“We held meetings with the UP body, the local elites and even with the UNO at the upazila level. Our goal was to raise awareness about GRS and RTI among people of all walks of life and teach them how to use these tools.”
Imdadul Haque, along with six other people, established Gramin Unnayon Sanghstha (Village Development Organization) in 1999 to improve the livelihoods of the local marginalized social groups including the indigenous communities including the Behara, Badia, Jogi and Santal.
Imdadul Haque’s son Rabiul Hasan has now taken over responsibilities to run this organisation. Rabiul is guided by an elderly director, Md. Azizul Haque, who was one of the seven founding members.
Bahagili union of Kishoreganj Upazila in Nilphamari has seen this village organisation work relentlessly to curb unsocial activities like drug abuse and crime. “Our goal was to eradicate social ills and bring peace and prosperity.”
Talking about their previous endeavours, Azizul Haque says, “We have worked with organizations like BRAC, Proshika and several government departments. BRAC partnered up with us to implement its education programme in 2005 and the partnership is still going strong.”
“We have also conducted 9-month participatory action research on the lifestyle of the Beharas for the Research Institute of Bangladesh. Our findings were compiled in a documentary.”
The organization’s project to empower the physically challenged people of Bahagili began in the mid-2000s and many of the beneficiaries have since become independent.
The organization happily agreed to work as a Civil Society Organization (CSO) for the British Council’s Platforms for Dialogue (P4D) project. P4D is a European Union-funded project in partnership with the Cabinet Division which is working to improve good governance and engage civil society organisations and citizens in government accountability mechanisms.
Gramin Unnayan Sangstha implemented three social action projects (SAPs) that included student dropout, public harassment and community clinics.
Dropout and irregular students were a big problem at Bahgili union. “When we asked for the list of irregular students, we received a list of 40 names. So, we immediately set to work,” says SAP leader Md Azmir Hossain.
Azmir and his team held meetings with school teachers, school management committee (SMC) and guardians of students to find out the reasons behind dropout. Then they went about raising awareness among the guardians and the students about the benefits of education. They also tried to make the management committee more functional and the teachers more encouraging and responsible. “And to make everyone aware about what we were doing, we organized a street drama which was attended by more than a thousand people.”
“Now, 35 of the irregular students have become regular. The other five had left Bahagili. So, we are very happy with our work,” concludes Azmir.
In the project on public harassment, Md Raihan and his group of volunteers focused on the government’s Grievance Redress System (GRS) and Right to Information (RTI) tools to address harassment of citizens at public offices.
We organized four campaigns at the local schools and showed the process of GRS/RTI applications in detail. We printed banners, festoons and posters. Now, many people of our locality are using these tools to get information or complain about harassment at government offices.
Md Abdur Rauf who led the project on the community clinic said, “After several discussions and meetings, we were finally able to make Uttor Durakuti Community Clinic more functional. Now, it has a proper sanitation system along with clean drinkable water. Transparency and accountability of the service providers have also made the people happy.”
The organisation held four rallies after the projects were complete as well as four street dramas and two workshops which merged the objectives of all three projects to spread awareness among people more effectively.
“We have done the best we could. I hope we can work towards making the changes more sustainable,” says Director Azizul Haque whose organization has over 20,000 beneficiaries.
This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Platforms for Dialogue and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.