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This article addresses how gender norms impact the process of migration, and what this means for the use of migration as an adaptation strategy to cope with environmental stressors. Data was collected through qualitative fieldwork, taking the form of semi-structured and open-ended interviews and focus group discussions from a Dhaka slum and three villages in Southern Bangladesh’s Bhola district. Our data revealed that women migrate when environmental stress threatens livelihoods and leave male household members unable to earn enough income for their families. Employing an analytical framework that focuses on the perceptions of individuals, this article shows how gender norms create social costs for women who migrate. Women thus have ambivalent feelings about migration. On the one hand, they do not wish to migrate, taking on a double work load, forsaking their purdah, and facing the stigma that follows. On the other hand, women see migration as a means to help their families, and live a better life. While social costs negatively affect the utilization and efficiency of female migration as an adaptation strategy to environmental stressors, it becomes clear that female migration is imperative to sustain livelihoods within the Bhola community.
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Gender, environment and migration in Bangladesh
Kathinka Fossum Evertsen & Kees van der Geest
To cite this article: Kathinka Fossum Evertsen & Kees van der Geest (2019):
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Gender, environment and migration in Bangladesh
Kathinka Fossum Evertsen
*and Kees van der Geest
Paris School of International Aairs (PSIA), SciencesPo, Paris, France;
Institute for Environment and Human Security, United Nations University, Bonn,
This article addresses how gender norms impact the process of migration, and what this means for the use
of migration as an adaptation strategy to cope with environmental stressors. Data was collected through
qualitative eldwork, taking the form of semi-structured and open-ended interviews and focus group
discussions from a Dhaka slum and three villages in Southern Bangladeshs Bhola district. Our data
revealed that women migrate when environmental stress threatens livelihoods and leave male
household members unable to earn enough income for their families. Employing an analytical
framework that focuses on the perceptions of individuals, this article shows how gender norms create
social costs for women who migrate. Women thus have ambivalent feelings about migration. On the
one hand, they do not wish to migrate, taking on a double work load, forsaking their purdah, and
facing the stigma that follows. On the other hand, women see migration as a means to help their
families, and live a better life. While social costs negatively aect the utilization and eciency of
female migration as an adaptation strategy to environmental stressors, it becomes clear that female
migration is imperative to sustain livelihoods within the Bhola community.
Received 30 September 2017
Accepted 22 February 2019
Gender; environment;
climate change; migration;
1. Introduction
The rising acknowledgment of negative consequences of cli-
mate change (IPCC, 2014; Warner, Van der Geest, & Kreft,
2013), has led to an increased interest in the relationship
between human migration and the environment. Within this
expanding academic eld, migration is increasingly perceived
as a potential adaptation strategy to more intense and frequent
environmental stressors (Black, Bennett, Thomas, & Bedding-
ton, 2011; Tacoli, 2009). Among factors that shape migration
patterns and experiences, gender roles are perhaps one of, if
not the single most important factor shaping the migratory
experience(IOM, 2009).
The study tries to answer the following question: How does
gender inuence the process of migration, and the utilization
and eciency of migration as an adaptation strategy to environ-
mental stressors?
The article employs an analytical framework which focuses
on how individuals perceive dierent adaptation alternatives
when environmental stressors threaten their livelihood. It
explores how gender norms inuence the perceptions of dier-
ent options, and what alternative is ultimately chosen. Based on
evidence from a local case study in Bangladesh the article shows
that, like men, women also migrate when environmental stres-
sors impoverish the livelihoods of their households. While
female migration is an important source of income for house-
holds vulnerable to the negative eects of environmental stres-
sors, perceptions of appropriate gender roles negatively aect
opportunities and outcomes of female migration.
The article is structured in the following way. The rst part
investigates how women have been portrayed in the migration
literature over time; how migration is increasingly seen as an
adaptation to environmental stressors; and the role of social
and gender norms in peoples adaptation choices. The second
part reports on empirical eldwork conducted in Bangladesh.
In the last part of the paper ndings are discussed and the con-
clusion is presented.
2. Literature review
2.1. Female migration
In migration literature, female migrants were long portrayed as
largely passive, migrating for the purpose of marriage or family
reunication. Research conducted from the 1970s onwards
challenged this narrative, and pushed for the inclusion of
women as active agents in migration research (see for example,
Chant, 1992; Curran, Shafer, Donato, & Garip, 2006; Pedraza,
1991). Literature increasingly recognizes that women migrate
for many reasons, of which marriage is only one. It has further-
more been shown that more women migrate independently,
and that migration for work is on the increase, both across
and within borders (Deshingkar, 2005; Gosh, 2009, p. 8; Mar-
tin, 2003, p. 4; Tacoli & Mabala, 2010).
Literature on women moving independently,moving with-
out the rest of their household members, in South-Asia is
sparse. Also, migration statistics in this region tend to be of
poor quality, and may misrepresent actual female migration
ows (Zlotnik, 2003). Despite this dearth of quantitative data,
there has been an emergence of studies focusing on internal
female labour migration in South-Asia (Deshingkar, 2005;
IOM, 2009; Mazumdar & Agnihotri, 2014; Sundari, 2005),
© 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
CONTACT Kathinka Fossum Evertsen Faculty of Social Sciences, Nord University, Universitetsaleen 11, Bodø 8026, Norway
*Present address: Faculty of Social Sciences, Nord University, Bodø, Norway.
This article has been republished with minor changes. These changes do not impact the academic content of the article.
showing that: autonomous migration by women for employ-
ment () is a phenomenon that can no longer be ignored
(Mazumdar & Agnihotri, 2014, p. 146). In the case of Bangla-
desh, several studies show a substantial increase in female
migration from rural to urban areas for wage work (Afsar,
2002; Huq-Hussain, 1995; Kabeer, 1991).
Although rst mentioned in the 1970s, the eld of environ-
mental migration only developed as a distinct research topic in
the early 2000s (Renaud, Bogardi, Dun, & Warner, 2007, p. 11).
Given its youth and cross-disciplinary dynamics, it cannot be
expected that all topics related to the broad academic umbrella
of environmental migration have yet been covered. It is, how-
ever, clear that the concept of actively migrating women,
women migrating independently or otherwise taking an active
part in the migration process, has thus far been largely ignored
within environmental migration literature.
2.2. Gendered vulnerability and environmental
In view of the renewed interest in the relationship between
environment and migration (Hunter, 2005; Piguet, 2013), it is
surprising that the potential linkage between female migration
and environmental stressors has not been explored to a larger
degree (Chindarkar, 2012, p. 2). This missing link is especially
prominent in the context of South-Asia, an area highly prone to
climate change and environmental stress factors expected to
signicantly increase human mobility over the next decades.
A partial explanation for the lack of focus on women in
environmental migration studies can be found in disaster and
hazard literature where the vulnerability of women is compared
to that of men with disheartening results (see for example Can-
non, 2002). Such studies have established that women are more
vulnerable to environmental stress because of their subordinate
status at home and in society (Ahmed & Fabjer, 2009;Björnberg
& Hansson, 2013; Fothergill, 1996;Ikeda,1995; Nelson, Mea-
dows, Cannon, Morton, & Martin, 2002). Disproportionate vul-
nerability of women is prominent in South-Asia (Cannon, 2002),
ultimately leading to higher mortality rates for women in disaster
situations. Although of crucial importance, this focus on vulner-
ability can lead to victimization of women. It risks causing a
blindness to the potential of female agency, failing to capture
the whole story (Jolly & Reeves, 2005, p. 2; Pedraza, 1991,
p. 304). In line with the narrative of passive women, gendered
migration research concerning climate change impacts has
thus far focused on situations where the husband migrates and
the wife stays behind, leaving her to face increased hardships
because of the absence of a male guardian. There are therefore
few studies on women as migrants (Boyd & Grieco, 2003).
There seems to be a growing awareness of this gap, and
other studies have now been conducted focusing on indepen-
dently migrating women in contexts of environmental stress.
Jungehülsing (2010) shows that, although more vulnerable
because of societal disadvantages, Mexican women migrate in
search of work when environmental stress negatively aect
the economy of their home community. Similarly, Tacoli and
Mabala (2010) show how young women are using migration
as a tool to diversify their livelihoods in Mali, Nigeria, Tanza-
nia, and Vietnam. The authors nd that independent migration
is on the increase among young women in response to a short-
age of land in their home communities combined with
increased income opportunities in urban areas due to gendered
labour markets. Sundari (2005) has noted the same trend of
increasing numbers of young women migrating internally in
India. She explains this by citing the recurring drought in the
sending areas coupled with the creation of new income oppor-
tunities in export-oriented industries in urban areas.
If women migrate for environmental reasons more infor-
mation is needed on the circumstances under which they do
so. Failure to acknowledge this group of environmental
migrants may cause the research community to miss the full
array of adaptive measures undertaken. In view of female vul-
nerabilities highlighted in disaster literature, it can be expected
that female migrants face dierent and perhaps greater chal-
lenges than men throughout the migration process. Thus, a bet-
ter understanding of the ability of women to use migration as
an adaption strategy, in comparison to men, is needed (Junge-
hülsing, 2010, p. 20).
2.3. Migration as adaptation
Environmental migration has increasingly been perceived as
something to be supported and facilitated for improved adap-
tation, rather than as a failure to adapt to environmental stress
(Tacoli, 2009). This view builds on the argument that people
who are able to move can diversify their livelihoods,as migration
provides opportunities for alternative income sources (Black
et al., 2011;Foresight,2011, p. 21; see also Martin et al., 2014).
To investigate when and how migration can function as an
adaptation strategy to environmental stressors, it is important
to distinguish forced and voluntary migration. Walsham argues
that: If migration is both planned and voluntary, it can provide
a social safety net for loss of income(Walsham, 2010,p.7,my
italics). By contrast, when migration is forced, it tends to under-
mine livelihood security and worsen the situation for migrants
and their relatives at home (Van der Geest & Warner, 2015).
These criteria planning and choice can be used to evaluate
when migration is useful as an adaptation strategy.
To better understand the circumstances under which
migration can function as an adaptation strategy, two aspects
of migration patterns in societies prone to environmental stress
need to be investigated: namely, drivers of migration as well as
constraints to undertake such action. The Foresight report on
migration and global environmental change identies ve dier-
ent but interrelated drivers for migration: economic, social, pol-
itical, demographic, and environmental (Foresight, 2011, p. 46).
A key point made in the Foresight report is that the environ-
ment can function both as an independent driver while also
reinforcing the eect of other drivers of migration. Thus, to
understand environmental migration, one should not only
look for the visible environmental drivers, but investigate
how these interact with and aect other drivers of migration
already prominent in the community in question, as substan-
tial social, economic and human capital may be required to
enable people to migrate(Foresight, 2011, p. 12).
In view of this argument, also constraints are important fac-
tors determining migration. Adaptation constraints are dened
by the International Panel for Change (IPCC), as factors that
make it harder to plan and implement adaptation actions
(Klein et al., 2014, p. 907). Ultimately, constraints can cause
people to be trapped, when they need to move for their
own protection but lack the ability(Black & Collyer,
2014). Constraints to adaptation has often been categorized
as ecological, physical, economic or technologic (Adger et al.,
2009, p. 337). Challenging this view, both Adger with others
(2007) and Jones and Boyd (2011) have used the term social
barriers to adaptationto describe how also norms and values
may cause people to decide against what can be objectively
viewed as the most optimal action for adaptation.
Social and cultural norms colour how potential migrants
perceive their dierent options by discerning what is appropri-
ate behaviour. In accordance with what is perceived as appro-
priate, dierent alternatives for actions will lead to dierently
valued outcomes. Consequently, the perception of dierent
options inuence what decisions are made and what actions
are carried out (or not) (Martin et al., 2014).
Gender, the social construct that guides what is appropriate
behaviour for men and women respectively (IOM, 2009, p. 10),
is often highlighted as a factor expected to greatly inuence an
individuals migration behaviour. Understanding gender as a
subjective process, where expectations of appropriate behav-
iour for men and women are internalized and then acted out
in interaction with others, gender can be expected to inuence
which actions are perceived as more or less desirable, and sub-
sequently what is seen as normatively and practically possible
(Adger et al., 2009; Jones & Boyd, 2011; Kabeer, 1991).
3. Analytical framework
The concept of social barriers to adaptation is useful for inves-
tigating how gender roles can work as a constraint on female
adaptation. However, we sought an analytical framework that
also includes the possibility of individual agency and allows
for investigating how an individual negotiates both opportu-
nities and constraints. The analytical framework of Grothmann
and Patt (2005) is useful for this purpose. It considers which
opportunities are perceived to be accessible and how desirable
these opportunities are.
Grothmann and Patt divide the decision-making of adap-
tation choices into two phases (2005, pp. 200203). First, a
risk appraisalis carried out, where the individual evaluates
the probability of a threat and how harmful the potential con-
sequences of this threat are. Next, if the threat is perceived to be
both likely and grave an adaptation appraisalis carried out,
where the individual evaluates his or her own capacity to act
upon the perceived risk. The adaptation appraisal is divided
into three subcomponents: (1) how ecient the adaptive
actions are thought to be, (2) whether the individual perceives
the action as possible for him or her to carry out, and (3) the
anticipated costs associated with this action. These three com-
ponents form the perceived adaptive capacity of the individual.
The authors stress that cognitive processes how individuals
perceive the world around them may be as important as
material resources in inuencing decision outcomes:
() if agents systematically underestimate their own ability to
adapt, this qualies as a more important bottleneckfor adaptation
than the objective physical, institutional or economic constraints.
(Grothmann & Patt, 2005, p. 203).
Altering Grothman and Patts model to include gender as inu-
encing peoples perception of alternative options, as shown in
Figure 1, it can help shed light on how gendered norms and
values in a community affect who migrates and why.
4. Methods
Given the studys explorative nature and the need for an in-
depth understanding of the actorsmotivations to comprehend
the eects of gender on migration patterns, a case study, using
Figure 1. Analytical framework.
qualitative tools, was deemed appropriate to answer the
research question of this study (Gerring, 2004; Yin, 1994, p. 13).
Prior to the actual eldwork, six interviews with academic
specialists on gender, climate change and development were
conducted. Insights from these interviews were used to design
the research tools. During the eldwork, semi-structured and
open-ended interviews were conducted with 9 male and 17
female respondents in the Bhola bustee and the Bhola district.
In addition, we conducted four focus group discussions, two
with men and two with women. See Table 1 for overview. Inter-
views with key informants, including local leaders, non-govern-
mental organizations, and local government ocials, were
conducted in all stages of the research process. See Annex A
for full list of respondents.
Bangladesh was chosen as a case in view of three of the coun-
trys characteristics. First, migration is already an important
means of income-diversication (Afsar, 2003; McNamara,
Olson, & Rahman, 2016; Siddiqui, 2003). Second, Bangladesh
has been listed the fth country most at risk from disasters,
the risk index comprising exposure to natural hazards and the
vulnerabilities of the society (Mucke, 2014, p. 9). Having nega-
tive consequences of climate change threatening their liveli-
hoods, a great number of Bangladeshis face a need to migrate.
However, many lack the capacity to do so. Third, Bangladesh
is a country where deep gender inequalities persist (Amin,
1997, p. 213; Kabeer, Mahmud, & Tasneen, 2011, p. 7). Gender
roles in Bangladesh are heavily inuenced by the cultural prac-
tice of purdah, which can be understood as the broader set of
norms and structures that set standards of female morality
(Amin, 1997, p. 213). Excluded from the public, the home natu-
rally becomes womens domain and aects the division of labour
among household members. Men are required to provide for the
family by generating income outside of the home, while women
are obliged to take care of domestic tasks (Kabeer et al., 2011,
p. 7). It is assumed that the eect of gender on migration is
stronger where gender inequalities are greater. In view of the
strength of purdah, Bangladesh is a country where one can
expect to see strong eects of gender on migration behaviour.
A high number of migrating women take up work in the gar-
ments sector. Therefore, the rst part of the eldwork was con-
ducted in the capital, Dhaka, where the majority of garment
factories are located. Although many migrants settle elsewhere,
a signicant number of poor migrants settle in the slums in and
around cities (Walsham, 2010, p. 15). Furthermore, because of
their low income, many garment workers are slum dwellers.
The smaller geographical areas that slums occupy aided in
identifying female migrants. The Bhola bustee (bangla word
for informal settlement or slum) particularly stood out. The
overwhelming majority of its inhabitants are from the Bhola
district in coastal Bangladesh, which is highly exposed to
environmental stressors (McNamara et al., 2016). People
have been moving to Dhaka from the Bhola district since the
1971 cyclone, establishing a migration pattern between the
two locations. Furthermore, the slum is located in the Mirpur
area of Dhaka, where numerous garment factories are located.
Next, eldwork was carried out in sending communities in
Bhola island to get a better sense of this communitys attitude
toward migration in general and perceptions of male and
female migrants in particular. Open-ended interviews and
focus group discussions were conducted in Ilisha Union Par-
ishad, Dhania Union Parishad, and Syeddpur Union Parishad
in the Bhola district, as indicated by the red (opened) circles
in Figure 2. The study sites were selected from the hazard
map displayed in Figure 3, showing riverbank erosion across
the Bhola district between 1973 and 2005 (Sarker & CEGIS
in Inmam, 2009).
Lack of quantitative data limits the scope of this study. The
Bangladesh population census does not have detailed data
about environmental migration disaggregated by sex. Such
data would have been useful for a quantitative analysis of pat-
terns and historical trends in female migration from environ-
mental hotspots like the Bhola district. While additional
quantitative data collection could have beneted the results of
this study, limited time and resources did not allow for such
data gathering.
Table 1. Interviews and focus group discussions.
Study site Gender Interviewees Focus groups
Bhola Island Female 4 2
Male 2 1
Bhola Bustee Female 13 0
Male 7 1
Figure 2. Field sites in the Bhola district.
5. Findings
5.1. Sending and receiving communities
Situated in the Bay of Bengal, the coastal Bhola district is
exposed to the activity of two rivers, as well as to tidal changes
and cyclones from the ocean. Of the many environmental stres-
sors aecting the area, river bank erosion was identied by an
overwhelming majority of the respondents as the main
environmental stressor inuencing their decision to move.
The main occupations in the Bhola district are shing and
farming (Arzu, Mayors oce Bhola zila, personal communi-
cation, September 21, 2014). Fishermen represent the poorest
strata of society in the district, and live close to the river
where land is cheap. Poor shing families are most aected
by river bank erosion, lacking resources to move further inland.
The Meghna River strips soil from the islands eastern bank
and, in the process, destroys farmland and displaces families.
The loss of farmland pushes farmers into shing, an occupation
with which they have little experience.
Several respondents also complained that there is less sh in
the river, causing food insecurity large parts of the year. As sh
is a fundamental natural resource to these householdsliveli-
hoods, declining sh stocks further increases the need for
alternative income strategies in the district. For women in the
Bhola district, no real income opportunities are available.
In response to the decrease in natural resources, many see
migration as the only way to nd new income sources. People
move to the larger cities like Chittagong and Dhaka to work as
day labourers, in the garments, or as domestic workers,
depending on their gender, age, and social networks.
Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, is swelling beyond its
capacity, which aectsavailableincomeopportunities,aswell
as living conditions (McNamara et al., 2016,p.2).Furthermore,
many low-lying cities are vulnerable to environmental stressors,
and Dhaka is no exception (Adamo, 2010, p. 162; Simon, 2010;
Adri & Simon, 2018). Consequently, many migrants nd them-
selves in a situation where they leave one set of problems behind
for a new set of vulnerabilities in the destination area (Ayeb-
Karlsson, Van der Geest, Ahmed, Huq, & Warner, 2016;Fore-
sight, 2011; McNamara et al., 2016). In the Bhola slum, threats
of eviction, res, and ooding constitute constant stress for the
slum-dwellers. Yet, for many rural poor, Dhaka is viewed as an
opportunity for alternative income sources and a better life.
5.2. Women as migrants
In the Bhola district, when asked about female migration, every
villager knew someone who had moved, often responding yes,
a lot, a lot. Somewhat surprisingly, in several conversations
with villagers in Bhola, it was reported that almost equal
Figure 3. Hazard map showing riverbank erosion.
numbers of women and men migrate. Thus, we could establish
an existing trend of female migration from the Bhola district.
In the receiving community in the Bhola slum in Dhaka, we
identied three categories of migrating women: (1) women who
had migrated with their husbands, (2) women who were the
head of their households, typically divorced or widowed, and
(3) young unmarried women who had migrated alone to pro-
vide for themselves and their families back in the village.
The agency exercised by all three categories of migrating
women was a surprising nding. In view of the norm that
women need approval from their male guardians before leaving
the home, it was expected that female migrants would in some
way or other have been sentby their families. This assumption
did not hold. With only a few exceptions, the female respon-
dents took the initiative and convinced skeptical family
members to allow them to leave, or to migrate with them. 17-
year-old Anika explained: I told them a lot of things to make
them understand(Bhola slum, 29.08.2014).
Women migrating independently are mostly younger,
unmarried women. This is not surprising, and is found also
in other studies, which show how married women are the
least likely to migrate (Afsar, 1994; Jungehülsing, 2010; Massey,
Fischer, & Capoferro, 2006). (Afsar, 1994; Jungehülsing, 2010;
Massey et al., 2006). Household responsibilities, and especially
the obligation to take care of the children, make it dicult for
married women to leave their household behind. Leaving her
children behind, a woman would be deemed a bad mother.
Several female participants of whom had migrated without
their children, before returning to their village, expressed
guilt in this regard (Bhola district, focus group discussion,
26.09.2014). Alam, a male villager, explained: basically nobody
leaves their children behind here. If they move to Dhaka they all
go along(Alam, Bhola district, 29.09.2014).
An important lesson taken away from the eldwork is that
agency should not be ascribed only to independently
migrating women, however. Although less visible, married
women also exercise strong agency in the migration process.
For example, the initiative to migrate is often taken by the
wife. This was conrmed by a substantial share of the male
respondents, who explained how it had been a female house-
hold member mothers, sisters, and wives who had rst
suggested that the household should migrate. After arriving
in Dhaka with their household, married women also take up
wage-work alongside their husbands. Nahar, wife and mother,
I said, ()I am going to go to Dhaka so I can feed my kids. ()I
will go to work myself so we can eat.I said that and made him
understand, and we came [to Dhaka] (Bhola slum, 04.09.2014).
5.3. Gendered opportunities
An interesting characteristic of the Mirpur area in Dhaka where
the Bhola slum is located is that the labour market is segregated
by gender in a way that allows for a more stable income for
women than for men.
Women in the Bhola slum are mostly occupied either as
housemaids or garment workers. While the income of house-
maids is also of importance, it is the presence of numerous gar-
ment factories that explains the favourable working
opportunities for women in this area, as the wages are signi-
cantly higher in the garments sector than in traditional house-
hold work.
The garment factories do not exclusively employ women,
but prefer to do so. In the past, more men also worked in
these factories, but this has changed due to harder competition
in the labour market (Evertsen, 2015, pp. 6163). As a result,
many men that used to work in the garments sector in Mirpur
have now lost their jobs. Slum-dwellers explained that employ-
ers prefer to hire women because they are easier to control.
Women will not complain over bad working conditions or
low salaries Raq explained: [The employers] know women
will not come forward to ask them for money. But the men
will. Thats why they work with the women(Bhola slum,
Most of the male slum-dwellers work as day labourers,
taking odd jobs wherever and whenever available. Typical
work includes rickshaw pulling, cutting soil, construction
work, garbage management, painting, and carpeting. Strong
competition over few jobs only allows men to nd work
between 10 and 15 days a month, the slum-dweller Alam
explained (Bhola slum, 01.09.2014).
The fact that the garment factories prefer to employ women
over men has two contrary eects. Womens subjugation is the
main reason why they are the preferred workers, and their
employment contributes to a reinforcement of this subjugation
as women are often underpaid and mistreated in their work-
place (Afsar, 2002, p. 106; HRW, 2015). At the same time,
the gendered segregation of the labour market in Mirpur results
in women often having a more stable income than men within
the slum community. Mens salaries are higher per hour, but
they tend to work less hours. Consequently, female income is
of high importance to households in the Bhola slum.
This reliance on female income nds itself in striking dis-
agreement with socially accepted gender norms in Bangladesh.
Nevertheless, facing lack of income opportunities in the Bhola
district, the garments industry creates an economic pull factor
for women to migrate, implying that women perceive
migration as an ecient way to cope with the risk that environ-
mental stressors pose to livelihoods.
5.4. Social costs
There seems to be a consensus among researchers and develop-
ment organizations that a job in the garments sector has a
higher status in society than jobs previously available to
women in Bangladesh, which has typically been domestic
work (Banks, 2013; Jansen, personal communication, February
28, 2015; Nasreen, personal communication, August 7, 2014).
Domestic work has been regarded as unsafe for the women
in question, often bearing the stigma of sexual harassment.
To be a housemaid has furthermore never received the status
of a real job, as household tasks are already the responsibility
of women. Work in the garments sector is perceived as safer
than domestic work, making households more willing to give
female members permission to work.
However, this study nds that women working in the gar-
ments sector are also highly stigmatized, in some ways even
more so than more traditional domestic workers. A recurrent
explanation of why the garments sector is not suitable for
women was that it will make them go bad. Investigating
what was meant by bad, it became evident that the negative
stigma attached to city girlsis linked to the perception of
them violating their purdah.
In view of the stronghold of purdah, the idea of working
women is contested in Bangladesh. While garment work is per-
ceived as a real jobin a workplace where men also work, the fact
that women and men work together is also the crux of the pro-
blem with regard to female reputation, as it breaks the physical
segregation of women and men. This will lead female garment
workers to be viewed with suspicion, their behaviour closely
scrutinized. Respondents expressed concern that women work-
ing long hours outside the home will not have time to properly
do their prayers, or be able to fully cover their bodies when doing
physical labour work, both seen as important elements of
upholding purdah. Not being able to cover properly will lead
to increased attention by male coworkers, leading to accusation
of the women being immoral and loose. The accusations of
women working in garments dier from the stigma associated
with domestic workers, who are still conned within the walls
of the home and are largely portrayed as victims rather than
active violators of the purdah regime.
To be perceived as a badwoman has high social costs, both
for the woman in question, and for her family members. One
such consequence is the unmarried womens decreasing value
on the marriage market. Saving for ones own dowry is a com-
mon rationale for young women to migrate to Dhaka. How-
ever, the price of dowry is closely linked to reputation. The
stigma associated with being a city girlincreases the amount
of dowry to be paid to the grooms family for acceptance of
the marriage. This requires them to stay in Dhaka for a pro-
longed period of time, potentially further increasing their
dowry as this also rises with age (Huda, 2006, p. 255).
Importantly, purdah is not a concept that only involves
women. It is a relational social construct regulating specic
responsibilities and appropriate behaviour for both men and
women. When a woman takes up wage work it indicates that
her male guardian has failed both to provide for her and to pro-
tect her, signalizing that he has failed to full his responsibilities
as a man. Tasq explained: I obviously felt bad that [my sister]
had to work(Bhola slum, 14.09.2014). Male honour thus cre-
ates a substantial constraining factor for women who wish to
enter the labour force.
Because taking care of home and children are at the core of
female responsibilities, male household members will often
require an assurance that wage work will not compromise
such tasks before permitting their women to earn a wage. I
told her that if she can manage to work, then she should,
one male slum-dweller recalled (Reaj, Bhola slum,
15.09.2014). A problem mothers faced, was that only a few fac-
tories oer childcare services. Several female respondents
explained that they worried for their children while at work,
leaving them home alone or with neighbours: I leave my son
home alone [] I feel anxious. If he is ill, I cant be near
him, thats what I feel bad about(Ayela, Bhola slum,
05.09.2014). Having the responsibilities for home and children,
going to work, and facing social stigma when doing so, women
in the Bhola slum face a triple burden.
It becomes clear that it is important for working migrant
women as well as for their household members to uphold
a positive reputation to the extent possible. Such eorts conceal
actual conditions and hardships of the migrants, with the
potential consequence of further deepening the costs that
migration entails. When asked about her visits to her home vil-
lage Anika, a young garment worker in Dhaka shrugged: I cant
say its not nice, so I said its nice(Bhola slum, 29.08.2014).
We asked migrants what they had expected to earn before
coming to Dhaka. Respondents often often answered a number
four times higher than their actual salary. This high number
was also reported by villagers when asked what people in
Dhaka earn. One consequence of such misinformation is that
migrants see the need to stay in Dhaka longer than planned.
Several respondents explained that they wanted to save enough
money to buy a new plot of land in the village, having lost land
and home to river bank erosion. Because they earned less than
anticipated, they were unable to return as planned. This was
true for both male and female respondents. However, as
women face larger social and subsequent economic costs
when migrating, the consequences of such misinformation
may be correspondingly more severe.
5.5. Justication
The male stigma associated with female migration leaves the
initiative to migrate for wage work with the women in question,
simply because men will not ask their women to work. In view
of negative social stigma and subsequent economic loss
attached to female migration, we wanted to explore how
migration nevertheless becomes a normatively justiable
option for women in the Bhola district.
It became clear from conversations with female migrants
that they put the blame of the violation of their purdah upon
their male household members, who, by failing to provide for
them, forced women to take up wage work. The female respon-
dents perceived their purdah as valuable, being closely linked to
their identity and honour. At the same time, blaming men for
the violation of purdah also functioned as a justication for
women to step out of the home, as their men left them with
few other options. Using hardship to justify their actions,
these women seemed to have found a pragmatic balance
between the norms of purdah and the reality of their situation:
Staying under purdah is very good, but you cant sit back and only
think about purdah and not do anything. () So you have to main-
tain Allahs rules and also have to lead your life (Jameela, Bhola dis-
trict, focus group discussion, 2728.09, 2014).
Similar to the reasoning behind mens responsibilities toward
women, female migrants often justied their actions by refer-
ring to their responsibilities towards parents, younger siblings,
or children. Anika, a young garment worker, explained how she
worked so she could stand with her head held high(Bhola
slum, 29.09.2014), justifying her working outdoors by empha-
sizing the importance of supporting her younger siblings.
5.6. Resistance
While some women nd justications that allow them to
migrate, such rationalizations are challenged by women who
have not migrated. During the focus group discussion in Bhola
with women not connected to the garments sector, a striking
level of anger was expressed toward migrating women. One
respondent burst out: We hate the garments!(Bhola district,
focus group discussion, 2829.09.2014). The other respondents
expressed strong-felt agreement. The group associated clear
negative characteristics with women migrating for wage
work. They explained how such women are greedy, thinking
about themselves rather than their familiesreputation.
This anger may have two dierent but interrelated expla-
nations. First, the inappropriate behaviour of migrating
women may feel like an attack on the self-respect of those
who stayed behind. An alternative explanation is that women
remaining in Bhola envy the women who migrate for taking
such an opportunity when they are themselves equally dis-
tressed. Still, they did not reach the same conclusion as the
women who chose to migrate. Rather, their rationale seemed
to be that it is their responsibility as women to keep the house-
hold together, no matter the situation. If a woman migrates, it
symbolizes a breakdown of the household: Women are respon-
sible for maintaining the family with husbands little income
(Bhola district, focus group discussion, 2728.09.2014), it was
An apparent question is what dierences exist between
migrating and non-migrating women that can explain their
contrasting decisions. One such dierence may be educational
level. While we asked respondents about their educational
background, most respondents were migrants, which gives us
little basis for comparison with non-migrants. Earlier research
has shown that people who migrate due to loss of livelihoods
are generally worse oand have less education than people
migrating for other reasons (Adri & Simons, 2018, p. 326).
The Bhola district is poor, and most respondents only had a
few years of schooling. It is therefore not certain that migrating
women have more education than non-migrating women. This
would be an interesting point for further research.
6. Discussion
6.1. Risk and adaptation appraisals
According to the model for cultural perceptions laid out in sec-
tion 3, an individual will carry out a risk-appraisal, evaluating
the likelihood and magnitude of a threat, before evaluating
potential routes for adaptation. For women in the Bhola dis-
trict, the alternative adaptation routes identied in response
to river bank erosion are to move further inland or to migrate
for wage work. In line with Grothman and Patts model, it
seems that women only consider migration as a real alternative
when they perceive it a high probability that their male guar-
dian will not be able to provide for the household and that
this will have serious consequences. When women identify
the need to provide for their household, some will migrate in
spite of social and cultural norms discouraging them from
doing so. As Nahar, mother of four, simply said: My husband
working alone cantdoit(Bhola slum, 04.09.2014).
Female migration as a response to lack of male income
should not be understood as an automatic process, however.
As showed by Grothman and Patt, the existence of a high
risk with grave consequences is not enough to explain adaptive
action. An adaptation appraisal also has to be concluded before
action is taken. In this case, the women will weigh how ecient
they think migration will be, whether it is physically and nor-
matively possible for them to migrate, and what the costs
associated with migration are. If the risk is perceived as grow-
ing, so may the likelihood for migration being perceived as a
real alternative.
The gendered income opportunities, with the availability of
work for women in the garments factories in Mirpur, makes
migration appear as an ecient migration strategy. However,
this study has shown how the concept of working women is
highly contested in the Bhola community. Purdah is highly
valued, and it is important for both men and women to uphold
purdah to the extent possible. Grothmann and Patt (2005) seem
to be right in their argument that perceived adaptive capacity
can heavily inuence adaptive behaviour. Values and norms
held by the community play an important role in an individ-
uals decision making. Although the loss of livelihoods in the
home community and economic opportunities in Dhaka are
important factors inuencing the decision to migrate, the
notion of self-respectis of outmost importance in this case,
and is not easily given up for monetary goals. Indeed, some-
times the adaptation appraisal carried out by individuals will
conclude that the costs associated with migration are too
high, and that moral reputation is of more value. For some
women, it becomes normatively impossible to migrate.
6.2. Implications for adaptation
Interviews and focus group discussions conducted with
migrant and non-migrant men and women in the Bhola com-
munity reveal that women have to weigh migration opportu-
nities against higher social costs than men. Consequently, a
larger risk may be needed before women perceive the risk as
sucient for action, highlighting the interlinkage between
risk- and adaptation appraisals. If this holds, it means that
when aected by the same negative consequences of environ-
mental stressors, women will wait longer before they migrate
than men will.
This has negative implications for adaptation as it will render
households with more female household members more vulner-
able to environmental stress. If migration is delayed until there is
no other option left for example when farmers are unable to
make a living because farmland is lost to river bank erosion-
there is a risk that the migration will be carried out in a less
planned manner. Several female respondents explained how
they had lived on the streets of Dhaka for some time before
nding their way to the Bhola slum. In situations where
women do not have the support of their household upon
migrating, it is possible that they are also less able to utilize
migration networks that the household would otherwise draw
support from. In short, the fact that women wait to migrate
will expose women to greater risks both at home and in the des-
tination area. Because it is regarded as unsafe for women to travel
to Dhaka alone, some women also wait for a substantial amount
of time after they have made the decision to migrate. Anika
explained how she waited in the village for three years before
she could travel with a neighbour (Bhola slum, 29.08.2014).
That women wait for years to migrate because of gender-
related constraints shows that they may be temporarily trapped,
until an opportunity to migrate emerges. Furthermore, not all
women facing the same situation of livelihood stress migrate.
Some wish to stay while others feel like they can not move.
The informal settlements alongside the embankments indicate
a signicant trapped population in the area, as entire house-
holds are being displaced. Women may not only be trapped
in monetary terms, but also but also culturally within the
walls of their home. As one of the returned garment workers
expressed: Girls stay in the house as if they stay in jail(Nas-
reen, Bhola district, focus group discussion, 26.09.2014).
In section 2.3 we argued that planning and choice can be
used to evaluate when migration is useful as an adaptation
strategy. Women in the Bhola community face challenges in
both these respects. Lacking choice of when to migrate and
when to return, leave women unable to plan for their future,
and aect how ecient female migration is as an adaptation
strategy to environmental stressors.
The fact that income opportunities are more stable for
women than men in the destination area would, from a purely
economic perspective, be an argument in favour of more female
migration. However, when considering the social costs, and
their subsequent negative economic eects, the positive out-
comes of migration diminishes. This study shows how female
migration is an important adaptation tool, but that better facili-
tation is crucial to avoid that women suer from their choice.
7. Conclusions
The ndings of this study support the idea that gender inu-
ences all aspects of the migration process. Exercising strong
inuence on the behaviour of individuals within the house-
hold, gender directs what income-generating opportunities
are available, the level of wages, status of work, likelihood
of migration, and how migrants are perceived. Gender
norms also impact vulnerabilities by delaying adaptive
behaviour and compromise the economic gains from female
In view of the large social costs associated with female
migration, strong environmental and economic push factors
are required to explain the relatively large share of female
migrants from the Bhola district. Yet, not all women facing
the same push-factors migrate. Having to negotiate economic
incentives and cultural constraints women in the Bhola district
feel ambivalent towards migration. On the one hand, they do
not wish to migrate, taking on a double work load, forsaking
their purdah, and facing the stigma that follows. On the
other hand, women see migration as a way to help their
families, and to be able to live a better life. Such dilemmas
make it dicult to determine when women are trapped,
when they move voluntarily, and when they are forced to do so.
No one should be forced to migrate or forced to stay. One
should therefore be careful to conclude on behalf of women
in the Bhola district what would be the best way for them to
adapt to environmental stressors. It is clear, however, that to
better facilitate for women who need and want to migrate is
First, female environmental migration need to be brought to
the attention of development agencies, donors and policy
makers. Increased awareness is a precondition for better facili-
tation. Second, the main issue to address is the social stigma
associated with working women. This study has shown this
stigma comes from the assumption that working women are
unable to adhere to the practice of purdah. Thus, one solution
could be to allow breaks for prayers and ensure temperatures
that allow female workers to cover their bodies as they want
inside. Furthermore, providing day-care for children would
help lessen the extra burden of work which women are facing.
These could be important rst steps to improve facilitation of
female migration from Bhola.
Women are more active agents in migration processes than
expected. This study concludes that women should not be per-
ceived as passive, but rather active agents in migration pro-
cesses, who at the same time face greater struggles than men
in achieving their goals. To better facilitate for planned and
voluntary migration as a way for vulnerable households to
adapt to environmental stressors, and in view of the chal-
lenges migrating women often face, there is a need for more
research on the interlinkages between gender and environ-
mental migration. It is also clear that female environmental
migrants deserve more attention than they have thus far
We want to extend our thanks to François Gemenne and Sonja Ayeb-
Karlsson for advice and feedback during the research process; to Saleemul
Huq, Sarder Shaqul and the rest of the ICCCAD team for making the eld
work possible; to Casey Williams for proof reading; and to everybody who
have taken the time to contribute information, comments and support,
including Ana Namaki, Andreas Uhre and Kenneth Bo Nielsen. We ded-
icate this article to the Bhola community, who gave of their time and
shared their stories.
Disclosure statement
No potential conict of interest was reported by the authors.
Notes on contributors
Kathinka Fossum Evertsen is a PhD Fellow at Nord University Faculty of
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Annex A.
List of respondents
Name* Age Occupation/ life situation Date
In Bhola slum
Male respondents
Abdul 35 Day labourer 01.09.2014
Raq 33 Sanitary craftsman 01.09.2014
Malik 20 Day labourer 02.09.2014
Amir 25 Day labourer 03.09.2014
Tasq 23 Van driver 13.09.2014
Faisul 35 Day labourer 13.09.2014
Reaj 35 Day labourer 15.09.2014
Focus group discussion
Haz Over 60 Retired day labourer 17.09.2014
Bashir 40 Day labourer 17.09.2014
Ahmad 40 Van puller 17.09.2014
Rahman 40 Rickshaw puller 17.09.2014
Habib 32 Construction worker 17.09.2014
Salim 40 Shop owner 17.09.2014
Female respondents
Anika 17 Garment worker 29.08.2014
Israt 18 Garment worker 29.08.2014
Seema 19 Garment worker 29.08.2014
Rayhana 25 Garment worker, just lost her job 04.09.2014
Nahar 35 Housemaid/tea-vendor 04.09.2014
Ayela 25 Housemaid 05.09.2014
Adila 31 Housemaid 05.09.2014
Farzana uknown Garment worker 05.09.2014
Samira 20 Looking for work 11.09.2014
Nadia 18 Garment worker 11.09.2014
Nyala 35 Previous housemaid and garment worker 11.09.2014
Nasrin 16 Garment worker 12.09.2014
Naureen 17 Garment worker 12.09.2014
In Bhola district
Male respondents
Nasir 28 Fisherman 25.09.2014
Sharif Over 60 Retired sherman 27.09.2014
Focus group discussion
Rasul Fisherman 29.09.2014
Zarid Fisherman 29.09.2014
Nasif Fisherman 29.09.2014
Alam Fisherman 29.09.2014
Fahim Fisherman 29.09.2014
Kamal Fisherman 29.09.2014
Female respondents
Farhana 35 Housewife 24.09.2014
Halima 50 Mother of garment worker 24.09.2014
Faiza 50 Mother of garment worker 25.09.2015
Seleha 24 Returned garment worker 25.09.2015
Focus group discussion
Jameela 1935 Housewife, returned garment worker 26.09.2014
Nasreen 1935 Housewife, returned garment worker 26.09.2014
Sabah 1935 Housewife, returned garment worker 26.09.2014
Fatima 1935 Housewife, returned garment worker 26.09.2014
Shirin 1935 Housewife, returned garment worker 26.09.2014
Naju 1935 Housewife, returned garment worker 26.09.2014
Aysha 1935 Housewife, returned garment worker 26.09.2014
Tahera 1935 Housewife, returned garment worker 26.09.2014
Focus group discussion
Rehana 35 Housewife 2728.09.2014
Sabiha 35 Housewife 2728.09.2014
Nasrat 25 Housewife 2728.09.2014
Rumana 50 Housewife 2728.09.2014
Nyala 30 Housewife 2728.09.2014
Soraya 35 Housewife 2728.09.2014
*All names have been changed to maintain respondentsprivacy.
... Positive outcomes of mobility, such as migration as adaptation through, for example, livelihood diversification, tend to be linked to human mobility that is safe, orderly, and regular, involving some type of anticipation and planning (Vinke et al., 2020). Nevertheless, whether or not individuals or households can use migration as an adaptation strategy depends on the reasons why they leave their homes, the circumstances in which they move, and the conditions they face at their destination, which can lead to increased vulnerabilities when migration fails to secure peoples' livelihoods (Warner et al., 2012;Evertsen and van der Geest, 2020). Personal characteristics such as gender identity, race, disability, health, age, or education level also determine the outcome of migration. ...
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Climate change is altering human mobility patterns across the globe, particularly in climate-vulnerable developing countries. With increasing recognition of the complex interlinkages between climate change and human mobility, governments and subnational authorities have begun to address this nexus in planning and policy processes, including Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs). To better understand how human mobility is integrated into NDCs and NAPs, we analyzed 171 NDCs and 40 NAPs, and conducted 20 semi-structured interviews and 16 workshops and webinars. We find that human mobility is increasingly featured in NDCs, but only few countries propose concrete interventions to address adverse effects or promote adaptive aspects of human mobility. The study also finds that many countries primarily focus on mobility as a risk, challenge, or problem while some have incorporated positive aspects of mobility (e.g., migration as an adaptation strategy). Through six concise case studies, the paper focuses on good practices from specific NDCs and NAPs that can enhance the integration of human mobility in a range of priority policy sectors for adaptation and loss and damage. To move forward, interviewees and workshop participants emphasized the need for adequate finance, institutional capacities, and data to strengthen the integration of human mobility into NDCs and NAPs. There is a need to identify and better understand potential policy interventions at the local, national, and global level, and to assess their impact and map potential synergies.
... We focus on freshwater availability as the primary concern for local people, and on migration as an adaptation option. Decreasing fresh water availability due to rising sea levels has been signaled by various authors as a major climate change impact [7,[20][21][22][23], while many authors have suggested that migration is the primary adaptation measure open to people in this area [24][25][26][27][28][29][30][31][32]. It is becoming clear, however, that migration may not be an option for all groups within the population, and that the inability (or an absence of a free choice) of some sections of the population to move is creating clusters of trapped populations in the most vulnerable zones in Bangladesh (Figure 1). ...
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Climate change effects are not uniform and have disproportionate impacts among different groups of people within communities. It is therefore important to understand the underlying issues of intersectionality for climate change adaptation and human well-being. This paper aims to measure human capabilities and freedom of choice by analyzing perceived climate change impacts and current climate change adaptation ability among ethnic and non-ethnic communities in Bangladesh. This study applies a range of participatory rural appraisal tools and key informant interviews to assess impacts of climate change when considering gender and ethnicity. Women in the coastal regions have less access to resources and services because of social capital and cultural practices and this directly or indirectly influences their adaptation to climate change. Women have limited or no participation in decision-making processes at family or community levels and this impacts their vulnerability and well-being. In consequence, women’s capabilities must be focused on moderating their vulnerability and risk, and developing effective adaptation to the adverse impacts of climate change and natural hazards.
... Our analysis also reported significant differences in the factors that may promote migration between men and women. Studies indicate that women migrate more for environmental factors than men (Awiti, 2022;Bleeker et al., 2021;Evertsen & van der Geest, 2020). It has also been found that the effect of crop failure tends to reduce household mobility, and indirect exposure increases it in women. ...
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Climate change impacts on populations have increased the number of affected people and climate migrants worldwide. Although the nexus between climate change and migration is not monolithic, analyses of individual-level factors at the local scale that reveal the specific drivers of migration are lacking. Here, we show that people are motivated by individual calculations, prioritizing economic and social factors when deciding to migrate. We use data from 53 structured interviews to decompose the assessment of the decision-making process of people deciding to migrate from a region highly vulnerable to climate change, assessing the internal and external migratory potential. The assessment of migration potential evidenced that potential migrants react and make decisions based on perceptions and preferences among economic, social, environmental, and cultural factors when migrating and value these factors differently. Our spatial multi-criteria model reports disaggregation in that people prioritize economic factors, such as unemployment, job opportunities, and lack of income, over other migration-related factors, while environmental factors are generally considered underlying. Our results demonstrate that migration is not monolithic but a mixture and amalgam of multiple interacting factors, which causes people to migrate or stay in one place despite vulnerability and climate change impacts.
... A gendered perspective critically engages with men and women's lived realities, which has been lacking in the immobility literature (Uteng and Cresswell 2008;Pessar and Mahler 2003;Evertsen and van der Geest 2020). In our lived realities, we use empirical data that constitutes emotions in making meaning of how and why we stay. ...
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Immobility in the context of climate change and environmental risks is understudied, particularly its relation to gender. In this article, we further understanding of immobility to include the gendered influences on potential of people to decide non-movement, decipher meanings that are attached with it and explore how it relates to mobility. We analyse emotions of women and men with different mobility experiences, reflecting their ideas of home, risk perceptions and construction of identity that are informed by gender and central to understanding immobility. Through ethnographic data collected in Bangladesh, we look into details of gendered ways of experiencing immobility where male and female attitudes to staying are distinctly different, yet intersect in many ways. Our data reveal how social and cultural context (patriarchy, social norms, cultural values and shared beliefs) and personal emotions (feelings of belonging, attachment, loyalty, modesty) regulate people’s actions on immobility decisions. The decision to stay is relational, where individuals practicing mobility and immobility interact in specific contexts of climate change. The act of staying, especially for women, is dictated by degrees of freedom of want, where desires of movement might exist, but reality of fulfilling them does not. Immobility can have its limitations for women, but can also be an empowering experience for some. Thus, to better understand gendered immobility, we must explore the emotions that provide meaning to the process of staying, while recognizing its interrelationship with mobility.
... In short, experiences with the impacts of EWEs and sociodemographic and cultural aspects influence people's perceptions about climate change and the coping strategies they adopt in response to EWEs (Fahad and Wang, 2018;Evertsen and van der Geest, 2020), and vulnerable individuals routinely innovate in their coping strategies (Haq, 2018;Smith and Mayer, 2018;Sultana et al., 2020). ...
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This study explores how people living in different areas of Bangladesh prone to extreme weather events (EWEs) in the form of floods, cyclones, or droughts perceive climate change, the impacts they suffer in the face of EWEs, and how they cope with their consequences. Qualitative data was collected through in-depth interviews with 73 respondents from three different areas of Bangladesh and subsequently analyzed. The results show that there are similarities and differences between respondents from regions with different vulnerabilities in terms of their views and perceptions about what climate change is its causes, the consequences of EWEs, and the strategies they adopt to cope with their effects. Respondents understood climate change based on their own local experiences of climate change and EWEs. A main finding is that people in all three areas are driven to borrow money in the face of these events as a survival strategy and to be able to continue to support their families. As the climate is set to change rapidly and EWEs to occur more frequently and regularly, it will become routine for those most vulnerable to them to have to cope and live with their impacts. Increased reliance on borrowing risks leading to a debt spiral for already vulnerable people. They are thus subject to a "double whammy": on the one hand the direct effects of climate change and EWEs on their lives and livelihoods and on the other getting caught in a debt spiral sparked by times of crisis.
The question of how climatic changes and hazards affect human mobility has increasingly gained prominence in public debates over the past decade. Despite improvements in the scientific understanding of the subject and advancements in policy, major gaps remain in addressing the humanitarian and socio‐economic challenges related to climate migration. In this perspectives article, we argue for a holistic approach and a closer integration of science and policy involving diverse stakeholders in the process of knowledge generation and implementation. We identify five key challenges characteristic for improving the science–policy interface: (i) conflictual political contexts and the securitization of human migration, (ii) simplistic narratives and framing of the subject, (iii) the uneven production and dissemination of knowledge, (iv) limited data and analytical capacities and (v) a selective topical and methodological focus. To address these diverse challenges, there is a need for more bridging initiatives at the science–policy interface that integrate diverse disciplines, approaches and stakeholders. A closer engagement of researchers and policymakers in the form of multi‐stakeholder exchanges, capacity‐building activities, co‐development and co‐implementation processes and integrative scientific assessments can help bridge the gap to support the inclusive generation of knowledge and the development of comprehensive policies.
Climate change is a significant public health crisis that is both rooted in preexisting inequitable socioeconomic and racial systems and will further worsen these social injustices. In the face of acute and slow-moving natural disasters, women, and particularly women of color, will be more susceptible to gender-based violence, displacement, and other socioeconomic stressors, all of which have adverse mental health outcomes. Among the social consequences of climate change, eco-anxiety resulting from these negative impacts is also increasingly a significant factor in family planning and reproductive justice, as well as disruptions of the feminine connection to nature that numerous cultures historically and currently honor. This narrative review will discuss these sociological factors and also touch on ways that practitioners can become involved in climate-related advocacy for the physical and mental well-being of their patients.
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This paper explores the internal migration of fishers from coastal communities of Bangladesh in response to extreme weather events. It also assesses the vulnerabilities to extreme weather events of these coastal areas, in general, and of targeted fishing communities, in particular. This qualitative study employs a combination of methods, semi-structured interviews and observations, in two villages located in the eastern part of Kalapara Upazila, Patuakhali district of Bangladesh. The results indicate that the participants of the study are susceptible to the vulnerability of extreme weather events due to their households’ socio-economic and geographical location. This study shows that most people from the fishing communities do not migrate to other places to escape from the vulnerabilities as they have high dependency on fish-related activities. Also, there are various socio-economic and cultural factors that hinder their migration, including the Mohajon-Dadon system, migration costs, lack of skills and resources, and fear of income security. Instead of migrating, they develop their own traditional adaptation mechanisms to ensure their survival. These people remain underrepresented and are not adequately recorded in national or regional migration data.
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Migration is influencing people’s livelihood choices as well as their household arrangements in various ways. This research aims to explore the livelihood changes and shifts in household structures and management systems among the families of migrating people through a gender lens. In this qualitative research systemic literature review and content analysis, methods have been used to fetch the secondary data for analysis. The discussion section shows that losing traditional livelihoods, men are shifting to day labour, rickshaw pulling, or other alternative sources of livelihood and women are increasingly engaging in agriculture, garments, or domestic work. Therefore, people’s migration to other areas restructuring household structures. This study found some emerging structures of households, such as families of women with children, grandparents with grandchildren or group living of working girls in their working areas. These changing structures are also impacting gender roles and interactions within families as well as society. Findings show that, where male members migrate outside and/or women engage in income-generating activities, women enjoy more mobility, bargaining and decision-making powers, economic freedom, and exercise their agency. However, the benefits of migration and new householding structures have some associated costs along with some dilemmas and subverting aspects.
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This book is open-access at It is the product of a collaborative effort involving partners from Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America who were funded by the International Development Research Centre Programme on Women and Migration (2006-2011). The International Institute of Social Studies at Erasmus University Rotterdam spearheaded a project intended to distill and refine the research findings, connecting them to broader literatures and interdisciplinary themes. The book examines commonalities and differences in the operation of various structures of power (gender, class, race/ethnicity, generation) and their interactions within the institutional domains of intra-national and especially inter-national migration that produce context-specific forms of social injustice. Additional contributions have been included so as to cover issues of legal liminality and how the social construction of not only femininity but also masculinity affects all migrants and all women. The resulting set of 19 detailed, interconnected case studies makes a valuable contribution to reorienting our perceptions and values in the discussions and decision-making concerning migration, and to raising awareness of key issues in migrants’ rights. All chapters were anonymously peer-reviewed. This book resulted from a series of projects funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada.
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The Ganges–Brahmaputra delta enables Bangladesh to sustain a dense population, but it also exposes people to natural hazards. This article presents findings from the Gibika project, which researches livelihood resilience in seven study sites across Bangladesh. This study aims to understand how people in the study sites build resilience against environmental stresses, such as cyclones, floods, riverbank erosion, and drought, and in what ways their strategies sometimes fail. The article applies a new methodology for studying people’s decision making in risk-prone environments: the personal Livelihood History interviews (N = 28). The findings show how environmental stress, shocks, and disturbances affect people’s livelihood resilience and why adaptation measures can be unsuccessful. Floods, riverbank erosion, and droughts cause damage to agricultural lands, crops, houses, and properties. People manage to adapt by modifying their agricultural practices, switching to alternative livelihoods, or using migration as an adaptive strategy. In the coastal study sites, cyclones are a severe hazard. The study reveals that when a cyclone approaches, people sometimes choose not to evacuate: they put their lives at risk to protect their livelihoods and properties. Future policy and adaptation planning must use lessons learned from people currently facing environmental stress and shocks.
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Bhola Slum, located in Bangladesh’s capital of Dhaka, originated as a consequence of out-migration from Bhola Island in 1970 following the devastating Bhola Cyclone. Since this original wave of migration, the Liberation War, numerous natural hazard events, climate change impacts, and limited economic opportunities have led new waves of migrants to leave Bhola Island for this urban enclave. Out-migrations from Bhola Island today are driven by a desire to leave behind hardship and risk, diversify livelihood options, and avoid the increasing frequency and intensity of environmental stressors such as riverbank erosion. This article discusses some of the challenges posed by rural–urban migration in Bangladesh, drawing on a case study undertaken with residents of Bhola Slum in Dhaka city. This case study shows how one set of risks are often replaced by another as rural migrants arrive in precarious urban settings that lack the resources and services necessary to meet basic human needs. Thus, migrants become enmeshed in a vicious cycle of vulnerability, leaving a situation that is untenable only to encounter new uncertainties and threats to their livelihoods, assets and economic stability. Given this situation, questions emerge around how to manage complex challenges and risks to ensure that livelihoods can be sustained and protected in these new environments in the short and long-term.
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Vulnerability to environmental degradation and natural hazards is articulated along social, poverty, and gender lines. Just as gender is not sufficiently mainstreamed in many areas of development policy and practice, so the potential impacts of climate change on gender relations have not been studied, and remain invisible. In this article we outline climate change predictions, and explore the effects of long-term climate change on agriculture, ecological systems, and gender relations, since these could be significant. We identify predicted changes in natural hazard frequency and intensity as a result of climate change, and explore the gendered effects of natural hazards. We highlight the urgent need to integrate gender analyses into public policy-making, and in adaptation responses to climate change.
Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world under the context of climate change. Each year thousands of migrants arrive in Dhaka City, the capital of the country, mainly forced by events such as floods, cyclone and riverbank erosion. Such group of migrants has been termed as “climate-induced” migrants in this research. The city also received other types of migrants who are not driven by climatic factors; rather their reasons for migration are purely opportunistic. This group has been termed as non-climate-induced migrants. The paper deals with the climate-induced and non-climate-induced migrants in Korail slum of Bangladesh who had arrived in Dhaka after 2006. This research attempted to analyse whether there are any differences in the characteristics, experiences and future aspiration between these two groups in spite of living in the same slum located in the capital of Bangladesh. Questionnaire survey, focus groups and key informant interview were the methods of data collection. Independent sample t-test and Chi-square test have been conducted to analyse data. Results revealed significant differences between the two groups in terms of income and savings, educational level, access to credit, contacts in the city, family structure, pattern of migration and relationship with the place of origin. The study revealed that if not properly planned, migration cannot be a suitable adaptation option.
Technical Report
The study brings together existing evidence on the climate change, environment and migration nexus in Bangladesh. The evidence in the document comes from a wide variety of sources and studies, including Government of Bangladesh statistics and policy documents, academic research, working papers and other publications and research carried out by national, bilateral and multilateral organizations, NGOs and research institutions. In addition, meetings were held with a number of key experts in Bangladesh and the research also draws extensively on IOM’s growing body of work on this topic globally. The study provides an overview of the international discourse on environment, climate change and migration, outlining current thinking within this complex and increasingly visible policy debate. Turning to Bangladesh, it provides a brief outline of the country and developmental achievements and challenges, moving on to an in-depth exploration of the role of the environment and climate change in shaping the country’s long-term development and migration dynamics. Following this, the existing policy framework is outlined and a ‘policy toolkit’ of potential policy options and priorities identified, before a brief conclusion sums up the report’s main findings.
Research into the climate change and migration nexus has often focussed solely on how people move in response to the impacts of variability and change in climate. This notion often ignores the nature of migration as a tried and tested livelihood choice amid a variety of socio-economic and environmental opportunities and limitations. This paper closely looks at the behavioural aspects of migration decision-making in Bangladesh in the context of changes in its economy, and, increasingly, exposure to the impacts of climate variability and change. We find that villagers in areas particularly affected by increasing climatic stresses and shocks are diversifying their traditional livelihood strategies by migrating. Environmental factors, including climatic stresses and shocks, often make such shifts even more necessary. Although the migrants’ primary motivation is better income, in effect, migration becomes an effective form of adaptation. Based on a qualitative study in three geographically distinct places of Bangladesh, we propose that migration is a socially acceptable behaviour that occurs in the context of perceived environmental change and climate variability. Migration decisions are mediated by a set of ‘behavioural factors’ that assesses the efficacy of different responses to opportunities and challenges, their socio-cultural acceptance and the ability to respond successfully. This understanding has policy relevance for climate change adaptation, in terms of both how migrants are perceived and how their movements are planned for.
Empirical evidence suggests that climate change will hit women disproportionately hard. Lack of political power, small economic resources, gender-bound patterns in the division of labour, entrenched cultural patterns and possibly biological differences in heat sensitivity combine to make women and girls particularly vulnerable to extreme weather and other climate-related events. Adaptation responses will likely reduce some of these vulnerabilities. However, just as climate change is likely to impact more severely on women than men, the costs and benefits of adaptation could be unevenly distributed between the sexes. Unless adaptation measures are carefully designed from a gender perspective, they may contribute to preserving prevailing gender inequalities and reinforce women's vulnerability to climate change. Institutions and decision-making processes need to be remodelled so as to guarantee that gender issues are adequately targeted within adaptation. This article identifies a number of methodologies and decision tools that could be used to mainstream gender in local adaptation planning.