Noorjahan Begum was only 14 when a cyclone ripped through her village and killed her husband and three of her sisters. She recalled: “The cyclone occurred at night. In those days the radio early warning system was not available, but we knew from the weather that something was wrong. The wind blew and the water rose, and all the people were trying to stay alive by climbing trees or onto roofs because there was no cyclone shelter.“When the water went down, we saw thousands of dead cows in the area. Plantations were destroyed and people were killed.”
The 51-year-old has seen many changes in the way her community prepares for disasters over the past four decades. The Red Cross Movement has built cyclone shelters in the area and established an early warning system.
Noorjahan said: “I remember when this cyclone shelter was built. I felt very pleased because it was a great hope for us. Now when a cyclone comes there is somewhere for us to shelter, and I think that if it had been here before, with the information on disaster preparedness, then more people would be alive.”Information about what to do when the early warning system goes off is vital for survival. Not only does the Red Cross/Red Crescent project ensure that women get the information they need, but it also empowers them by encouraging them to take on an important role in the community.
Noorjahan said: “It is really good to have female volunteers raise people’s awareness. When I was young there were no opportunities for me to go to school and work as a volunteer as women can today. God gave us two eyes to see, two ears to listen just like men, but I was passing my time in the home without voluntary work like this.
“When I first heard that women were volunteering, I was surprised because I was not aware of this type of activity before. But from a religious point of view it is good because volunteers can help other community members.
“When I see female volunteers working well and helping other women in the community reduce the vulnerability of women and children, I think that it is very good for us.”
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