All citizens have the right to seek and receive information from government and private organisations with transparency. In 2009, Bangladesh enacted the Right to Information Act to ensure the free flow of information to citizens in order to establish good governance. The right to access information is an integral part of the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and expression.
Platforms for Dialogue promotes the Right to Information (RTI) as a social accountability tool that gives citizens the right to request public information from public and private institutions. P4D has promoted RTI at the grassroots CSO level through Social Action Projects (SAP) and community forums. We have implemented trainings for CSOs to learn more about RTI and promote the tool to their communities, as well as organised trainings for government officials on how to properly serve citizens requesting information through this policy. One of P4D’s partner CSOs, Boali Sporting Club, has been working with the project to promote RTI in Gaibandha. It is a prestigious organisation in Gaibandha’s Boali Union. Formerly known as Boali Association Club, it was established in 1960 by e the late Sultan Ali, the elder brother of current President Md. Nawsher Alam.
“Renowned for its sporting activity, the club renewed its identity in the community around 2008, when the current committee took over with a plan to make the club a hub for social development,” says Secretary Firoz Kabir.
“Besides sports, we now organise awareness campaigns against drug abuse, child marriage, gambling, and more. We keep vigilant about social issues.”
“So far, we’ve been able to stop more than 10 child marriages here in Boali. Now, people do not dare arrange child marriages. We also provide financial help to poor students, and we have been trying to curb domestic violence against women for some time now.”
When Boali Young Sporting Club was asked to work as a civil society organisation partner with Platforms for Dialogue (P4D) they gladly accepted. After joining P4D, the organisation incorporated 15 girls and 2 youth with disabilities into their volunteer programme to work on social action projects (SAPs). The three SAPs undertaken by Boali Young Sporting Club are eliminating corruption in the social safety net programme, promoting the Grievance Redress System (GRS), and reducing student dropout.
Md. Enamul Haque led the SAP on promoting the government’s formal complaint mechanism, GRS, which had the biggest impact on local people, he says. “The villagers here did not know what the Grievance Redress System (GRS) was and how to submit a complaint if they were deprived of any government service they were entitled to.”
The volunteers met with the Union Council, local leaders, and the people and raised awareness about GRS. They also organised campaigns at six high schools where they taught the students what GRS is, how to submit a complaint through the government’s website, and how to submit a written complaint at the Union Council.”
“Finally, we installed complaint boxes in those high schools and one at the Union Council. We then formed committees consisting of seven members for each box with authorised access to deal with the submitted complaints transparently. Then we organised two follow up meetings to evaluate the progress,” said Haque.
Abdul Montakin Jewel, who led the project on anti-corruption said his group raised awareness among citizens and service providers to promote transparency and accountability at government offices.
“We mainly worked with the Right to Information (RTI) tool and installed a Citizens’ Charter at the Boali Union Council,”
“Before our work, people didn’t even know that they could get the birth registration certificate of a newborn for free for up to 45 days. But now, people are aware of their rights, and they know that the UP and other government offices are bound to serve them as the Citizen’s Charter says.”
Md. Hasibur Rahman Limon, leader of the project on reducing school dropouts, said, “our goal was to raise awareness throughout the whole Union, but we specifically focused on Khamar Boali Government Primary school where we received a list of 25 irregular students.”
“We sat with the teachers, the school management committee, and the guardians and even went door to door to bring back the dropouts. Of the 25 students, 15 are now regular. It was possible because we addressed specific issues behind student dropout like lack of motivation, teachers’ irresponsibility, non-functional school committee, and poverty.”
The number of total beneficiaries Boali Young Sporting Club serves exceeds 2,000 individuals, and P4D has also played a big part in reaching members of the community. The organisation hopes that this number will increase in the years to come as more outreach continues.