SRI External Seminar

Dr Nahid Rezwana, University of Dhaka

Understanding the relationship between gender, disaster vulnerability and climate change: A case study of Bangladesh


Bangladesh is a disaster-prone country, sixth among 173 countries in the world. Cyclone, flood, thunderstorm, tornado, drought, water logging, river/coastal erosion, salinity, landslide and hailstorm are the major disasters of Bangladesh. Additionally, climate change is a great threat for this country. Every year a large number of people are affected by several disasters and it is predicted that the number of victims will increase due to climate change. However, impacts of disasters are not even, rather having uneven spatial and social impacts. Remote location, socio-economic conditions and gender identity create differences among the members of the society and their experiences in disasters. Women are more affected compared to men whereas poverty increases vulnerability to disasters.

This presentation is mainly based on six empirical researches conducted during the year 2012 to 2019, located in the disaster prone regions of Bangladesh. It presents experiences of disaster victims: floods in northern Bangladesh, cyclones in south-western coastal regions and riverbank erosion in the south-eastern regions. Their stories describe how disasters affect their lives and how they cope with these impacts. Among the stories, a mother, severely injured, tells us her experience of giving birth taking shelter on a tree. Her experience represents vulnerability of pregnant mothers during cyclone attacks in a poor socio-economic context. Other stories explain the strong influences of different factors, e.g. lack of safe shelter, transport systems and security, and social attitudes and norms in increasing women's vulnerability to gender-based violence in disasters. Men, being confined with gender roles and responsibilities become active volunteers to save their families and neighbours from immediate attacks of disasters as well as to combat economic crisis during the post-disaster periods. However, lack of training, information and necessary volunteering tools increase their injuries and vulnerabilities. All these stories describe the gendered impacts of disasters on health and economic conditions and explain contexts of increased number of GBV in disasters. However, it is a matter of concern that climate change will exacerbate disaster impacts in these vulnerable regions and increase social inequalities, which demands revisiting prevailing plans and programmes, and introducing gender-sensitive disaster management plans to combat future disasters more successfully. 


Dr Nahid Rezwana, Associate Professor, Department of Geography and Environment, University of Dhaka, has been working in this department since 2005. She is also an executive member of the Disaster Research, Training and Management Centre (DRTMC) in Dhaka University, Bangladesh and Councillor of Bangladesh Geographical Society (BGS). Nahid Rezwana holds a PhD in Geography from the Durham University, United Kingdom and MSc in Hazard and Disaster Management from the Kingston University London, United Kingdom.

Her fields of interest are hazards and disaster management, impacts of climate change, gender, health and wellbeing. Her scholarship explores how and why disasters have uneven impacts on women and how these conditions could be improved with gender-sensitive disaster management. Nahid has conducted several researches in these fields and received research grants/fellowships from renowned organizations like UNDP, USAID, CMMF, IHRR, DRTMC and COSPAR. She has several published articles and she is the co-author of the book 'Social Formation in Dhaka 1985-2005', published by  the Ashgate Publishers, London, UK in 2010. Her recent book is ''Disasters, Gender and Access to Healthcare: Women in Coastal Bangladesh'' published by the Routledge, London in 2018.

At present, Nahid is involved in research with Professor Rachel Pain, Newcastle University, on gender-based violence in disasters, funded by the Christopher Moyes Memorial Foundation (CMMF), UK, to study the relationship between gender-based violence (GBV), disasters and location. This research is a comparative study of flood prone regions in Bangladesh and the UK, aiming to reveal the factors that influence higher rates of number of GBV in disasters. It is expected that this important research will help to understand the context of GBV in the two contrasting countries, which will contribute to the development of effective pre-during-post disaster management plans.

Nahid will be working as a visiting research fellow at Newcastle University from 18 May to 12 July. She is happy to be contacted at