Bangladesh: Trained Volunteer Leaders Initiate Change in Their Communities

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Update to the Global Board
(October 2008)

Executive Summary

The main distinctions of this reporting period in comparison with the previous six months are as follows:

  • Comprehensive surveys were conducted in 30 unions (clusters of villages) to identify peoples' needs, as a guide for taking necessary actions.
  • A dynamic web module for archiving candidates' profiles was prepared.
  • A movement for increasing literacy and the quality of education was launched in collaboration with distinguished persons.
  • In partnership with government projects, a social movement was launched in 11 unions in the Nagaon district to improve hygiene, sanitation and water supply situation.

The principal objectives of the current period were:

  • Deliver animator training to 11,700 social activists through 161 four-day training courses, special training to 550 grassroots women for building their leadership capacity, special five-day residential training for elected representatives of 11 union parishads (UPs) (local government bodies), youth leadership training to 1,300 youth leaders, skills development training to 1,300 women and men on creating self-employment opportunities, and a Training of Trainers (TOT) to 50 volunteers trainers.
  • Conduct comprehensive baseline survey by animators in over 30 unions so that they can identify their problems and thereby take actions as needed.
  • Empower and inspire the animators to form social units in The Hunger Project-Bangladesh's working unions so that they follow the ten steps that The Hunger Project-Bangladesh has identified which will bring overall improvement in the quality of life of the people.
  • Carry out a massive campaign to empower voters by providing personal information of candidates running for office so that the voters can make informed decisions and public opinion is created in favor of honest and competent candidates who seek electoral and political reforms.

The achievement of these objectives is satisfactory, although in some cases, targets were not fully met.

The Hunger Project-Bangladesh is moving towards the decentralization of its office set-up, decision-making authority, planning, implementation, supervision, monitoring, and documentation through the restructuring its organizational structure. This will give new momentum to the work of The Hunger Project-Bangladesh.

In the recent 2008 elections, in four City Corporations and nine Municipalities, Shujan (Citizens for Good Governance) organized public "Meet the Candidate" events (see photo above) to bring all candidates on one stage to address the voters and distributed posters and leaflet prepared with information on the candidates. In this event, all mayoral candidates signed written declarations that they would combat corruption as well as make an annual disclosure of their income and wealth.

Details on Progress of Activities

Achievements

Completed comprehensive baseline survey of unions.
  • Collected data on socioeconomic conditions of people from 30 unions and completed the data entry.
Developed the leadership capacity of grassroots women.
  • Delivered special training to 418 grassroots women leaders through eight courses on gender, leadership and women's empowerment issues. To date, 2000 women leaders have received training.
  • We arranged 97 monthly follow-ups and training sessions in which about 4,000 women took part.
  • An annual conference of women leaders was also held, where 1,000 leaders attended from all over the country.
Increased awareness on prevention of early marriage, dowry and violence against women as well as ensuring the women rights.
  • Trained women leaders and animators, organized 50 workshops, 235 courtyard meetings and other such gatherings, in which about 15,000 people participated.
  • These leaders effectively stopped 108 early marriages, arranged 51 dowry-free marriages, provided legal support to 99 oppressed women, and settled 117 family disputes through arbitration.
New group of trained volunteers
  • Provided four-day animator training to 9,550 social activists (5,730 men and 3,830 women), with the cumulative number of animators at around 116,611.
Public opinion created in favor of honest and competent candidates and electoral and political reform.
  • Four roundtable discussion meetings, 13 citizen dialogues, about 100 workshops and meetings to exchange views, about 20 exchange views meetings with journalists, two election Olympiads, and 13 meeting with candidates were arranged. Thousands of people participated in theses events.
Increased literacy centers and ensured quality education in institutions.
  • Youth volunteers started 20 literacy centers, where 400 illiterate adult have enrolled, and carried out meetings and campaigns at ten schools to improve the quality of education. Teachers, students, guardians, and local elites attended these events.
Involved underprivileged people in Participatory Action Research (PAR).
  • PAR activities extended to two new unions, and held two workshops which trained 60 animators to be PAR facilitators.
  • PAR programs are now running in 17 unions and the total number of facilitators has reached 263.
  • During the period 15 gonoshangatons (PAR organizations) formed. The cumulative number of organizations is 216, the total number of members 4,996, and their savings are now TK.16,21,120.00.
Formed local organizations.
  • A total of 105 local organizations were formed by animators and women leaders.
  • 2,100 members (675 men and 1,425 women) were involved during this period.
Developed youth leaders.
  • Trained 1,200 youth leaders (700 men and 500 women) during the period.
Formed social units at unions where The Hunger Project-Bangladesh works to strengthen UP-led mobilization focused on women.
  • Social units such as groups of representatives of Shujan, volunteer trainers, women leaders, Youth Ending Hunger (YEH), National Girl Child Day Advocacy Forum, UP resource people and other core groups are being formed in 30 unions where baseline surveys have been completed.
Created skilled, resourceful people by providing skill development training.
  • During the period, skills trainings were given to 928 people (355 men and 573 women) on mushroom cultivation, block batik, fish cultures, and tailoring. About 300 of them are now engaged in some kind of income-generating activity.
Increased awareness on improving hygiene, sanitation and safe drinking of water.
  • In this period, 19 special animator trainings were arranged, which focused on community- led total sanitation (CLTS). 1,754 people participated, including all elected representatives, local elites, school teachers, religious leaders and farmers. These trained people started workshops, rallies and courtyard meetings for total sanitation.
Increased advocacy and awareness on contemporary socio-political issues through a media campaign.
  • During the reporting period, 41 special television (electronic media) programs named Jonatar Katha,Vabber Bishoy and Shikher Chalchitra (state of Education) were recorded and telecast by Bangladesh Television. Thousands of people watched these programs and they became very popular with the viewers.
Trained volunteer trainers.
  • In this period, TOTs were imparted to 50 newly trained animators who are now working as volunteer trainers. To date the total number of volunteer trainers is 506.

Objectives Still in Progress

Empower and inspire the animators in order to form social units in all unions where The Hunger Project-Bangladesh works so that they follow the ten necessary steps to bring overall improvement in the quality of life of the people.

All of the social units are not formed yet in each of the unions where The Hunger Project-Bangladesh works for the following reasons:

  • More presence and involvement from the staff is needed;
  • Volunteers/animators have not yet become the critical force needed to behave as self-generating leaders;
  • Political environment remains conflicting rather than congenial;
  • The tenure of the union council has already expired.Recent Innovations

Recent Innovations

Candidate profiles

To disseminate personal accounts of candidates running in local and national-level public elections among the voters, The Hunger Project-Bangladesh has developed a web-based dynamic module for archiving their profiles that is available to all via the Internet. This is so that voters can cast a well-informed vote in favor of the right candidate, and so that researchers, academics, media and interested groups can collect data for their own professional purposes. This profiling is the first of its kind and a new idea in Bangladesh.

Adult literacy movement

To solve the adult literacy problem, The Hunger Project-Bangladesh is introducing a method which is easy to process, low cost and volunteer-based. Though this method, an illiterate person will be able to write, read, and make primary calculations within six weeks.

Monitoring and Evaluation

To track the activities of volunteers and staff, The Hunger Project-Bangladesh has developed a new monitoring system. A team in the Dhaka office is responsible for monitoring and evaluation. They analyze the monthly plans and achievements of volunteer trainers, women leaders, youth leaders and staff to determine whether their activities and monthly plans are consistent with the ten steps. They then provide them with feedback and recommendations. At the regional level, the regional coordinator also plays a role as monitor of all activities. This system of evaluation will bring forth many improvements:

  • The plan will become more focused and relevant to the ten steps;
  • Union-based actions will become more focused and achieve better results; and
  • Volunteers will become more dynamic.

Plan for the next six months:

  • Intend to start the web-based tracking of all the actions of volunteer trainers and women and youth leaders.

Partnerships

During the reporting period, The Hunger Project-Bangladesh has maintained a partnership for two years with HYSAWA Fund Company, a government project focusing on the social movement approach to improve hygiene practice, sanitation and the water supply situation. Under this partnership, work is being carried out in 11 unions in the Nagaon district. All of the UPs are also partners committed to this project. Through this project, The Hunger Project-Bangladesh wants to change the quality of life of the people of Bangladesh and hopes to become the model for such improvements.

The Hunger Project-Bangladesh also developed partnership with SPANDAN-B and AGAMI, associations of expatriate Bangladeshi, who conduct relief and rehabilitation work. Under this project, four schools and one library, which had been damaged by the cyclone Sidr, are under reconstruction. Through implementation of this project, hundreds of underprivileged children will get the opportunity to receive formal education.

In addition to its partnerships with many civil society organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), such as Action Aid, Manusher Jonno, and Plan, The Hunger Project-Bangladesh is a member of the National Girl Child Advocacy Forum (NGCAF). Through this forum, various activities are being carried out for achieving women's empowerment, establishing girl children's rights and promoting change in the mind-set towards women.

In-country Funding Opportunities

We collected funds for NGCAF and SHUJAN. These funds were received from individuals as well as businesses in order to carry out campaigning for electoral and political reforms. We also collected funds from member organizations of the NGCAF, such as Caritas, Nari Maitree, Action Aid, Manusher Jonno, Plan Bangladesh, and ASF to organize the celebration of National Girl Child Day including workshops, rallies, and print posters and leaflets and to run the art competitions. In addition, we collected funds from animator trainees as a registration fee. This local funding will continue in the future, however they remain insufficient to fully implement the program of SHUJAN and NGCAF.

Broader Awareness of The Hunger Project/Media coverage

We have an agreement with a state-run electronic media outlet called Bangladesh Television. During the reporting period, Bangladesh Television recorded and telecast six episodes of Vabbabar Bishoy and six episodes of Janatar Katha, which covered local and national issues. These episodes were broadcast in order to build mass awareness on the political and social arena. Country Director Dr. Badiul Alam Majumdar was both moderator and presenter of these programs. He also wrote different articles on important contemporary political and social issues, which were published in the national print media. We have maintained good relations with the leading print and electronic media outlets at both the national and local level. They regularly publish the activities and news of The Hunger Project-Bangladesh. In recently held city corporation elections, two leading national dailies and one electronic media covered our activities.

Future Plans

Major objectives for the next six months:

  • National and Upazila (district-level) elections are scheduled to be held in December 2008. A massive campaign (including roundtable discussion meetings, citizen dialogues, publication of posters and leaflets, comparative statements of the competing candidates, and projection meetings) will be carried out so that people can elect honest and competent candidates who are dedicated to the well-being of the people. Post-election activities will also be undertaken.
  • Based on our HYSAWA project, intensive and holistic programs (like animator trainings, skills development trainings, PAR, conducting surveys, literacy movement, women's empowerment and ensuring transparency and accountability) will be implemented in 11 unions of Patnitola Upazila for socioeconomic development. A similar project will be launched in partnership with BRAC development institute (an institute of BRAC University).
  • National Girl Child Day will be celebrated in 700 places all over the country in partnership with the government and Forum members' organizations.
  • The tenth reunion of animators will be organized in January/February 2009.
  • New activities will be carried out in 30 unions based on findings of our survey reports.
  • The new organizational structure including regional set-up will be completed.
  • Animator training will be given to 10,000 people. Social activists, special leadership and monthly follow-up trainings will be given to 600 women; youth leadership trainings to 1,500 youth activists; skills development training to 1,500 young men and women; and Participatory Action Research (PAR) foundation training to 100 people. Twelve PAR workshops will be arranged.

Profile of a Leader

Shilpi Akter (in green on right of photo), 25, is a young woman of Maisadi village. Her father, Abdul Halim Bapari, is a jute mill worker by profession. Overcoming all obstacles, she passed higher secondary school, but could not proceed for higher education as she was forced to marry. Despite this, she educated herself, taking lessons from society and her experience. A spirit of philanthropy awoke in her during the animator training. The leadership section of the animator training and the three-day special women's training changed her thinking and ideas. Women-related issues that were raised in her training courses also greatly shifted her mind-set. She found herself a different woman and took an oath to serve the community.

She realized that without education, it is not possible for people to overcome their socio-economic problems, so she started a non-formal education center where about 50 men and women enrolled. They can now read. She arranged many courtyard meetings bringing the men and women together to discuss gender-related issues. As a result, family disputes have decreased greatly among the participants. She also arranged to send 30 children to school by convincing their parents of the benefit of education. She formed an organization of animators called Ever Green and collected savings. Through this organization, her dream is to build her village as a model village for all others.

Country Profile - Bangladesh

IndicatorsMaleFemaleTotal
Population

153.3 million
Percent of population in rural areas

128.2 million (83.62%)
Infant mortality rate

51 per thousand
Maternal mortality rate

32 per day
Life Expectancy

65.1
Percent population undernourished

30%
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate

Under 0.1%
HIV/AIDS - deaths

--
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS

12,000
Literacy rate46.1%59.2%52.5%
Primary school enrollment
96%95%
GDP per capita

$599.00
People earning less than $1/day

41.3%