Updated: Aug 7
Mister, uniquely named after the English honorific for men, leads the CSO Unique Welfare Organisation, located on the Brahmaputra Riverbank in the Guthail village of Jamalpur district. The first story told by the people working with the youth group was that they had saved a village from government acquisition for a dam.
Mister says it happened because one of his volunteers was approached by a group of people after a GRS campaign as part of the British Council’s P4D programme, which is being funded by the European Union and supported by the Cabinet Division of the Government of Bangladesh. “They learned about the government’s Grievance Redress System from one of our Social Action Projects. We helped them apply after the military wanted to build a dam over their land and the authorities acted on it quickly. We saved their homes,” says Fahad Hossain, who led the campaign for GRS awareness.
This is just one of the stories of the Unique Welfare Organisation, which was launched in 2010 when a group of 32 high school graduates decided they would work for the well-being of the people of their union council, which has long been affected by floods and the negligence of the government’s trickle-down policies.
The high schoolers have all grown up to be successful businessmen, farmers, entrepreneurs and enthusiastic social workers, which has allowed the Unique Welfare Organisation to be a centre of conversations and a democratic institute that works for the community.
Since its inception, the Unique Welfare Organisation has been extensively involved in relief programmes in the flood-prone Islampur union, where the monsoon brings misery for thousands as rising water levels invade their homes. The organisation also supports meritorious students with yearly stipends and arranges to fund orphans living in mosques and madrassahs.
As a registered organisation with the social services department, the youth group has also worked with international organisations like Islamic Relief in the past to distribute blankets, food and essential commodities among marginal communities. Since becoming a strategic partner of P4D, members have utilized their experience to focus on Social Action Projects (SAPs) designed to promote good governance tools like the Right to Information, Grievance Redress System, National Integrity Strategy and the Citizen’s Charters.
The organisation’s SAP on Grievance Redress System (GRS) was perhaps the most successful as it was able to directly help a group of people, namely Jolukha, Sahar Ali, Hira Sarker, Sharifuddin, Morsheda, Rafiqul and Sharmina to save their houses from a forcible acquisition. “I have three grandkids who live with me and if my house were to be taken over, all of us would’ve been on the streets,” says an emotional Morsheda while talking about how the P4D project had helped them.
Other than GRS, Unique Welfare Organisation has also worked on accountability of the local union council offices, quality of education and corruption in social safety net programmes. Mister says the experience of working with P4D has given them the tools to carry on their good work.
“You know what they used to say after the Liberation War? They said ‘We gave back the arms, but not the training’. That’s exactly what I say about the P4D programme. Everyone learned from it and we’ll use it in future.”
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.