Case Studies: Changing Gender Norms in Rural Bangladesh

Case Location: Community: North Bania para, Union: Holokhana, Upazila: Sadar District: Kurigram

Do CARE’s gender tools really work? Do the tools develop change agents that will help change gender norms? In the quest for these answers, CARE pathways has taken on various knowledge management and learning strategies to assess project impact on women’s empowerment. One of these strategies is to engage community members through participatory group dialogues. The following success stories have emerged as a result of these dialogues.

Rausan and her husband Ferdous as well as Salma and her husband Mazidul stand as role models for their community. They have taken on the role of facilitators for gender dialogues in their community in order to reflect on spread awareness of the importance and benefits of changing gender norms.

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Rausan and Ferdous

Rausan and Salma are also facilitating relationships with the Department of Agriculture Extension and Rice Research Institute in managing seed and other agricultural services for group members. With their support, group members have developed home gardens and are managing savings in their agro businesses.

Ferdous has purchased 3 decimal of land with USD 1188 and registered it by Rausan Ara’s name.  Mazidul owns only 13 decimals of land, has transferred the ownership of 6.5 decimals of land to Salma so that they may stand as example in their community. They are changing themselves to be the role model for their community, to ignite changes in gender norms.

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Salma and Mazidul

Salma has become an example of how empowering women can have a positive impact on her household and on her community. After participating on CARE’s training, she was able to understand that landownership can be the key to overcome extreme poverty in rural Bangladesh. Salma decided to speak up for herself and started a conversation with her husband Mujid to address this issue. Mujid participated in CARE’s gender discussions where he learned about women’s rights, as well as the importance and impact of empowerment.

Salma and Mujid decided to sell some of their sheep and ducks in order to buy a plot of land together. Now, Mujid continues on his daily activities as a jewellery maker, while Salma works the land they acquired. This decision has not only increased their income as a household, but it has also helped Salma to have more agency in her life. CARE Bangladesh is contributing to make women know they have the power to generate big changes in their communities. Other women, including Salma’s in laws, have started to see her as an example and want to spread the message and find ways to be heard. Salma now knows the importance of gender equality and plans to pass on this information to her own children, family and friends.

Rawshan Ara is a member of one of Pathway’s rice value chain groups in Bania Para. Group members are selected based on levels of hardship. The village where Rawshan Ara lives is highly disaster prone. Floods can last over a month in the rainy season and storms sometimes bring crop-shredding hailstones. In the dry season, plants shrivel and the soil cracks with drought. Rapid temperature drops in winter can shock crops to the point of death. This community is particularly vulnerable as a result since its members rely on farming as their livelihood.

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From her participation in Pathways, Rawshan Ara has learned many lessons related to resilience and rice cultivation. Living in a place that suffers from both droughts and floods on a regular basis, one of the lessons she was most excited about was her knowledge of flood and drought tolerant rice varieties. She has begun planting BN62, a short duration flood tolerant variety of rice, with excellent results. As a short duration crop, she is able to harvest it and replant more quickly, which gives her faster access to food and also a product for the market. She has planted it successfully on recently flooded land and is keen to use it again next season.

Another disaster resilience technique Rawshan Ara has learned from Pathways is planting in sacks. Instead of watching the floods sweep over her low-lying kitchen garden, she is now growing vegetables and legumes in plastic sacks and placing them on the elevated land near the road out of reach of rising waters. Fencing on the slopes has been constructed as an extra precaution so while the fields may be inundated, the sack plants remain safe. With the help of Pathways, Rawshan Ara is ready to face this year’s rains with confidence.