What is UK Aid Match, and what’s our latest appeal about?  

Two women in Barishal, Bangladesh, Josna and Mahmuda, sit smiling with their arms around each other.

Our It starts with her appeal kicked off last month. The campaign, designed to empower women in Barishal, Bangladesh, allows people in the UK to help change people’s lives in one of the world’s most disaster-prone areas.

You may have seen mentions of ‘UK Aid Match’ on our Twitter feed since the launch, but what exactly is it?

Can I really double my donation?

Yes – at no extra cost to you whatsoever! Through UK Aid Match, the UK government will double your donation, giving you the chance to help people most in need in developing countries

So your £1 becomes £2. All donations (up to the total of £2 million) will be doubled – and you don’t have to do a thing besides make a one-off gift.

Where exactly is Barishal?

Boats on a canal in Barishal, Bangladesh. There is a lot of rubbish in the water and big buildings line the other side of the canal.

Barishal is a city in south-central Bangladesh. It’s one of the biggest river ports of the country, and is known as ‘the Venice of the East’ because of the murky canals, tributaries and rivers that wind their way through the city.

Living on the banks of these waterways – where huge slum communities are located – makes conditions tough. People’s homes are built of wood and corrugated iron on scraps of underdeveloped land, in often unsanitary conditions.

It’s extremely crowded – there are around 60,000 people living in the slums.

What kind of problems are people and women going through there?

People in Barishal live under the constant threat of crippling cyclones and flooding. These vulnerable slum communities aren’t serviced by local authority infrastructure, like water, drainage or waste management systems.

When monsoon season hits and river levels rise, communities can become clogged with waste, often overflowing into homes that aren’t built to stand up to it.

This also causes diseases, such as typhoid, to spread quickly. Bangladesh is one of the countries most affected by climate change, and this is only going to make the situation worse.

Although this threatens everyone’s homes and livelihoods, it’s women and girls who are hit the hardest, as they are already in a worse position both economically and socially.

They are more likely to miss out on getting an education and struggle to make a living – just because they are a woman. Many are raising families alone, as the men of the family have moved to another area to find work.

Women are less likely to have a say in decision making, with less access to resources and information on what to do in an emergency. And as they are more likely to live in poverty, they are often less able to rebuild in the aftermath.

How we’re tackling the problem

Members of a women's squad in Barishal, Bangladesh, stand in two lines smiling.

There isn’t quick fix, and we want these communities to be able to face whatever the future throws at them.

With that in mind, we’re supporting women with small cash grants, apprenticeships and vocational training. This will help them either grow their small business or access the job market to earn a stable income.

Because of this, they’ll be able to create a financial safety net to fall back on and see their families through monsoon season.

We’re also setting up women’s squads, where groups of women have a safe space and a support network to share their struggles and experiences.

Here, they’ll have a platform to stand strong together, have their voice heard and come up with solutions to community problems. The Squads are helping to unravel gender stereotypes and stigma, where a woman’s role in society is viewed through a different lens.

Each women’s squad promotes equality – and must include at least two disabled members.

How you can help

You can donate here, and your donation will be automatically doubled.

Or, why not do some sustainable shopping and hit your local British Red Cross shop? Until 31 March, every pound spend on womenswear will go to our It starts with her appeal – and the amount will be doubled too. It is literally an excuse to go shopping.

Together, we can support thousands of strong women in Barishal to build even stronger communities. Will you help?

 

All public donations made to It starts with her before 7 April will be matched by the UK government up to £2 million. This includes eligible stock donations. Every pound spent on women’s clothing before 31 March will be doubled through UK Aid Match to build sustainable livelihoods and safer communities in Bangladesh.