Fahima tries to find a way out of poverty



20-year-old Fahima lives in Sylhet’s Jaintiapur upazila. She lives with her husband and two young children on her mother-in-law’s property in Guabari village. Jaintiapur is famous for being a women-led community. Fahima’s family is no different, with her mother-in-law reigning over the family and dictating what she thought would be best for her children, their spouses, and her grandchildren.This is particularly difficult for Fahima, who is hard of hearing, quiet, and very shy. Married off at the age of 14 years, she had always dreamt of earning enough to support her family, owning their own plot of land, and ensuring stable futures for their children. This dream became increasingly improbable as the couple had their first child when Fahima was 16 years old, and a second child in 2019. Fahima’s husband is a day labourer, and is often unable to find work. The couple, living hand to mouth in Fahima’s mother-in-law’s compound, seek out her support when they do not have enough food at home. They live on her compound, and looks to her for support when they do not have enough food at home. Guabari is a rocky, relatively uncultivable area that is often prone to climatebased disasters



Participation in Suchana

When she was 15 years old, Tahmina joined Suchana field mobilisers assessed the needs of households in Guabari, and asked women from poor and very poor households, like Fahima herself, to participate in Suchana’s introductory meetings. The women learnt of problems associated with chronic malnutrition in Sylhet at the meeting, and the repercussions theretofore in their children and in their own lives.
Fahima was pregnant with her son then, and thought it might be helpful for her to learn more about children’s health and wellbeing. Her interest was further piqued when she found that Suchana was giving her funding for four chickens to improve her family’s nutrition.

Support from Suchana

  • Fahima and the women in her group received
    training in:                                                                     
    • Maternal and child nutrition
    •  Maternal and child care
    •  Identifying, cooking, and growing nutritious foods
    •  Poultry rearing practices including feeding and vaccinating chickens, building safe homes and hazals, early separation of chicks to ensure increased egg production, and protecting them from external menaces
    • Health and hygiene
    • Antenatal and postnatal care
  • Fahima received BDT 1, 200 for her four chickens from the programme. The purpose of this was for her to eat the eggs of the chickens herself, feed her family, hatch some eggs to expand her little poultry farm, and in future, when there are extra eggs and chickens, sell them
  • Savings support. Suchana established Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) for every group where individuals could save their money to prepare for future investments or catastrophes
  • Homestead gardening. Suchana trained womenv in Fahima’s group to farm fruits and vegetables on whatever size land they had access to, then gave them seeds, fertiliser, and training






Support from VSLA

The roof of Fahima’s home was severely damaged during thunderstorms in 2019. She was able to scrounge up some money to repair the roof, and borrowed the rest from the VSLA of which she was a member. This loan and savings scheme was vital
in allowing her to mend her roof in time for the winter season last year.As the programme phased out of her area, the VSLA disbanded. This year’s thunderstorms ravaged Fahima’s roof again, but she has not managed to find financing for repairs. The COVID-19 lockdowns have affected Tahmina’s incoming stock of products, resulting in somewhat reduced sales for 4 months. However, once restrictions were lifted and the supply chain had returned to its usual state, her sales had increased once again.


Inability to graduate

Suchana’s graduation model takes into account the overall, sustained improvement in the lives of beneficiaries in terms of improved nutritional practices, improved access to or production of nutritious food, and increased incomes to ensure sustainable development. Fahima was unable to improve much in any of these criteria for the following reasons:

  • Her chickens, though vaccinated, died after a few rounds of laying eggs. Fahima would contact vaccinators whenever her chickens were unwell, but her hard-to-reach location meant that that would not always be possible. The few times that she was unable to reach them, the chickens died. The mortality rate of hatched chicks was also high, so she was unable to maintain or increase the number of chickens. She was able to sell some eggs from the initial batch of chickens, hatch
    some of the eggs, and feed her son three eggs from those that were hatched. Fahima now has two adolescent chickens who, if they survive, will start laying eggs from 2021
  • The land surrounding Fahima’s home is rocky and unsuited for growing most fruits and vegetables. They have a banana plant, but have not been able to grow much of anything else. Fahima also notes that as they live on her mother-in-law’s
    homestead, they are not always able to use land as they might want
  • Fahima’s older child is often unwell. While Fahima is aware of the need to feed her child nutritious foods, she is unable to either grow or access these items regularly. She is also not able to take her child to the doctor every time he falls ill because of constraints related to mobility and a lack of finance
  • Fahima’s husband’s work is often unpredictable and does not pay well. Fahima herself is not involved in income generating activities. The family struggled significantly during the COVID-19 lockdown as they had absolutely no income coming in. With two children under the age of 5 and her duties at home, Fahima is unable to explore income generating options outside of home
  • In spite of Suchana’s continued advocacy with the Bangladesh Meteorological Department to disseminate storm warning messages, not all Suchana beneficiaries are privy to these messages. Women like Fahima do not receive these
    messages, and even if they did, they are unable to protect their belongings from natural disasters. Fahima’s home had been damaged, two years in a row, in violent thunderstorms. With very little to no income and savings, she will be unable to fix her roof in 2020. Fahima has also not been able to capitalise on the training she received from Suchana on flood prevention measures to prepare for disasters like these

About Suchana

Suchana: Ending the cycle of undernutrition in Bangladesh is a multisectoral nutrition programme which aims to reduce chronic undernutrition leading to stunting among children under two years of age in 235,500 poor and very poor households in the Sylhet and Moulvibazar districts of Bangladesh.

The programme adopts an integrated approach to nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions and generates a sustainable and replicable model that can be scaled.

Suchana is funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and the EU, and is implemented by a consortium of 8 different development organisations and research agencies: Center for Natural Resource Studies (CNRS), Friends in Village Development Bangladesh (FIVDB), Helen Keller International, icddr,b, iDE, Rangpur Dinajpur Rural Service (RDRS), Save the Children, and WorldFish.

The consortium is led by Save the Children.

Contact us at:

House CWN (A) 35, Road 43, Gulshan 2, Dhaka 1212