On a recent trip to Bangladesh, Engage project manager Eric Smith met with representatives of the Christian Commission for Development in Bangladesh (CCDB) and travelled to the country’s Southwestern region to visit some of the project’s sites and speak with some of the 400 women involved in Engage. The local community, Shyamnagar, he visited is very rural on the edge of the world’s largest mangrove forest and the people living there deal with the extreme effects of climate change daily. Engage has assisted these women with climate-resilient farming techniques and fostered leadership skills to progress gender equality.  

Throughout the work of CCDB and Engage, women are not only mitigating the effects of climate change but are also changing their own attitudes towards women’s empowerment attitudes of those around them. CCDB project manager Farida Khatun says that women are beginning to “acknowledge the resources they have” and are proud of the work that they are doing.  

“We see the changes in the women’s communication, their confidence has increased, their advocacy and their voices have been raised,” Farida says. 

During the site visit, the women participated in a photovoice exercise, which provided them with the opportunity to take pictures that assisted in explaining their stories and narratives. When taking these photos, the question posed was, “What would you want a Canadian to know about your life?”.

Through this practice, the women took two pictures. The first shows a challenge they faced in their lives, and the second explains how the Engage Project has positively affected that challenge.

Resiliency Through Farming 

Greetings everyone, my name is Sudpta Mondol. The main problem in our area is drinking water. We fetch water from far away and then filter the water to use for cooking, drinking, and other needs. We took this picture to represent the conditions in Bangladesh. Changes from the Engage project are in the second picture. From the Engage project we received training in climate resilient farming, training in vermicompost, support with seeds, and we have used these in the field to meet our needs. After meeting our needs, we can also sell the vegetables at the market. Through the changes we became financially independent, and we can support our family. The training taught us to use spare space in our homes to grow these vegetables, meaning that both my husband and I can support our families.

Similarities over Differences

Right now, we are in the dry season, and you can see that the soil is cracked and dry. Water scarcity is big, and the local ponds are dry. When we go to the pond to fetch water for washing and cooking, there is no water to get. Drinking water is a big problem. The change we have seen through Engage is that we work together whether we are Hindu or Muslim or any religion. Earlier, we would discriminate on the basis of religion and, after Engage came, we started to work together and now we don’t discriminate.

Sowing the Seeds of Progress

Greetings everyone. As you can see the soil where we are in the Southern part of Bangladesh isn’t in very good condition. We did climate resilient farming and learned how to garden. From this we can grow food at home for our family and sell extra to earn money. Through the training we came to know what seeds to use, what farming practices would work best, and now can grow food for ourselves and to sell.  

Increasing Equity and Building Confidence

We are Bengali women and before the project we wouldn’t go out. We weren’t confident to go out and meet people outside our family. If people came to our house, we would put on the veil and go inside. From the pictures we wanted to show you what our condition was before Engage. Before, we didn’t engage in any business or deal with family money. Engage gave us several trainings and now we earn alongside our husbands. Now we go outside, we can open our shops, we can meet people. I now have a shop myself. 

To learn more about the diverse work that Coady and the Engage partners are conducting internationally, information and resources can be found at coady.stfx.ca/engage