Updated: Jul 21, 2022
Public Participation Leads to Integrity: How One CSO Used Civic Engagement to Ensure Accountability in their Union
Public participation is an integral part of the National Integrity Strategy. In order to root out corruption, citizens must be engaged in public processes and demand integrity and accountability in everyday life. Read how one organisation educated local communities and used public participation to ensure integrity among local leaders in their Union:
The Civil Society Organization (CSO) Somaj Pragoti Sangshta emerged as a local action group in 1998 in the Mohajeerabad village, currently home to hundreds of lemon, pineapple, and jackfruit orchards on the outskirts of Sreemangal Upazila. Despite being an agricultural community, the area has not always been this prosperous as the lack of infrastructure and education impeded development initiatives, says CSO leader Abu Nasir.
“We decided to form an action group in 1998 when we saw that the government’s funds for our Union were being pocketed by corrupt representatives. Young adults from the village formed the organization. This road here is a result of our efforts,”said Nasir, explaining that the Union council took them seriously after the organization threatened to take legal action when the funds for the roads were misappropriated.
The action group gradually shifted towards social development initiatives like education programmes, social forestation, health camps, and community funded income generation trainings. In the last 20 years, the Somaj Pragoti Sangstha has provided stipends to 600 meritorious students in an effort to boost incomes in the Union.The action group gradually shifted towards social development initiatives like education programmes, social forestation, health camps, and community funded income generation trainings. In the last 20 years, the Somaj Pragoti Sangstha has provided stipends to 600 meritorious students in an effort to boost incomes in the Union.
This small village organization became one of the strategic partners of the British Council’s P4D programme, which is funded by the European Union and implemented with the assistance of the government’s Cabinet Division. Nasir says the organization’s prior experience with democratic activities proved beneficial for the implementation of Social Action Projects (SAP) for the P4D programme, which addressed such issues as education quality promoting correct legal information, improving community representation in local budget preparations, and health care services.
Mokhtar Hossain who led the project to engage public participation in the Union’s budget preparation, says that no one in the Union knew that locals could participate in budget meetings and suggest ideas. “The government directs that Union representatives must work with local residents to fix the annual budget. The leaders never do that, and instead misappropriate money for their own benefit. So, we conducted meetings, distributed leaflets, and conducted the first ever open budget session in the union with P4D support,” he adds, mentioning that 550 people from all over the village attended.
Nasir adds that people were very excited as they were encouraged to attend and talk about their problems. “The Union Chairman and residents were face to face in the session. The locals asked for culverts, infrastructure repairs, and a permanent passenger shed at the bus stand. The leaders promised that the demands would be met.”
Sonia Akhter led the project on improving community clinic services. In keeping with the organisation’s principles of people’s participation, she said “we wanted more people to participate in the projects. So we organized a free blood grouping campaign in front of the local community clinic for 1,000 people. The clinic management committee was present, and the locals talked about their expectations about health care.”
Nasir adds that his organization actively works to ensure that people get the services they are entitled to. He thinks that the P4D projects can bring people together to form a united effort.
“I always believe that humans can do anything when united. That is our approach to everything and it was the same for the P4D programme. I hope we can serve more people in the future.”