23 October 2015
When a flood takes your home, your food and everything you own, and you fear that your children might drown on their way to school, life as you know it is shattered.
ActionAid works with women and children hit the hardest by climate change, supporting them to survive and adapt. Here are four solutions that are helping change their lives, for good.
Raising villages above sea levels
Nazma, 30, was crippled by polio at the age of nine. The small hut where she used to live with her two children was regularly flooded. She would slip on her crutches and she couldn't let her son out of her sight for fear that he would drown.
In 2011, ActionAid supported the build of an innovative flood-proof village at 2.5ft above the highest recorded flood levels. The most vulnerable families from Nazma's village were relocated to homes built on a raised mud plinth that withstands flooding. In the five years since it was built, it has stood firm against storm surges, floods and cyclones. Each family was given a cow, a house with solar panels and a small allotment.
Since moving to the flood-proof village, Nazma's home has never been flooded. She grows a variety of fruits and vegetables and has no problem making her children happy. She said, "Before, I used to worry about finding money to buy food for my children. Now, I can just pick mango and guava from my garden and hand it to them.”
Providing emergency training
Meet Sabita, 38. She helped save people's lives when Tropical Storm Mahasen struck in 2013. She was trained by ActionAid to be her village's emergency response woman leader in the Kalapara sub-district in southern Bangladesh.
Sabita worked with the other women in her group to get 500 people to safety during the storm. She loves the fact that the women worked together, and she's proud of their approach which is a little different from that adopted by the men. "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", Sabita said.
Breaking the cycle of poverty
Sofia, 32, used to struggle to feed her children in their village in Kalapara sub-district in southern Bangladesh. She used to clean people's cowsheds to earn cash.
She sometimes didn't eat so she would have enough food to feed her children. "I used to pretend it was the fasting month," she said.
Supported by an ActionAid women’s group with a loan, she was able to buy a cow. Selling milk from the cow allowed her to also buy a goat. This has given her the opportunity to put food on the table for her kids and have money for extras. She told us: "When I see my children happy and laughing as they go to school I think, yes, I am a good mother."
Building children's study zones
Shubarna, 13, also lives in Faridpur. She wants to be a doctor and help people in her community. But her dream is at risk of being thwarted by floods. At least twice a year, her route to school becomes impassable. “When the storm comes I can’t go to school,” she said. “Water surrounds our house on all four sides. I can’t cross the big river in the small boat. If it’s windy, there are high waves.”
Thankfully Shubarna can carry on studying at a child friendly space built near her village by ActionAid. During floods, Shubarna and her friends can safely reach the tin-and-timber hall where a local tutor helps the girls to continue with their studies.
These are just some solutions that ActionAid has helped to deliver, but people in Bangladesh and other countries affected by climate change urgently need more help to adapt. When world leaders meet in Paris at the end of November for crucial climate talks, any global deal must put the poorest women and children first.
March with ActionAid on 29 November in solidarity with those hit hardest by climate change.