“A woman of good repute does not go and sell things in a market, particularly in the evening.” This sentiment, found across thousands of rural villages dotting Bangladesh’s river deltas, is at odds with the leading role women play in the economy here. Women are the pillars of production, tending farms, harvesting and processing crops, and raising animal—not to mention managing the household and rearing children.
Yet while women labour, men manage the money. This economic imbalance puts women at a distinct disadvantage.
Now, climate change is making women’s second-tier social position even more untenable.
20 years ago, Rangpur district in northern Bangladesh was prone to seasonal drought, with lands often falling fallow. In recent years, rainfall and floods have forced the women in this village to make some hard choices.
Hauwa and Sabina are longtime friends and neighbours who live in a village called Shakarpur in Rangpur. As the incessant rain pummels their home and surrounding land, they must make the choice between building a stronger “pucca” house, made from bricks and concrete or paying for electricity so their daughters can study when darkness falls.
In Bangladesh, demand for electricity outstrips supply. More than a quarter of the rural population still lacks access to electricity and relies on fuelwood and kerosene for energy.
While men transport firewood, women collect, sort and burn it for cooking, leaving them more exposed to indoor air pollution.
This indoor air pollution contributes to over 49,000 premature deaths per year in Bangladesh and adds to the flow of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
More sun for everyone
Navigating these hard choices lies at the heart of resilience. But Hauwa, Sabina and the Government of Bangladesh are taking a #SolveDifferent approach that addresses all of these challenges at once.
For many households that have fallen through the cracks of public energy access, solar energy has come to the rescue. The government has joined hands with private sector and development organizations to provide solar panels and associated technologies to communities at subsidized rates.
For Sabina, the choice to switch from kerosene lamps to solar was an easy one. A freak fire from a fallen lamp is still a raw memory for her. With solar powered lamps, she now breathes easy. Energy from the solar panel lights up two rooms in her house and helps her run a television, charge mobile phones and power basic kitchen appliances, that have eased her domestic burden.Read more