1,454 rural communities transformed from extreme poverty

21 September, 2019 12:00 AM printer

RANGPUR: More than 45,000 poor women-led households of 1,454 backward rural communities in four northern districts have overcome extreme poverty through social, economic, political and women empowerment.

Earlier, these women remained trapped in the vicious cycle of generational poverty even a decade ago.

However, they have become self-reliant through various income-generating activities (IGAs) through collective efforts and utilising local resources making a transformational change in their lives, reports BSS.

This transformational change prompted since 2009 with multidimensional interventions of the seven-year term (2009-2016) Social and Economic Transformation of the Ultra-Poor (SETU) project of CARE Bangladesh.

Among these successful rural women, 25 have been elected as Members of local union parishads and are playing vital role in community affairs accelerating rural development and women empowerment even after expiry of the project.

The SETU project was implemented in 1,454 communities of 25 unions of seven upazilas in Rangpur, Nilphamari, Gaibandha and Lalmonirhat where the poor were affected earlier by seasonal food insecurity during seasonal lean periods.

Talking to BSS, project beneficiary women of different villages discussed their journey that began with community action plans based on participatory analysis of extreme poverty in 2009.

Former President Sufia Begum of the ‘Para Unnayan Committee (PUC) of village Sarkerpara in Ramnagar union of Sadar upazila in Nilphamari said the 116 poor families living there identified problems for collectively addressing those.

“After identification of open defecation practice as major reason for water-borne diseases, we collectively resolved the predicament collectively,” Sufia said.

“Within only one month, the villagers brought all 116 households under sanitation coverage under leadership of natural leader of the village Anufa Begum,” she added.

Through forming 25-member women’s ‘Unity’ group, its volunteers freed the village from child marriage, eve-teasing, malnutrition, illiteracy and repression and provided all able couples, pregnant women and adolescent with knowledge on health and hygiene.

To cope with lean seasons during the months of ‘Aswin’ and ‘Kartik’, the villagers formed local community based ‘Women Savings Group (WSG)’ with 32 members with Anufa as its General Secretary.

The Sarkerpara WSG deposited Taka 18,000 and SETU project added Taka 20,000 to raise its capital to Taka 38,000 when it started providing loans up to Taka 8,000 among its members for starting IGAs.

Beneficiaries Aklima Khatun, Momena, Anufa Begum, Tahuza Begum and Sufia Begum said they took Taka 7,500 to 8,000 each as interest free loans from WSG and invested in businesses and IGAs with assistance of their husbands.

Chairman of Ramnagar union Mizanur Rahman said, for her contribution to bringing socio-economic change in Sarkerpara village, local people elected Anufa as a female Member from reserved wards of the union parishad in 2016.

Similarly, 62 poor households of Gangadas Baraipara village of Haridebpur union in Sadar upazila of Rangpur have won extreme poverty through becoming self-reliant and women empowerment making a transformational change in their lives.

Led by natural leader and former General Secretary of Baraipara WSG Bharoti Rani, the community-led total development approaches facilitated environment for the change through enhancing human, social, economic and political capitals.

Former President of Baraipara ‘PUC’ Naresh Chandra said they have significantly diversified livelihoods, built own organisations and relationship with local Haridebpur union parishad.

To address the joblessness situation during the seasonal lean periods, the villagers formed Baraipara WSG with 37 members and women ‘Unity’ group with 25 volunteers.

The village is now clean, free from water-borne diseases, child marriage, malnutrition, illiteracy, repression and all able couples, pregnant women and adolescents have knowledge about health and hygiene.

Moyna Rani, President of Baraipara WSG said, its members deposited Taka 37,000 in 2013 and the project added Taka 20,000 when they started providing Taka 5000 to Taka 8,000 loans to their members for IGAs.

Beneficiary women Pompa Rani, Jamuna Rani, Joytsna Rani, and widow Shanti Rani said they had taken Taka 8,000 each as interest free loans from the WSG and invested in different businesses and IGAs to become self-reliant.

Chairman of local Haridebpur union Iqbal Hossain said every family of Gangadas Baraipara community is earning well and their children are going to schools following their socio-economic improvement.

“In recognition of her contribution to transformational change in lives of the backward community, local people elected Bharoti Rani as a female Member from reserved wards of local Haridebpur union,” Iqbal added.