Harvesting Hope: WFP's Climate-Resilient Women Empowerment Initiative Cultivating Change in Bangladesh
East and South Asia Human Rights Researcher
Global Human Rights Defence
In the heart of northwestern Bangladesh, the Brahmaputra River weaves its way through a landscape marked by the vulnerability of its inhabitants. Char Borovita, a unique sand island, has become a symbol of hope for the region's poorest, thanks to a groundbreaking initiative by the World Food Programme (WFP). In response to the escalating climate crisis, WFP's pilot project in the Kurigram district is equipping communities with the tools to confront the destructive impacts of climate change head-on.
With over 200 sand islands scattered across the Brahmaputra, the region faces a dual challenge — extreme weather events and the encroaching threat of the river eroding precious land. Bangladesh, already one of the most climate-vulnerable nations, witnessed devastating floods in 2020, exacerbating the hardships faced by its population. According to the World Bank Group, by 2050, one-third of the country's agricultural output could be lost, and 13 million people may be displaced internally due to climate-related factors.
The implications of climate change on human rights are profound, particularly for vulnerable communities. The residents of Char Borovita, like Amina Begum, have experienced the erosion of their homes and livelihoods. Forced to relocate multiple times, these climate-displaced individuals face a precarious existence, grappling with acute hunger and limited access to healthcare and education.
The right to adequate housing, as enshrined in Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, is compromised as families lose their homes to the relentless force of the river. Moreover, the right to food, protected by Article 11 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is jeopardized as agricultural lands are submerged, and traditional livelihoods are disrupted.
Recognizing these challenges, WFP's initiative aligns with the principles set out in the Paris Agreement and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. By providing disaster management training, early warning systems, and financial support, the project respects the right to life and security in the face of climate-induced disasters.
Furthermore, the empowerment of women through entrepreneurship training underscores the commitment to gender equality, a fundamental human right. Initiatives like these contribute to fulfilling the principles outlined in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
As we commemorate World Food Day, WFP's initiative stands as a beacon of resilience and hope. By addressing the nexus of climate change, human rights, and sustainable development, WFP is not only safeguarding vulnerable communities but also fostering a model that can be replicated globally. It is a testament to the fact that, even in the face of environmental challenges, innovative solutions grounded in human rights can empower communities to build a more sustainable and equitable future.
Relief Web. (16 October 2023). Pumpkin power: how Bangladeshi women fight the climate crisis. Available at https://reliefweb.int/report/bangladesh/pumpkin-power-how-bangladeshi-women-fight-climate-crisis.