The Sustainable Development Goals in Bangladesh
The Sustainable Development Goals are a global call to action to end poverty, protect the earth’s environment and climate, and ensure that people everywhere can enjoy peace and prosperity. These are the goals the UN is working on in Bangladesh:
19 August 2022
Pregnant Midwife Serves Pregnant Mothers During Sylhet Floods
“The floods occurred so fast, literally in one day. In the morning, I came to the hospital for a normal work day. When I left home, there was chaos everywhere. People were rushing all over the place and the roads were all covered in water.” This is how Hazera Akther, a 26-year old midwife from Sardar Upazila Health Complex in Sunamganj District describes the fear and anxiety that engulfed the people of northeastern Bangladesh in June of this year, when floods hit the region’s Sunamganj, Sylhet and Netrokona districts. While the districts had endured natural disasters in the past, this year’s floods were both unexpected and exceptionally intense for the region, which resulted in the local communities not being adequately prepared for the disaster. Close to 500,000 people had to evacuate their homes and many basic services were severely compromised. This included Hazera’s hospital, where she has been working as part of UNFPA-supported mentorship programme since 2020. An estimated 25,000 people took shelter in the hospital and for the first three days, the midwives had to perform their duties without electricity and a functioning telecommunications network. “All the rooms of the hospital were just packed with people. A lot of the families also brought their dogs, hens and goats with them. It was smelly and there was dung everywhere. However, we always made sure that the delivery room remained unoccupied. During the first three days, there was no electricity so at night, we did all the deliveries, surgeries and all other necessary procedures in candlelight,” Hazera explains. One night, a woman from a nearby village who had just delivered a baby at home arrived in the hospital, bleeding profusely. “She had postpartum hemorrhage and had somehow managed to take a boat to our hospital after being referred here by the dai (traditional birth attendant) who had performed the delivery.” With no possibility of calling senior doctors in other hospitals for advice, Hazera depended on her own expertise to solve the difficult case. Miraculously, she was able to identify a bad tear inside the woman and repair it with the help of her colleagues in the candlelit room. “This was definitely the most challenging thing I had to do during the crisis,” Hazera says with a hearty laugh. Throughout all these hardships, Hazera herself was 5 months pregnant with her first child. For three days, she was not able to reach her husband or family in Chadpur District who were worried to death about how she was surviving the flood. “All updates they could receive of the situation in Sunamganj through the news, which was so traumatizing for them.” When Hazera was finally able to reconnect with them, the family pressured her to stop working and if possible, return to her village. Hazera had considered the possibility herselfonce the floods began. “I admit that my first thought was that I would not go out. Because was pregnant myself, I thought that I should save myself before I saved anybody else. I felt I would need to take a step back from my service,” Hazera explains. “However, when I thought about the plight of other pregnant women, I knew I could not stop working. Knowing exactly the struggle they were going through, how could I neglect my duty? I had to be there for them.” she continues. Witnessing the heroism and sacrifices of her colleagues throughout the crisis further confirmed to Hazera that she had made the right decision. As pregnant woman kept being referred to the hospital from smaller villages, many of her colleagues kept working after their shift was over. As transportation options were limited, the midwives often waded to work through chest-deep water and performed their duties in wet uniforms. “Amidst all this, I was so proud that I was coming to the hospital to serve other pregnant mothers. As a pregnant woman myself, I was able to relate to them. I listened to their worries about money, food scarcity and other things. I was able to comfort them by reminding them that the floods would not last forever and that soon, we would all return home,” she concludes.
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13 January 2022
Together as One UN for Women’s Economic Empowerment
Women’s economic empowerment is at the core of inclusive economic development of communities and countries. Given the many barriers that women and girls face in accessing economic opportunities, UNCDF, UNDP and UN Women came together with an unique approach towards women’s economic empowerment in Bangladesh. The initiative originated from a global programme titled the “Inclusive Economic and Local Development Programme (IELD)”, funded by Sweden, Switzerland and Norway. The programme sought to facilitate the design, implementation, and sustainability of local investments by governments and the private sector to remove barriers to women’s economic empowerment. The programme also aimed at reversing some of the discriminatory social norms and practices that thwart women’s equitable access to economic opportunities. In Bangladesh, the three agencies looked at two key constraints. First, women entrepreneurs, especially in the cottage, micro, small, and medium scale enterprises (CMSMEs) have very limited access to finance. During 2010-2018, only 3.5% of the total BDT9.4 million in credit disbursed to CMSME entrepreneurs went to women entrepreneurs. Second, women lack sustainable employment for resilience against shocks. Rural women, including those getting microfinance, training and running small businesses, tend to fall back into poverty when faced with shocks like natural hazards, job losses in the family or ill-health, the COVID pandemic or market volatility. Moreover, socio-cultural and other structural barriers also impede women’s economic empowerment. To address these challenges, the IELD program engaged the local authorities, project developers and women’s groups to identify, fund and implement women’s economic empowerment projects; built capacities of local government for gender-responsive economic policy, planning and budgeting; and identified practical and innovative financial instruments to channel additional funding for SME financing and capacity building for private sector players including commercial banks and women entrepreneurs. Individual women under economic stress do not have the leverage to negotiate with other economic actors even in well-functioning markets. So IELD enabled the power of collective knowledge and bargaining by linking women entrepreneurs to groups like (i) Women-led SMEs (ii) Women Development Forums (WDFs), a collective group of women’s elected representatives at local government bodies (iii) NGO-led social enterprises and (iv) Women led cooperatives. Since 2018, IELD has initiated eight investment projects related to women’s economic empowerment in Bangladesh with a total project size of $1.4 million. The total investment of $ 287,238 unlocked an additional $1.1 million from local partners, including governments, private companies, banks, and local government bodies. Against $1 of seed capital invested, US$4 was unlocked from domestic sources. Over 2535 women have benefitted directly from these projects as suppliers, traders and employees and 1014 jobs were created locally. Encouraged by the success of IELD in catalyzing local investment, when the IELD project in Bangladesh ended, the three agencies – UNCDF, UNDP and UN Women decided to design the next phase of the programme appropriate to the specific context of Bangladesh and mobilize fund locally. The new project titled Women’s Empowerment for Inclusive Growth (WING) started in 2020 building on existing programme approach and partnerships. Funded by the Government of the Netherlands, the project sought to contribute to the Government’s aim of inclusive growth as articulated in its 8th five-year plan. As part of the WING project, some of the global tools of IELD are being implemented in Bangladesh and embedded into national institutions. For instance, the Women’s Economic Empowerment Index for evaluating the social impact and financial feasibility of investments has been institutionalized with Bangladesh Bank. Capacity development for gender responsive budgeting and planning with local government and promotion of UNWOMEN’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) with private sector is being carried out, complemented by local level and national level advocacy for women’s economic empowerment. During COVID pandemic, Anondomela, an e-commerce platform was one of the innovations that helped women SMEs in linking with the market with WING support. With a small seed funding, the three agencies UNCDF, UNDP and UN Women are taking a systems approach to address the issue of women’s economic empowerment by building a conducive policy and institutional set up, empowering partner organizations for women’s entrepreneurship to leverage the power of collectivity, and improving access to finance by generating local investments. The approach brings together the programme infrastructure and comparative expertise of the three agencies to generate outstanding returns on the initial seed funding. While the three agencies contribute to different aspects of the programme, by approaching local government officials and partner organizations together, the joint project is also reducing transactions cost for the Government and partners through time saved in meetings, better management of events, and more coherent and smooth information sharing. Joint communication and synchronized collaboration with national and local government actors has also led to better coordinated work and minimized the duplication of efforts.
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05 July 2022
Conference on Women and Violent Extremism in Bangladesh
Female radicalization is an under-studied and growing problem in Bangladesh, requiring specific research and program attention. Understanding it and the role of women in Violent Extremism is critical to prevention efforts. UN Agencies in collaboration with Centre for Genocide Studies, University of Dhaka brought together diverse stakeholders working on the prevention and countering of violent extremism (PVE and CVE), and Counter Terrorism (CT) to share and discuss research findings and experience in responding to female radicalization, identify existing policy and programmatic gaps and highlight good practices and lessons learned. Discussion centered around the influence of social media in the radicalization process and online propaganda targeting women. It was clear through the research findings that while many women are passive actors, some play active roles in radicalization and violent extremism. It was also obvious that promoting alternative narratives and strengthening the narratives of tolerance and pluralism, including in education remains a collective effort. Women therefore need to be at the center of PVE efforts and be enabled to play active roles in preventing it. The National Action Plan on Women Peace and Security serves as a national roadmap for women’s active and equal participation in prevention, peace and security and helps to coordinate efforts, including to counter and prevent female radicalization, we must continue to give importance to community engagement and women’s participation in PVE. The conference specifically highlighted: The importance of community engagement along with conventional policing in countering and preventing of VE. The need to study the relationship between gender-based violence and violent extremism. The need for more efforts to monitor and analyze VE online propaganda targeting women, disseminate findings among P/CVE actors, and promote alternative narratives. Bringing women more to the center of PVE measures, including woman centric or tailored PVE programs targeting women Need to strengthen the narratives of tolerance and pluralism, including in education UN resolution on Women, Peace and Security (1325) provides opportunities to guide and coordinate efforts to counter and prevent female radicalization. However, the resolution does not consider the intersectionality of women; hence it needs to be "unpacked" and contextualized for Bangladesh. We must support isolated women at risk, facilitate social interaction and provide access to information. Urgent need for gender-sensitive deradicalization and criminal justice response The conference included presentations from the Centre for Genocide Studies, UNDP, Center of Peace and Justice, UN Women, UNOCT and UNODC.
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27 January 2022
Mobilizing Private Sector Investment towards SDG Financing
In December 2021 a 2-day technical consultation workshop titled “Mobilizing Private Sector Investment in the SDGs through Bankable and Investable Projects” was organized by LightCastle Partners (12 & 13 December 2021) as part of the ongoing study “Private Sectors’ Role in Designing and Identifying Bankable Projects in SDG Focus Areas” commissioned by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Bangladesh. The study is a part of the UN Joint Program, Integrated National Financing Framework for Accelerating Achievements of SDGs (INFF4SDGs) in Bangladesh, implemented by UNDP, UNCDF, ILO, and UN Women. ILO leads the private sector engagement component of INFF4SDGs, and LightCastle Partners is working as the primary consultant of the study. The two-day virtual event covered different aspects of bankable project designing and policy environment to facilitate private investment in SDGs. On the first day representatives from eight private sector enterprises joined UN agencies (UNDP, ILO, UNCDF) along with LightCastle Partners. After arriving at a shared understanding of basic concepts, the group discussed the factors that contribute to bankability of an investment project for SDGs. The need to incorporate impact management in terms of social and environmental returns while defining and measuring project bankability was highlighted. Organizational credibility, sector-wise prospects and available workforce topped the checklist when designing bankable projects, while the need for further engagement and policy interventions from the government, facilitating private sector investment in the SDGs, (local and foreign investors) was stressed upon. The second day’s (13th December 2021) discussion was with the Financial Institutions in Bangladesh. Financial returns and profitability are the first priorities when it comes to project bankability for private investors, however, the social and environmental impact are also essential for sustainable growth. Organizational credibility, early-stage planning, and political environment were considered top essentials, when investing in bankable projects. The common ground remained the need for further engagement and policy interventions from the government, facilitating private sector investment in the SDGs.
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29 November 2021
Crop diversification for Bangladeshi farmers boosts climate resilience and profits
In Bangladesh, rice is a staple food and the country’s biggest crop. Yet smallholders, who only grow this traditional crop, typically earn a meagre and intermittent income. Worsening conditions, many of which are being exacerbated by climate change, are making rice cultivation even more difficult. The Smallholder Agriculture Competitiveness Project (SACP) works to increase farmers’ incomes and contribute to food and nutrition security by supporting smallholders become more responsive and competitive in producing diverse, high-value crops and marketing fresh and processed agricultural products. The project, which is implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture, is jointly financed by the Government of Bangladesh and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), with technical assistance from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Mohammad Abul Kalam is one farmer, who has benefitted from the project. The 58-year-old lives in Patuakhali, a coastal district which is vulnerable to cyclones, floods, droughts, soil salinity, and soil erosion. Rice is still by far the most popular crop among the farmers there but for the farmers who do want to try something new, lack of information and resources are major barriers. The project provided him with inputs, technology, and technical advice on how to grow vegetables better in order to generate higher returns. He was also taught how to train other farmers. He was advised to grow bottle gourd, bitter gourd, cauliflowers, and tomatoes, as market research indicated high demand for these vegetables. Through hands-on training, he learnt optimal sowing and harvesting times of these crops, greatly increasing his yields and profitablilty. Crop diversification – the addition of new crops or cropping systems to agricultural production on a farm – is often promoted as a strategy to achieve climate resilience. By diversifying, farmers increase the range of potential food and income sources available to them. The most commonly observed barriers to crop diversification include limited output and input market development, and insufficient extension support for non-staple food crops. Kalam is passionate about working the land and is keen to share is knowledge and experience, believing that this sharing everyone benefits. “The land I work on is mine, but I believe the entire village is mine too. All land, even barren or marginal areas, should be taken good care of. By opening up to new knowledge and innovation, we can collectively manage natural resources and produce more crops of good quality and in good quantity, which will bring the fruit of success,” he said. Recognizing his potential, Kalam was selected as one of the lead farmers in his sub-district or upazila. Kalam now passes on his expertise to other farmers on skills such as land preparation, sowing, fertilization and pest control. He said: “I had a cauliflower demonstration plot last year, when there was a very good harvest. I sold produce worth BDT 550,000 (US$6,480) and made a remarkable profit. This year, I’m harvesting bitter gourd from the same land supported by the project.” He added: “The government agriculture office in my upazila has been a great support for farmers like me who wanted to modernize their cropping patterns. Now I see that almost half of the farmers from my village want to grow various vegetables throughout the year”.
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18 April 2022
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