In Bangladesh, nutrition and SRH care are interlinked problems: poor food intake causes malnourishment, which leads to poor health and poor SRH perpetuates the inter-generational cycle of undernourishment. Deficiencies in nutrition and SRH care result in poor labor productivity and market performance. One of the key factors leading to (women’s) intake of poor nutritional food at home, poor reproductive, maternal and sexual health stems from lack of life skills (on SRH). Thus, poor reproductive health conditions adversely affect women’s ability to participate in activities outside of the home, which in turn manifests itself as their inability to participate in and shape the market.
On the other hand, women’s contribution to agriculture is counted as unpaid family labor and is grossly underestimated. Women face many internal and external barriers that hinder their access and ability to participate in the market. The community and market is largely male dominated and the lack of female participation has resulted in the issue of safety and security (for women) as a prerequisite being completely overlooked by the community. Besides women face many obstacles to access and effectively participate in the markets due to lack of skills such as basic literacy, technical skills, knowledge on bookkeeping & business plan development, awareness of market prices for products related to their businesses etc. Women also do not organize and meet formally or informally as male entrepreneurs often do as it is not socially acceptable in the context of rural Bangladesh and because women are overburdened with responsibilities/work at home and cannot afford the time to meet. Moreover, market actors tend to be all men making it difficult for women entrepreneurs to have as many direct relationships with input and output market actors as their male counterparts.
To break this cycle, interventions are needed for improving access to nutritious food, access to quality SRH care, access to women-friendly markets and freedom for women to decide over their bodies and lives. ActionAid Bangladesh (AAB), therefore, has decided to work with women agro-entrepreneurs, government institutions including private sector organizations responsible for service delivery, school-based adolescent boys & girls as well as market committees.