GJD is working with different alliances and forums to influence policy makers to formulate and revise laws, rules and regulations against all types of gender based violence, and also for policy advocacy.
• At the invitation of the Ministry of Planning, BRAC reviewed the national sixth five-year plan with a gender focus, and made specific recommendations for improving the plan, as well as for the implementation strategy.
• The GJD team reviewed the Microfinance Regularity Authority (MRA) Act from a gender perspective which has now been accepted as government policy.
• The GJD team also worked actively to help the government enact the National Women’s Development Policy 2011, the sexual harassment guidelines, and the National Education Policy.
• In the past year, BRAC participated in a number of national and international networks and meetings geared towards building stronger solidarity around gender and human rights issues, including CEDAW conference in Geneva, South Asian social forum in Bangladesh, South Asian human rights alliance, World Social Forum (WSF), South Asian Network to Address Masculinity (SANAM), Programme on Women’s Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (PWESCR), South Asia Partnership international (SAP).
• GJD is also an active member of Social Action Committee (a platform consisting of 67 development organisations), citizen’s initiative on CEADAW, Bangladesh (a national platform of 38 rights organisation, working on CEDAW and international treaties); WE CAN CAMPAIGN (working to end domestic violence against women and children), National Girl Child Advocacy Forum (working on different girl child issues), and Campaign for Popular Education, a national coalition of NGOs working towards the implementation of programme interventions in the education sector including the education curriculum.
• In 2012, BRAC initiated to form and lead a new platform to combat against child marriage with other organisations (Care, Plan, population council, icddr,b, BLAST, LAMP, FPAB, white ribbon alliance Bangladesh, Marie Stopes etc.)
GJ&D is conducting gender training for professional development and amity among male and female staff through attitudinal and behavioural change. Gender Sensitisation Training (GST) and Gender Awareness and Analysis Course (GAAC) are such courses being offered for the staff. In addition, the section is organising specialised gender training by the external trainer for higher management.
GJ&D also provides training to external organisations on different gender aspect on the basis of their demand.
POSITION (poribortito jiboner sandhane - to enhance a positive life)
The POSITION programme was launched in Gazipur and Gaibandha in 2011 with the lessons learnt from GQAL. The main purpose of the POSITION programme was to create gender justice and improve gender relations in the family and community at large as well as to combat gender based discrimination and violence against girls and women. The extended actions aimed at empowering the women to be actively engaged in realising their rights and equality through increased household decision making, reduced violence against women incidents, demonstrate increased knowledge, attitude and practice, and place an additional focus on youth engagement and sexual harassment in rural areas. It targets approximately 390,000 households among an estimated population of 1,950,000 in 40 unions of the eight areas. The new actions focus on formation and functioning of gender culture change volunteer (770 in total) and the strengthening awareness, mobility, participation, rights and transforming ideology (SAMPRTI) groups, 770 in total, along with the previous groups of gender justice educators and volunteer youth educators to foster community actions towards ending violence against women and sexual harassment against girls. POSITION works in 40 unions, in eight upazilas in eight districts across Bangladesh.
MEJNIN (meyeder jonno nirapad nagorikotta – safe citizenship for girls)
MEJNIN is an innovative programme to raise conscience, especially amongst young people, against sexual harassment of girl students at public places. MEJNIN is working in 160 schools of Dhaka and rural areas, and is targeting to cover 400 schools to raise awareness among the students, teachers, and parents against sexual harassment in public places. The MEJNIN project serves to sensitise youths against sexual harassment as it is a punishable crime, to build their confidence and motivate them to act as change makers both as individuals and collectively, to protect, protest and resist sexual harassment at public places.
Gender quality action learning (GQAL) programme
GQAL is considered an important step into the internal process of promoting gender equality in BRAC. This is a training focused programme aimed at improving gender relations both at organisation and communities. It was launched in 1995 to improve the quality of BRAC programmes, and build gender relations amongst staff within the organisation. At the community level, it included the members of BRAC’s village organisation (VO) on a pilot basis during 2001-2003 with the aim to improve gender relations and enhance gender equality in the respective areas. After successful completion of the VO-based GQAL programme in four rural areas, it was expanded to 50 sub-districts in 12 districts, covering 30,000 households. BRAC’s targeting the ultra-poor programme addresses the needs of ultra-poor women, men and community people towards ending gender-based discrimination and violence in the family and society.
GQAL training for BRAC staff covered 90 per cent of the staff at its peak stage. At the community level a total of 3,000 men and women were given GQAL training, who were selected from BRAC’s specially targeted ultra-poor project, Polli Shamaj (a combination of two or more VOs), VOs, gram daridra bimochon committee (members of the village elites), union parishad members (the lowest administrative unit of the government), and shasthaya shebikas (community health volunteers).
The GQAL is unique because it encouraged adaption from the organisation level to the community level, and also because its approaches include both women and men from the same family.
The programme has made a significant impact by generating community movements for women and children, increasing men's awareness on women's education, foods, nutrition’s, division of labour, rest and recreation, domestic violence, control and access to resource, health issues, and increasing male participation in household work.
Communication for development (C4D)
From December 2010, advocacy for social change and gender justice and diversity jointly implemented a project, ‘Communication for Development: Promoting Sustainable Behaviour and Social Development Changes’ in Ukhiya and Teknaf sub-district under Cox’s Bazaar district in partnership with UNICEF. The project intended to disseminate information in an integrated manner to ensure that community members are knowledgeable, and continuously practice key life-saving care and protective behaviours on health, hygiene, education, and child protection.
Community sensitisation on CEDAW
The community sensitisation on CEDAW (convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women) pilot programme developed user-friendly information, education and communication (IEC) materials, and oriented 6,243 students and 200 community leaders, including media personalities, teachers, government officials and elected representatives.
Gender Policy (GP) and Sexual Harassment Elimination (SHE) Policy
GJ&D is primarily responsible for overseeing and monitoring the implementation of the Gender and SHE policy. The section has also been providing technical assistance within the organisation through policy review, awareness rising against sexual harassment, organising different workshop, training, forums etc. GJ&D developed a Gender Policy Operational Guideline (GPOG) to focus with different level staff responsibility to implement the Gender policy. It is in the process to develop a Gender Analysis Framework recently to mainstream the gender justice goal throughout BRAC.
Assist in implementing a ‘zero tolerance’ policy on sexual harassment within the organisation
BRAC has adopted a ‘zero tolerance’ policy to any form of sexual harassment and abuse at the work place. GJ&D formulated a Sexual Harassment Elimination (SHE) Policy in 2004 - one of the firsts in Bangladesh to address the sexual harassment and take punitive actions in organisational level. Later it was upgraded and reprinted in 2008. BRAC is committed to follow the honourable High Court Division’s (HCD) guideline against sexual harassment that was promulgated on May 14, 2009. As part of the commitment, the SHE policy has been reviewed addressing the organisations present concern.
Through Gender & SHE policy orientation and different campaign activities, GJ&D creates awareness which helps to implement ‘zero tolerance’ policy on sexual harassment within the organisation.
Inclusion of Gender issues into program through Gender Focal Points (GFP)
Gender Focal Points (GFP) are responsible to address gender equality through their programme interventions following Gender Policy. GFPs are nominated by the respective programme/ department, and play a vital role to ensure equal and fair working environment for both men and women. They try to retain and increase women staff in their programme and department and organise Gender Policy, SHE policy orientation, National Women Development Policy discussion and other conceptual discussion within their respective programme. GJD provides continuous support in the capacity development of GFPs in regards to gender related issues, women’s empowerment, gender analysis, and gender mainstreaming strategies, etc.
Mon Khule Katha Bola Forum (To listen to the voice of the staff)
To promote a gender sensitive working environment and deal with unfavourable and insensitive attitude among the staff, Mon Khule Katha Bola Forum was designed to address staff concerns, frustrations and work place problems. GJ&D approaches with the findings from a sharing forum to bring the concerns to the line management for necessary solutions and inclusion of the findings in policy review. GJ&D welcomes counseling and motivation of the staff in difficulties. This forum ensures the confidentiality, trust and friendliness among the participants and forward their problem solving from management aspects.
GENDtalk Lecture Series is a new event of GJ&D that aims at helping the BRAC staff to enhance their level of knowledge and understanding on a range of issues related to gender and development. The GENDtalk is organized on a quarterly basis.
DOLNA (Day care centre for learning, nurturing, and advancement)
Day Care Centre of Learning Nurturing and Advancement (DOLNA) was established to ensure smooth participation of working mothers, and enable them to continue their job retention. DOLNA encourages and ensures child’s rights to breast-feeding, safe and secure environment for child care and development. The crèche also inspires men to let their wives retain employment.
1970s: The decade of women empowerment
1973 Gender equality rooted in the Sulla Project and women’s groups formed
1975 Women's project (with women handicraft producers) commences in Jamalpur to involve women directly in income generated assets (IGA)
1980s: The decade of women as rural professionals
1985 Enrolment of 70 per cent girls in non-formal primary education programme
1991 Women's health and development programme was initiated
1992 Organised gender consultation meetings with senior management to assess the need for gender training for BRAC staff, while assessing the quality of training
1993 Pioneered management level, five-day long gender training on gender awareness and analysis course (GAAC) for staff with the aim of raising awareness and building analytical skill
1994 Conducted an intensive assessment survey on the gender needs of BRAC staff members
1995 The gender and organisational change intervention began formally through internal and external expertise. A series of discourses took place with BRAC senior managers, including all levels of staff and external experts
Proactively promoted women’s leadership
BRAC’s non-formal primary education programme replicated in Africa
Gender quality action learning (GQAL) programme launched to improve staff relations, and improve the quality of BRAC programmes
"Women only" recruitment policy adopted for the year
1996 The gender resource centre (GRC) established for dissemination of gender ¬related information.
Launched Mina project in partnership with UNICEF
Eight months leave without pay introduced for women staff in addition to the three months paid maternity leave
1997 BRAC gender policy launched
BRAC organisational values defined – a drive of learning, un-learning, relearning, and bring about a gender sensitive organisational cultural to listen, challenge and innovate.
BRAC staff appraisal incorporated as an indicator of gender sensitivity
Critical analysis and open discussion with staff members on sexual harassment (SH)
2003 All senior managers received gender training
Gender equality diversity team commenced with senior staff from all programmes
2004 Sexual harassment elimination (SHE) policy was enforced
Initiated “Mon Khule Kotha Bola” (To listen to the voice of the staff) forum to enable a friendly and communicative environment within the organisation.
Sexual harassment elimination (SHarE) section established
Increased seven days paternity leave instead of three days
Organised gender and SHE policy orientation
A microfinance loan for commercial sex workers is initiated
2005 Gender justice and diversity programme incepted under the human resources division, and the human resources policy and procedure (HRPP) integrated gender sensitivity
Gender quality action learning attached with the CFPR programme as a component
2006 Pilot project on sexual harassment launched with adolescent school children
2007 Gender policy was reviewed and updated
All programme-nominated gender focal points implemented gender policy on behalf of their respective programmes/departments
2008 SHE policy was reviewed and upgraded
Developed gender analysis framework for the Water and Sanitation and Hygiene programme
Gender sensitivity training launched for all branch offices
2009 Gender justice and diversity became an independent division with different projects focusing on gender equality within the organisation, and at the national and international level
2010s: The decade of strategic changes
MEJNIN – Meyeder Jonno Nirapad Nagorikotto (safe citizenship for girls) programme initiated to combat sexual harassment at public places
POSITION – Poribortito Jiboner Sandhane (to enhance a positive life) programme initiated to combat household level gender discrimination and domestic violence
Initiated a project with UNICEF as ‘Communication for Development: Promoting Sustainable Behaviour and Social Development Changes.’
2011 A gender audit was conducted
SHE policy was reviewed
Sexual harassment elimination (SHarE) unit became a part of GJD as a secretariat of the sexual harassment redressal committee (SHRC)
Gender equality goal (GEG) was formulated, and GEG Goal and Action Plan was approved by the BRAC governing body
“BRAC believes in gender justice and diversity, and we have worked for decades to integrate gender justice into the programmes and eliminate gender injustice in society,” such is the opinion of the Founder and Chairperson of BRAC, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed. For BRAC, gender justice and diversity means working simultaneously within the organisation and with the society.
The gender justice and diversity (GJD) division works to realise BRAC’s vision which is to free the world from all forms of exploitation and discrimination where everyone has the opportunity to realise their potential. The division facilitates services to achieve gender equality within BRAC, focusing on gender equality at the local, national and international levels, where women and men have access to equal rights and opportunities, as well as can act to realise own choices and potentials in economic, social and cultural spheres.
After starting its official journey in 2005, the programme has a proven track record in facilitating community movement on violence against women (VAW) and children. It helps to build a gender-friendly working environment and community platform. Each individual within BRAC and in the community works as agents of change to establish a just society for women, men and children. Besides, the programme has been trying to incorporate the issue of diversity in all programme interventions. It acts as a catalyst to promote sensitivity on issues such as sexual and reproductive rights, people with different sexual orientation, and people with different abilities and cultural background. In addition to this, GJD is actively involved in the national level policy advocacy through different human rights organisations, networks and alliances of government, non-government, and civil society organisations. GJD further seeks to work with various government departments to implant gender sensitivity and equality in future national policies.
GJD’s journey towards gender equality is rooted in BRAC’s Sulla Project in 1973. Recognising the distinct needs of poor women for empowerment and mutual support, BRAC formed the first women’s village organisation. Since the late 1980s, BRAC has directed its policies and programmes toward achieving gender equality through sustained interventions targeting women's—especially rural women’s - basic needs and strategic interests through health care, legal education, access to credit, gender awareness and training, and more. While addressing various issues of gender equality and women’s empowerment, GJD focus on both BRAC and the targeted populations. Sir Fazle Hasan Abed once said, “Gender equality is a sensitive issue which requires commitment from every level of the organisation and the integration of gender perspective into all activities”. Thanks to this commitment, BRAC was one of the firsts in the development world to introduce a gender policy and form a gender equality diversity team (GEDT) in the mid-1990s.
Promote gender equality, empowerment and inclusiveness within BRAC as well as within the wider community.
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.