Do you know you have the right to seek and receive information from government and private organisations? 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, Little Star Club, has been working with the project to promote RTI in Bandarban. The organisation was founded by Thu Shing Proue (Lubu), now a school teacher, in 1993 and was officially registered with the Government of Bangladesh Department of Social Services in 1998.
Thui Shing, who is the president of Little Star Club, reminisces how the club transformed into a social development organisation and is now a renowned and reliable platform for people of Rajvila Union in Bandarban sadar upazila. Today, the organisation boasts over 2,500 direct beneficiaries.
Social work being its speciality, Little Star Club eagerly accepted the opportunity to work as a CSO partner with the British Council’s P4D project. Little Star’s SAPs included promoting the Grievance Redress System (GRS) and RTI, holding public hearings and improving public health services. U Shing Hai Nue led the project on promoting RTI and GRS. His group raised awareness about the government process to lodge a formal complaint about poor service delivery and how to file applications to request public information.
“We worked to make our community understand what GRS and RTI were and how we could use those tools. Finally, we installed a Citizen’s Charter at Rajvila union council to ensure transparency and accountability”,
says U Shing.
Bobon Thanchang Ya, who led the community health project said his team started to simply engage in short conversations with locals and healthcare providers at the local community clinic.
“We found out there were various issues. First of all, the clinic is situated in a place where nobody goes. It’s in the hills far away. Even the health care providers seldom go there, and the locals don’t even know what services they are entitled to get at the community clinic,” says Bobon.
“After identifying the problems, we organised a dialogue where the locals, service providers, and government officials were present. After successful negotiations, the clinic is now functioning quite well.” The project team also got the community health care provider (CHCP) to share his cell phone number so that locals could call him directly in case of any emergency outside of office hours.
The final SAP on public hearings had its own agenda and helped attain the goal of ensuring quality health services for locals. “In this project, we basically created a platform for citizens and local government officials to ensure clear and transparent communication between both parties,” says Kya Thwe Mong who led this project. “We organised three hearings where government officials from the health, agriculture, fisheries, education and land offices were present. All of them were immensely successful.”
The impact that Little Star Club has made on its community through the use of social accountability tools and by ensuring proper and transparent information flow between citizens and government institutions signifies how important SATs are for all communities. Many social problems remain unaddressed because of the inaccessibility to information or simply the absence of knowledge that information is available.
People have the right to seek public information in order to solve community and individual issues. As P4D’s partner CSOs have established through their social action projects and the success of their activities, ensuring access to information makes a difference.
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.