Addressing violence, particularly violence against women (VAW), is a key aspect of CEP's work. It does this by building community awareness and mobilising action for prevention. It also coordinates support for survivors of violence. To create a safer environment, particularly for women and children, CEP's approach involves engaging rural communities to monitor and prevent VAW towards creating a safer environment in the family and at the community level.
Stop violence initiative
Using the strong grassroots network of more than 12,000 polli shomaj facilitated by CEP, this initiative aims to identify and report on the incidents of VAW, provide survivor support services, and mobilise grassroots communities to prevent violence. This initiative is being carried out in 55 districts with emphasis in nine districts with the highest number of reported incidents. Activities under the initiative involves:
• Identification and reporting
Polli shomaj serves as a strong network for identification and reporting of incidents of violence, particularly VAW. The reports are sent to BRAC head office within 24 hours of identification. These reports are stored in a central database which enables analysis of the data and provides directions for future action.
• Survivor support
Coordinated support (emergency medical and legal aid, shelter homes, and rehabilitation) is provided to the survivors through collaboration with other BRAC programmes and partner organisations. The polli shomaj leaders are also sensitised on VAW-related issues so that polli shomaj can serve as shelter groups for survivors of violence. In addition, we provide professional psychosocial counselling to survivors both through individual and group counselling.
• Mobilisation for violence prevention
CEP creates awareness among communities and mobilises them to protest and prevent VAW. To this end, polli shomaj and popular theatre plays a key role. In addition, debate and quiz competitions are arranged in educational institutions to create awareness on VAW among adolescents. Furthermore, district-level government and non-governmental service providers' coordination workshops are organised at regular intervals.
Monobondhu pilot initiative
Creating community-based psychosocial counsellors, also known as monobondhu in Bengali, is a new initiative of the programme. The community counsellors are women from polli shomaj and popular theatre groups who are trained by a professional clinical psychologist on techniques of psychosocial counselling. They provide psychosocial counselling to survivors of violence and their families, to enable them to cope with their personal suffering and societal attitudes, increase their self-esteem, and motivate and help them to socially reintegrate into their communities. This initiative started in 2013 and is set to continue until 2015, with the aim that 100 community counsellors will be formed in four districts of Bangladesh.
Monobondhu psychosocial counsellor handbook
Engaging men as partners to prevent VAW
This initiative is being implemented as a pilot to prevent VAW by engaging men and boys. It focuses on transforming the traditional notions of masculinity and gender norms that perpetuate men's violence against women. To this end, project activities are implemented through active engagement of men, adolescents and children who are boys. The duration of this pilot initiative is three years in 12 rural wards.
Leaflet: Engaging men as partners to prevent VAW
Improving the conditions for reconstruction and development in South Sudan, Yemen and Bangladesh
This project aims a larger replication of the proven local level community security model to improve public security and contribute to an environment in which peace dividends can be better realised. This four-year project is being implemented in 16 sites of five districts in the south-western region of Bangladesh, based on lessons learned and best practices of the community-based security and conflict prevention pilots. The pilot's staff will accompany communities through an action-plan process, which will enable them to identify and address their safety concerns in collaboration with others. This relies heavily on the participation and eventual leadership of the communities themselves.
Accelerating efforts to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV)
The Government of Bangladesh, Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), UNDP Bangladesh and BRAC have jointly launched a new project, titled ‘accelerating efforts to prevent and respond to sexual and gender based violence’ (SGBV). The significant feature of this pilot project is a national online database on victims of violence against women (VAW). The project respond to gaps in the institutional response to issues of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in Bangladesh. Studies and researches reveal that the gaps exist mainly because incidents of SGBV in this country are usually not reported to the duty bearers, and thus remain unrecorded. The project addresses these shortcomings. It assists over 500 government officials linked through the VAW prevention network so that SGBV victims are able to solicit and receive help from service providers and also access legal and other support. For the first time in Bangladesh, 60,000 SGBV victims will be directly connected to public and NGO support service providers through a real-time online database. It is being implemented in 425 unions of 45 sub-districts in all seven divisions of Bangladesh, based on the experience of successful interventions by the UN joint programme on VAW.
Ending child marriage at Badarganj
The project is developed as a pilot initiative to test an appropriate model for preventing child marriage in Badarganj, a sub-district of Rangpur district. The project is expected to prove the practical application of the community empowerment approach through involvement of all components of the programme. The 18-month project is aimed to change the perception of early marriage among the social and political leaders of the community; to make the relevant authorities responsive to implement the existing law against child marriage; to mobilise the adolescent groups to prevent child marriage; and to develop a network comprising all the relevant stakeholders against child marriage at Badarganj. Desired outcome of the project is expected through successful formation and mobilisation of coordination committees in different tiers of the community comprising representatives from all relevant stakeholder groups along with other awareness raising and community mobilisation activities.
Addressing violence against women and children through a coordinated approach
A number of BRAC programmes have specific activities to address violence against women and children (VaWC) through their programmatic interventions. The programmes have been working separately without any common framework for combating VaWC. The project ‘addressing violence against women and children through a coordinated approach’ was developed as a pilot initiative. It presents a coordinated approach to address VAWC, based on the gaps identified in the four programme’s ‘silo’ approach. Objectives of the project are to develop a scalable and comprehensive mechanism to reduce VaWC – one that can be mainstreamed across all BRAC programmes. It ensures a survivor’s access to need-based comprehensive support services and protection of their rights and to document and disseminate learning and good practices from BRAC interventions to combat VAWC in Bangladesh. The project is being piloted in the districts of Comilla and Gazipur and has a duration of three years (January 2015 - December 2017). The project activities address three domains – prevention, protection and social re-integration. Based on the success of the project, this approach can potentially serve as a broader organisational framework for combating VAWC through combined efforts of all BRAC programmes. CEP has been serving as the secretariat of the project.
Handbook for community organisations to prevent violence against women
"No place is safe -Sexual abuse of children in rural Bangladesh" Article on Child Rape based on CEP reports
Lessons Learned Report of Community Safety Project
CEP recognises the power of information in addressing many of the social inequalities that exist in rural Bangladesh. We use community media such as, popular theatre and community radio to create awareness and address the gaps faced by poor people in accessing information. We use local dialects and the medium of entertainment to maximise the effect of information and messages. In addition, we focus on creating awareness at the grassroots level on Bangladesh's Right to Information Act, enabling rural citizens to benefit from it.
Popular theatre is an effective communication medium for disseminating information within rural communities, particularly to those who are illiterate. Through popular theatre, CEP deals with a wide range of issues of local and national significance such as gender equality, dowry, child marriage, gender-based violence, good governance, environment, health, migration, HIV/AIDS, road safety and agriculture. Popular theatre also promotes women's voices, mobility and participation. The plays are usually staged in the evening, drawing large audiences including many women and children. A play typically draws an audience of between 250 and 500 people. Our popular theatre groups are formed by local folk artists. The stories are based on real life incidents and local context, and the messages are delivered in the local dialect. The plays stimulate the audience, create awareness and generate dialogue on issues that affect their lives. Our popular theatre activities are successfully being implemented by430 local popular theatre teams across 61 districts in Bangladesh with the active involvement of 4,300 local performers (30 per cent women) who act as agents of change within the community.
Download Popular theatre brochure
Popular theatre implementation guidebook
Radio Pollikontho, community radio project
Radio Pollikontho, a community radio station located in Moulvibazar in the north-eastern part of Bangladesh, is an initiative of CEP to ensure rural communities' access to information. The radio station covers a radius of 17 km reaching approximately 0.4 million rural citizens in the Moulvibazar district. Radio Pollikontho programmes are designed to address socioeconomic issues within the community. The programmes prioritise issues related to women and children. In addition, it promotes local folk tradition and culture. The community radio currently has 743 listeners’ clubs consisting of women, youth and children.
Visit Radio Pollikontho's web portal at:
Right to Information
The Right to Information (RTI) Act was passed in Bangladesh in 2009. However, the rural communities often cannot benefit from this act due to a lack of awareness about citizens' rights, the provisions in the act and how to use it. To enable poor rural citizens to benefit from the RTI Act, CEP is implementing a project called ‘creating awareness on RTI law for community empowerment’. The project aims to promote and popularise the RTI Act among the rural poor as well as to develop a cost-effective, community-based mechanism for accessing information. It is being implemented in 17 sub-districts under three districts. In addition to raising awareness through popular theatre and community mobilisation, the project is creating a cadre of community-based infomediaries from pollishomaj members and popular theatre groups who are assisting the rural poor to access information using the RTI Act.
Right to Information handbook
BRAC-WB RTI Project Evaluation Report
Poster on Right to Information Act
Poster on accessing information from union parishad
Our initiative to strengthen local government institutions started in 2003. It aims to develop the capacity of the local government and their accountability to rural citizens with increased transparency. Additionally, it aims to promote participatory democracy, and create platforms for rural citizens and the local government to work together to meet local development challenges. Since 2003, we have provided capacity-building support and gender sensitisation to 30,022 UP members and chairmen in Bangladesh. Interventions under this component include:
Capacity development of UP representatives
Training and workshops are arranged for UP representatives (both women and men, including the chairmen) from selected areas. It ensures that the local government representatives have a clear understanding of the UP’s structure and activities and of their own roles and responsibilities to the people as elected members.
Upazila (sub-district) forum
Sub-district forums are formed with participation of UP members who are women. These forums create direct links with the sub-district level government officials, allow networking and sharing among themselves, strengthen accountability and promote women's leadership in the UP.
We ensure that the trained UP officials conduct two ward shabha (ward meetings of union council officials, also known as ward council) every year as mandated by the Union Parishad Law 2009 in the wards they represent. The council allows marginalised members of the community to share their concerns and problems with the UP officials.
We provide support to the UP to prepare budgets which are formulated in line with the Union Parishad Operations Manual. This is followed by the open budget session, and is arranged to ensure transparency while taking our citizen’s opinions into account. It is a process that allows direct participation of citizens in the government’s decision-making procedure regarding development planning and resource allocation. It also enables citizens to hold the government accountable.
We have adopted a bottom-up advocacy approach to bring out concerns from the grassroots through the local levels to the national level. Advocacy initiatives engage key government officials at different levels, NGO and media representatives as well as different civil society stakeholders.
• Local Government(Union Parishad) Act 2009
• Evaluation report: Post-project evaluations for the United Nations democracy fund
• Gender and good governance issues in local government of Bangladesh: A baseline report
• Facilitating good governance at grassroots: BRAC and woman membes of UP
• Poster on good governance
• Poster on active citizenship
• Poster on union parishad standing commitees
• Report: district level advocacy workshop
A key focus of the programme is to build the capacity of poor rural women. This is achieved by mobilising them to take collective action against exploitation and social injustice, gain better access to local government resources, address systemic inequalities, and play an active civic role in the public sphere. Since 1998, we have initiated more than 13,000 community-based organisations (CBO) called polli shomaj and union shomaj, concentrating in the poorest areas.
Polli shomaj and union shomaj
Polli shomaj is a ward-level institution for the poor, especially women. It serves as a forum through which the underserved people in the communities can raise their voice, claiming their rights and entitlements. There is a total of 12,350 such ward-level institutions in 55 districts, with an average of 55 members in each group. The union-level federation of polli shomaj groups are called union shomaj, which enable the rural poor to lobby directly with the union parishad (union council) and address issues that are beyond the capacity of polli shomaj to tackle. Union shomaj enhances the organisational strength of the groups and allows networking among different polli shomaj leaders. There are 1,215 union shomaj in 55 districts.
Broadly, polli shomaj and union shomaj are involved in four broad types of activities:
• Assisting the poor in their local communities to access government and non-governmental organisations' services and resources
• Securing position for women in rural power structures
• Participating in local government's development activities as well as in local social initiatives
• Preventing conflict and violence, particularly violence against women
We emphasise on structurally strengthening these CBOs so that they can gradually function as independent forums for the poor. We provide tailor-made capacity development support to polli shomaj leaders to strengthen grassroots democracy and leadership of women.
Partnership model union - a joint initiative of community and local government institutions
CEP's pilot initiative called ‘partnership for model union’ builds on the strength of bottom-up development initiatives led by polli shomaj in collaboration with the union parishad (also known as the union council). The main strategy of the project is to mobilise community and local government for collective action in meeting their local development needs by using the resources and services available to them. The process is led by the community through polli shomaj where CEP plays the role of a development facilitator. Sector-based indicators are decided by the community and they take collective action to meet the government’s targets with support from the UP. This pilot is a scale up of the ideal ward initiative developed by CEP field staff, which was successfully implemented in Boragari union under Domar sub-district in Nilphamari in 2012. Two union councils in Nilphamary and Mymensingh under this pilot initiative are expected to be declared as model unions by 2015.
Advocacy for access promotion of the ultra poor (APUP)
APUP, a joint project of BRAC’s advocacy programme and CEP mobilises relevant stakeholders to ensure regular attendance of the ultra poor children in primary education and to increase access to government services (eg, health, livestock and social safety net programmes). The project is being implemented at the grassroots level in 20 sub-districts of Rangpur, Khulna, Naogaon and Sunamganj. Launched in 2013, the project is set to continue till 2015. Under the project, CEP is carrying out grassroots mobilisation-related activities by engaging pollishomaj forums. The project focuses to make the local level duty bearers more responsive and accountable to ensure service delivery and protect the rights of the ultra poor.
BRAC Community Empowerment Programme (CEP) aims at achieving socio-political empowerment of the rural poor, particularly women, by enabling them to build, secure and use socio-political assets to improve their wellbeing, exercise their rights, take advantage of new opportunities and play a more active role in public life. We are directly reaching nearly one million rural women through a set of programmatic interventions in the areas of:
We organise rural communities through democratic grassroots institutions called polli shomaj (a ward-level institution of poor women). Through these platforms, we create awareness and build capacity for women's political participation and collective action against social injustice and exploitation. We use community media such as popular theatre and community radio to disseminate information to rural communities and mobilise them on a wide range of issues that affect their lives. At the same time, we engage with the local government to improve local governance through capacity building and institutional strengthening, gender sensitising, establishing forums of elected representatives who are women, and advocacy initiatives. Our objective is to help the local government become more transparent and responsive to the needs of the poor. We address violence against women through awareness raising andsupport services for victims. We increasingly emphasise on the engagement of men in the process of women's empowerment and to prevent violence against women.