Bangladeshi rural families are using large amounts of their savings to protect their homes and themselves. Climate ChangeResearchers say that households headed by women are spending up to 30% of their income for this purpose, particularly in high-income households.
The high share of spending by female-led households – many based in the flood-prone north – is double the average of 15 percent because women have lower incomes than men, said a study by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) published on Wednesday.
Often men from Bangladesh’s northwest regions migrate on a seasonal basis to work elsewhere, leaving women to run the home.
Rural families take common measures to adapt to climate change. These include raising their homes above flood-water levels, planting trees, and sheltering livestock.
“While men spend a greater amount for climate adaptation in absolute terms, women have to spend a larger share of their smaller average income,” said Paul Steele, IIED’s chief economist and one of the study authors.
IIED, Kingston University London, and the UN Development Programme Bangladesh conducted the study. They surveyed 3,094 rural households across 10 districts to determine how gender and socioeconomic factors affected household spending to protect them from disasters such as floods, storms, droughts, salinity, and heat.
The researchers found that 43 per cent of households were at risk from flooding, 41 per cent to storms, and 83 per cent were affected by long-term stressors like drought or salinity.
According to the study, each household spent almost 7,500 taka ($88 per year) on preventive measures by 2021. This would bring the total cost of preventive measures to $1.7bn in rural areas.
The findings suggest that both the Bangladesh government as well as donor nations need to provide greater financial support. Support for poor householdsSteele stated that there are many ways to address climate change directly, including by empowering women who are carrying the burden.
A study by IIED in 2019 found that Bangladeshi families living in rural areas spent 12 times more per year than the aid received to prepare for and deal with climate change.
More data is needed to track households’ climate-related spending in Bangladesh and other nations on a regular basis, Steele said, adding that research could be extended to include the losses suffered by urban households.
Dwijen MALlick, a climate expert from the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies, stated that climate change is pushing a lot of people to a Continual flow of migrantsIn cities, they are often unable to protect themselves against threats because of lack of resources and knowledge.
“It is important to quantify the loss and damage borne by poor urban households due to localised climate change impacts to make a case for compensation,” he said.
Mahfuza Mala, a climate expert and member of Naripokkho, a women’s activist group, said the IIED study demonstrated how efforts to deal with climate change play out differently between men and women.
“Just as women’s care work is often unpaid and unrecognised, their role in adaptation also sometimes goes unheeded,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The study revealed that flood-prone households spent 2 percentage points more on flood relief than their male counterparts and 3 percentage points more on other hazards, such as extreme heat.
However, when it comes to storms female-headed households spend a massive 30 percentage points more. However, there are fewer such households than in the storm-prone southwest, where Cyclone Amphan impacted millions of households in 2020.
The IIED study found that social norms often require women, despite their lower capacity to adapt to climate changes, to provide food, water, or other essentials.
Mala suggested that the positive side to women playing a larger role in preparing for and responding to storms and floods is that it allows them take an active role in society.