Cyclone Roanu is a reminder: we must focus on preventing crises, even as we respond to them

23 May 2016

Bangladesh’s exposure to cyclones will not lessen – in fact, with climate change we may see the coast battered more often, harder, and in unpredictable ways. UNDP Bangladesh
As the World Humanitarian Summit unfolds and leaders discuss the humanitarian impact of rising crises and disasters, half a million people are currently displaced after Cyclone Roanu pummeled the Bangladesh coastline on Saturday, with 55mph winds and floodwaters several feet high. Making landfall in the country’s south-east, the cyclone brought devastation to areas unaffected by cyclones for the past 25 years. Where there used to be crops there is now salt water – the sea surrounding even the cyclone shelter. We are already on the ground in Banshkali, the hardest-hit area and the site of 7 of the 24 confirmed deaths caused by cyclone. The embankment protecting the people living there caved in, flooding homes, crops, and freshwater fish ponds.   Meeting with survivors and surveying the damage, our team learnt that in some areas, as many as ninety percent of houses may be damaged, leaving families without shelter for the oncoming monsoon season. Many are now sheltering on a raised road nearby.   Further south, in the sub-district Chokoria, the embankment had not been fully reconstructed following last year’s Cyclone Komen. On Saturday, the community was again inundated by Roanu. The poor recovery left the villages even more vulnerable than … Read more

Re-writing the Future: Celebrating women leadership in the urban slums of Bangladesh

08 Mar 2016

Khadija Begum—an independent woman from an extremely poor family living in the urban slums of Gopalgonj—took over her new leadership role as a Councilor for Gopalganj Pourashava.  Khadija is the women in the middle wearing a grey scarf.Khadija Begum—an independent woman from an extremely poor family living in the urban slums of Gopalgonj—took over her new leadership role as a Councilor for Gopalganj Pourashava. Khadija is the women in the middle wearing a grey scarf.
“I am very excited that the people trusted me with community leadership! I am now working for the poor to prove myself worthy of their trust. I am focusing on key challenges in my community, such as eliminating violence against women, preventing early marriages, supporting disabilities and promoting children’s education. I am also a member of the Women Development Committee and I believe that unity among women can turn all challenges into opportunities.” Khadija succeeded over adversity through her hard work and determination. Key to realizing her potential was the availability of the right kind of support. Starting out as an extremely poor woman living in an urban slum that afforded no jobs or opportunities, she is now an elected councilor working to improve lives in the community and helping women and girls overcome poverty- and gender-based challenges in Bangladesh.   “I always wanted to become a leader, but I didn’t know how. Before joining the programme (Urban Partnership for Poverty Reduction), I was only a labourer with a seven-year-old disabled daughter. There was no platform for my voice to be heard. My husband and I worked as cooks in the Bangabandhu college canteen to support the family. However, our daily earnings … Read more

‘Can I Get a Witness’: evidentiary and procedural issues that delay the administration of justice in Bangladesh

25 Nov 2015

"Justice delayed is justice denied” – William E. Gladstone The effective delivery of justice in any given system requires the smooth-functioning of courts and the competent management of cases by all actors involved. A weak link in this justice chain could very easily cause fragmentation of the entire system, leading to low confidence in the formal justice system and injustice. The dire state of affairs has arguably been reached in Bangladesh where the disposal time can extend to 10 years in land cases and litigants lose an average daily income of USD 5.4 (Tk. 428) needlessly attending court through an average of 60 adjournments; it is estimated that the average litigants spends an average of USD 1500 pursuing a case through the formal system which dramatically impacts the accessibility of this system given  almost half the population (43.3%) continue to live below USD 1.25 a day. The UNDP has been working to address some of these problems through projects supported by the Supreme Court to try and address the case backlog which is estimated at 2.86 million, and has partnered with the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs to try and foster greater communication, cooperation, and coordination amongst justice system … Read more

Sisters Doin' It for Themselves

01 Nov 2015

The women of the Berra Women’s Community Policing Forum. Photo - UNDPThe women of the Berra Women’s Community Policing Forum. Photo - UNDP
The challenges in increasing access to justice for women in Bangladesh can seem daunting. In all spheres of contemporary Bangladeshi life, women still face discrimination, exclusion, and injustice and have negligible influence in decision-making processes. Their inferior status can be traced to the patriarchal values entrenched in society, which keep women subjugated, assigns them a subordinate and dependent role, and, prevents them from accessing power and resources. Men hold the power and resources within families and control most of the property and family income. Women are still often considered as men’s property, with their sexual activity, income and labour being systematically controlled by the men in their family. Although women are increasingly joining the workforce (particularly in areas such as garment production), social expectations of women still pivot around child rearing and household management. Widespread violence against women also contributes to their social vulnerability and prevents them from fully participating in society; it has been reported that 87 per cent of currently married women have experienced physical violence by their current husband and more than 40 per cent of women on average indicated that they had first forced sex at age 14 and below by non-partners.  In spite of these alarming … Read more

Partnerships for Peace – Dignity for All

21 Sep 2015

Each year the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on the 21 September. The United Nations General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples. The theme of this year’s commemoration is “Partnerships for Peace – Dignity for All” which aims to highlight the importance of all segments of society to work together to strive for harmony – whether it be government, private sector or civil society groups – peace and development that leaves no-one behind. Bangladesh has been a stand out performer not just in economic growth but in poverty alleviation too.  Growth is steady at 6.25% and at the same time poverty has fallen from 56.7 percent in 1991-92 to 31.5 percent in 2010.  The under-five mortality rate has been reduced, significant progress has been made in attaining gender parity at primary and secondary schools, and remarkable improvements have been made in the areas of poverty reduction. This was reflected in a 2010 Household Income and Expenditure Survey indicated that incidences of poverty are declining at a rate of 2.47 percent per year since 1991/92.  But the growth and progress seen across … Read more