Bangladesh: “I sold my symbol of love to survive”

Bangladesh is one of the most climate vulnerable countries in the world. Climate change is further increasing the frequency and severity of existing weather patterns, like floods, tropical cyclones, storm surges and droughts, thus intensifying the cycle of poverty and food insecurity.

CARE has been working in Bangladesh since 1949, helping the most vulnerable people and communities become more resilient to shocks, from climate related disasters to food insecurity, disease, and unemployment. CARE Bangladesh focuses on empowering women to lift their families and communities out of poverty.

Koriful is one of these women.

Imagine you had to sell your wedding ring to put food on the table. This is what Koriful had to do, but she didn’t sell a ring, she sold a golden nose pin that symbolises marriage in rural Bangladesh.

Koriful is a 40-year-old mother of three from Nilphamary, a village in northwest Bangladesh. Having married in her early teens, Koriful’s life has revolved around caring for her family. Hard work has characterized her life since childhood.

Five years ago, life was especially hard when Koriful’s husband Anis lost his job. The family of five was entirely dependent on his income, as Koriful did not have any income of her own.

“We had to sell everything. There was not enough food. We had to borrow money, but the money lenders wanted us to pay back five times the amount they had given us,” Koriful says. “I had no choice. I had to sell the nose pin my husband gave me when we got married.”

In rural Bangladesh, the symbolic value of the nose pin is even higher than its monetary value, as it is often a gift from the groom to the bride. It symbolises marital status and losing the pin, therefore, means being divorced or widowed.

Luckily, Koriful joined a women’s self-help group set up by CARE. With the help of a small loan from the group, she was able to set up a business with her husband. They are now selling dry fish in the local market. The business has grown steadily and eventually Koriful was able to buy back her nose pin.

“We are doing well now. I hope soon we can build a better house with more space for my children’s families,” she says smiling.

Koriful’s story is similar to many vulnerable women in Bangladesh. CARE’s ‘Social and Economic Transformation of the Ultra Poor (SETU)’ project helps people and households in northwest Bangladesh to become economically self-sufficient in the long term. With a strong focus on women, the project is enabling extremely vulnerable women to gain the confidence to play an important role in household decision-making processes.

You can help women like Koriful weather the effects of climate change.