The third instalment of our Series: ‘How Children’s Lives Are Being Affected By Climate Change‘ comes from the southwest coastal region of Bangladesh. This is a very climate sensitive and vulnerable part of the world. A lack of fresh water, water-borne diseases and the regular destruction of homes and schools are recurring problems. This is devastating for the almost 4 million Dalits living in the area.
Swapon Kumar Das, Executive Director of Dalit NGO, in conversation with ICDI’s Margaret Kernan, provides a vivid picture of how climate change is affecting young Dalit children and their families today and how their basic human rights are being violated. Read the full article here.
Dalit children struggle to access basic rights in Bangladesh
The Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest spanning nearly 4,000 square miles on both sides of the Bangladeshi Indian border, have provided a natural barrier against tides and cyclones. However, due to illegal cutting down of trees and climate change-induced rising water levels the forest is shrinking. This has spelt disaster for the millions of people living in this coastal delta region. Deteriorating crop-growing conditions, lack of fresh water, an increase in water-borne diseases and regular destruction of homes and schools are just some of the problems encountered there. The situation is particularly devastating for the estimated 3.9 million Dalits[i] living in the southwest part of Bangladesh. They have great difficulty accessing basic social supports because of poverty, caste and gender discrimination and are sometimes excluded from government cyclone shelters.
Dalits, referred to as ‘the untouchables’ or ‘outcasts’ are the lowest caste in the Hindu caste system[ii]. A typical girl or boy born into a Dalit family can expect a life of exclusion, food insecurity, early school drop-out and menial and hazardous work. Although Bangladesh has been successful in reducing its national poverty rate from over half of the population to less than a third over the past two decades, the oppressed position of Dalits has hardly shifted in this time. This affects their education chances (the literacy rates of Dalits, estimated to be 40-42 percent, is far below the national average of 75 percent) as well as access to shelter and food especially during climate induced disasters.