. Washington, Public Health and masters of Global Public Health program at DC: International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Griffith University.

Journal

SAGE OpenSAGE

Published: Nov 14, 2018

Keywords: climate change; women; adaptation practices; gender relations

References