“Nobody helps us”: insights from ultra-poor Bangladeshi women on being beyond reach

This paper documents the exclusion from formal assistance of 43 Bangladeshi ultra-poor female heads of household, which forces women to rely on overstretched forms of informal assistance that are not culturally prescribed and are often experienced as shameful. Experiences of helplessness reinforced by dominant views of the ultra-poor as going nowhere discourage women from seeking out formal assistance. In order to overcome the effects of being deemed “beyond reach”, scholars and providers of aid must attend to persistent forms of neglect and exclusion in formal aid programmes, including the false assumption that the ultra-poor easily access prescribed informal social supports.

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