We all feel vulnerable at certain points in our lives – a natural part of the human experience – but imagine feeling vulnerable every single day?
For the families who live on the chars, or silt islands in the river systems of the most remote and underdeveloped regions of Bangladesh, every single day brings the threat of flooding or monsoons. Their lives and livelihoods are in danger of being swept away by a natural disaster at any moment.
The reality of life in the chars means farming without running water or electricity and living in isolation from schools, hospitals and markets. The frequent flooding means the water supply is often contaminated, homes are often damaged and children are cut off from transport and are forced to stay home from school – resulting in very low literacy rates.
Gender discrimination keeps girls and women of the region at a particular disadvantage, especially as their chance for education is curtailed by child marriage. Infant and maternal mortality rates are staggeringly high, where girls often marry as young as age 12. Adolescent pregnancies, a lack of maternal health care, literacy, and life skills for girls and women, combined with the fact that most give birth at home without the presence of a skilled birth attendant, create enormous challenges for women and girls. It leaves them trapped in a cycle of poverty.
Back in 2013, Plan International Canada initiated a Community Sponsorship Project in the char region of Hatibandha.
As part of a recent development in the program, the organisation distributed 400 Little Suns to girls in the community. Together with Plan International, we aim to raise that number to 850 lamps.
The focus of this community-led project is specifically to improve access to education and reduce rates of child marriage, help the char communities to become more disaster resilient, and to improve access to clean water.
The project in Hatibandha will continue until 2018.
The girls who have received lamps so far have been tremendously excited about them. As the sun sets at about 7pm in the region and most families have no access to electricity, a Little Sun lamp means that the girls are finally able to do their homework with safe, clean light after dark. The girls expressed that they also feel safer using their outdoor latrines at night.
Below you can experience in the girls’ own words how they feel about their new ‘Little Sun necklaces’:
I am really happy to get the small and sweet yellow color Solar Lamp which looks like a flower necklace…Every day during study time in the evening, I hang it in my neck and complete my studies along with my brothers without any trouble.
– Afroza, Grade Three, East Haldibari char
None of us will feel sorry at school as we can do our homework at home now. I can compete with students of plain land as I can study in the evening too.
– Jamela, Grade Seven.
Not only me but all of my family members are very happy and excited to get the lamp from Plan International Bangladesh. I can use it very smoothly. Indeed it is very useful for us especially those who are staying at char where electricity is dream to all and possibility of electricity availability is completely zero. Thanks Plan International and our donor for providing us with this nice necklace lamp.
– Kazoli, Grade Seven, Purbo Haldibari char.
Plan International provided us with this beautiful Sun for continuing our education in the dark and achieving our ambition. This little sun is really a sun for us when we study during night.
– Mousumi, Grade Seven
I have never studied under electric light before. But now I can easily study during evening with the help of this lamp. I am no longer afraid with my home tasks as I have a nice Solar Lamp which looks like a beautiful yellow flower necklace. I thank those who gave us this beautiful and useful gift.
– Shimu, Grade Seven
I saw their expressions after getting this “Solar Necklace Lamp”. It is a great achievement for us.
– Teacher, char region
Thank you, Plan International Canada, for initiating this project.