Sahena is a green campaigner who has travelled almost half way round the world to teach people in Greater Manchester about the devastating effects of climate change.
Twenty-four year-old Sahena Begum, a housewife from rural Gaibandha district in Bangladesh, visited the Manchester Bangladesh Women’s Association based in Longsight to explain about the destructive effect global warming is having on her community.
Her visit, organised by Oxfam’s North West Campaigns office was aimed at highlighting the human impact of climate change being felt today and what people can do to reverse this catastrophe especially as freak flooding caused by global warming is likely to get worse and more unpredictable in years to come.
She told the audience how she spent one monsoon season sat on her rooftop for seven days with out food or water whilst they waited for the flood waters to pass.
She said: “Ever since I was a little girl, my memories of every monsoon season is either swimming to the nearest village or on the rooftop of our home waiting for the floods to pass.
“Every year we anticipate this, every year it gets worse and all we can do is wait to see what damage we will be left with.
“Because we are much more poorer and we live on flatter land we are often the most affected.”
However, over the past few years, Sahena along with other members of her village have been able to help themselves thanks to Oxfam.
Sahena, who is now president of her village’s 25-member women’s committee, is leading the women in her community in building elevated homes, portable clay ovens and preserved vegetables to avoid the worst disasters from flooding with the help of Oxfam officers based in Bangladesh.
Said Sahena: “Thanks to organisations like Oxfam, we have been taught basic things like, for example, building a homes on higher ground, even our cooking stoves are built much higher than normal.
“All the homes have been provided with proper toilets as well. This has been a huge help because during flood seasons, there’s nowhere to go.
“We have been provided with a radio and this means we know what kind of weather to expect. For example if a storm is about to come our way, I can alert other villagers and we can do help ourselves in time.
“People in the western world don’t realise the hardship which we go through.
“I understand if people did more to help with climate change, they will be in return be helping to save the lives of people like my villagers in Bangladesh.
“With the weather constantly changing and the monsoon season becoming increasingly more dangerous, we need people out there in the world to make small changes to help people living in poorer countries.”
She added: “If women work together, sharing learning on how to cope with new weather conditions, diseases can be avoided, poultry can be saved, children are properly looked after. The fact that we have created a women’s committee is really a matter of pride for us women. Some of the men were not happy about us setting up the committee but even they have now come to see the benefit of what we do and even my own husband supports me in my work.
“We are not born to suffer. We are born to fight”.
During Sahena’s tour of the north west she also visited Ashton Hayes, the first Cheshire town going carbon neutral. On the same day she also met with students at the geography department at Chester University where she talked about climate change effects on her community.
Sahena also addressed an assembly of children between the age of seven and 11 at St Hilda’s Primary School in Oldham.