The Extent of Women’s Participation in the Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme and its Implications

 

Tarana Begum*

Abstract: The study examines the extent of women’s participation in the Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme (CDMP) and its implications. Primary data for this study have been collected from Bahuli and Ratankandi unions of Sirajgonj district, Bangladesh wherein the Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme (CDMP) phase one was implemented. The study finds that CDMP helped women cope better with natural disasters. Women are satisfied with the livelihood support program and training component of CDMP as it allowed them to generate income while at home. The program was limited to providing information about the opportunities and possible actions during adverse conditions and did provide on the-spot material assistance to women to mitigate their difficult conditions. With regards to the extent of participation, it has been found that women’s participation in the CDMP was at the bottom level. This means that women participated in the CDMP program merely as receivers; they did not participate or exert control in the decision making process.

Keywords: Participation, Women, Disaster Management, and Programme Implications.

Introduction

Climate change is a problem that is affecting people and the environment (USEPA, 2012) drastically. It has adverse environmental, economic, social and human consequences. Climate change poses significant risks for Bangladesh (CCC, 2009). Bangladesh is a disaster-prone and climate vulnerable country (MoEF, 2005). Major disasters that occur in Bangladesh are tropical cyclone, tidal bore, flood, tornado, river bank erosion, earthquake etc. A number of people living in the rural Bangladesh areas are exposed to extreme flooding and riverbank erosion (NIRAPOD, 2010).  It put the affected people, especially women and children into serious deprivation and poverty. As a climate vulnerable country, Bangladesh considers climate change and adaptation as critical national concerns (MoEF, 2005). Particular emphasis is placed on improving the adaptive capacity of the most vulnerable sectors in the society. One climate change adaptation programme that Bangladesh government has instituted is the Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme (CDMP) which targets the most disaster-prone areas in Bangladesh. Among the beneficiaries of CDMP the research includes women as respondents who were among the most vulnerable to climate change hazards such as floods and river erosion.

The adaptation and mitigation to the negative effect of climate-change in Bangladesh has become a development challenge. The adverse impacts of disasters affect the socio-economic condition. For sustainable development Bangladesh require to take action in the disaster management as well as capacity development of vulnerable people to adapt with the changing climate. To mitigate the negative impact of climate change disaster, government already prompted disaster management programme. Bangladesh becomes a model country (UNDP, 2013) in the disaster management process. In the process of disaster management, community based adaptation gets special attention.  Heltberg (2010) states that unless community and societies adapt, risks associated with climate change could cause large financial losses, increased vulnerability. Bangladesh government climate policy emphasis on enhance the adaptive capacity of women. Women have limited adaptive capacity on climate change. The existing gender inequalities undermine women’s access to resources and women have fewer capacities against their male counterparts which undermine women’s adaptive capacity to the changing climate (Mearns, 2010). Ensuring participation of women to the disaster management programmes poses difficult challenges for Bangladesh. For instance, Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme (CDMP) creates opportunities for women to participate in the disaster management and adaptation program. Women participated in the CDMP as a stakeholder. The CDMP Phase I was implemented in Sirajganj Sadar Upazila to mitigate the disasters’ impact and build the adaptive capacity of the local community after the devastating floods in 2007. The programme emphasizes community participation, capacity building, community risk assessment, training for alternative livelihood option, tree plantation, etc. (CDMP, 2010). In this regard, there is utility in examining the extent of women’s participation in the CDMP. This research examines the extent of participation of women in the CDMP and its implications on women.

Methodology

The research uses both primary and secondary data. Secondary data have been collected from relevant literature, books, journals, published and unpublished documents, online resources, and websites. Primary data have been collected from two selected research areas Bahuli and Ratankandi union of Sirajgonj Sadar Upazila, Sirajgonj district, Bangladesh through interview, and personal observation. The research areas are selected through purposive method.[1]  Women, who are the beneficiaries of the CDMP project implemented in the Bahuli and Ratankandi union, are selected as respondents for questionnaire interview. The respondents for this study include ninety three (93)[2]  women beneficiaries of the CDMP program. The CDMP total beneficiaries in both unions were 6,121, comprising of 2,550 women and 3,571 men (SHARP, 2008). The figure of 93 selected from total population of 2,550. Among them 53 respondents are selected from Bahuli union and 40 from Ratankandi union.

Bahuli and Ratankandi unions are located in in Sirajganj Sadar Upazila, Sirajganj district. Bahuli union has a total area of 6067 acres, 49 villages, and 7320 households. Its population is 37,760, comprising of 19,448 male and 18, 322 female.[3]  The total area of Ratankandi union is 34.95 sq. km.  The total population is 56,215 of which 29,990 are male and 26,295 are female. Ratankandi is comprised of 31 villages and has a total of 12,015 households.[4]

Disaster Management in Bangladesh

Disaster management can be defined as the organization and management of resources and responsibilities for dealing with all humanitarian aspects of emergencies, in particular preparedness, response and recovery in order to lessen the impact of disasters (IFRC, 2010). Disaster management is linked with sustainable development (Earth foundation, 2013). The risk of loss of life, property, resources from disaster can be mitigated with good evacuation plans, environmental planning and design standards (WCPT, 2013). In January 2005, a 10-year global plan called Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015: Building the resilience of nations and communities to disasters have introduced for natural disaster risk reduction (preventionweb, 2013).  Hyogo Framework for Action offers guiding principles, priorities for action, and practical means for achieving disaster resilience for vulnerable communities. It provided a unique opportunity to promote a strategic and systematic approach to reducing vulnerabilities and risks to hazards (preventionweb, 2013).

Bangladesh has a long history of natural disasters (UNDP, 2013) and disaster management. Over the two decades, Bangladesh has a policy shift to address the vulnerability to disaster. It adopts a proactive risk reduction policy instead of reactive relief policy. Its aim is to enhance capacities of at-risk communities and hereby lowering their vulnerability to specific hazards (GoB, 2013). In this policy framework, Bangladesh developed flood action plan after 1980s devastating floods. This action plan initiated a proactive culture of disaster management and risk reduction (UNDP, 2013). After 1991 catastrophic cyclone, government established the Disaster Management Bureau (DMB). The disaster management activities in Bangladesh are now planned within risk management framework through the Ministry of Food and Disaster Management (MoFDM). Today, Bangladesh is a global leader in disaster management and risk reduction (UNDP, 2013). Bangladesh government adaptation and mitigation policy emphasize on both structural and non-structural measures within overall disaster management system (UNDP, 2013). It has constructed a number of cyclone shelters, flood shelters, long flood protection embankment, and drainage channels etc. to disaster mitigation. It also strengthens institutional arrangement to disaster management. Government formulates the National Disaster Management Council (NDMC) and In-Ministerial Disaster Management Co-ordination Committee (IMDMCC), to promote and coordinate risk-reduction, preparedness activities and mitigation.

Bangladesh became a pioneer among least developed countries in prioritizing disaster risk reduction in national fiscal planning (UNDP, 2013). With assistance from the Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme, Bangladesh adopted a general risk reduction model that encouraged national stakeholders to consider existing disaster risks as well as the risks of projected climate extremes in building national and community resilience. It emphasize on public private partnership, civil involvement as well as NGO initiated adaptation programme. The Government of Bangladesh has undertaken support to comprehensive disaster management programme in 1993. It aim is to increase the capacities of the households and local communities in the highly disaster prone areas through establishment of Local Disaster Action Plans (LDAPs) to cope with cyclones, floods and other potentially disaster situations. After successful completion of the project, the Comprehensive disaster management programme (CDMP) have introduced in 2001. The Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme (CDMP) has been designed as a long-term programme of the Ministry of Food and Disaster management with multi-agency involvement (GoB, 2013). The programme comprises of two phases: Phase I (2004–2009) and Phase II (2010-2014). The goal of the CDMP is to mitigate the impacts of disasters in both national and community levels. CDMP is a process of reducing the vulnerability of the poor in a manageable and acceptable level and strengthening the capacity of the disaster management system of community women. CDMP’s aim is to a shift from a conventional relief policy to establish a comprehensive disaster risk reduction culture and policy for Bangladesh and to enhance adaptation capabilities of targeted community population (Luxbacher, 2011).  The total budget for the programme was US$27.12 million. The funding was sourced from UNDP, DFID, AusAID, Norwegian aid, and other development partners. It also emphasizes on increase adaptive capacity of its citizen through Community Based Approach (CBA). Community Based Approach (CBA) aim is to ensure participation of all people facing disaster. It provides all necessary support to the disaster vulnerable community.

In the first phase CDMP has covered seven disaster vulnerable areas such as Sirajganj, Rajshahi, Faridpur, Sunamganj, Lalmonirhat, Satkhira, and Cox’s Bazar. In Sirajgang district, CDMP was implemented after the 2007 flood and river erosion. In order to reduce the risks of natural disaster, mainly from flood and river bank erosion, Socio Health and Rehabilitation Program (SHARP) launched a program on Disaster Preparedness Management and Livelihood Security under CDMP (SHARP, 2008). CDMP is comprised of three main project components: (1) Community Risk Assessment (CRA); (2) Plinth Height Raising of Houses with Livelihood Support Program; and (3) Awareness Raising Programme (SHARP, 2008). The specific activities of CDMP include: facilitate community risk assessment (CRA) at union level, organize community meeting/group meeting on awareness rising to the village level, wall paintings with messages on disaster risk reduction, observation of the national disaster preparedness day, introduce the hazard map and risk-reduction map, training on poultry rearing, saplings of trees for livelihood security, support with poultry, saplings of fruit & wood trees for enhanced family income, support with sanitary latrines and tube wells for safe drinking water (SHARP, 2008).

Extent of Women’s Participation in the Disaster Management Programme

Participation means to take part in something.  Participation is a process through which stakeholder’s influence and share control over priority setting, policy-making, resource allocations, and access to public goods and services (Rahman, 2005).  The World Bank (1994) defines participation as a process through which stakeholders influence and share control over development initiatives, and the decisions and resources which affect them.  The African Development Foundation (2012) states that participation is a process through which community members get involved in the development activities and influence the decision’s making process.  Participation is taking part in any processes of formulation, passage and implementation of public policies (Stoker, 1997). The definition emphasizes the public participation in the policy development, decision-making and implementation levels. There is a diverse range of participation strategies. For sustainable development, securing efficient community participation is essential (Theron, 2005).

Participation theory has received considerable focus in the context of community participation, development participation and women’s participation at local, community or NGO organized development process. Women’s participation from grassroots level to policy implementation level is now an important issue in development concern. A number of studies have focused on the grassroots level participation of women through their organisations as against the top-down processing of projects (Muraleedharan, 2000). If women get opportunities to participate in the development process, they can contribute to the society. In spite of women’s economic achievement through hard work, the majority of women in Bangladesh have yet to be empowered to participate actively in the social, cultural, economic and political life of the country (Khan, 2006). Khan (2006) indicates that socio-economic development cannot be fully achieved without the active participation of women at the decision making level in society.  Women’s empowerment and mainstreaming in the development process through participation are now the national and international concern (Fonjong, 2001).

The level of participation is not well-organized in Bangladesh. Poor are excluded from participating in decision-making the process due to weak institutional capacity and mechanism (Aminuzzaman, 2008). Poor people participate in the process as mere receivers. Their participation in any community development initiative is mainly motivated by their need to improve their economic and social status rather than a need to exert control or power in the process. The study identifies participation as a process to take part in the government initiated Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme. The study examines the extent of women’s participation in the disaster management programme and its implications on women.

Participation of Women in the Community Risk Assessment Programme

Community Risk Assessment (CRA) is a tool to identify the vulnerability or risk of the community (SHARP, 2008).  Through this assessment community people are consulted about the risks of flood, drought, river erosion, tornado, thundershower, cold wave, heavy rain, water logging, pest attack etc. Women get opportunity to involve directly in the identification of problems or risk within their community.  The major activities of community risk assessments include social mapping, hazard mapping, Venn diagram, seasonal calendar of hazards and occupation etc. Through their participation, the people have become directly involved in the identification of problems or risks within their community. The CRA helps to identify the capacity and vulnerability of the community (SHARP, 2008). In the project areas, awareness raising campaign had been undertaken to create mass awareness about disaster risk management. Workshop, day observation, wall painting, community and group meetings, discussion, etc. were the tools used for the campaign. The aim of this program was to increase the awareness among the community people on disaster management and establish gender equity (SHARP, 2008).

Table I: Participation in the Community Risk Assessment Programme

Nature of Participation Yes No

Not Actively/ No Idea

Total

Number

%

Number

%

Number

%

Group or community meeting

09

10%

52

56%

32

34%

100%

Disaster Risk Map Drawing programme

06

07%

69

74%

18

19%

100%

Disaster Preparedness and Day Observation Rally, discussion

12

13%

74

80%

07

07%

100%

Source: Data compiled from field study

Table I shows the participation of women in the community risk assessment programme. The study tries to examine the extent of women’s participation in the awareness raising programme such as participation in the group/community meeting, disaster risk or hazard map drawing programme, and disaster preparedness related activities and international/ national environment day observation rally, discussion. Table I shows that only 10% of women participated in the group or community meetings, 34% attended the meeting but did not actively participate and 56% did not participate in the meetings at all. Some women admitted to feeling shy to participate in meetings because of the presence of male participants. Most women were absent in the meetings due to household responsibilities and family’s disapproval. Figure in the next row shows the women’s non-participation in the Disaster risk map drawing program. As indicated, a mere 7% participated in the disaster map drawing session and those who did not participate in the session comprised 74% of the respondents. On the other hand, 19% have no idea about program. As shown in the last rows, 80% of the respondents did not participate in the disaster preparedness day observation program whereas 13% participated in the rally as well as meeting. Women who participated in the meeting only comprised 8% of the respondents.

Participation in the Income Generating Activities and Livelihood support Progeramme

As an adaptive measure, the CDMP program provides livelihood support to the participants. To empower the communities, the program emphasized the use of the existing local knowledge in determining the appropriate livelihood program. The program trained the participants to find alternative source of income during disasters. After completion of the IGA training, the participants also received support to implement their ideas to raise income. Support given under the program include cluster-wide homestead raising, super structure latrine, tube well installation, homestead gardening, trees saplings, bamboo fence, and poultry or goat support. The aim of the training is to motivate people to cope with the disasters through increased capacity.  The aim of training program is to create opportunities for alternative livelihood through income-generating activities (IGA). It attracted most women to participate in the CDMP project. Poor village women considered livelihood training significant in generating income not only during disasters but also during normal times, i.e. non-disaster days. The training, therefore, has encouraged them to earn extra money within their homestead. Women in Bangladesh have limited opportunity to get involved in income generating activities due to social norms. The training, therefore, has encouraged them to earn extra money within their homestead.


Table II: Participate in the IGA Training Program

Response of the Women Total Number Percentage
Participated 71 76.34%
Not Participated 22 23.66%
Total 93 100.00%

Source: Data compiled from field study

Table II shows that 76% of women participated in the training program to explore opportunities for alternative sources of income during disasters. These women participated in different income-generating activities (IGA) such as poultry, duck rearing, homestead gardening, and growing saplings of fruits and wood trees, etc. They were trained on how to mitigate the financial loss due to flood, erosion and other disasters. Only 24% of the respondents indicated that they did not participate in the training session.

Participation in the Plinth Height Raising Programme

The program aims to raise the plinth of a house above the flood level (Rahman, n.d.). It is a method which is promoted at the household level in the area situated in the flood plain. The plinth, which is often build of earth and tends to be washed away during floods, can be made stronger with a little cement and some pieces of stone and brick. In this way, the plinth may last through repeated floods (IFRC, 2008). Under CDMP, the raised ground construction is offered to flood vulnerable communities. The raising of plinth heights of houses is the most effective way of saving houses and properties, including livestock, from inundation during flood. Plinth height raising helps minimise the sufferings of people.  Since most beneficiaries of the project area are poor, they are unable to raise the ground and build the house. In order to cope with the flood situation, the Risk Reduction Action Plan (RRAP) recommended raising the heights of plinths at least 2 feet above the highest flood level. Raising plinth heights in a cluster helps other people (and their livestock) living nearby to take shelter during extreme flood situations.

Figure I: Participated in the Plinth Height Raising Program

PHR

Source: Compiled from Fieldwork

Figure I indicate that though plinth height raising program was one of the important steps to protect lives and properties during flood water, only 6% of the respondents have scope to participate in the plinth height raising programme. It means only 6% women get financial support from the programme to raise their plinth. 94% did not get support from the program.

A summary of the research findings on the extent of women’s participation discussed above is shown in the table below.

Table III: Summary Findings on the Extent of Women’s Participation in the CDMP

CDMP Components % of Participation % of  Non-Participation
  1. Participation in the IGA Training Program
76.34% 23.66%
  1. Plinth Height Raising of Houses
6.45% (Benefited) 93.55%(not Benefited)
  1. Community Risk Assessment (CRA) and Awareness Raising
  2. Community/Group meetings
9.68% 55.91%
  1. Disaster Preparedness, National/ International day observation  rally, discussion etc.
20.43% (incl. those who attended meetings only) 79.57%
  1. Disaster Risk Map Drawing
6.45% 74.19%
  1. Support Program
  2. Poultry Support
76.34% (Benefited)
  1. Support with Saplings of Trees
84.95% (Benefited)
  1. Sanitary Latrine Support
10.75% (Benefited)
  1. Tube wells Support
4.30 % (Benefited)
  1. Plinth Raising Support
6.45%  (Benefited)

Source: Data compiled from field study

As shown in the summary table, a great number of women (76%) participated in the IGA Training Program as compared to 10% who participated in community or group meetings and 20% who participated in awareness raising program.  Meanwhile, those who received plinth height raising support were negligible (6%). In regard to the livelihood support program, 85% of the respondents received saplings of fruits, herbal and wood trees support, 76% benefited from poultry support program, 11% women received the support to install hygienic sanitary latrine in their households,  6% got the plinth height raising support, and 4% obtained tube wells from the program. While almost every woman who participated in the program received the poultry and saplings support, the support was very minimal to improve women’s disaster management capabilities. In sum, women’s participation was more apparent in the program components that aimed at generating income, e.g. IGA training program and livelihood program.

Implications of Disaster Management Programme on Women

Income-generating training (IGA) program mainly facilitated the increase of earning capabilities of poor people who are vulnerable to disasters. The goal of the training was to introduce alternative livelihood options to the flood affected community. The program envisioned that the alternative sources of income will help people mitigate disaster risks. For women, the program would provide them with opportunity to contribute to their family income especially during disasters when the primary source of income like crops and fields are inundated.


Table IV: Summary Findings on the Implications of CDMP on Women

Implications of CDMP

%Agree

% Not Agree

% Neutral

  1. Raised income level

36.56%

18.28%

45.16%

  1. Improved life standard

23.66%

30.11%

46.24%

  1. Improved disaster management capabilities

45.16%

18.28%

36.56%

  1. Raised awareness about the disaster management mechanism

59.14%

17.2%

23.66%

Source: Data compiled from field study

While women’s participation was more evident in the project components aimed at generating income, fewer women (36.56%) believed that the program increased their income level as opposed to a great number of women who opined that CDMP raised their awareness about the disaster management mechanism (59%) and women who perceived that they improved their disaster management capabilities (45%). However, 36.65% agreed that IGA training improved their income while 18.28% women disagreed with the statement. Almost half (45.16%) of the respondents were neutral with their opinions. The respondents who agreed that the training increased their income utilized their knowledge to homestead garden, poultry, and other income generating activities. 23.66% of women believed that the CDMP improved their life standard while 30% expressed otherwise. Majority (46%) have no idea about the impact of CDMP on their lives. A great number of women (45.16%) agreed that the CDMP has improved their disaster management capabilities. Around 18% believed otherwise while 37% women were neutral with the statement. From interviews, most women expressed their hope for more interventions to mitigate the disaster risks from the government.

Conclusion and Policy Recommendation

The study reveals that the comprehensive disaster management program slightly improved the capacity of women to generate income. The support program component of CDMP, however, was very marginal to enhance the capacities of women but had positive implications on disaster recovery process of women. The training program taught them how to generate income. A few number of women, however, participated in the community or group meetings than in the training programs. This may be attributed to the fact that the CDMP itself did not encourage active participation. The research finds that women’s participation in the CDMP was essentially as receivers of information. CDMP merely informed the community about the disaster management but did not provide opportunities for feedbacks from the participants. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that CDMP has created opportunities for women participation. Bangladesh government should consider the idea of actively involving the community in the new adaptation program.

From women’s perspectives, the implications of livelihood training program component of CDMP on their lives were significant. Women’s participation with the program was motivated by the idea of generating income from home. Securing an income generating activity that they can undertake in their homes addressed the issue of women’s inability to earn income because of the social, cultural and religious beliefs that prevent them from leaving their homes to work. Livelihood support program component of CDMP, however, was very minimal to generate income. Overall, women believed that CDMP did not significantly improve their living standards. Neither did it significantly enhance women’s coping capacities to disasters.

Majority of women wanted alternative adaptation process. They expressed preference for relief support rather than the program activities (awareness raising, meeting, mapping program, etc.) offered in CDMP. Citing the loss (crops, land, and domestic animals) that they have incurred during flood and disasters, women stated that meetings or rallies were not helpful. What they need are relief, financial support, and more agricultural support to recover their economic losses. Plinth raising program was good but still not sufficient. Women believed that additional budget should be allocated for the plinth raising program and livelihood support program.

The paper recommends the following actions for sustainable adaptation and effective women’s participation:

  • Raising plinth is a good initiative to protect houses located in lower plinth areas. Due to insufficient fund, CDMP could not provide the support to all those who needed it. There is therefore a need to address the issue of securing more funds to be able to provide the necessary support.
  • Related to the above, there is an essential need for the government to allocate more funds for disaster management and adaptation programmes.
  • Women, as one of the most vulnerable sectors in the society, should be given more opportunities to participate in similar adaptation programmes. In particular, women should be provided with opportunities to be involved in income-generating activities.
  • In the formulation of policies and programs, the affected or concerned communities should be involved, or at least, consulted.
  • Adaptation or disaster management programs should be responsive to the needs of the communities.

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*   Assistant Professor, Department of Government and Politics, Jahangirnagar University, Savar, Dhaka-1342, Bangladesh

[1]   “Purposive sampling is a useful methodology for qualitative studies. Since the qualities of the key person are defined out by the researcher. The objective is not to have many respondents but to make sure that the person who would be interviewed will provide a wealth information.” cited in chapter 11: Selecting the Unit of Analysis and Probability Sampling Strategies” in Bautista, V. A. (1998). Research and public management. University of the Philippines: Open University, 175-176.

[2]   The research mainly follows the Lynch et al. (1974). Table of sample formula with sampling error of 0.10 cited in chapter 11: Selecting the unit of analysis and probability sampling strategies” in Bautista, V.  A. (1998). Research and public management, University of the Philippines: Open University, 163-164.

[3]   Bahuli Union parishad. (2007). Annual Budget 2006-2007. Sirajgonj: Bahuli Union parishad.

[4]   Ratankandi union parishad. (2007). Annual Budget 2006-2007. Sirajgonj: Ratankandi Union parishad.

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