People are often very rude about ‘big push’ approaches to development – the idea that you can kickstart a country (or a millennium village) by simultaneously shoving in piles of different projects, technical assistance and cash. The approach hasn’t got a great track record, but now a kind of micro Big Push, targeting the ‘ultra poor’ in a range of countries, is showing some really promising results.
For Shahina, a poor woman living in the remote rural district of Noakhali in southern Bangladesh, getting cash used to be a long ordeal. Since she didn’t have a mobile wallet, Shahina used to have to travel three kilometres to visit the local bKash agent to collect remittances sent by her husband and two sons, who were working in the city. Sometimes she was unable to make the trip without someone to watch her children. The roads are often impassable after rains and the market is far away. And often the agent charges informal ‘service fees’ before dispensing her cash.
It is said that the total number of hungry people in the world could be reduced by 12-17 per cent if women’s access to resources were equivalent to that of men. Still perceived to be a male-dominated field, the agriculture sector in Bangladesh has seen a dramatic rise in female participation, now exceeding 50 per cent. October 15th is International Day for Rural Women and here are some of their stories.
Polli shomaj, or community-based organisations, are designed to empower poor, rural women, by enabling them to raise their voice, and claim their rights and entitlements. These groups are powerful and successful mediums of sustainable development. They actively engage more than one million rural women in 55 districts of Bangladesh.
Even when introducing herself, Babita’s enthusiasm is contagious. “Maybe you think that you can’t change how you manage your money. It’s too hard. Well, I used to think that I could never get up in front of a group of people and give a presentation. But here I am. BRAC taught me how. So if I can do this, then you can do anything.”
According to a nationwide study conducted in 2013, about 87 per cent of women in Bangladesh are abused by their husband. A recent report by BRAC’s community empowerment programme (CEP) revealed that eight out of 10 violence perpetrators are men. Thus involving men is crucial if we want to eradicate violence against women. In 2013, BRAC for the first time initiated a project to engage men as partners to reduce violence against women by changing their attitudes.
“When it would rain, we did not have a dry area to sleep… I used old and torn rags to cover my children.” The video speaks for itself. A self-told story about how Chobi Rani, with the assistance of BRAC, brought herself out of the harshest forms of poverty, to feed and send her children to school, live in a comfortable home and maintain successful enterprises in farming.
Over the past one month, Bangladesh has been eagerly following their favourite football teams during the FIFA World Cup. BRAC decided to harness this nationwide enthusiasm by organising a match between Brazil and Argentina – two of the country’s most beloved teams. However, the players themselves were made up of girls from BRAC’s adolescent development programme’s (ADP) adolescent clubs. The best players were selected from across Bangladesh to ensemble the two teams who played a friendly game against each other on 27 June at the T&T field in Motijheel, Dhaka.
Meet Sonya –an 18 year-old girl living in Narayanganj, Bangladesh. Sonya lives a typical Bengali lifestyle; she enjoys the park with her friends and helps her parents with chores. But Sonya isn't typical. At an age when girls are often expected to get married, she is breaking gender stereotypes, instilling confidence, and empowering a new generation of girls… all through her love for karate. Sonya is among a group of girls who are taking part in BRAC’s Adolescent Development Program where they are mentored in life skills, in this case, through the art of karate.
BRAC founder and chairperson Sir Fazle Hasan Abed spoke as part of a panel discussion on labor and global supply chains, held at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City last week. Here's the full description from the Initiative website:
Putting women in the driver's seat as a metaphor is becoming something of a cliché in development policymaking circles. In countries like Bangladesh, literally putting women in the driver's seat is still a revolutionary idea.