Women leadership is crucial in reducing disaster risk and building resilience as women are the most vulnerable during disasters
– Rehana Parveen
says Rehana Parveen, a Local Resilience Agent (LRA) who has been working voluntarily in building resilience in her community in Faridpur, Bangladesh. Rehana, a mother of three, resident of Char Nasirpur, is spearheading the community-based groups in her area. With the support from Practical Action, she is working on disaster risk reduction and preparedness activities in her community.
Although the journey of Rehana seems rewarding, this is not a common occurrence in the remote Char areas (Riverine Islands) of Bangladesh. Women bear a disproportionate share of the consequences of disasters, extreme weather events, and human-induced climate change.
This happens usually owing to cultural norms and an inequitable distribution of responsibilities, resources, and power; particularly in the least developed countries like Bangladesh. A contextual analysis of the Char regions of Bangladesh in 2016 revealed that female-headed households are more likely to be impoverished than the male-headed households. Women’s mobility is severely restricted in the Chars due to inadequate transportation networks and gender norms. They are typically occupied with household chores, which means they are less involved in income-generating activities. These factors increase women’s vulnerability to disasters.
Building resilience has been crucial for women in the Chars as they face multiple complexities. Despite these stringent conditions women are not lagging behind. The societal inadequacies have not stopped women in fighting the battle against climate change and building resilience in their communities, and Rehana is a perfect example of that.
Practical Action as an alliance member of the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance (ZFRA) has played an active role in formulating the resilience agents. With the support from the local implementing partner- VERC (Village Education Resource Centre) in Faridpur, Practical Action has built a pool of 30 Local Resilience Agents (LRAs). These LRAs, who reside in the flood affected areas have been trained during the Zurich Flood Resilience Project (ZFRP) to deliver flood early warning messages and guidance on preparedness and response operations. Practical Action and VERC arranged different capacity building training sessions. Rehana has managed to receive training on group coordination, first aid, early response during hazard, flood management, gender and leadership along with COVID-19 awareness.
During flood period, Rehana as an LRA receives early warning voice message and flood related information on her cell phone and she passes it on to her community. She is also involved in search and rescue activities. This supplements the limited capacity of the local Union Disaster Management Committees (UDMCs). She further supports the local government in relief distribution, beneficiary list preparation, informing communities about the support they can get during the crisis period, search and rescue activities among others.
As Rehana mentions that now she has a voice in the community and local level administration also recognizes her roles and responsibilities. She acknowledges that this has been possible with the support and capacity building training activities that she received from Practical Action. The UDMC and UP calls her for any meeting. She volunteers and guides the community on preparedness and response. All these involvement has made Rehana confident as she aspires to contribute more to her community as a woman.
Due to her affiliation with Community-based Organizations (CBOs) and local actors, she has developed a right to entitlement. Rehana’s work promotes women leadership and she also works to alleviate violence against women and girls (VAWG). As Rehana notes, her neighbours listen to her, and she has averted child marriage and family violence in the past by sensitizing the community and pushing for women’s and girl’s rights. This has been possible because she is a well-known figure now in the community and has easier access to local authorities.
Rehana aspires that more women should step up in working as advocates to help their communities become more resilient against any disasters.
This blog is specially published for International Women’s Day 2022. If you are interested to know more about Local Resilience Agent (LRA) impact and contribution in community you can check our Bangla blog.