There is a strong perception that women are disproportionately affected by disasters. What are the reasons behind this?
Climate change is not a gender-neutral phenomenon, and I would like to point out some critical issues that we need to consider. Men and women have different relationships with the environment; therefore, environmental degradation has different impacts on men and women.
In South Asian society, we see a clear gender division of labor and roles. For example, women’s household responsibilities make them more dependent on natural resources for livelihoods, so as the climate continues to change, we need to keep in mind women’s access or control over natural resources.
More issues to consider are women’s land rights, economic and social conditions, legal constraints, limited support services, the feminization of poverty, and the fact that there are fewer women in decision-making positions.
Bangladesh is considered a leader in disaster preparedness, management, and response. Do you think the vulnerability gaps between women and other groups are also reducing because of overall progress?
Women in the country have already been sensitized to climate change, and they are taking many actions thanks to a combination of government and non-government initiatives. They are more prepared for small-scale disasters at the housing and community levels.
Women are also engaged in early warning systems, awareness raising, community and capacity-building activities, and income-generating initiatives as well. One example is the Cyclone Preparedness Centre which has helped Bangladesh manage cyclone preparedness and resilience quite well.
Women are not merely the victims of climate change or disaster; they are actually the active agents of change.
What would be your recommendations for ensuring that future programs are gender-responsive?
Rural-to-urban migration is a socioeconomic consequence of climate change, and usually, men are the first to move due to any kind of disaster, therefore requiring women to take over more household responsibilities.
In Bangladesh, we have a very good gender action plan for climate change, and all government institutions and partners should use this as a base for their activities, policy development, and programs.