©InfoWomen and children gather round Suchitra, watching and listening, as the hot sun dapples down through the shade of a coconut tree.
But it is not just the brightly patterned saris and attentive faces that make it a beautiful scene.
"As a woman, it used to be difficult to go outside on my own, I would get criticised," explains Suchitra Rani, 30, from Badurtala community. "But since the Red Crescent has been working with us it’s become more acceptable."
Helping vulnerable communities
Given Bangladesh has around 700 km of coastline, there are many people living close to the sea who are vulnerable to cyclones, which sweep up from the Bay of Bengal. These low-lying areas are particularly at risk from tsunami-like tidal surges up to 10 metres high, caused by cyclones.
Suchitra joined a Bangladesh Red Crescent women’s forum in 2007 and having survived Cyclone Sidr, it’s clear why she has such passion for her volunteer work.
©Info"It had been raining for three days leading up to Cyclone Sidr, but as a volunteer I knew what to do when we got the warning," Suchitra says. "The wind was fierce and there were many trees on the road. I was lucky to make it to the shelter safely with my husband and two children.
"But I remember one lady who’d been caught by the water and had clung to a tree with her two children. She arrived at the shelter with her daughter, but she’d lost her son. All night she was crying for him. We found him dead the next day by the river.
"The woman’s hair was down and it was clear she hadn’t received any training. It’s really important for me to visit women in my community and share all that I have learned about cyclones."
Simple steps make a big difference
Suchitra knows how important it is to tie back long hair and to change from a sari to shalwar kamiz (baggy trousers and long top) to make it easier to escape in the wind and floodwaters of a cyclone.
"In our community lots of people lost their lives in Sidr, but in Aila only one died," says Suchitra. "During Aila, I helped manage the shelter by giving emotional support to people who were scared, taking care of the elderly and providing drinking water."
In the yard, in front of Suchitra’s house, is a beautiful scene. It is a newly confident woman sharing life-saving information with her friends.
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