We started work in Bangladesh in 1983. In 2014, we helped over 130,000 people living in poverty to claim their rights, prepare for natural disasters and improve their livelihoods.

Our approach

We support women living on the margins of survival to prepare and adapt to climate change. We build flood-proof villages, provide salt-resistant seeds, teach children how to survive in a disaster and build child-friendly spaces where they can continue their studies when the route to school is flooded. We also help local women’s groups develop innovative farming techniques and campaign for stronger embankments.

We work with 62 partner organisations to help the most vulnerable women and girls, including street children and people with disabilities. We make people aware of their rights to health care, clean water, education and safe working conditions, and work with local government to make sure basic services are provided.

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Why we work in Bangladesh

Poverty is deep and widespread in Bangladesh and it is made worse by the impacts of extreme weather like cyclones and hurricanes.

Bangladesh is already extremely badly affected by climate change. In 2014, 150,000 people’s homes were completely destroyed by flash floods. Cylones and storms are getting bigger and coming faster and women and children are most at risk.

  • 33
    A third of the country floods each year, affecting over 10 million people.
  • 8
    8% of girls under the age of 14 are forced into child labour.
  • 100
    Around 3.3 million children remain out of school.

During climate disasters, girls could be pressured to marry young and drop out of school. In a country with one of the highest rates of child marriage in the worldclimate change is only making things worse by placing huge pressure on already poor families. When parents struggle to feed their children, many feel compelled to arrange for their daughters to be married.

Cases of violence against women are very high, especially rape and acid attacks. A lack of respect for workers’ rights results in disasters like the Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013. The legal system does not do enough to protect workers and prevent violence, meaning all too often the suffering of women is ignored.

How we're changing lives for good in Bangladesh

We put women at the centre of emergency response

Sabita, 38, was trained by ActionAid to be her village's emergency response woman leader in the Kalapara sub-district in southern Bangladesh.

When Tropical Storm Mahasen struck in 2013, she was ready to warn the community and assist them to reach the storm shelter. She worked with the other women in her group to get 500 people to safety. She loves the fact that the women worked together and she is proud of their approach.

"We went to people's houses and explained to them that the storm was coming. We asked, 'Will you be able to get to the shelter alone? How can we help you?’ This way they felt encouraged and less scared about the storm", she said.


Read more about our work on emergencies

Helping survivors of acid attacks like Khodaja and Sonali

Khodaja was 15 when she and her 18-day-old daughter Sonali, were attacked with acid over a land dispute. Both of their faces were severely disfigured, which caused social discrimination against them.

As well as practical support including medical care and Sonali’s school fees, ActionAid has helped them cope with the trauma through counselling, giving them confidence to reintegrate into society. Khodaja says: “We should be treated with respect and honour in the same way we were treated before the attack."

Donate to support our work to end violence against women and girls

Fighting for workers’ rights

Nazma and her baby son escaped the Rana Plaza factory collapse, but tragically Nazma’s husband was killed. “He was my all-time shelter, like a banyan tree,” she told us. We helped Nazma with emergency aid, medical care and counseling, and we’re also fighting for better and safer working conditions to make sure a tragedy like this doesn’t happen again.

We support nearly 200,000 female workers in garment factories around the country. We’ve set up Rights Cafes next to many factories, which provide a safe space for women workers to learn about labour laws and gain the confidence they need to stand up to their managers and demand their rights.

Learn more about our work helping women and girls

Photo: Mahmud /MAP/ActionAid, Nicola Bailey/ActionAid, ActionAid.