The situation of extreme poor women living on their own is an area which remains under-studied in Bangladesh. This qualitative research was carried out in two coastal districts of Bangladesh with the aim to know about the livelihood and coping strategies as well as the challenges faced by FHHs in terms of managing food insecurity. Data was collected through in-depth interviews with 32 extreme poor female heads and 5 focus group discussions with female heads. The study finds that women survived through different livelihood options but faced extreme challenges in all cases. Household composition is found to be one of the most influential factors regarding a FHH’s coping decisions. Age and marital status are also key variables. Extreme poor FFH’s access to social safety nets and legal support depended on their political loyalty to other influential residents. High levels of food insecurity among FHHs is a very serious problem and leads to what we want to term as ‘food orphans’, i.e. infants and small children who are put into public or private orphanages or are sent to work as residential housemaids in richer families in exchange for food. Thus, children become the first livelihood shock absorbers for FHHs by supplementing family work and complementing family income running a high risk of intergenerational transmission of extreme poverty. The findings of this study suggest that FHHs tend to travel a passage of time led by inequality and draw attention to dimensions of vulnerability of FHHs which revolve around food insecurity. This paper demonstrates that the use of children to improve FHH food security is subjected to gender dimensions.
Owasim Akram. Food Insecurity and Resilience among Extreme Poor Female Headed Households in Coastal Bangladesh. Shiree Working Paper No. 21. Shiree, Dhaka, Bangladesh (2014) 29 pp.