This year, Christian Aid Week is focussing on a country our congregation knows quite a lot about. Bangladesh. The People’s Republic of Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated and disaster-prone countries in the world. The country has a population of over 160 million people, of which 80 percent in rural areas and depend largely on agriculture for their livelihoods.
According to the World Bank’s 2010 data, approximately 43% of people still live under the poverty line (less than $1.25 a day). Women are amongst the most marginalised and subjugated in all spheres of society.
Bangladesh has made considerable progress in reducing poverty. However, many challenges remain due to corruption, poor governance and an over-dependency on natural resources, the status of women in Bangladeshi society and the impact of climate change.
Extreme temperatures, erratic rainfall, and an increasing number of floods, cyclones and droughts pose considerable challenges. Especially because the country is already highly vulnerable to natural hazards due to its geographical location, land characteristics, many rivers and monsoon climate.
Natural disasters are invariably accompanied by a heavy loss of life, property, income and household belongings. These events serve only to push vulnerable groups and communities further into a cycle of poverty.
It is a small group of elites with vested interests who hold power in Bangladesh – a trend that is evident even at the local level. Often people lack any meaningful opportunity to contribute to the governance process and in rural areas citizens’ participation in democracy has been further narrowed by traditional power structures.
Among the marginalised groups in Bangladesh, women are the most vulnerable and lack most forms of power: political, social or economic. Even though the government is committed to protecting the rights of minorities, discrimination against some groups is often shown by their low involvement in the decision making that ultimately affects their lives.
Christian Aid partners in Bangladesh are committed to improving the lives and livelihoods of marginalised people and communities. Whether that is, for example, supporting dairy farmers to improve their yields, training communities on growing crops in areas affected by climate change or ensuring women participate fully in vital decisions that shape their lives.
Our programme promotes access to just and equitable resources and supports the creation of resilient and thriving livelihoods. Christian Aid Week is 15th-21st May 2016.