Recently we have conducted a study in the north-eastern part of Bangladesh known as haor region where people live more than 6 months with flood in a year. The study participants indicated that the main occupation of the people in haor is rice cultivation and they have been doing it from generation to generation. They need to depend on their rice production to maintain their livelihood. However, they can hardly do it throughout the year because of long term flood. During the period of flood, they stop agricultural work and migrate to other places to find out alternatives otherwise stay jobless. Sometimes, the flood ravage their paddy fields before harvesting. The whole thing affect their living standard, food consumption, and nutritional status. Now, if we talk about sustainable farming systems for nutrition for such areas like haor we really need to understand how much it is possible to increase the resilience of farming systems in those areas given the seasonal vulnerability and remoteness of the areas. It will not be surprising if people grown up in such a vulnerable condition, consider nutritional diversity as a luxury because of their limited scope of growing diversified crops, and everyday struggle to secure shelter, earning and other basic needs.
I would like to explore if there is any experience of male sensitization program that was found to be effective in empowering women and improving nutrition?
So far I know HKI has been implementing homestead gardening program for a couple of decades in Bangladesh in improving income, consumption and, thereby, nutrition. There are different reports on this where the results of the interventions were discussed indicating that homestead gardening increase the income of the women. The point is even after having better income, are the women really able to spend the money for their own welfare according to their choice? There are also examples of agricultural credit programs implemented by BRAC, Bangladesh, where women receive credit for their agricultural activities and may access financial resources. In a study we have found that women who receive agricultural credits less often use it according to their choice. Mostly they handover the money to their male partners who decide on how to spend the money. Even, they don’t have any complain in this regard as they are adapted with such practice. Therefore, in a male dominated scenario it doesn’t matter how much a woman earn or receives, unless she is able to use the resources. We may think of addressing those cultural aspects while planning for any sensitization program in empowering women.
It is important to realize how far the women themselves value their involvement in agriculture to achieve better nutrition. In Bangladesh it is mostly found that women are although engaged in producing local vegetables, fruits or poultry rearing in their homestead, they hardly count it as an important pathway to contribute to their income or nutrition. Even men who act as the key decision maker in such a context less often acknowledge or realize the importance of women’s contribution in this process. It is important to understand those of the social factors through undertaking rigorous research to help in generating guidelines for context relevant policies.