Disappearing Girls in the Bengal Delta - PhMuseum

Disappearing Girls in the Bengal Delta

Fabeha Monir

2019 - Ongoing

Climate change and its alarming impact on the lives of girls and women in Southern Bangladesh

Nazma Begum has known many lives for a 17 year old. Some were washed away by the Brahmaputra, the mighty river that flows past a little further. Others were forced upon her by conventions. It made her a nomad, someone's wife and, soon to be a mother. She has not visited her parents since her marriage. More than five years ago, her parents married her off just after flood which is similar like the one she is witnessing now.

While cyclones, storms and flooding rivers have always been a part of life here, they now seem to come more frequently, are less anticipated and are more powerful. This is impacting life of women and children most. Increasing child marriage in coastal areas, teen pregnancy and human trafficking are clear sign of danger which is direct impact of climate change.

The country loses an estimated 100 square kilometers of land to river erosion ever year. In Khulna, Mongla and Satkhira, and on the island of Bhola, and other parts of southern Bangladesh, families are adjusting to the challenges natures presents. Bangladesh - As one of the world’s most densely populated countries, situated over the large delta where three of Asia’s biggest rivers - the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna - meet, Bangladesh feels the effects of a changing climate intensely.

Girls often found to be married off at the age of ten, the other at the age of twelve. Nobody looks up to that. On the islands, child marriages are a way of survival, especially with the weather becoming more extreme. Earlier this year, UNICEF warned that climate change is threatening to increase the number of child brides in Bangladesh, which is already one of the highest in the world Women have migrated to the capital Dhaka and other cities further inland, which has caused the population in these cities to swell and living conditions to deteriorate. Others have gone to work in neighbouring India, Malaysia or countries in the Arabian Gulf. Migrant women are facing injustice, discriminating treatment and many are returning to the country after facing horror.

But how much Bangladesh is contributing on this global climate crisis? Despite being one of the countries most affected by climate change, Bangladesh contributes very little to the process. It emits on average 0,4 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person each year, compared with 7,5 tonnes per person in Europe, 6 tonnes in the Middle East and a world average of 4,9 tonnes, according to World Bank.

Last summer, when the monsoon was at its peak, the government said more than 300,000 people were displaced by floods. A few months earlier, cyclone Fani fled 1.7 million Bengals from their homes. My photo story explores on how climate change is directly linked with the suffering of girls in Southern Bangladesh. One of the biggest impacts for families in southern Bangladesh is the increasing salinity of the water. What was previously fertile farmland is now unfit for growing food, and water that was once fit for drinking has become salty. In this circumstance, parents prefer to keep their son in the school and drops out are mostly girl child. This leads to extreme poverty and a favorable reason for human trafficker to target girls and women. Girls are also tend to flee home to escape poverty or are forced to marry at early as age eleven without questioning where they will end up.

This photography project reveals the other side of climate change, how alarming this for girls and their future. My project entitled on women and what they are facing being in the ground zero of climate change. The impact is bigger than any scientific data when it comes to determine lives of women.

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  • Bangladesh loses an estimated 100 square kilometers of land to river erosion ever year.

  • Last summer, when the monsoon was at its peak, the government said more than 300,000 people were displaced by floods. A few months earlier, cyclone Fani fled 1.7 million Bengals from their homes.

  • Salma Begum is helping her cattle to cross flood water while moving towards flood shelter.

  • The Islands are especially vulnerable. These low-lying sandbanks that stretch from the northern border with India to the Bay of Bengal are increasingly disappearing under the rising river water. Or erosion eats away whole pieces.

  • Nazma Begum has known many lives for a 17-year-old. Some were washed away by the Brahmaputra, the mighty river that flows past a little further. Others were forced upon her by conventions. It made her a nomad, someone's wife and, soon to be a mother. She has not visited her parents since she married off five years ago just after similar flood she is witnessing now.

  • Saleha’s father was attacked and killed by tiger when she was in her mother’s womb. This year she turned 16 and her mother wants her to marry to a man who is double of her age. Due to recent cyclone and flood Saleha’s family lost all their belongings.

  • Feet of Fatima Begum (30) who is trying to save their crops after flooding.

  • A woman is cooking outside their flooded house by staying in the family boat into the flood water.

  • Two year ago Nurjahan (14) arrived in the island of Sundarban after her parents married her off. Her family moved to the capital city as their island has disappeared. However Nurjahan has no contact with them since they left.

  • Halima begum (35) is idly sitting in front of her flooded house.

  • Sathi (17) is holding her six month old daughter Toba Moni. Sathi’s father is a honey collector is Sundarban and could not manage to provide for their big family and ended up marrying Sathi at the age of 15.

  • Mothers are carrying their child for safety after their island has been flooded. Gaibandha, Bangladesh

  • Sulekha (21) catches crabs near her home in a village near Sundarban. Like many parts of the region, the land surrounding her house has growing salty, making traditional rice cultivation harder.

  • One of the biggest impacts for families in southern Bangladesh is the increasing salinity of the water. What was previously fertile farmland is now unfit for growing food, and water that was once fit for drinking has become salty

  • Rokeya (18) is standing with her son in front of their flooded house.

  • Families in an extremely low-lying island that is slowly disappearing due to rising sea levels and river erosion.

  • Girls often found to be married off at the age of ten, the other at the age of twelve. Nobody looks up to that. On the islands, child marriages are a way of survival, especially with the weather becoming more extreme.

  • Khadiza Begum (30) is helping her son and their cattle to transport into flood shelter.

  • Asma is collecting wood and carrying those to sell from the mangrove forest Sundarban after cyclone hit. Her husband is missing after the cyclone and she has to feed her five members family alone.

  • Jesmin Ara (25) is going towards her flooded house by walking through flood water with her six month old child.


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