Why we work in Bangladesh
Poverty is deep and widespread in Bangladesh and it is made worse by the exploitation of women and girls, and the impacts of extreme weather like cyclones and hurricanes.
Cases of violence against women are very high, especially rape, acid attacks, and child trafficking. Around 400 women and children fall victim to trafficking each month in Bangladesh. Most of them are between 12 and 16 and are forced to work in the commercial sex industry.1
Approximately 990 girls aged under 18 reported being raped between 2003 and 2008, while stigma and an unreliable justice system prevents many girls from reporting their experiences to the police and getting the support they need. 2
Bangladesh is very 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.
A growing number of women and girls in Dhaka’s slums have arrived because they have lost their homes in rural Bangladesh to rising sea levels. Climate disasters can also increase pressure on girls to marry young and drop out of school, as already poor families struggle to feed their children.
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.
What we do in Bangladesh
Keeping girls safe from harm
Girls in Bangladesh are particularly vulnerable to violence and exploitation, including sexual abuse and harassment, forced marriage, forced labour and trafficking. We work with 62 partner organisations to help the most vulnerable women and girls.
Our local staff search the streets of Dhaka to find girls in possible danger and bring them to a safe space at one of our five ‘Happy Homes’. Here ActionAid girls can receive healthy food, emotional support, access to education and life skills. More than 17,000 girls have already been helped.
Through funding from child sponsorship, we also fund child spaces in Dhaka slums where girls and their mothers can come to learn about their legal rights and to gain the confidence to challenge attitudes that allow violence to flourish.
Adapting to climate change
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.
Improving workers rights
Through training and support, we make people aware of their rights to health care, clean water, education and safe working conditions. We support nearly 200,000 female workers in garment factories around the country, by teaching them about labour laws and giving them the confidence and skills to stand up to their managers and demand their rights.
How we’re changing lives for good in Bangladesh
ActionAid works in both rural and urban parts of Bangladesh, supporting the most vulnerable women and children to protect themeselves from violence, access their right to education, and increase their resilience to the effects of climate change.
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 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."Sponsor a child 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 girls off the streets
10-year-old Jesmin used to live on the streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh. Her family were so poor they barely had anything to eat. Now Jesmin lives in an ActionAid funded 'Happy Home' - where she can enjoy a proper meal, learn and play with other girls, and gain skills for the future, safe from harm.
“When I used to live on the street, boys used bad words against me and they were beating me,” Jesmin said. "So my understanding is girls are not safe on the streets."
"Now I love living in Happy Homes. I can eat healthy food regularly. I’ve learnt to make necklaces, bracelets, anklets and I can do embroidery. And I can study. I am in class 5. My favorite subject is Social Science and English."Learn more about how we keep girls safe