But as soon as night falls, she replaces her sari with a colourful salwar kameez and swaps the bucket on her arm for a row of shiny bangles, ready to take the stage. Alpina acts in a popular theatre group that regularly travels across the northern villages of Bangladesh.
Even though Bangladesh has made considerable progress in development over the past four decades, there are still many issues left to grapple - one major concern being safety and security. In an attempt to address some of the problems, Saferworld initiated its community security project in partnership with BRAC in 2012.
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.
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.
Whether it is the globally mourned celebrity deaths like that of Robin Williams’, or the shocking Rana Plaza tragedy occurring close to heart, recent news at both home and abroad have sparked global conversations on the importance of prioritising mental health at multiple forefronts. BRAC, a global leader in tackling poverty through social development, has been quick to jump in on the bandwagon.
As dusk falls in the small town of Pachargali, Rangpur, dozens of lanterns blink to life, marking a clearing surrounded by corn and paddy fields. A crowd gathers around a makeshift stage. BRAC’s popular theatre is back in town, a much awaited event for this village.
“When you lose your face, you lose the whole world,” said Feroza Begum with tears in her eyes. “[People] always turn around to look. Some kids shout, some follow, some hide.” Feroza is a survivor of acid violence. But her courage and strength through her hardship is what has earned her the title of joyeeta, the Bengali word for winning woman.
Utilizing a grassroots approach to development is something that BRAC does incredibly well. Given the breadth of BRAC’s reach, undertaking grassroots best practices has proven to be a cost effective way of spreading the messages BRAC desires to send its constituents worldwide. During our field trip to Rangpur, Bangladesh we were able to witness an excellent example of grassroots engagement: Popular Theater.