This article addresses how gender norms impact the process of migration, and what this means for the use of migration as an adaptation strategy to cope with environmental stressors. Data was collected through qualitative fieldwork, taking the form of semi-structured and open-ended interviews and focus group discussions from a Dhaka slum and three villages in Southern Bangladesh’s Bhola district. Our data revealed that women migrate when environmental stress threatens livelihoods and leave male household members unable to earn enough income for their families. Employing an analytical framework that focuses on the perceptions of individuals, this article shows how gender norms create social costs for women who migrate. Women thus have ambivalent feelings about migration. On the one hand, they do not wish to migrate, taking on a double work load, forsaking their purdah, and facing the stigma that follows. On the other hand, women see migration as a means to help their families, and live a better life. While social costs negatively affect the utilization and efficiency of female migration as an adaptation strategy to environmental stressors, it becomes clear that female migration is imperative to sustain livelihoods within the Bhola community.
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