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Rapid Urbanizations and the Women in the Slums In Dhaka City

Bangladesh is a land of grueling poverty in terms of economic sense. The country lacks significant amount of natural resources except 150 million populations. Dhaka is the fastest growing mega-city in the world. Annually, the city draws an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 mostly poor migrants who provide critical employment for the city’s industries and services. Most migrants come from rural areas in search of opportunities, which can provide new livelihood options for them. As one walks through Dhaka, the pervasive poverty is evident, as is the inequality between rich and poor. In 2010, the population of the city of Dhaka has projected at 17.6 million people, with up to 60% in the slums. The poor mainly live in slums scattered throughout the city, with close to 80 percent of slums located on privately owned land creating considerable institutional challenges in terms of basic service provision.

The draw of Dhaka is no surprise, it is a dynamic city and has attracted substantial industrial investments, particularly in the Readymade Garment (RMG) industry, which has created demand for workers and services. The city is, however, increasingly characterized by large slums, poor housing, excessively high land prices, traffic congestion, water shortages, poor sanitation and drainage, irregular electric supply, unplanned construction, increasing air pollution and poor urban governance which results in growing problems of law and order.


The country does not have a comprehensive policy on urbanization and urban poverty.  There are between 16 to 40 different bodies involved in one way or another in urban matters in Dhaka with little coordination and planning. As a result, there are major gaps in services and infrastructure ranging from weak electrical supply to inadequate land and housing options, and major traffic congestion. The poor are particularly affected as they do not have the resources to find alternatives for meeting their basic needs.

The society of Bangladesh is characterized by gender discrimination. Women are always victims of gender-biased policies, and treatments are also made in all spheres of live accordingly. Because of particular gender, women are the most suppressed, oppressed and exploited section of the society. Their household activities are not recognized by the society as productive ones. As a result, they are considered as the poorest of the poor. Acute poverty characterizes their lives. Urban slum women are neglected and deprived in all spheres of their lives like family, society and state. They are deprived of adequate and nutritious food, clothing, shelter, security of social services. Physical deprivation is a feature main in these women’s live and it is at the core of poverty in the case of urban slum women.

All the above-mentioned factors take the forms of chronic malnutrition, widespread hunger, serious diseases and low level of life expectancy. Medicare facilities are also gender biased: male members get more and modern Medicare facilities, on the other hand, female members get less and nonscientific and traditional facilities. All these condition the cause of women’s ill health. Wealth is a means of securing good health but possession of wealth largely depends on gender. Therefore, there is a close relationship among gender, poverty and reproductive health.

Access to basic services such as water, sanitation, electricity, health and education by the poor is limited.  Because most slums are not recognized as legal lands, the Government, NGOs and Donors generally do not provide services in these areas. The overall living circumstances in these slums are so poor. However, the fact remain that women living in the slums lead a vulnerable life and it is high time to think about their citizen rights. While the needs in the slums of Dhaka are enormous, urgent measures are required to address the vital needs of the rapidly growing urban poor. Actions are needed to ensure, in general, the right environment to promote growth and poverty reduction in Dhaka, and in particular to improve access to employment, services, and a reduction in crime and violence for the poor.  Simultaneously, overall reforms of the judicial/policing systems, reductions in crime and violence, and transparent ways of attaining services are necessary for Dhaka to continue to provide an enabling urban environment to its citizens.

Author: Md. Tarek Hossain
Assistant Coordinator, Eminence

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