NEWSLETTER VOLUME 2, MAY-JULY 2019
DIALOGUE FOR CHANGE
PLATFORMS FOR DIALOGUE QUARTERLY HIGHLIGHTS
Time for Social Action
Platforms for Dialogue’s (P4D) Multi-Actor Partners (MAPs) are now busy implementing their Social Action Projects (SAPs), after months of preparation and planning. MAPs, who have been working together since the beginning of the year, were initially trained on democratic values, leadership, communication tools, social action projects, and social accountability tools such as the Right to Information Act (RTI), Grievance Redress System (GRS), National IntegrityStrategy (NIS) and the Citizens’ Charter (CC). Since that time, they investigated and identified key social issues affecting their communities. With support from partner CSOs and P4D, these MAPs have settled on specific issues to address through structured Social Action Projects (SAPs). With the seed funding fromP4D, a European Union-financed three-year project in partnership with theCabinet Division, these community groups are enabling their communities to resolve local issues through community participation, with support from local government and government officials. At the implementation stage of the SAPs, P4D’s MAPs formed alliances with local government offices, various service-providing authorities, and concerned citizens to increase government accountability and educate local communities on public services.
Already, the impacts of these efforts have affected several communities:
- In Gaibandha, Kholahati Union, citizens are holding meetings with the local chairman to discuss how to reduce corruption in safety net programmes by creating their own Citizen’s Charter. A local CSO, Polli Somaj NariUnnayan Sangathan, has also been successful in improving access to citizens’ rights by ensuring the right to social security, especially for women and elderly people.
- In Badaghat, Sylhet, MAPs are meeting with locals to raising awareness of tax collection, something few residents understand. With SAP intervention, local government representatives are coming forward to explain the process and help locals understand how their civic duty positively impacts their community.
- In Potuakhali, Motherbuniya Union, the local MAP is reaching out to schools, especially to girls, to warn them about the drawbacks of child marriage. The MAP believes schools are the best and safest space for girls to talk about choosing education over marriage at a young age.
- In Magura and Shundali Unions, SAPs are meeting the school management committees and discussing steps to reduce the number of school dropouts.
CRC Volunteers Trained on Effective Community Engagement
After the opening of 21 Community Resource Centres (CRCs) in January this year, Platforms for Dialogue (P4D) invited volunteers from each CRC to join together for a two-day training at the National Institute of Local Government (NILG) in Dhaka. On April 12th and 13th, 42 volunteers were invited to learn how P4D is working to enable their communities and to receive training on their roles and responsibilities in delivering various services through CommunityResource Centres.
The training was intended to give the volunteers the necessary tools required to effectively run and operate their CRC. They learned basic behavioural codes, including how to tend to CRC visitors, and how to assist them with social accountability tools and P4D resources. They were also trained on operational best practices, including administrative duties and record keeping. Ysemin Akter, a CRC volunteer from Panchagarh said, “it was very useful for us as we now have a thorough understanding about the project, its resources, and how to properly direct visitors to access information.”
The volunteers are mostly students, and more than 50% of them are female. Their involvement in P4D CommunityResource Centres emphasises local ownership and resonates with P4D’s intention to present the CRCs as a place for the locals by the locals. As Jess Magson, P4D Project Director, said, “as volunteers, you work from the front line in our working areas. In that sense, you are the face of P4D to others. I can’t stress enough how vital a role you play to this project, not to mention what a great service it is that you provide for your community.”
P4D Starts Training for Local Government Representatives
Union Parishad (UP), the smallest unit of local government in Bangladesh, is the very first point of contact for citizens who need to address any issues regarding government services. Unlike selected civil service officers, the elected union Parishad members are not trained or knowledgeable about social accountability tools, which is crucial to ensure transparent and timely service delivery to their communities. Platforms for Dialogue, in partnership with the CabinetDivision, has addressed this knowledge gap and started to train elected UP members from all 21 working districts on social accountability tools.
The training will specifically focus on an inclusive approach in decision making and in participatory planning process incorporating the National Integrity Strategy (NIS), the Right to Information Act, 2009 (RTI), Citizen’s Charter (CC), and the Grievance Redress System (GRS). The overall purpose of this activity is to build upon the knowledge and skills ofUP Chairmen, members, and secretaries so that they can ensure good governance in their UP by encouraging citizens to participate in decision making. This process started with training the core trainers (Master Trainers) – the UpazilaNirbahi Officers (UNOs), and Deputy Directors of Local Government (DDLGs) – at the National Institute of LocalGovernment (NILG) in March 2019. These core trainers will train Union Parishads’ elected members at the district level between May and September 2019.
Union Parishad’s Chairman and Secretaries will receive the same training in Dhaka at NILG in July 2019. To deliver this training, P4D has already designed and developed a training manual in consultation with the Cabinet Division that includes all necessary information to help local government institutions become more accountable to their communities.
Creating Community at Ward Shavas – Spotlight on Social Action Projects
The Multi Actor Partnerships (MAPs) in the Platforms for Dialogue (P4D)project have implemented Social Action Projects (SAPs) with great success. For many of the SAPs, the MAPs are organising Ward meetings at UnionParishads. The Ward Shavas, or ward meetings, are an inviting space for both local government representatives (Chairman and Members) and citizens to participate in the development of their union’s yearly work plans. Ward development priorities are discussed in the meetings, and these meetings encourage citizens to hold the local government authorities accountable. Some MAP groups also organised open budget meetings in the presence of union Parishad (UP) representatives and local community members where they discussed budget allocation for different activities.