The impact of COVID-19 on rural women and enterprises: A rapid socio-economic assessment in Bangladesh by the empower project


Context: Why does this matter?

Across the region, communities have been hit hard by the sudden and unprecedented spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). For those at the frontlines of climate change, the pandemic and its associated lockdowns have only had a multiplier effect. The impact of all of this is often borne by women and girls who are already held back by gender and economic inequalities as well as deeply engrained social norms. In the same vein, as countries slowly move from response to recovery, women and girls can be a fountain of solutions in leading green jobs and building back in a climate-resilient way.

The EmPower: Women for Climate-Resilient Societies project, jointly implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and UN Women and supported by the Swedish Development Cooperation Agency, puts gender equality at the heart of climate action. Through UNEP, the project focuses on harnessing renewable energy to build resilient livelihoods for women in rural Bangladesh, Cambodia and Viet Nam. The project also works on transforming policies and institutions, amplifying evidence and voices and fostering regional commitment in this regard.

With these extraordinary circumstances, the project is conducting a rapid assessment looking to understand the impacts of the crisis on the livelihoods and well-being of rural women (farmers and entrepreneurs reliant on natural resources). In Bangladesh this study has been undertaken in five regions - Bhola and Cox’s Bazaar in the south, Kurigram in the north and Manikganj and Sirajganj in the heart of Bangladesh. In addition to this, the assessment also considers the impact on renewable energy based businesses and small and medium enterprises.

This study and follow-up feeds directly into UNEP’s COVID-19 strategic response - Block 2 (A transformational change for nature and people) and Block 2 (Building back better: Greening fiscal stimulus packages and accelerating sustainable consumption and production). More specifically the findings and recommendations speak to Block 2B, addressing inequalities with a focus on marginalized and vulnerable groups, in this case being rural women in natural resource sectors and Block 3B and 3C, connecting with broader commitments to climate change and mobilizing support for green jobs.