Women Empowerment

The majority of the world's poorest billion people are women and girls with the share of women employed outside of agriculture remains as low as 20 percent in Southern Asia.

Around Bangladesh, it is women and girls who are disproportionately affected by poverty and discrimination. Often, women and girls are not allowed to make decisions about their household's income, or tradition and culture forbid them to leave their homes. In other words, half of the population cannot contribute to their family's and community's economic development. A great resource goes untapped. But women are an important part of the solutions needed to truly overcome poverty. They play a key role in navigating their family and their community to a better life.

Our experience shows us that when equipped with the proper resources, women have the power to help their families and entire communities escape poverty. When women earn an income, they reinvest 90 percent of it in their families while for every year a girl spends in school she raises her family income by up to 20 percent. Additionally, educated girls grow into educated women, who have healthier babies and are more likely to educate their children. It's a simple formula: empowerment is the total sum of changes needed for a woman to realize her full human rights. Empowerment is not just about giving women training or a loan. Empowerment is more than that. It means that relationships and social structures that shape the lives of women and girls must change.

Women's empowerment can only be achieved when we include men and boys. Men are often those who define and keep women within their boundaries. But when we engage with them they realize that their wives' empowerment benefits the whole family. Promoting gender equality and empowering women is the key to lifting entire families out of poverty - and it defines our programs worldwide. CARE Bangladesh is focused on women exercising greater choice in decisions affecting their lives; reduced violence against women: and the emergence of strong social movements built on women's solidarity and participation of men.

Women Empowerment Report 2012

Food Security

Hunger and malnutrition are the number one risk to global health, killing more people than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined. There are almost one billion chronically hungry people in the world, the majority of who are women.

How would it feel if you had to go to bed hungry every night? If your daughter or son, brother or sister would weigh so little, he or she would be weaker, thinner and smaller than other children the same age? If that desperate question of how to feed your family would determine your everyday thoughts? This is the reality of every seventh person in the world and the reality of every fourth child in developing countries. Because these people are underweight. Malnutrition has lasting effects: Children deprived of adequate nutrition during the first 1,000 days of life often have stunted growth, poor cognitive development and low immunity to disease. But malnutrition can be reduced when women are empowered. The causes of food insecurity are many: poor governance, climate change impacts, competition for resources, and gender inequalities. We and our partners work with communities to tackle food scarcity at its root. When children have enough to eat, they grow up healthy, are better in school, complete a higher education and have a better chance to earn a salary.

CARE Bangladesh implements one of the biggest food security program in the world - SHOUHARDO II. This project is assisting the poorest, most vulnerable and marginalized households to reduce chronic and transitory food insecurity through increasing and diversifying income opportunities and strengthening institutional linkages. It incorporates risk reduction and encompasses activities including agriculture, health, nutrition, disaster preparedness, climate change adaptation, governance and women's empowerment in 11 districts of Rangpur, Kurigram, Nilphamari and Dinajpur in the North Char; Sirajganj, Bogra and Pabna in the Mid Char; Mymensing, Jamalpur and Sunamganj in the Haor and Cox's Bazar in the Coastal region. SHOUHARDO II is funded by USAID, and the Government of Bangladesh.

FSUP-H is another project that was specifically aligned with CARE Bangladesh's vision by focusing on the economic empowerment of the most marginalized and poorest women and their dependants in the Haor region to alleviate food insecurity. The project dispersed small business grants to 55,000 ultra-poor women and is supporting these women to diversify their incomes by assisting them to access productive resources such as Khas land, private land and water bodies. FSUP-H's savings and loans groups are also providing these women with an opportunity to access funds during times of emergency as well as using savings to invest in individual and collective livelihoods. FSUP-H is helping to leverage fairness and opportunity for poor and marginalized people, in particular women by raising women's awareness around negative social norms including dowry, early marriage and GBV. FSUP-H is also engaging men in this process to encourage more equitable behavior at the household, community and institutional level.

Shouhardo II Website

Good Governance

CARE Bangladesh has identified "poor governance" as an underlying cause of poverty and exclusion in all its four impact statements. Decision-making power in formal institutions remains in the hands of the elites, despite the existence of electoral systems at various levels of government. This is because of the social inequalities that shape the exploitation, discrimination and marginalization of extremely poor people. Their participation is limited by their own lack of opportunity and capacity, societal norms and institutions, and centralized and exclusionary systems of governance. Resource allocation and access to these resources (the symptoms of poverty, as it were) are essentially shaped by power, incentives, political context and human capabilities. Therefore CARE Bangladesh's work focuses on addressing these dimensions of exclusion and inequity in the formal and informal realms and creating and strengthening spaces for participation, thereby creating the conditions necessary for extremely poor people to demand their rights and hold government to account.

In order to address poor governance and unequal access to resources, a central premise of CARE's pro-poor, inclusive and participatory governance approach is that in order to eradicate poverty we must address both power relations and the resulting structural or systemic causes underlying poverty. Building on this conceptualization there are two important arguments for why governance matters. Firstly participation is seen as a right with intrinsic value in itself. Secondly, experience has taught us that development results are more relevant, far-reaching, and sustainable if people are able to engage in the management of those public affairs that affect their lives. Furthermore, there is evidence to show that there is greater success in reducing poverty and inequality in the long term if governments are capable, inclusive and accountable to their citizens and that people are able to actively engage in governance processes.

As an organization CARE Bangladesh has vast experiences of working with Union Parishad, the lowest governance structure of Bangladesh. It worked with the Local Government and Engineering Division on the development of infrastructure at union level. During 80's and 90's in Integrated Food Security Program funded by USAID, CARE Bangladesh implemented several projects (UPWARD, BUILD CAPACITY) with the Union Parishad, in which main focus was on capacity building of Union Parishads and developing the Union Parishad Complex to be served as "one stop service centre". Some other major projects include- SHARIQUE; Social and Economic Transformation of the Ultra-Poor (SETU); Empowerment of Local Actors and Non-State Actors in Responding to Economic Development Opportunities and Climate Change and Disaster Vulnerabilities project (PRODUCE); and Sustainable Access to Land Equality (SALE).

Private Sector Development

According to the World Resource Institute (WRI), the world has about 4 billion people living at the BoP. These people may not have access to markets to sell the products they produce, buy goods and services that they need or appropriate livelihoods that match their skills or pay enough for them to make a meaningful living. In Bangladesh, according to the BoP criteria, more than 100 million people belong to the group. Even though the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have shown impressive progress, without the means of sustainable development and inclusive growth, the world may have 600 million people without access to safe water, 1 billion people earning less than US$1.25 a day and many more urgent challenges by 2015 according to the MDGs Progress Report 2012. Non-inclusion of this 'forgotten' mass at the BoP not only makes poverty alleviation difficult but also deprives businesses of sustainable sourcing in an environment of fast depleting natural resources, low cost labor, and an untapped market that according to WRI, holds unmet needs of US$ 5 trillion, globally.

CARE Bangladesh has a long all encompassing presence in Bangladesh exceeding six decades starting from the grassroots up to policy interventions. CARE Bangladesh maintains its focus on 3 distinct marginalized and vulnerable groups that are often subject to unequal power relations. CARE Bangladesh's portfolio of over thirty projects addresses the problems of all four groups with support from a myriad of conventional donors.

The Private Sector Engagement (PSE) strategy of CARE Bangladesh however heightens the role of the private sector in fostering inclusive growth by 'inclusion' of all the four impact groups into relevant business processes. We at PSE recognize the importance of 'doing business with the BoP' to have sustained impacts on the lives of the poor and the marginalized and work on building pro-poor value chains that engage the BoP as producers, workers and consumers. Through PSE, we have formed effective partnerships with nearly twenty five private sector organizations and during FY11 - 14 managed a portfolio of about US$ 12 million touching about 150,000 lives.

PSE's approach of building inclusive business for inclusive growth works with cutting edge innovation building on a model that focuses on production: rural sourcing and aggregation by including poor agricultural producers or farmers in business value chains; income: worker empowerment by building the productivity and rights awareness of poor, semiskilled workers mainly in the Ready Made Garments (RMG) industry besides others; and consumption: marketing and distribution of products and services needed by the BoP. Involvement of the private sector is initially through 'social investment' which are one time philanthropic projects but such partnerships often evolve into engagements that are embedded into 'core business' and that is the goal we seek to attain. In order to enable the BoP's participation into high value business value chains, our projects also work to reduce bottlenecks such as access to finance, information and technology and helps micro, small and medium (MSMEs) grow. The work is continually supported with research and advocacy that has benefitted from affiliations with Said Business School of Oxford University, Ross Business School of University of Michigan and Harvard Business School.


Emergency Response

Living in the developing country like Bangladesh is often a daily struggle for survival. That struggle becomes all but impossible when a disaster strikes. Water logging, floods and cyclones can destroy a life and all assets in the blink of an eye. It's a life on the edge.

Consider this: In times of crisis, and the aftermath that follows, women, children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable. For example, significantly more women than men are injured or killed during hurricanes and floods. And when food becomes scarce, women and girls are the last to eat, as often their nutritional needs are viewed as less important than those of men and boys.

CARE is amongst the first to arrive and the last to leave during a humanitarian crisis. We are responding to today's emergencies and helping people prepare for tomorrow's. We help people respond, prepare, and recover from disasters. During a disaster, we coordinate with other aid agencies, governments and local organizations to meet the many immediate needs of affected people. While each emergency response is tailored to the needs of each situation, we focus on four humanitarian core sectors: we ensure that people have enough to eat, a roof over their head, clean water and adequate hygiene supplies and receive assistance for their sexual and reproductive health.

But instead of simply distributing goods or providing services, we include women and men in our emergency response. They work side by side with us as volunteers, supporting distributions of relief items, promoting awareness on hygiene practices or encouraging their communities to join hands and rebuild their livelihoods. We also work with communities to help them prepare for future crises. Together we assess risks, analyze shifting weather patterns and put evacuation plans in place. Preparedness is key: it reduces risks and mitigates the magnitude of a disasters impact.

It is a long road to recovery after a disaster hits. Our work is done when livelihoods are rebuilt and communities are prepared for future crises. We have simultaneously worked extensively in the areas struck by cyclones AILA & CIDR; while managing small onset disasters like water logging in the South West and helping flood-affected people each year in our working areas.

Climate Change

CARE Bangladesh already has a long history of working on climate change and is well known for its pioneering tools and methods (for example- Climate Vulnerability and Capacity Assessment), particularly in climate change advocacy and programming. Yet even with these positive investments CARE, like many other organizations, is only just beginning to feel the gravity of the challenge it faces. CARE Bangladesh aims to enhance its Climate Change programming and portfolio in coming years. Reducing Vulnerability to Climate Change (RVCC) and PRODUCE are two classic examples of successful climate change projects implemented by CARE in past. SHOUHARDO II and FSUP projects have also embedded Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change themes into the food security projects.

Development of Climate Change Strategy for CARE Bangladesh has been undertaken to build on CARE's solid foundation of climate work and draw on its niche. This includes a strong presence in climate vulnerable areas, promoting gender-equitable responses to climate change, focusing on rights-based approaches and working across the spectrum from humanitarian assistance to longer-term development.

CARE has recently completed two researches on Climate Change. CARE and the United Nations University's Institute of Environment and Human Security have conducted a research "Rainfall, Food Security and Human Mobility: Case Study Bangladesh" under Where the Rain Falls project to explore how changing weather patterns, food security and human mobility affect the most vulnerable people. Where the Rainfalls- Community Based Adaptation (WtRF CBA) project is also being implemented for 2014-2015 in Kurigram district. The goal is to improve the resilience of targeted vulnerable communities to the increasing consequences of rainfall variability by promoting adaptive agricultural practices and efficient water resource management. Centre for Global Change (CGC) and CARE Bangladesh have undertaken another study "Assessment of Household Vulnerabilities to Climate Change in the Haor Region of Bangladesh". Another study will be launched soon to see the linkages of Climate Change and Gender.

Given that climate change is an interconnected global problem severely impacting CARE's mission and the rights of the poorest people, CARE will continue to frame its work in the context of climate justice and equity. CARE Bangladesh has recently re-engaged with Climate Action Network for South Asia (CANSA) and secured a seat at Bangladesh steering committee. CARE Bangladesh as part of the Emergency Capacity Building (ECB) project has played a key role for passing of the Disaster Management Act. CARE will identify its niche on climate change advocacy and continue to work with peers and allies for joint advocacy.


Many of the causes of extreme poverty, vulnerability and injustice, and ways to address these problems are policy-related. Influencing policies and norms at global, regional, national and local levels is thus critical to achieve sustained change in the conditions of the communities we work with.

Advocacy is a key aspect of CARE's humanitarian and development efforts, addressing not only the immediate needs of the poor, but also the root causes of poverty and obstacles to its elimination. CARE's presence and experience in impoverished communities uniquely places CARE Bangladesh staff in a position to help communities and grass-root movements, often not having a voice, to connect with local decision makers and to support people claiming their basic human rights. Yet, for long lasting change, support is needed at national and even international levels. Through our global reach, we influence the national and international policies that affect the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable communities around the world. We at CARE Bangladesh believe that broader and deeper impact can be achieved by mobilizing people and ideas and through our strong capacity for local-to-global advocacy.

Additionally- CARE International Secretariat carries out its policy and advocacy work through its international advocacy coordination and representation offices in Geneva, New York and Brussels. We are well positioned to work with governments, United Nations institutions, the European Union and other multilateral organizations and stakeholder processes to actively promote change. In conjunction with CARE member and country offices, the CARE International Secretariat staff works to promote collaborative and mutually supportive efforts across the globe.

Our advocacy messages are grounded in CARE's longstanding and in-depth work in the field. With a strong focus on gender equality and women's empowerment, CARE is an advocate for vulnerable communities - from peace and security issues to climate change. CARE promotes global responsibility and action for the poorest and most marginalized. CARE's advocacy activities include participation in national decision-making and in multilateral agreements, processes and institutions to give voice to the communities where we work with.

© Copyright 2009 CARE Bangladesh
Photo Credits- Former & Current CARE Staff & Consultants
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