Urban poor women can lead the way
Speakers at a roundtable yesterday said urban poor women can play a leadership role in disaster and risk management in their communities if they are provided with proper training and support.
They urged the government to identify urban poor women's problems and strengthen their capacity so that they can come forward to prevent disasters during crisis period.
CARE Bangladesh and The Daily Star arranged the roundtable on “Rethink Resilience: Women -- Driving Force in Building Urban Resilience” at The Daily Star Centre in the capital.
In the discussion, the speakers referred to a project, “Building Resilience of the Urban Poor (BRUP)” -- conducted by CARE Bangladesh, in Tongi and Konabari of Gazipur city where women of lower-income group had set examples of resilience, for instance, proper water management, and reducing risk of fire.
Baseline report of the project, which is going on since 2015, identified that poor women are exposed to flood, earthquake and hazards like waterlogging, fire, and environmental pollution.
About 8,000 households were benefited from the BRUP project, said Biswojit Kumar Roy, senior technical manager of the project.
Nurjahan Akhter Sheuly, who lives in Tongi, said after disastrous fire at Tampaco Foils factory in September 2016, she worked as a volunteer and helped fire victims initially.
Parveen Akter, who lives at a slum in Tongi, said she learned how to manage and share water properly among the community members. “Now I have been tasked with managing water in my community,” she said.
Gawher Nayeem Wahra, convener of Bangladesh Disaster Forum, said many poor women live in slums in Dhaka city. They are highly vulnerable to fire and earthquake. But little has been done to this end and for their safety.
Terming the government's civil defence mechanism largely ineffective, he said, “We have to think how we can revive civil defence because remaining cautious about fire is important than dousing it.”
Dilruba Haider, programme specialist, UN Women Bangladesh, said urban women come from different regions as they struggle to build a community. “Creating a social cohesion among them is vital”.
Mostafa Quaium Khan, adviser, Bangladesh Urban Forum, said members of the local government bodies have to play a vital role in creating awareness about the issue. Students can also be included in the process, he opined.
Traditionally, poor women are well capable of tackling natural disasters in the rural settings, said Mahbuba Nasreen, director, Institute of Disaster Management and Vulnerability Studies at Dhaka University.
However, many of them are migrating to the urban settings and it is required to check whether they are capable of handling the risk in urban setting, she added.
Sharmind Neelormi, associate professor, department of economics at Jahangirnagar University, said alongside disaster management, the social barriers women are facing have to be addressed.
Palash Mondal, coordinator, Climate Change and Resilience of CARE Bangladesh, said casualty of women and children is much higher during disasters -- a phenomenon that demands due attention.
M Khalid Mahmood, director, Department of Disaster Management, said the government has extensive programmes on disaster management for rural people including poor women.
The government has also taken an initiative to amend its policy like SOD (Standing Orders on Disaster) to address problems of urban poor women.
Brig Gen (retd) Shahedul Anam Khan, associate editor, The Daily Star, said lessons learnt from the discussion will help the newspaper promote wellbeing of urban poor women.