Sumitra’s Inspiring Journey Against all Odds

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Sumitra’s Inspiring Journey Against all Odds

Publication Date : 1718064000

Photo: Sumitra Rani Munda ©Ab Rashid/UNDP Bangladesh


Mother put rice on the stove in the afternoon and then the water came and the rice on the stove was washed away. Slowly, the mud walls of the house started to break in the blink of an eye”- Sumitra vividly recalls the devastation of Cyclone Aila in 2009. With no other recourse, her sought refuge at the cyclone center, navigating chest-high waters to reach safety. When they returned the next morning, their home and belongings were irretrievably lost.

Now 28, Sumitra Rani hails from the Munda community in Barabari village, nestled between the Sundarbans and Shakbaria rivers in Koira, Khulna. Born into poverty, her life was a constant battle against the wrath of nature and climate change.

From a young age, Sumitra was well acquainted with the dual hardships of poverty and natural disasters. Her family gained a living working in others’ homes and fields, and occasionally in the jungle.

 

 

Sumitra’s community traditionally discouraged the education of girls, urging her father to marry her off by the time she reached fifth grade. Yet, her father stood firm, defiantly declaring, “My daughter will pass her SSC.” Inspired by her father’s resolve and wanting to ease his burden, Sumitra worked alongside her mother during school holidays, earning 25 takas to help cover the costs of her books and tuition.

 

©Ab Rashid/UNDP Bangladesh

Tragedy struck soon after Cyclone Aila, with the death of Sumitra’s mother. Her father remarried quickly to maintain the household. When he fell ill, the burden of caring for the family fell entirely on Sumitra’s shoulders. It seemed she might have to abandon her education to support her family. Nevertheless, juggling multiple jobs and her studies, she persevered, passing her SSC and securing a college placement. Her commitment extended beyond academics as she started volunteering for NGOs, expanding her horizons and working for the betterment of her community.

 

Sumitra’s life took a pivotal turn in 2017 when she joined the Local Government Initiative on Climate Change (LoGIC) project as a community mobilization facilitator. Through LoGIC, she received training that empowered her to assist her community and neighboring villages in building resilience against climate change through locally led adaptation. “LoGIC has given me a platform from which my intelligence and social contacts actually grew. I believe it will not only help me move forward in the coming days but also help in tackling the effects of climate change,” she reflects.

©Ab Rashid/UNDP Bangladesh

With the earnings from her work with LoGIC, Sumitra supported her on going education, pursued a Master’s degree, and financed her sister’s schooling. She even bought a bike to travel to remote areas, becoming the only woman in her community to do so. Her confidence and determination inspired other girls, challenging gender stereotypes and inspiring local girls to pursue their ambitions. “I hear from those who used to make fun of me as a girl and pass comments that I do work of a boy. But it feels very nice to hear when girls in my community are excited to see me and look up to me. I do not want girls to hide who they are,” she says.

Today, Sumitra supports 650 beneficiaries by providing guidance, banking support and linking them to local markets and government institutions. She also cultivates crops to sustain her family and supplement her income. Her leadership extends to overseeing a group of over 200 Munda women, advocating for enhanced resilience to climate change. Sumitra’s journey is a testament of resilience and empowerment. Through her dedication and the opportunities provided by LoGIC she not only transformed her life but also became a pillar of hope for her community. Her story underscores how determination, coupled with the right support, can lead to profound societal change, empowering others and paving the way for future generations to dream and achieve beyond traditional boundaries.

The LoGIC Project is a joint initiative, supported by UNDP Bangladesh, UNCDF, Sweden, and Denmark and supported by the Government of Bangladesh. It aims to empower communities, local government institutions and civil society organizations to adapt to climate change in selected vulnerable areas.