When 26-year-old Jahanara Begum, mother of 11-year-old Jahid and his six-year-old sister Mourani, saw the text message on her outdated mobile phone, she was preparing lunch for her family of six, including her in-laws.
Due to her limited knowledge of English, she could not figure out the exact meaning of the bank’s message. But her grade-4 school education allowed her to identify the number.
She immediately linked the number, BDT 16,800.00 ($210), with a training on sheep-rearing that she received a month back along with a few other women from her village.
The livelihoods training was provided by Local Government Initiative on Climate Change (LoGIC), a project of United Nations Development Programme, supported by EU, Sida, UNCDF and the Bangladesh government.
The project works with over 17,000 such unprivileged women in the hardest to reach climate vulnerable areas in seven districts, namely, Khulna, Bagerhat, Barguna, Patuakhali, Bhola, Sunamganj and Kurigram.
Jahanara swiftly went to her neighbor, a graduate from Chilmari college, for confirmation and within minutes she was out the door and running through the village path screaming “teha aise, teha aise” (money has arrived, money has arrived).
A resident of Notarkandi village beside the mighty river Brahmaputra in Ashtomir char Union of Chilmari Upazila under Kurigram, she never even dreamt of having a bank account in her own name let alone receive funding through it.
Although, Bangladesh has long been a success story for women’s financial inclusion, where 90% of the 21 million clients served by Micro Financial Institutions (MFIs) are women, a large segment of population is still deprived of the basic financial services in Bangladesh despite the expansion of the formal bank network.
And in terms of access to formal financial services, 35% of women in Bangladesh hold a bank account, which is again above the regional average for South Asia (Global Findex 2017).
However, it shows that banks have been unable to reach the unprivileged population, especially in the hardest to reach areas.
Jahanara received the training on adaptive livelihood options from the LoGIC project and learnt about the cause of negative impact of climate change on livelihood.
Upon confirmation of her selection, she opened her bank account along with other women in her group with support from the project.
She also has a plan with her peers for Sheep Rearing as one of the suitable adaptive livelihood initiatives and has been eagerly waiting to start her business.
However, until she received the message about the money being deposited in her account, she was in a kind of confusion, a kind of disbelief.
LoGIC under its Community Resilience Fund (CRF) provides grants to those trained women who need it the most.
Jahanara Begum is now a proud bank account holder. This is not mere a bank account but an identity for her – the very first step for her empowerment and way to be resilient.
However, Jahanara is not entirely happy as there are many more women in her village who she thinks are equally vulnerable like her but have not been selected for the grant yet.
LoGIC is on its path towards mobilizing more resources to cover all the vulnerable households to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change through financial empowerment.