Climate Change & SRHR: All Hands Needed to Raise Concerns for Vulnerable Regions
Due to the worsening scenario of global climate change-related events, we have witnessed a progressive deterioration of the Sexual and Reproductive Health & Rights (SRHR) situation in Bangladesh, particularly for women and girls as they have been restricted by gender inequalities, religious and cultural norms and age-old misconceptions & taboos above all.
In the present situation, access to SRHR services may already be limited due to economic, cultural, and social constraints that prevent women from making decisions concerning their bodily autonomy. This not only creates a risk of physical, mental, and psychological harm to women; but also impacts their ability to build capacity and resilience to climate change. But in most cases, men and women experience climate change in different ways. Social norms and gender disparities in society are what influence how climate change affects women and men differently.
Due to geographical and global weather patterns, Bangladesh is being severely impacted by climate change. In Bangladesh, where a growing trend and temporal fluctuations in the mean seasonal temperature are evident within the range of 0.4-0.65°C during the past 40 years, increasing surface air temperature is particularly noticeable in recent times. In this country, most of the morbidity and mortality caused by heat stress, cyclones, floods, droughts, and other weather extremes at various spatiotemporal scales have all been linked to climate change. The indirect consequences take on more complicated forms, such as endangering the safety of food and water owing to salt intrusion and spreading infectious illnesses as a result of changes in pathogen ecology and vector ecology.
Given its geographic location, Bangladesh is prone to cyclones, floods, and droughts, which are all recurring problems for the nation. Bangladesh is one of the top five nations in Asia and the Pacific in terms of risk of catastrophe, according to the UN’s 2021 Regional Focus Model (RFM) on disaster vulnerability. All these effects of climate change substantially increase the vulnerability of women and children in Bangladesh in terms of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) issues, in addition to influencing the country’s economic and social elements.
During the previous flood in Bangladesh in June 2022, the Daily Star wrote – usually, rice, pulses, chira, muri, medicine, saline, etc. – were given as relief. But the government also needs to include packets of sanitary napkins among its relief items. Because it is really difficult for flood-affected women and girls to maintain proper menstrual hygiene during crises and a packet of sanitary napkins at this time can be a real blessing for them. In another report, we found that Maternal deaths mostly occur during the rainy season in flood-affected areas. The major reasons behind excessive maternal deaths are negligence of maternal healthcare, unavailability of facilities and proper care services, dependency on unqualified doctors, communication and transportation problems, and barriers to the referral of pregnant women experiencing complications during floods.
In many places in Bangladesh, saline water is increasing day by day and reaching the local area and currently, there is a significant salinity problem in 31 Upazilas in the districts of Jessore, Satkhira, Khulna, Narail, Bagerhat, and Gopalganj. So, the female members of that area are now not able to use the saline water for their sanitary needs and even they are not able to maintain menstrual hygiene. Recently some of the companies in Bangladesh are thinking differently and giving more importance to female reproductive health and SRHR during or after any climate disaster. And they are thinking about long-term actions as well.
Very recently, Square Bangladesh pointed out that the lack of sanitary napkins and access to clean water seriously jeopardise the reproductive health of women, particularly in coastal areas like Koikhali and Satkhira where there are few ponds and the majority of the water is salty. Although many businesses are selling sanitary napkins, a cultural barrier usually prohibits women from going to these businesses and buying on their own. So, the company attempted to help Koikhali’s female population with their sanitary napkin brand “Senora”, and built 12 water tanks placed over six locations in the union to collect rainwater for women to utilise for menstrual hygiene.
Better resistance and adaptation to climate change are associated with better gender equality. Understanding the needs particular to women’s gender is necessary for successful resilience and adaptation to climate change. The economic, social, and reproductive security of women is at risk due to climate change. Climate change-related disasters put extra strain on women’s autonomy in sexual and reproductive matters in contexts where access and rights are already constrained. Reproductive justice for women is crucial for better climate change adaptation and mitigation. However, the international and national frameworks on climate change lack reproductive equity.
Now the matter of concern, this is not the only place where climate change is hampering female menstrual hygiene and reproductive health. There are many more areas where female members are vulnerable towards SRHR due to recurring and unprecedented natural calamities influenced by global climate change. Now it’s high time to take proper initiation from government and non-government organisations along with corporate stakeholders to ensure proper SRHR interventions for women and girls in the most climate-vulnerable places of Bangladesh.
- Husaini, S. and Davies, S.E. (1AD) Case report: Another burden to bear: The impacts of climate change on access to sexual and reproductive health rights and services in Bangladesh, Frontiers. Frontiers. Available at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fclim.2022.875515/full
- Khan, N. (2022) Reproductive Health Management in the climate change affected areas in Bangladesh, Dhaka Tribune – Current & Breaking News Bangladesh & World. Dhaka Tribune. Available at: https://www.dhakatribune.com/tribune-climate/2022/08/25/reproductive-health-management-in-the-climate-change-affected-areas-in-bangladesh
- Millions in Bangladesh impacted by one of the worst floodings ever seen: IFRC (2022) CIFRC. Available at: https://www.ifrc.org/press-release/millions-bangladesh-impacted-one-worst-floodings-ever-seen
- Jahan, I. (2022) Sanitary napkin as a relief item, The Daily Star. The Daily Star. Available at: https://www.thedailystar.net/views/letters/news/sanitary-napkin-relief-item-3053931
- Abdullah, A. S. Md., Dalal, K., Halim, A., Rahman, A. F., & Biswas, A. (2019). Effects of Climate Change and Maternal Morality: Perspective from Case Studies in the Rural Area of Bangladesh. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(23), 4594. MDPI AG. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16234594
- Karim, S. (2022) Senora’s freshwater tanks & “Nora Apa”: Ensuring Period Hygiene in the coastal regions of Satkhira – Share-Net Bangladesh, Share-Net. Share-Net. Available at: https://www.share-netbangladesh.org/senoras-freshwater-tanks-nora-apa-ensuring-period-hygiene-in-the-coastal-regions-of-satkhira/