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Glamour BoutiqueThere are a number of advancements in legal gender rights across the world. However, social norms still play a large role in preventing women from attaining economic independence. Globally, women are almost three times more likely than men to work in the unpaid sector—namely domestic work and caring for children. When the women who are confined to this lifestyle are able to find paid work, it is often part-time and low-wage. This sets them at a significant financial disadvantage. They must depend on their husbands and families to provide for their basic needs.

The Fix

The Inclusive and Equitable Local Development (IELD) sector of the United Nations Capital Development Fund fights to right these wrongs. They invest in small businesses in developing countries that are largely run by women. Through their investments, these businesses expand, hire more people, increase their consumer market and earn more money. When women achieve financial independence, the reward is multiplied. Economically secure women are likely to invest in education, health and their community.

The Entrepreneur

One of these businesses that the IELD benefits is Glamour Boutique—a fashion business in Jessore, a small town in southwestern Bangladesh.

Glamour Boutique was officially founded in 2007 by Parveen Akhter. Akhter had been kidnapped and forced into child marriage when she was in the ninth grade. Her husband—her kidnapper and a drug addict—made it a habit of abusing her throughout their seventeen-year marriage. Encouragement from her oldest son, 16-years-old at the time, led her to file for divorce and set up the Glamour Boutique House and Training Centre. It was based in her home and capitalized on the embroidery and tailoring skills Akhter had taught herself over the years. Once business picked up, she moved into a rented space.

This is when the IELD stepped in. Akhter had little money, a small market and limited machines. They loaned her nearly 30,000 USD to expand. Since then, Glamour Boutique has employed over 50 women and consistently trains around 20 in tailoring and embroidery.

More than anything, the company is female-friendly. It helps to lift women out of poverty and give them a purpose and community. Additionally, she is sensitive to her employees having outside commitments. She offers short four-hour shifts for women who are enrolled in school, have children or have other situations warranting a flexible schedule.

Mussamad Nafiza, an employee at Glamour Boutique, testifies to the beauty of working there. She describes her own and others’ financial gain and independence as well as her dreams of opening a business similar to Akhter’s. Dipa Monjundar, a friend of Akhter’s and fellow small business owner, commends Akhter’s work and celebrates the economic empowerment of women across Bangladesh.

Next Steps

Although important, investing in women’s businesses is not the only way to help women achieve economic prosperity. Commitments from men and the government are essential. They need to respect, uphold and uplift women’s rights to sustainably change the way communities approach gender disparity.

Jessore’s mayor participated in several gender equality training sessions before starting any major projects. If other community leaders encourage participation in similar training courses, economic gender parity may no longer be a far-fetched dream.

Rebecca Blanke
Photo: Flickr

workers in BangladeshBangladesh’s economy is mostly dependent on the textile/garment industry. Garments account for around 80% of the country’s exports. Some 3.5 million workers in Bangladesh, 85% of which are women, work long hours with pay too low to support themselves and their families. Not only is the pay low but they also work in cramped, dangerous conditions without any financial protection. Majority-female workers are also subject to sexual harassment and other forms of sexism in the workplace.

Moreover, in the recent global climate, many factories have shut down resulting in layoffs, pay cuts and a struggling economy (not to mention workforce). Many of these factory workers are struggling to make ends meet; forced to figure out just how to survive. Here are three ways that the garment workers of Bangladesh are struggling.

3 Ways Garment Workers in Bangladesh Are Struggling

  1. Working conditions in sweatshops are hazardous and violate workers’ rights. These workers often work long hours and have little time between shifts. They have very little workspace as it is typically cramped with other workers. This makes for quite a dangerous working environment. Making matters worse, factory owners have taken strides to limit and prevent labor unions from forming, even though they are legal. These factory owners are suppressing their workers and taking advantage of the situation.
  2. The Covid-19 pandemic has greatly affected these laborers. Workers in the factories were struggling to get by — even before the pandemic closed many factories and lowered the level of garment exports. Many Western brands have canceled their orders from the factories due to decreased sales resulting from the pandemic. Western companies canceled their orders — a large percentage of them. This hurt both the factories and the workers. Factory owners are no longer able to pay their workers and 58% of factory owners reported having to shut down their factories because of such low demand. Management then consequently lays off many of these struggling workers. Without jobs, they have no way to support themselves and certainly not a family.
  3. Even though women account for 85% of the textile workforce in Bangladesh — they are still given neither the rights nor conditions they deserve. Women face sexual harassment and improper maternity leave. While the government guarantees maternity leave for at least 100 days for their first two children — one report noted that around 50% of all women interviewed in said report never enjoyed the proper break. Many of the women who do get maternity leave have to return to a lower position, regardless of the fact that it is illegal for companies to demote a woman simply because of maternity leave.

Organizations Making an Effort

Global Giving is a non-government organization that aims to educate women working in sweatshops and lift them out of poverty. The hope is that in turn, they would also encourage others to do the same by fighting for their rights. Global Giving is a great organization to support because not only does it directly improve the lives of individual women, it also helps women as a whole become more equal and independent. This may help women stray away from sweatshops.

Workers’ Rights

Bangladesh is facing widespread hardship within its working-class because of inadequate and unfair treatment. Adding to the already unsustainable pay — the global pandemic has caused even more layoffs and pay cuts than pre-outbreak outbreak times. The problem that existed before the pandemic was simply highlighted in these recent months. Sweatshop workers in Bangladesh are of course worthy of fair treatment and should receive the rights they deserve.

Samira Akbary
Photo: Flickr

Skateboarding is creating changeA skateboard for most children in the U.S. is just another toy, hobby or sport, but halfway around the world in Bangladesh, a simple skateboard deck and four wheels is becoming a beacon hope for the future. The organization Bangladesh Street Kids Aids (BSKA) for ten years now has used skateboarding as a way to connect with street children of Bangladesh.

There are approximately 600,000 children left homeless or at-risk on the city streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh, the country’s capital. And the harsh reality of the everyday lives of street children is reflected in the staggering 1.56 million children predicted to live on the streets by 2024. Most of these children face hunger, extreme and dangerous work conditions, drug abuse and a refusal of education on a daily basis. Many are forced to beg for food and in the entire country of Bangladesh, there is a daily average of 75 women and children sex-trafficked.

BSKA identifies these children and attempts to provide them with different resources that will guide them on a path of success through skateboarding, mentorship and education. There is a dark history of treating street children in Bangladesh as “non-human beings.” So another goal of BSKA is to instill a sense of confidence and interpersonal skills in the children that will allow them to be safe and successful in their futures and functioning members of society.

Different Ways BSKA is Making Change Through Skateboarding

  1. Skateboarding Lessons: BSKA’s skateboarding program is the second most popular service the organization offers, with their Drug Awareness and Mentorship program being the most popular. Skateboarding is creating change in the country of Bangladesh because the sport teaches discipline and determination. BSKA aims to provide its members with different skateboarding tricks within the program to boost their confidence in learning new skills, and the organization has seen many members now interacting with their community empathetically since participating in the program.
  2. Drug Awareness/Mentorship Program: According to the Bangladesh Human Rights Forum, 85% of street children in Bangladesh abused drugs in 2018. Now, skateboarding is creating change in the lives of these children because BSKA has taken it one step further and created a Drug Awareness/Mentorship Program. The program recognizes the exposure and proximity young children have to harmful drugs and began to educate their participants on the risks and consequences of drug abuse. Many street children have parents that abuse drugs themselves, which put them at a higher risk of drug use in general because of its accessibility. Also, many street children specifically in Dhaka, become addicted to inhalants to ease hunger aches and other pains. One of the most prevalent inhalants street children in Dhaka are addicted to is sniffing dendrite or glue. BSKA’s drug awareness program provides education on the adverse effects of this drug abuse and created an alternative outlet through sports teams to promote health and fitness for the country’s youth.
  3. Education: Street Children in Bangladesh are an extremely marginalized social group that lacks basic education. Many children cannot afford to attend a private school and most are often classified as “working” children and in turn, refused a public education. One of the most significant barriers street children face is that there is not a policy in Bangladesh’s government that requires 100% of children to be enrolled in school, and the National Child Policy 2011 and National Education Policy 2010 of Bangladesh exposed this flaw in the education system.

Now skateboarding is creating change in 800 Bangla children’s’ lives daily. Since the beginning of this year, BSKA has seen tangible improvements in the lives of street children through their education programs. Most of their participants are currently attending private schools, writing their names in Bangla and English, utilizing BSKA’s tutoring services and improving behavioral tendencies.

Skateboarding is becoming a popular phenomenon around the world and is recognized by millions as a legitimate sport. The 2021 Tokyo Olympic is even going to include skateboarding as an Olympic game. But BSKA sees that skateboarding is merely a stepping stone for underprivileged children and that this sport will lead them to more opportunities on a path of success and confidence.

Josie Collier
Photo: Flickr


For decades, Myanmar’s Rohingya minority has suffered from discrimination; in 2017, an ethnic cleansing began. Three years later, with more than a million Rohingya refugees forced from their homes, the International Court of Justice declared a way forward for Myanmar — Will there be justice for this Rohingya crisis?

The Persecution of the Rohingya

Forced from their homes, thousands of Rohingya, a Muslim minority in Myanmar, fled to Bangladesh. In 2017, Myanmar’s security forces attacked the ethnic minority in the western state of Rakhine, triggering the Rohingya crisis. Myanmar’s armed forces, otherwise known as the Tatmadaw, participated in abuses against the Rohingya, inciting massacres, gang rape, burning and looting. More than 700,000 Rohingya refugees fled to Bangladesh, while other Rohingya were internally displaced in Myanmar. Most fled without any belongings, so the refugees rely on Bangladesh’s refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar to provide life-saving assistance: food, water, healthcare, shelter and proper sanitation.

The U.N. considers this conflict to be an ethnic cleansing with “genocidal intent.” Yet the Rohingya had endured ethnic persecution for decades. In 1982, while Myanmar was governed by a military junta, the government passed a Citizenship Law stating that citizens in Myanmar could only be from certain ethnic groups — the Rohingya did not make this list. With their citizenship rights taken away, institutionalized discrimination began as the Rohingya were labeled as foreigners, illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Because of this, the Rohingya were often denied access to healthcare and education; permission was also needed before marrying or traveling to a different village. Now, for the thousands of refugees, returning to their country seems impossible. For the half-million Rohingya that remain in Myanmar, targets of laws and practices that overlook their abuse, the threat of genocide persists.

Will Myanmar be Held Accountable?

While Myanmar’s civilian government and its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, adamantly deny any ethnic persecution or cleansing, in January 2020 the International Court of Justice ruled that Myanmar must protect the Rohingya from persecution and prevent the destruction of any evidence related to the genocide allegations. The case was brought to the ICJ by The Gambia on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to advocate for the Rohingya Muslims, as Myanmar ignored previous international calls to investigate human rights violations.

With this ruling, Myanmar’s government is required to do everything possible to prevent the persecution, killing and any other bodily or mental harm of the Rohingya by the military or any other civilian group. For further accountability, Myanmar must submit a report to update the ICJ on its proceedings, and then send in additional reports every six months until the court is satisfied that the Rohingya crisis has ended. It will take several more years before the ICJ can determine whether Myanmar committed genocide.

However, the ICJ does not have enforcement power, which means that Myanmar faces a choice: to comply with the ICJ rulings or ignore them and continue the current treatment of the Rohingya. Aung San Suu Kyi believes that the case presented before the court showed “an incomplete and misleading factual picture” of the Rohingya crisis in Rakhine. She assured the ICJ that military leaders would be put on trial if found guilty; however, the court’s ruling suggests that the case was not misrepresented and that Suu Kyi’s assurances may not be fulfilled. Therefore, the future remains uncertain for the Rohingya.

Looking Forward

While it is up to Myanmar alone to comply with the ICJ, the international community can still pressure Myanmar to follow the court’s ruling. In 2019, Senator Benjamin Cardin introduced the Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act (S.1186) which aims to address the Rohignya’s humanitarian crisis. If passed, it will provide needed aid and help with resettlement. This aid will only be given once Myanmar and its military can prove they have made progress in keeping to international human rights standards. Showing support for this bill is key to get it through Congress, so contacting local representatives by calling or emailing is imperative.

The Special Rapporteur for Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, stated “it is not too late for the country to change course and reorient itself to transform into a democracy that embraces human rights for all.” They believe that by addressing issues of discrimination, implementing victim-centered justice mechanisms, rewriting laws and holding those who have violated human rights accountable, Myanmar can build a new future where the Rohingya are welcome, and the refugees, like Aziza, can return home without fear of persecution.

Zoe Padelopoulos
Photo: Flickr

HYDRO IndustriesWater is essential to life, but unfortunately, there are people all over the world who do not have access to clean water. Pollution, poverty and weak infrastructure are often the causes of a lack of clean water. The world’s poor population has often been obligated to travel great distances in order to get clean water. Dirty water often leads to unsanitary conditions and the spread of disease. Thousands die each year from diseases due to a lack of clean water. Fortunately, a company called HYDRO Industries has a new way to provide water to those in need all over the world.

HYDRO Industries

HYDRO Industries is partnering with BRAC, one of the biggest non-governmental organizations in the world, to bring clean water to Bangladesh. BRAC was founded in Bangladesh, so this is their way of giving back to the community. In Bangladesh, five million people lack access to safe water, and 85 million people do not have access to proper sanitation. The current setup is not working well enough, so a new way to provide water is needed. The two organizations plan to begin their operation in Bangladesh in the spring of 2020.

HYDRO Industries will provide its products and BRAC will use its connections with local communities to establish the water treatment plants. The project aims to help around 25,000 people in the first phase and then continue to improve their product and increase the number of people they are serving. HYDRO hopes to expand all over Bangladesh and neighboring Nepal and India.

How Important is Clean Water?

  • Almost 800 million people do not have access to safe water
  • Two billion people don’t have a good toilet to use
  • A child under five dies every two minutes because of dirty water and poor toilets
  • Every minute a newborn dies because of infections from an unsanitary environment and unsafe water
  • For every $1 invested in clean water, there is a $4 increase in productivity
  • Every day, women around the world spend 200 million hours collecting water
  • Almost 300,000 children under age five die annually from diarrheal diseases

The world’s poor population sometimes has to spend hours looking for clean water. If the water is no longer a worry, they will have more time to be productive and focus on their economy. Clean water also reduces the likelihood of disease. Better health and productivity can result in a better community in the world’s poorest places.

What Does HYDRO Do?

HYDRO is a Welsh tech company that creates innovative water treatment plants that can treat water and raise it to drinking standards. The company also uniquely treats the water. Instead of using chemicals to purify water, they use electric power, which makes the entire process more sustainable and effective than chemical-based purification.

Bangladesh is not the first place that HYDRO is planning on helping. In fact, the organization has already provided clean water to multiple poverty-stricken areas around the world. In 2016, HYDRO provided clean water for 82 East African villages. There the water treatment plants provided locals with 8.5 million liters of water every day.

Finding a new way to provide water to those in need is important to work. HYDRO Industries has an innovative method that could potentially help millions of people around the world. Using electric power, HYDRO’s water treatment units can provide water at levels above western standards. Clean water is such an immense benefit to people all over the world. Clean water helps people fight disease and death. Providing a consistent and clean source of water close to people’s homes makes communities more productive and provides a better chance of reducing poverty.

Gaurav Shetty
Photo: Flickr

rice farmer povertyRice is a universal food staple, featured in dishes from across the globe, feeding the rich and poor alike. It has the second-largest cereal market in the world, only second to corn. Over 470 million tons of rice were harvested in 2017, and that number continues to grow, with a harvest of 495.9 million tons predicted for the 2019 season.

Despite the massive rice market, many rice farmers live in poverty. Nine hundred million of the world’s poor depend on rice either as a consumer or producer, with 400 million directly engaged with growing rice. The majority of these farmers are based in Asia, the heart of the global rice market.

Technological Improvements Reduce Rice Farmer Poverty

The rice crop is notoriously demanding on the environment, requiring an immense volume of water, especially when grown at high intensity. Rice farming consumes over half the freshwater in Asia. Much of the focus on improving rice production lies in reducing the amount of water used. Organizations, such as the CGIAR Research Program, have advocated the use of alternate planting systems, such as the Alternate Wetting and Drying system (AWD), which can reduce water consumption by up to 30 percent.

Greater water efficiency means greater productivity for farmers. Production costs are lower, so farmers profit more from their harvest and can afford to sell their crop for less, allowing those in deep poverty to afford rice. AWD has been shown to increase farmer income by 38 percent in Bangladesh, 32 percent in the Philippines, and 17 percent in Vietnam.

Not Just Rice

Even in areas with a booming rice market, rice farmer poverty continues. The Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) spans six Asian countries, including China and Vietnam, and accounts for 44 percent of global rice exports. The six countries, save China, of these nations are net producers—they produce and export more rice than the nation can consume. Despite this, poverty stands at 19 percent across the GMS, and 15 percent of the population is malnourished.

There has been much improvement. GMS-member Cambodia, for example, has undergone a 35 percent decrease in poverty since 2004. However, much of it is unstable. Past expansions in the GMS rice-production have relied on favorable weather conditions, massive increases in farmland, and far-reaching use of fertilizer. These conditions are not favorable for agricultural or economic growth, with increases in land production outpacing that of productivity, 8.7 percent to 3.4 percent between 2004 and 2012.

The GMS and other rice-producing regions are now changing policy to focus on diversifying crops. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) encourages farmers to convert rice-rice and rice-wheat plants to rice-maize plants, which will allow farmers to optimize their resources, widen their range of income inputs, and reduce the risk of crop disease. Studies have shown that planting disease-vulnerable rice crop and disease-resistant crop together results in 89 percent greater yield.

This measure may also be needed in the more distant future. Though rice will always be a world staple, Asian consumers may begin to purchase more vegetables and meat as they grow wealthier, decreasing the world demand for rice.

Genetic Modifications

With rice featuring so heavily in the global diet, rice developers have prioritized the quality of rice grown, both in resilience, and health benefits. The Research Program on Rice and IRRI both work to improve the quality of rice seeds provided to rice farmers. In Africa, AfricaRice has lifted 8 million out of poverty with their improved seed quality.

By using a greater variety of improved seeds, farmers of 16 sub-Saharan countries were able to vastly improve their yields. Forty-five percent of farmers saw themselves lifted out of food insecurity following the 2008 food crisis.

Improvements in agriculture and the betterment of rice farmer poverty go hand in hand, and as one improves, the other will, as well. There’s been significant progress already, with the rice market acting as an escape from food insecurity for millions. There is still much work to be done, but organizations like the IRRI make steady progress to a healthier, wealthier world.

– Katie Hwang
Photo: Flickr

Combating Poverty with Renewable EnergyIn the modern era, more than a billion people around the world live without power. Energy poverty is an ongoing problem in nations like Liberia where only about 2 percent of the population has regular access to electricity. The World Bank explains that “poor people are the least likely to have access to power, and they are more likely to remain poor if they stay unconnected.”

With the new global threat of climate change, ending poverty means developing renewable energy that will power the world without harming it. Here are five countries combating poverty with renewable energy.

5 Countries Combating Poverty with Renewable Energy

  1. India plans to generate 160 gigawatts of power using solar panels by 2022. According to the Council on Energy, Environment and Water and the Natural Resources Defense Council India must create an estimated 330,000 jobs to achieve this goal. With this new effort to expand access to renewable energy, East Asia is now responsible for 42 percent of the new renewable energy generated throughout the world.
  2. Rwanda is another nation combating poverty with renewable energy. The country received a Strategic Climate Fund Scaling Up Renewable Energy Program Grant of $21.4 million in 2017 to bring off-grid electricity to villages across the country. Mzee Vedaste Hagiriryayo, 62, is one of the many residents who have already benefited from this initiative. While previously the only energy Hagiriryayo knew was wood and kerosene, he gained access to solar power in June of 2017. He told the New Times, “Police brought the sun to my house and my village; the sun that shines at night.” Other residents say it has allowed children to do their homework at night and entrepreneurs to build grocery stores for the village.
  3. Malawi’s relationship with windmills started in 2002 when William Kamkwamba, famous for the book and Netflix film “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind,” built his first windmill from scrap materials following a drought that killed his family’s crops for the season. Kamkwamba founded the Moving Windmill Project in 2008 with the motto, “African Solutions to African Problems.” Today the organization has provided solar water pumps to power water taps that save residents the time they had once spent gathering water. Additionally, it has added solar power internet and electricity to local high schools in order to combat poverty with renewable energy.
  4. Brazil has turned to an energy auction system for converting their energy sources over to renewable energy. Contracts are distributed to the lowest bidders with a goal of operation by the end of six years. Brazilian agency Empresa de Pesquisa Energetica (EPE) auctioned off 100.8 GW worth of energy on September 26, 2019. EPE accepted 1,829 solar, wind, hydro and biomass projects to be auctioned off at the lowest prices yet.
  5. Bangladesh is turning to small-scale solar power in order to drastically improve their access to energy. These low-cost home systems are bringing electricity to low-income families who would otherwise be living in the dark. The nation now has the largest off-grid energy program in the world, connecting about 5.2 million households to solar power every year, roughly 12 percent of the population.

With one in seven people living without electricity around the world, ending energy poverty could be the key to ending world poverty. The story of renewable energy around the world is one that is not only tackling climate change but also thirst, hunger and the income gap. According to Jordan’s Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, Imad Najib Fakhoury, “Our story is one of resilience and turning challenges into opportunities. With all honesty it was a question of survival, almost of life and death.” With lower costs and larger access, renewable energy is not only the future of environmental solutions but the future of development for countries all around the world.

Maura Byrne
Photo: Flickr

Poverty and Patriarchy
While poverty and patriarchy may seem like separate issues, the two connect deeply. As long as poverty exists, women’s rights and livelihoods will suffer. Likewise, women’s oppression leads to their inability to contribute to the economy and prevents a family’s escape from cycles of poverty. Here are some examples from around the world of poverty and patriarchy reinforcing each other, and some ways humanitarian aid can improve these situations.

Microcredit in Bangladesh Has Left Millions of Women At High Risk For Domestic Violence

From the 1980s to the mid-2000s, people thought that micro-loans would be the future of international development. In Bangladesh, most of these loans went to women on the belief that women could handle money more responsibly than their male counterparts. They received a small amount of money to invest in materials to start a business and earn an independent livelihood in order to bring their families financial stability. Unfortunately, when these women were unsuccessful at lifting their families out of poverty and their families plunged into greater debt as a result of the loans, they often suffered spousal abuse. For other women, as soon as they received the money, the men and their families took it and used it, leaving them to pay off the loans by themselves. As a whole, micro-credit has not had the intended impact on the people of Bangladesh that the international community once hoped for, and rates of violence against women have climbed, increasing the correlation between poverty and patriarchy

Solution: Investing in women’s education will provide them with the knowledge they need to become financially independent and ensure greater legal protection for victims of domestic violence could greatly combat this issue.

Poverty As a Weapon Against Women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Sixty-one percent of women living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo live in poverty, compared to only fifty-one percent of men. This is because people have systematically excluded women from peace-building efforts in the country. Because there are no women’s voices at the decision-making table, countries set policies that prioritize men, often at women’s expense. Disturbingly, women’s rights activists in the country are often a target for violence. Many think that those who advocate for women-centered poverty-relief efforts are distracting from larger issues within the country.

Solution: Studies that researchers conducted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo demonstrate that in areas with high levels of poverty, there are high levels of violence against women. Providing food security, as well as funding institutions and organizations to empower women, are important steps in relieving both poverty and oppression in the DRC.

Time Poverty Makes it Nearly Impossible for Indian Women to Contribute to the Economy

In India, the average man works seven hours per day. Although women usually work for nine hours a day, the vast majority of their labor is unpaid housework and childminding. This means that they have little time to earn any outside wages, and therefore, remain financially dependent on the men in their families.  The power dynamic that this situation creates is extremely dangerous. Women lose any agency they may have because they depend on their fathers, husbands or brothers for everything. This means that they have no power to go against their male relative’s wills. It also hurts the Indian economy, as women have little ability to contribute to it.

Solution: In rural India, women spend upwards of four hours each day gathering fuel and cleaning utensils to cook with. Providing them with solar or electric cookers could save them three hours of unpaid labor, giving them more time to do what they want to do or contribute to the economy as an untapped workforce.

These examples display just how poverty and patriarchy intertwine and push women and their families into poverty. If women could gain an education, receive food security or use alternative cooking equipment to limit labor, they might be able to improve their situation and lift themselves out of poverty.

Gillian Buckley
Photo: Wikimedia

Tropical Cyclones in Bangladesh Monsoon season in the Bay of Bengal usually lasts from June to September and can be characterized by sudden, violent downpours of torrential rain. These heavy rains are integral to the climate and culture of this part of the world, but can also pose a threat to lives and infrastructure when storms become severe. In the Chittagong Hill Tracts region of Bangladesh, monsoon rains and cyclones can trigger landslides on the steep, uneven ground. These landslides have become increasingly deadly in recent years. Substantial landslides in the second half of the 20th century typically recorded few to no deaths. This changed by the turn of the century: in the 2007 and 2017 landslides, 136 and 170 people died, respectively. Landslides in Bangladesh are becoming deadlier and the government must take measures to prevent further loss of life.

Rapid and Unplanned Urbanization

With an urbanization rate of 3.17 percent, Bangladesh has experienced a large amount of internal migration. People who seek better job and educational opportunities are moving to urban areas. Urbanization itself is not a bad thing, but problems can arise when local governments do not utilize appropriate city planning measures. For example, 21.3 percent of Bangladesh’s urban population lived below the poverty line in 2010, and 62 percent of the urban population lived in slums in 2009. These statistics reflect an inability to accommodate a quick, large influx of people.

In the Chittagong Hill Tracts region, unplanned urbanization can be deadly. People seeking land in the area often end up settling on the hills just outside of urban centers. Building is supposed to be prohibited on these landslide-prone areas, but zoning is typically not enforced and people ignore the warnings. The Department of Energy found that there are about 2,000 families in the area currently at high risk.

Indigenous Displacement and Land Conflict

Land in the Chittagong Hill Tracts has a contentious history. Groups of indigenous people in Bangladesh have long fought for rights and protections that the federal government is reluctant to give. In the 1970s, an indigenous guerilla group launched an insurgency on settlers who were encroaching on their territory. The 1980s saw no more protection for indigenous lands, but a large influx of Bengali settlers moved to the area as part of a government-supported migration effort. Violence has since persisted between landless Bengali settlers building in the hills and indigenous communities who once called the area home.

Indigenous communities in Bangladesh suffer disproportionately from land conflicts and lack of governmental support. It is estimated that about 90,000 indigenous people were displaced as a result of the conflict, with many families setting up temporary structures on the steep and unstable slopes. Amnesty International has called on the Bangladeshi government to be more proactive in recognizing indigenous rights, but concrete progress on the issue remains evasive.

Increased Cost of Building Materials

Because many indigenous communities have lived in the Chittagong Hill Tracks for generations, they have the knowledge necessary to allow them to build homes that are less vulnerable to landslides in Bangladesh. Ideally, homes on these slopes would be stilted so that mud and water can pass underneath without causing damage. The increased cost of lightweight building material like bamboo, however, has recently made this practice much more expensive. When families cannot afford materials to stilt their homes, they are forced to build on the ground and in the path of landslides. These ground-level homes can also make the hills more unstable, as digging increases the amount of loose earth on the slopes.

Increased Storm and Monsoon Intensity

Monsoons have been changing in recent years. Increasingly, rain comes in powerful torrential downpours that may only last a few days but can dump as much water as would previously be recorded over the span of a month. This pattern is likely to increase the frequency of dangerous landslides as water has less time to seep into groundwater deposits.

Cyclones, known in North America as hurricanes, are single storm systems that form over the ocean and carry rain and wind to land along the coast. Only about 5 percent of the world’s tropical cyclones form over the Bay of Bengal. However, out of 10 cyclones that recorded very high loss of life, five were in Bangladesh. This statistic reflects the vulnerability of people living on the exposed hill tracts.

Measures Being Taken

Local governments have recently been more proactive about implementing storm warning and evacuation systems in vulnerable areas. Only 11 people died from landslides last year, which is significantly less than the 170 landslide fatalities in 2017. However, in the Chittagong Hill Tracts district, there are no official storm shelters. This means that during periods of evacuation, government-run buildings such as radio and TV stations must accommodate people fleeing their homes. These buildings sheltered about 4,000 people last year. Official storm shelters would be better equipped to handle the increasing number of people fleeing storm damage.

The Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC) is recommending that until more concrete preventative measures can be taken, schools and faith-based organizations should work to prepare and educate communities about the dangers of landslides in Bangladesh. If people living on the slopes of the Chittagong Hill Tracts cannot avoid landslides, they may have to learn how to adapt to them.

– Morgan Johnson
Photo: Flickr

Countries being helped by the UNDPThe United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is a U.N. network that aims to eliminate poverty, increase resilience in poor communities, improve access to education and develop policies in struggling countries. One of the UNDP’s major projects is the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This project focuses on 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including no poverty, zero hunger, quality education, clean water and sanitation and climate action.

The UNDP works with multiple struggling countries around the globe to meet these goals. Out of the 170 countries and territories being aided, below is a list of eight countries being helped by the UNDP.

8 Developing Countries Being Helped by the UNDP

  1. Nigeria: Nigeria is home to the highest number of people in poverty in the world, making it one of the poorest countries being helped by the UNDP. Due to this, the UNDP’s main focus in Nigeria is eradicating poverty. Since a large percentage of the poor population are farmers, the UNDP is working to make agricultural progress in communities and addressing challenges faced in terms of sustainability. In addition, the UNDP is working to create more jobs and improve access to sustainable energy sources.
  2. Afghanistan: A large part of Afghanistan’s population faces issues with the quality of life. The UNDP in Afghanistan aims to fight extreme poverty and inequality for the most vulnerable. Significant progress has already been made in terms of education. In 2001, only 70,000 school-aged children in Afghanistan were attending school. Currently, eight million children are attending school. The UNDP worked with the Ministry of Economy in Afghanistan in 2015 to spread the importance of Sustainable Development Goals for the country.
  3. Nepal: Nepal is one of the poorest countries in Asia. Due in part to the UNDP’s efforts in Nepal, major progress has been made in terms of eliminating poverty. Within four years, the country has reduced the poverty rate from 25.2 percent in 2011 to 21.6 percent in 2015. Specific goals the UNDP has for Nepal include building resilience against natural disasters, improving education access and improving access to basic resources such as electricity and clean water.
  4. Côte d’Ivoire: Through the anti-poverty program that was established by the UNDP, more than a quarter of a million people’s lives have significantly improved in Côte d’Ivoire. Through this initiative, 62 community organizations received monetary donations, project funding and vocational training to help them progress and reach their goals. In terms of agricultural issues, due to this program, fishing equipment has become more easily available and affordable. In addition, crop diversity has increased, providing more income and food options.
  5. Syria: Syria is a war-torn, impoverished country. As a result, Syrian people face issues with access to basic needs. This includes housing, access to necessary services and basic needs for women and the disabled. In 2018, the UNDP introduced the UNDP-Syria Resilience Programme, that focuses on improving the livelihood of such vulnerable groups. Through this project, more than 2.8 million Syrians were able to receive aid and benefits. These interventions have also produced benefits on a larger scale, including the creation of jobs, productive assets distribution and vocational training.
  6. Thailand: A large percentage of Thailand’s population lives in rural areas. Major problems for the rural poor include human rights issues, considerable economic inequality and weak rule of law. In Thailand, the UNDP is supporting and providing aid to ongoing projects and operations dedicated to problems being faced by its citizens. A major program the UNDP is supporting is the Thailand Country Program which focuses on environmental regulation and economic development. The UNDP is also working with the Thai Royal Government.
  7. Bangladesh: One of the biggest problems faced by Bangladesh is natural disaster risk. The UNDP started a project in January 2017 which is an ongoing collaboration with the National Resilience Program, the government, the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and U.N. Women. It aims to develop strategies to create lasting resilience against unpredictable natural disasters, shocks, and crisis, that strongly impact the poor community. Specific aims of the project include strengthening communities, improving recovery and response to disasters and local disaster management.
  8. The Philippines: Approximately 25 percent of the Philippines lives in poverty. The UNDP’s projects in the Philippines include development planning, policymaking and implementing sustainable practices. One of the main aims of the UNDP is to localize poverty reduction and increase community involvement. The UNDP is also going about development planning in a way that will include increasing the use of natural resources in a sustainable manner while reducing poverty.

– Nupur Vachharajani
Photo: Flickr