Photo story: The Women of Sundarbans

Sundarbans is the mangrove deltaic region of Bengal formed by the confluence of many rivers. The collection of islands is famous for its unique flora and fauna, especially the mangrove trees with breathing roots and the Royal Bengal tigers. Hundreds of thousands of tourists visit this magical place each year. However, the lives of the residents are quite far from easy. The salinity of the water has made most of the soil unsuitable for agriculture. 

Most men earn their living from fishing and collecting natural honey. The returns are limited but the stakes are often very high– involving a loss of life or limbs. Hence, the womenfolk not only manage the household but also try to engage in activities like agriculture and fishing. At times they walk kilometers to fetch drinking water. Rearing their children happens at work whether in the fields or the saline estuaries. 

They gather wood from the forests for fires, till their lands, and assist their husbands in weaving and mending fishing nets. Malnutrition, skin diseases, and gynecological problems are their constant companions. Some are forced to migrate to cities and towns. With both parents fighting for a stable livelihood, what sort of future beckons to the children of Sundarbans?

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