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Research Article
Open Access Peer-reviewed

Women and Climate Change in Bangladesh: An Analysis from Gender Perspective

Md. Bayezid Alam , K. M. Atikur Rahman
Journal of Sociology and Anthropology. 2017, 1(1), 63-65. DOI: 10.12691/jsa-1-1-9
Published online: November 29, 2017

Abstract

Climate change is not a gender neutral phenomenon. A gender perspective must urgently be integrated into the climate debate. This study examines the impacts of climate change from the gender perspective. The result shows that climate change is having a disproportionate impact on women in Bangladesh. Women suffer more than men during and after climatic disasters. It concludes with some suggestions for the mitigation and adoption to climate change.

1. Introduction

Climate change is now a global security issue. It represents a serious challenge to sustainable development, social justice, equity, and respect for human rights for both current and future generations 1. The effects of climate change vary among regions, and between different generations, income groups and occupations as well as between women and men 2. The impacts of climate change are predicted to fall largely and disproportionately on the developing countries 3. Many of those countries are especially vulnerable to climate effects because of poverty, conflicts, lack of gender and social equality, environmental degradation and lack of food.

The impact of climate change is completely gender differentiated. The consequences of climate change affect men and women differently 4, based on their different roles and responsibilities in their community and their level of access to natural and other resources 5. The IPCC report 6 recognized women as one of the most vulnerable groups from the climate change impacts. Women are responsible for 70 per cent of the world's work, yet they are disproportionately more vulnerable to climate change than men.

Climate change is also the most crucial issue for the growing economy of Bangladesh. It is characterized by high temperatures, heavy rainfall, high humidity, floods, cyclones, droughts, sea level rising, storm surge, water logging, river erosion and salinity intrusion in soil and water 7. The increasing trend of disasters due to climate change places Bangladesh at the top position among the vulnerable countries in the world 8. The government recognized climate change as a highest priority issue by signing the convention on Climate Change, 1992 and Kyoto Protocol, 2005. A number of initiatives have been taken by the government for adaptation with the consequences of climate change. Nevertheless, the climate change is threatening the livelihoods and existence of around 160 million people in the country 7.

In Bangladesh, women constitute almost half of the total population 9. They are more vulnerable than men to climate change due to their poverty, socially constructed roles and responsibilities, and their marginal position in the social system 10, 11. Women in this country bear the disproportionate burden of climate change. The present study represents an attempt to highlight gender differentiated impacts of climate change. It outlines how climate change can impact men and women differently and identifies important ways in which gender roles can strengthen men’s and women’s capacity to adapt to changing climate-related risks.

2. Materials and Methods

This analytical study is mainly based on extensive review of relevant literature available in different secondary sources such as various research articles, working papers, government documents, newspapers, online publications, websites, and related books. For the analysis, the primary data have comprehensively been used in this study. The primary data was collected through Focus Group Discussion (FGD) and in-depth interviews with the affected women on climate change.

3. Results and Discussion

Climate change is now a reality in many countries and an extremely difficult and complex development challenge as well 12. The impacts and consequences of climate changes are not gender neutral and are likely to exacerbate existing gender inequalities 13. Women and men have different needs, priorities and possibilities of mitigating and adapting to climate change impacts (See Table 1). Goh 14 argued that climate change affects women and men differently in the following impact areas: (i) agricultural production, (ii) food security, (iii) health, (iv) water and energy resources, (v) migration and conflict, and (vi) natural disasters. United Nations 15 specified few gender characteristics of climate change: (i) women are affected by the effects of climate change due to their social roles, discrimination and poverty; (ii) women are not sufficiently represented in decision making processes, adaptation and mitigation strategies on climate change; and (iii) women must be included in these processes and strategies because of their rights, more vulnerability, and different perspectives and experiences.

In Bangladesh, women are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change by comparison with men. Asaduzzaman 17 observed that 140,000 people died from the flood-related effects of Cyclone Gorky in 1991. Within that number, women outnumbered men by approximately 93 per cent (14:1 in ratio). In 2007, during Cyclone Sidr and the subsequent floods in Bangladesh, the death rate was reportedly five times higher for women than for men.

Women are highly dependent on local natural resources for their livelihood, because of their responsibility to secure water, food and energy for cooking and heating 2. Water, sanitation and health challenges put an extra burden on women, adding to the double burden of productive and reproductive labor when there is a disaster and a collapse of livelihood 18. Women bear the burden of fetching water for their families and spend significant amounts of time daily hauling water from distant sources. The water is rarely enough to meet the needs of the household and is often contaminated, such that women also pay the heaviest price for poor sanitation. Moreover, damage of sanitation systems creates sufferings for women. Lack of toilet facilities increases physical insecurity for them. Many women refrain from using the toilet during the day and consequently suffer from urinary tract infections. Pregnant women, lactating mothers and differently disabled women suffered the most, as they found it difficult to move before and after the cyclone hit.

Women also experienced physical, sexual and emotional violence increases during and after a disaster. Many women refrain from going to shelters during a disaster. Women face some form of violence in shelters, including mental abuse and physical torture. Women often face additional physical insecurity and loss of dignity while collecting relief during or after a disaster. In many cases, they have to walk long distances through water, their wet clothes clinging to their bodies, to collect relief. During collection they have to stand in long queues with male strangers.

Women suffer more from post disaster spread of diseases and death rate is much higher among women. Women's resilience to livelihoods was also weak as they depended largely on home-based activities. If climate change also makes more people ill, this will mean extra work for women, who traditionally take care of the children, the sick and the elderly. In some developing countries women also run a greater risk of falling ill than men, since they have poorer health and less access to health care services. Akand et al. 19 summarized the risk and vulnerabilities of women in Bangladesh due to climate changes: (i) Decreasing women’s food consumption and their suffering from malnutrition; (ii) Salinity and long exposure to water causes skin disease and other illnesses; (iii) Hampering health facilities of pregnant women due to damaged communication system; (iv) Increasing women’s work load and stress due to non-availability of food, water and fuel during disasters; (v) Suffering from tension during work outside leaving their children at home; (vi) Stress and vulnerability for women for safety and security due to absence of male members during disaster.

4. Conclusion and Recommendations

Women in Bangladesh are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than men. Their livelihoods are threatened by climate change. Furthermore, they face socio-economic and political barriers that limit their coping capacity. The particular effects of climate change on women will have long-term consequences for gender equality. Being the primary victim of climate change impacts, women can play a central role in adaptation and mitigation to climate change by optimizing energy efficiency, using low-footprint energy sources and techniques, and influencing a household’s and community’s consumption patterns. The following are some of the possible measures that Bangladesh should take to reduce the impacts of climate change on women: (i) Climate change adaptation and mitigation policies must address the gender issues. (ii) Bring women’s voices into the climate change arena. Their participation in climate change decisions should be assured. (iii) Incorporate gender issues in climate change policies and actions from a ‘human rights’ point of view. (iv) The role of women's groups and networks in climate change initiatives should be strengthened. (v) Set standards and criteria for climate change mitigation and adaptation that incorporate gender equality and equity principles. (vi) Build capacity at global, regional, and local levels to design and implement gender-responsive climate change policies, strategies, and programs. (vii) Awareness programmes on climate change impacts on women health would build the community’s resilience.

References

[1]  Aguilar, L. (2009). Women and Climate Change: Vulnerabilities and Adaptive Capacities. State of the World 2009, World Watch Institute.
In article      View Article
 
[2]  Shanta (2009). The threats. The Independent, December 29.
In article      
 
[3]  Duong, T. (2010). When islands drown: The plight of “climate change refugees” and recourse to international human rights law. University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law, 31(4): 1239-1266.
In article      View Article
 
[4]  Rahman, M.S. (2013). Climate Change, Disaster and Gender Vulnerability: A Study on Two Divisions of Bangladesh. American Journal of Human Ecology, 2(2): 72-82.
In article      View Article
 
[5]  Wamukonya, N., and Rukato, H. (2001). Climate change implications for Southern Africa: a gendered perspective. Cape Town: Minerals and Energy Policy Centre.
In article      View Article
 
[6]  IPCC (2007). Climate Change 2007. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.
In article      
 
[7]  Nishat, K.J. (2016). The Gender Aspect of Climate Change in Bangladesh: An Overview. European Academic Research, III(10): 11357-11375.
In article      
 
[8]  Germanwatch (2009). Global Climate Risk Index 2009. Bonn: Germanwatch.
In article      View Article
 
[9]  Sarker, S. (2007). Globalization and Women at Work: A Feminist Discourse. A paper presented at Inter-national Feminist Summit, July 17-20, Townsville, Australia.
In article      View Article
 
[10]  Islam, R. (2009). Climate Change induced Disasters and Gender Dimensions: Perspective Bangladesh. University of Peace, Costa Rica.
In article      
 
[11]  Tanny, N. Z. & Rahman, M. W. (2016). Climate Change Vulnerabilities of Woman in Bangladesh. The Agriculturists, 14(2): 113-123.
In article      View Article
 
[12]  Zaman, A. K. M. H. & Islam, M. J. (2012). Managing Climate Change: Bangladesh Perspective, ASA University Review, 6(1): 1-13.
In article      View Article
 
[13]  Glazebrook, T. (2011). Women and Climate Change: A Case-Study from Northeast Ghana, Hypatia, 26(4): 762-782.
In article      View Article
 
[14]  Goh, A. H. X. (2012). A Literature Review of the Gender-differentiated Impacts of Climate Change on Women’s and Men’s Assets and Well-being in Developing Countries, CAPRi Working Paper No. 106, USA.
In article      View Article
 
[15]  United Nations (2008). Gender and Climate Change in Viet Nam - A Desk Review.
In article      
 
[16]  UNDP, IUCN & GGCA (2009). Training Manual on Gender and Climate Change, San Antonio, Costa Rica.
In article      
 
[17]  Asaduzzaman, M. (2015). Livelihood Vulnerability of Women in the context of Climate Change Impacts: Insights from Coastal Bangladesh, Unpublished PhD thesis, The University of Newcastle.
In article      
 
[18]  Patt, A.; Daze, A. and Suarez, P. 2007. Gender and climate change vulnerability: what’s the problem, what’s the solution? Paper presented at the International Women Leaders Global Security Summit, 15-17 November 2007, New York.
In article      PubMed
 
[19]  Akand, E. S.; Islam, Z. and Khalilullah (2016). Change Impacts on Women and Gender Responsive Adaptation in Bangladesh, Paper presented at International Science Conference 2016, January 8, Venue: Independent University of Bangladesh.
In article      
 

Published with license by Science and Education Publishing, Copyright © 2017 Md. Bayezid Alam and K. M. Atikur Rahman

Creative CommonsThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Cite this article:

Normal Style
Md. Bayezid Alam, K. M. Atikur Rahman. Women and Climate Change in Bangladesh: An Analysis from Gender Perspective. Journal of Sociology and Anthropology. Vol. 1, No. 1, 2017, pp 63-65. http://pubs.sciepub.com/jsa/1/1/9
MLA Style
Alam, Md. Bayezid, and K. M. Atikur Rahman. "Women and Climate Change in Bangladesh: An Analysis from Gender Perspective." Journal of Sociology and Anthropology 1.1 (2017): 63-65.
APA Style
Alam, M. B. , & Rahman, K. M. A. (2017). Women and Climate Change in Bangladesh: An Analysis from Gender Perspective. Journal of Sociology and Anthropology, 1(1), 63-65.
Chicago Style
Alam, Md. Bayezid, and K. M. Atikur Rahman. "Women and Climate Change in Bangladesh: An Analysis from Gender Perspective." Journal of Sociology and Anthropology 1, no. 1 (2017): 63-65.
Share
[1]  Aguilar, L. (2009). Women and Climate Change: Vulnerabilities and Adaptive Capacities. State of the World 2009, World Watch Institute.
In article      View Article
 
[2]  Shanta (2009). The threats. The Independent, December 29.
In article      
 
[3]  Duong, T. (2010). When islands drown: The plight of “climate change refugees” and recourse to international human rights law. University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law, 31(4): 1239-1266.
In article      View Article
 
[4]  Rahman, M.S. (2013). Climate Change, Disaster and Gender Vulnerability: A Study on Two Divisions of Bangladesh. American Journal of Human Ecology, 2(2): 72-82.
In article      View Article
 
[5]  Wamukonya, N., and Rukato, H. (2001). Climate change implications for Southern Africa: a gendered perspective. Cape Town: Minerals and Energy Policy Centre.
In article      View Article
 
[6]  IPCC (2007). Climate Change 2007. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.
In article      
 
[7]  Nishat, K.J. (2016). The Gender Aspect of Climate Change in Bangladesh: An Overview. European Academic Research, III(10): 11357-11375.
In article      
 
[8]  Germanwatch (2009). Global Climate Risk Index 2009. Bonn: Germanwatch.
In article      View Article
 
[9]  Sarker, S. (2007). Globalization and Women at Work: A Feminist Discourse. A paper presented at Inter-national Feminist Summit, July 17-20, Townsville, Australia.
In article      View Article
 
[10]  Islam, R. (2009). Climate Change induced Disasters and Gender Dimensions: Perspective Bangladesh. University of Peace, Costa Rica.
In article      
 
[11]  Tanny, N. Z. & Rahman, M. W. (2016). Climate Change Vulnerabilities of Woman in Bangladesh. The Agriculturists, 14(2): 113-123.
In article      View Article
 
[12]  Zaman, A. K. M. H. & Islam, M. J. (2012). Managing Climate Change: Bangladesh Perspective, ASA University Review, 6(1): 1-13.
In article      View Article
 
[13]  Glazebrook, T. (2011). Women and Climate Change: A Case-Study from Northeast Ghana, Hypatia, 26(4): 762-782.
In article      View Article
 
[14]  Goh, A. H. X. (2012). A Literature Review of the Gender-differentiated Impacts of Climate Change on Women’s and Men’s Assets and Well-being in Developing Countries, CAPRi Working Paper No. 106, USA.
In article      View Article
 
[15]  United Nations (2008). Gender and Climate Change in Viet Nam - A Desk Review.
In article      
 
[16]  UNDP, IUCN & GGCA (2009). Training Manual on Gender and Climate Change, San Antonio, Costa Rica.
In article      
 
[17]  Asaduzzaman, M. (2015). Livelihood Vulnerability of Women in the context of Climate Change Impacts: Insights from Coastal Bangladesh, Unpublished PhD thesis, The University of Newcastle.
In article      
 
[18]  Patt, A.; Daze, A. and Suarez, P. 2007. Gender and climate change vulnerability: what’s the problem, what’s the solution? Paper presented at the International Women Leaders Global Security Summit, 15-17 November 2007, New York.
In article      PubMed
 
[19]  Akand, E. S.; Islam, Z. and Khalilullah (2016). Change Impacts on Women and Gender Responsive Adaptation in Bangladesh, Paper presented at International Science Conference 2016, January 8, Venue: Independent University of Bangladesh.
In article