Status of Women in Bangladesh
The patriarchal system in place in Bangladesh controls women’s roles and responsibilities, mobility, and sexuality. Women’s status tends to be derived from their family, and they are generally seen as economic dependents, while high value is placed on sons as potential family providers and perpetrators of family names (Goetz and Gupta, 1996). There is an emphasis on women’s reproductive value and consequently less access to higher education for girls. The responsibilities of women tend to focus on family maintenance and the existence of succeeding generations (Jahan, 1975). Within the household, decision-making and control of resources are generally in the hands of men (Kabeer, 1991).
The majority of rural women workers are involved in the informal sector and subsistence activities (GOB, XXYY). However, increasing poverty and reduced familial support have driven more women into the formal sector, usually in low-paid tedious jobs. Women who work in the formal sector generally do not receive an equitable wage, and upward mobility is limited, meaning that employment does not necessarily lift them out of poverty (ASK-BMP-STD, 2004). With decreasing profitability in small-scale agriculture (including its sub-sectors), an increasing number of men are moving away from such a livelihoods, with a corresponding increase in women’s participation by 108 per cent between 2000-01 to 2005-06 (Neelormi and Ahmed, 2011). Despite the social norms, patriarchal hindrances, and inequity in wages and opportunities women’s roles in formal agriculture based livelihoods have been on the rise.
Government and NGO interventions to address gender issues have generally focused on education, family planning and gender, with some success. However, despite positive steps at the policy level, gender discrimination is widespread, and women, particularly poor women, are often not aware of their rights (Asaduzzaman et al., 2007). Women’s participation in politics and economic activities is limited, and social taboos and religious practices are highly discriminatory towards women.
Official statistics on health, nutrition, education, employment and political participation demonstrate gender discrimination (World Bank, 2008).
Climate Variability, Climate Change and Gender issues:
Initial attempts to link gender and climate change may seem rather far-fetched. There have been only a few research works to establish this linkage (Ahmed et al., 2007a; Ikeda, 1995; Neelormi, 2010). Most of the approaches towards tackling the threats of climate change focus on scientific and technological aspects of the problem, ignoring the social issues. In at-risk resource-dependent communities, men and women have distinct roles and responsibilities, which give rise to differences in vulnerability and ability to cope with climate change.
Gender, or the distinct social roles assigned to men and women, is a critical part of all development initiatives. A gender analysis is not a special focus on women, but rather, an understanding on how discrimination against women and gender roles interact to shape men and women’s enjoyment of human dignity, rights, as well as quality of living. In the context of climate change, a ‘gender analysis’ promotes an understanding of the ways that men and women are differently impacted by climate-related hazards and by adopting adaptation and mitigation strategies.
The contexts of vulnerability to climate change in Bangladesh are somewhat different for women, since they have lesser financial means and decision-making power than their male counterparts to respond to climate-driven stresses (Ahmed et al., 2007a). Moreover, as being the household manager women have to bear the burden of meeting the needs of the family, even when fighting against adversities. Most climate change issues, policies and programs are not gender neutral. In light of this, several areas deserve attention, specifically: gender specific resource-use patterns; gender specific effects of climate change; gender related patterns of vulnerability; women’s capacity to cope with climate change; gender and decision-making on climate change; and gender aspects of mitigation and adaptation.
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