Bangladesh: Promoting Transparent Elections and Empowering Women

Animators Gethering at Khalisha Chapani, Dimla, Nilphamari 001 (3)a.jpg

Update to the Global Board
(April 2009)

Overview

As we continued to strengthen our three-pillar strategy across the country, we had an opportunity to make a special contribution within pillar three - partnership with local government - through our participation within the Shujan alliance during the recent parliamentary and mid-tier elections.

  • During the national and Upzila (sub-districts) election, we carried out massive awareness campaigns to emphasize the importance of good governance.
  • Supported transparency, by publishing the disclosure statements of 2,500 contesting candidates on a website. (This new disclosure law was one of the reforms The Hunger Project (THP) has strongly supported).
  • In partnership with UNDP, we printed 2,050,000 posters, 1,600,000 listing of candidates and 8,500,000 leaflets emphasizing the importance of honesty and competence among candidates. We distributed all the materials among voters all over Bangladesh.
  • Arranged 86 "Meet the Candidates" meetings at 86 out of 300 parliamentary constituencies.

This was the first time such activities were undertaken by THP in Bangladesh.

The principal objectives of the current period were to:

  • Unleash the leadership and creativity of grassroots women, as well as make them aware of gender-related issues so they can establish their rights and contribute to social development.
  • Empower and inspire animators to form social units (such as Shujan chapters, volunteer trainers, women leaders, YEH, National Girl Child Advocacy Forum, and animator core teams) in a planned way in 82 unions (clusters of villages) where THP-Bangladesh is working so they can advocate to union parishad (UP, local government) bodies and government functionaries to provide facilities to grassroots people for achieving the MDGs.
  • Encourage public opinion to seek honest and competent candidates in national and Upzila elections and thereby promote good governance.

Details on Progress

Developed the leadership capacity of grassroots women

Special training provided to 154 grassroots women through three courses on gender, leadership and women's empowerment issues. To date, 2,050 women leaders received training. During this period, 257 monthly follow-up and training sessions were also arranged.

Increased awareness on prevention of early marriage, dowry and violence against women as well as ensuring women's rights

Trained women leaders and animators organized 324 campaigns on different issues, and 640 meetings on the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), dowry, education and domestic violence. The meetings included: 68 discussion meetings; 244 marriage registrations; and 1,030 courtyard meetings.

Women leaders:

  • Stopped 142 early marriages;
  • Rescued two girls from trafficking;
  • Arranged 75 dowry-free marriages;
  • Provided legal support to 12 oppressed women;
  • Settled 103 family disputes through arbitrations;
  • Developed 84 self-help groups;
  • Organized 31 skills trainings in income-generating activities such as weaving;
  • Planted 6,200 trees;
  • Motivated the parents of 1,896 children for their primary education;
  • Mobilized villagers to install 634 sanitary latrines and 54 tube wells; and
  • Tested 1,750 tube wells to ensure water is clean and arsenic-free.

550 women are involved in income-generating activities.

New group of trained volunteers

Provided 70 four-day animator trainings to 5,324 social activists (2,384 men and 2,940 women). The cumulative number of animators as of this report is about 121,935.

Public opinion created in favor of honest and competent candidates as well as electoral and political reform

  • Three roundtable discussion meetings;
  • 10 citizen dialogues;
  • Two People's Voice (TV) shows;
  • 15 human chain rallies;
  • 11 preparation meetings for face-to-face meetings;
  • 117 face-to-face (Projection Meetings);
  • 29 meetings with UP bodies;
  • Three planning workshops with the Shujan Committee;
  • 196 general meetings with Shujan members; and
  • 15 Shujan committees formed in new areas.

About 33,693 people (male: 22,546; female: 11,147) were involved in these events.

Trained new youth group and ensured quality education in institutions

  • Youth volunteers started 25 literacy centers, where 625 illiterate adults and children (male: 385; female: 240) enrolled;
  • 26 Youth Ending Hunger (YEH) new units were formed;
  • Trained 192 youth leaders;
  • 29 parents' meetings held;
  • 91 campaigns on different issues led by youth leaders in different schools and colleges; and
  • About 700 students participated in Youth National Conference.

Involved underprivileged people in Participatory Action Research (PAR)

THP-Bangladesh trained 30 core facilitators through one foundation course. Through 10 workshops at the union level, 296 animators were trained as PAR facilitators. PAR activities extended to10 new unions, and the total union coverage is 25 unions. During this period, 72 gono-shangatons (PAR organizations) were formed, with the cumulative number of organizations now at 288 and total members at 5,588.

Formed social unit at unions where THP-Bangladesh works to strengthen UP-led women-focused mobilization

Social units (such as Shujan groups, volunteer trainers, women leaders, YEH, National Girl Child Advocacy Forum, UPs, and core groups) are being formed in a planned way in 82 unions.

Created resource/skilled persons by providing skill development training

During the period, 47 skills training on 10 trades such as mushroom cultivation, block batik, fish cultures, tailoring, etc. were given to 419 men and 1,133 women. 455 of them are now engaged in different income- generation activities.

Increased awareness on improving hygiene practice, sanitation and safe drinking water (HYSAWA FUND Project)

Through 11 special VCAWs focused on total sanitation at 11 unions, 297 animators took responsibilities as ward catalysts, and they formed 714 Community Development Forums (CDF).

Advocacy and awareness increased on contemporary socio-political issues, such as self-reliant development, women's rights and good grassroots governance, through media campaign

During the reporting period, THP produced four special television (electronic media) programs named "Jonatar Katha," which were telecast by Bangladesh Television.

Partnerships

Under the banner of Shujan, partnerships were formed with UNDP, Transparency International Bangladesh and the Anti-corruption Commission of Bangladesh. UNDP provided printing costs for all voter empowerment materials. Meet-the-Candidates (Projection Meetings) were arranged in partnership with Transparency International Bangladesh and the Anti-Corruption Commission.

Previous partnerships with HYASWA, SPANDAN-B and AGAMI, associations of expatriate Bangladeshi, are ongoing. AGAMI will provide funding to Gono Uddak Junior Girls School, Laksam.

Partnerships with many civil society organizations and NGOs, such as Action Aid, Manusher Jonno, and Plan Bangladesh, and with individuals and businesses are continuing through the National Girl Child Advocacy Forum (NGCAF) and Shujan.

Broader Awareness and Advocacy

We have a good relationship with all national and local electronic as well as print media. The Country Director regularly takes part in talk shows arranged by electronic media on different social and political issues, such as self-reliant development, women's rights and good grassroots governance.

Impact Assessment

To track the activities of volunteers and staff, THP-Bangladesh has developed a new monitoring system. A team in the Dhaka office is responsible for monitoring and evaluation (M&E). They analyze our monthly plan and achievement report of the volunteer trainers, women leaders, youth leaders and staff, and whether their activities and monthly plan are relevant with our ten steps for achieving the end of hunger and poverty. The ten steps in Bangladesh are:

  1. create a critical mass of animators in the unions;
  2. awaken and mobilize the people;
  3. mobilize students;
  4. prepare for local-level planning;
  5. promote local-level planning and implementation;
  6. support income-generating activities;
  7. create village-level people's organizations;
  8. carry out continuous monitoring and self-evaluation;
  9. document the process; and
  10. strengthen the union parishads (local government institutions).

They then provide them feedback and recommendations. At the regional level, a regional coordinator sets targets, produces results and reports on them. A team in Dhaka compiles the data and feeds it back to the regional offices.

Some results of the period include:

  • New voters became aware of the importance of casting their votes for honest and competent candidates.
  • As part of the political empowerment of women, many women's networks took part in the Upzila election, and 21 THP-trained women leaders won. This is a great achievement for our women leaders that will inspire others.
  • Animators, alongside local people and UP bodies in 11 unions of the Patnitala Upazila in Nagaon district, are aiming to achieve 100% safe sanitation. From the beginning of the program in July 2008, it was found that only 36% of the households in the unions mobilized by THP used safe sanitation practices. After the massive mobilization led by animators, the rate has increased to 45%.
  • 625 formerly illiterate adult and children can now read and write as a consequence of the literacy movement.