Gender equality is an essential component for sustainable economic development, and empowering rural women is vital to enable poor people to improve their livelihoods and overcome poverty. IFAD is addressing gender inequalities and discrimination by focusing on areas which can empower women economically and socially, including access to land, water, education, training, markets and financial services.
Providing equal opportunities for employment
In Bangladesh, the IFAD supported Coastal Climate Resilient Infrastructure Project (CCRIP)introduced an approach called ‘Labour Contracting Society’ (LCS) that is gender responsive and focuses on poverty reduction. A Labour Contracting Society provides a way for women to improve their economic and social situation. The women’s wages, hours of work and benefits are equal to those of their male colleagues, and many invest their earnings in income generating activities.
The CCRIP targets extremely poor and disadvantaged people, mainly women, who have inadequate and often low-paying jobs, or live below subsistence level, to work with construction of project markets and roads. It has also selected poor women to be leaseholders of shops in the women section of the local market, and provided income generating activities trainings to LCSs members.
According to the field survey report and project progress report, so far a total of 5000 LCS members have engaged or are engaging in market and road construction work which generates short term employment for 538,710 work-days. Women participation in construction work stands at 78 per cent against a target of 80 per cent. In terms of leadership, the president and secretary positions in a LCS are designated for women, and at least two out of eleven Market Management Committees are led by women.
LCS members, men and women, have already showed increased self-confidence as a result of becoming LCS members. They earn an income that many of them could not generate before. In addition women specific sections within the market platforms, and women shops have motivated them to have a more active role in the markets and in voicing their views on community decisions.
Shova Rani is one of the project participants. After ending a bad marriage she was left with the responsibility of running the household consisting of her two younger sisters, mother and her daughter. Shova and her family had to live in their neighbor's house for a few months. She says: “I was not very happy because we were really stretching their hospitality, but there was nothing much I could do. Then I heard that the CCRIP was developing Chutukhar Hat (the local market) under a contract with the LCS group members and I began to hope that their help would bring relief from this pain.”
The LCS that Shova and her sisters took part in was contracted to develop the Chutukhar Hat Market, and this presented an opportunity for them to earn a steady income. With help from the Upazila administration, they got housing materials to make a shelter and they were able to move out from their neighbor's house. Shova says: “In the months of distress, my mother had forgotten how to laugh. The day when the profit of the contract work of the market development was distributed among the members of the LCS was the first day she laughed again after a long time.”
With the income Shova received she built a new permanent home. Shova and her sisters also received livelihoods training and are making a business plan. “We will buy a cow which my sister will tend, along with the vegetable garden she is planning. And I will do fish farming and duck rearing. I hope our situation will improve so much that we never have to beg for help, ever again," she says.
Written by: Members of the project team of the Coastal Climate Resilient Infrastructure Project (CCRIP), Bangladesh