Ruby Begum (Dhaka): I have always known that ‘water is life’ but this water has been killing us for the last 10 years. This water never gives us any peace. I am from a coastal village. We moved here because of yearly river erosion. If there is a fire in your house, only the house gets burned; the land remains. But when there is river erosion, everything is lost. Read her story.
Rohomot Ali (Dhaka): My wife is probably not going to live much longer and I am a helpless and unable to do anything for her. I had to leave the woman with whom I have been living for 50 years alone in that dead drought place. I came here to earn money so that I can send some money to feed her and buy her medicine. I was a farmer with land. We used to have happy and beautiful days before the drought. Read his story.
Hasina Begum (Bramanbaria): A thousand words are not enough to describe my life and what I have been facing in this cursed land. We were born with the fate of victims. God gave cursed lives to those who were born in these northern coastal areas near the Sundarbans. He gave us nothing except sorrow and distress. We live on government land. Every year, over and over again, a cyclone sweeps away everything that we were trying to build through the year. Read her story.
Kala Chan (Sariya kandi, Bogura): I was the owner of 116 bighas of land in our village beside the beautiful river Ganga. Every year we face greater erosion. One hundred bighas of my land is now under water and I divided 16 bighas of land between my eight children. We have lost our home 14 times due to river erosion; this is my 15th house. Read their story.
Hamida Begum (Gabura, Sathkhira): She doesn’t go to school anymore. For us, collecting water is more important than going to school now. We old people used to go to school but this new generation is becoming uneducated. But you know ; education only helps when you don’t have to suffer for basic needs like food and water. Now staying alive every day is the biggest fight in our life. Read her story.
Shaha Ali (Sariya kandi, Bogura): I poured my sweat and blood into building my house. I did it with my own hands. My wife and I worked hard every day so that we could make a home where we dreamed we could see out our daysl. Our children grew up there just like in our dreams. After so many years, one day like a nightmare, the river Jamuna took away our house. We never thought the river could come that close. Read his story.
Salina Begum (Dhaka): We came to Dhaka from Gabura, Munshiganj, in the Sathkhira area two months ago and now we are living on the streets. There was nothing left in our area except hunger and uncertain livelihoods - we were surrounded by salty water and drought ravaged lands. In order to come here, I had to I had to sell my only pair of gold rings that I got from my mother-in-law which is a symbol prestige and value in our family. Read her story.
Morjina Begum (Tangaial): My entire life had been spent on an island on the Brahmaputra River. I had never seen any vehicles in my 35 years of life, except for boats, ox carts and horse carts. Like me hundreds of women from these islands had never seen any modern vehicles. The men of the islands went out for necessary things but women didn’t need to go anywhere. I, myself, never imagined a city life could look like this. Read her story.
Arif (Dhaka): For the last five years I have been working in this factory with my father. There is a lot of noise, and a lot of chemicals and dust that makes my work very difficult. It's a kind of hell full of loud disturbing sounds, fiery heat and clouds of toxic dust. But this is the only work we have in this area. All these factories are making wheels for ships. Lots of people working here are from the same village that I came from. Read his story.
Ashma Begum (Chilmary): After the flood, I lost my house for the sixth time because the river eroded. I sold my cattle and everything I had in order to rebuild my shelter last year. This year there was another devastating flood which destroyed my house again, and now staying here is another nightmare. I have no idea how I will manage to pay back all my loans while spending nights in this smashed-up house with my children. We have been starving most of this last week. Read her story.
Fatema Begum (Voirob): For my one and only wrong decision, I lost my whole family in the horrifying 15 November Cyclone Sidr. I don’t know what I should call it - good luck or bad luck. I am the only one in my family to have survived by holding onto the last tree in our village. I can’t forget how the next morning I was searching for my loved ones and lining up the dead bodies one by one. I lost my two daughters, my only son and my husband that night. Read her story.
Hamida Begum (Jessore, Bangladesh): I never thought even in my worst dreams that I would have to leave my land and move to Dhaka – but this is what I am about to do. But what we want is never always that which happens. I don't know how I will live there in one restricted tiny room after living in my open-spaced village here. How will I breathe in that blocked room? But it is also not possible to live here in my village anymore. Read her story.
Hasina Begum (Bramanbaria): I can't make you understand what a big sin I have committed. I don't know if Allah will forgive me or not but I am sure my child will not forgive me. My family members will not forgive me as I can’t forgive myself. I had to sell my 6-year-old son to a man in order to survive with my other two children and my husband. To save 4 more lives, I had to make the most devastating decision of my life. Read her story.
Last night my five hungry children were freezing in the cold. To fight the chilly wind we embraced each other and their father kept reciting the Quran. We fear the future and fight for today. If my husband can catch a fish, we can survive another day. Read her story.
Nurjahan Begum (Narayanganj): When danger comes, it comes in every conceivable way. Who would have thought that we would have to work here in this dirty dump yard? Fate has dragged me here. I am from a respectable family. Women of our family never used to work outside of the home ever. Now I work here with my whole family. After cyclone Sidr, we were trying to fix our house but another cyclone, Aila, took the rest of it. Read her story.
Parvin Akter (Ashuganj): We have been born with the fate of uncertainty. Every year we live, we live with the power of our fate. As each year passes by and we count ourselves fortunate; we count each new breath as good luck. The year of Cyclone Aila in 2009 was the curse of my life. We lost the only tree over our head. I lost my husband in the cyclone. No one could find the body of my husband for us to see him for one last time. Can you imagine how unfortunate we have been? Read their story.
Rita Begum (Dhaka): In 2010 the flooding was so sudden that it left us with a shore. We survived for four days on the top of the but the next day, it too was underwater. After searching madly for a whole day for banana trees, my husband finally found five trees to make a raft. We tied it to our hut so that it did not float away and we moved our essentials onto the raft. I never imagined that on this night my life was going to change forever. Read her story.
Bilkis Begum (Sariya kandi, Bogura): Sometimes it's the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination. I am Bilkis and come from a slum in Dhaka city. I used to work in a factory with my husband. I fell in love with him and I fled here with him eight years ago. For the last eight years I have seen a very different world, full of the hardships of the people on this island. Many times my husband told me he wanted me to return to the city again. Read her story.
Khairul Mia (Shamnagar, Sathkhira): I was a hawker of girls cosmetics in our village and married a beautiful happy girl who I fell in love with the first day I saw her. Twenty years before we were married she used to be one of my regular customers. She fell in love with me unconditionally and married me after dealing with a lot of problems with her family. Read his story.
Rubina (Dhaka): We woke up in terror after the roof of our house was swept away, and moments later we were chest deep in rising waters. My parents jumped into the water to try to save the cattle but could not. We lost everything in the cyclone. We escaped with just our lives from there seven years ago. I started my job as a sex worker seven years ago here in Dhaka city, when my mother committed suicide for the unbearable pain and my father fled leaving me to look after my four siblings. Read her story.
Two global agreements – one focused on the protection of refugees and the other on migration – are in the final stages of negotiation between governments, under the auspices of the United Nations. Each offers a rare opportunity to protect migrants from one of the biggest sources of displacement today – climate change. They are expected to be adopted in December 2018.
While the UN recognises that climate change is a cause for migration, countries are under no legal obligation to protect the rights of those affected by its consequences.
Through the following twenty stories and photos by renowned photographer GMB Akash, we are taken into the lives of mainly Bangladeshi women who are survivors of climate-induced migration. It is the ultimate display of human resistance.
Over the next few decades, scientists expect 17 percent of the country’s land to be submerged, and 18 million Bangladeshis to be displaced by seas. The country regularly suffers from deadly and devastating flooding, tropical cyclones, storm surges and droughts.
When a land that has been a people’s home for centuries disappears or becomes uninhabitable, through no fault of those who live there, what choices do they have and where can they go? These are questions that the international community currently have no answers for—and that’s neither fair nor just.
GMB Akash has a social media following of over half a million, has received more than 100 international awards and his work has been featured in over 100 major international publications.
The photo series was produced under the auspices of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and an international coalition of 400 civil society groups campaigning for UN member states to recognise climate change as a key cause of displacement and a driver of migration. The UN will adopt its historic global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration in December 2018.