For over 40 years the Australian Non-Government Organisation Cooperation Program (ANCP) has partnered with accredited Australian Non-Government Organisations like World Vision, to create sustainable economic growth and reduce poverty in developing countries, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region.
Funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, these projects are delivered through Australian Aid. One current project which began in 2019 in Bangladesh, is Gender Inclusive Pathways out of Poverty (GPOP). The project seeks to empower women by improving their livelihoods through skills training and learning climate change resilience techniques.
The Ukhiya area of the Cox’s Bazar district has a local community that is already among the most vulnerable people in Bangladesh. Women here are especially at risk of having to live well below the poverty line. They often have no choice but to walk great distances to collect clean water for washing, cooking, cleaning and drinking. Access to toilets is rare and few homes have electricity.
The region experiences annual monsoons and is also prone to natural disasters such as cyclones. The local community’s plight has been exacerbated by the recent influx of almost 1 million Rohingya refugees. When the first waves of refugee families arrived in Ukhiya, many Bangladeshis generously welcomed them, offering meals in a genuine act of kindness. Since August 2017 the Ukhiya community in particular has felt the full socio-economic and environmental impact that a massive influx of people can have on a community that has already experienced generations of extreme poverty. To address this, GPOP aims to increase incomes and improve food security/availability, nutrition levels, financial, social and gender inclusion among 15,871 people in the Ukhiya area.
Improving food availability is the first step towards alleviating poverty in Bangladesh
“There’s often not enough food,” Gul says, tugging her headscarf. “Prices have gone up since the Rohingya came because the population is higher.”
Gul’s husband Nural, who is 50, works as a labourer but work isn’t consistently available. The couple, both uneducated, hope their children can stay in school. But to survive, they need to eat, so earning money to feed their family is a daily struggle.
“I know it is bad that my son isn’t at school anymore, but what can I do? I am already in need,” Nural says. “I know school is good for them, but what can I do?”
As Gul’s daughters grow up, she may have to consider marrying them off so they have fewer mouths to feed – a position no mother or father wants to be in. “I hope my children can get a good education,” says Gul, “I want there to be dignity in a good marriage for them, not for them to marry because of this”. Unfortunately, Gul’s story isn’t unique in her community.
Gul stand outside the shelter she lives in with her husband and five children.
Forty-year-old Gul has lived in her shelter for 10 years in Ukhiya with her husband and their five children. Gul is taking part in the GPOP project. The project is in its first year and she has already received skills training in vegetable cultivation techniques and nutrition. Once her small farm is established, she will have enough surplus vegetables to sell. With the increased income she will be looking to keep her children in school. Alleviating poverty is essential for stability in this area of Bangladesh, which has been hard-hit by the refugee crisis. Gul’s unfolding story shows that positive change can happen and is achievable when communities from all over the world work together.
Gul proudly shows the peas she has already been able to grow in her vegetable garden
World Vision acknowledges the support of the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).
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