• Salinity invading water bodies, exposing women to diseases
  • After losing homes to cyclones, families try to marry off girls
  • Many forced to live dangerously on embankments
  • Women having to walk miles to get drinking water

Climate change is making it increasingly harder for coastal women to ensure reproductive health and tackle early marriages and domestic violence.

The woes of coastal women were revealed in a webinar titled “Women Breaking the Bias for Climate Justice”, organised by ActionAid Bangladesh yesterday, ahead of International Women’s Day.

Taking part in the webinar, Josna Rani Mondol, a coastal woman from Satkhira’s Shyamnagar upazila, said even though the place of her people was surrounded by water, not a single drop was drinkable.

She said salinity has engulfed everything, from drinking water to crop production, disrupting their daily life. The crisis drives males of the families to go elsewhere in search of work, which makes girls more vulnerable to several issues.

“Salinity invades local ponds during storm surges. We are forced to use saline water for daily chores, which exposes us to many diseases. The treatment cost has also burdened our lives,” she explained.

Josna said they travel two to three miles to fetch drinking water, which hinders them from doing household chores like cooking and cleaning. This predicament also leads to domestic violence, as males quite often beat their wives for not cooking on time.

Eminent climate-change expert Prof Saleemul Huq said the impact of climate change on women and children is enormous. “I will reveal the story of our women’s struggle in the next COP. No matter which country or city we live in, we all must take equal responsibility to fight climate change.”

From her experience, ActionAid Project Manager Taslima Akther said after losing their homes to cyclones, many families desperately try to marry off their girls, due to security concerns.

Mahbuba Nasreen, pro vice-chancellor of Bangladesh Open University, said, “To fight the impacts of climate change, we have to show examples of women’s resilience, which will enable us to adapt further.”

Eminent architect Marina Tabassum said, “We have to adopt a sustainable water-management policy, through which we will be able to hold water in many ways.”

Runa Khan, founder and executive director of Friendship, Nujulee Begum, protection lead at ActionAid, and Syeda Jaferi Husain, consultant at World Bank Group, also spoke in the webinar, moderated by Farah Kabir, country director of ActionAid Bangladesh.

Later, four women were awarded “Nasreen Smriti Padak” for contributions in their respective fields.

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