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The Emergence of Social Enterprise inBangladesh [Part IV]

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Jyothi Nair:

This is part IV of our IV part series on emerging social enterprises in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh

Bangladesh, a highly populated developing country, is making its progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. In this process of development planning, social sector development integrated with poverty alleviation has been the main objective. Social sectors are major components of the Bangladeshi economy.

However, due to many limitations, the Government of Bangladesh is unable to reach a major proportion of its deprived population. Its ineffectiveness in reasonable distribution of resources adds to the graveness of the scenario.

Here comes the role of private organizations like Non governmental organizations, abbreviated as NGOs. They act as major contributors to the country’s economy. Their effectiveness is measured in terms of their ability to deliver key social services. To quote the words of a business entrepreneur in Bangladesh, “The share of manufacturing is low, but the rate of growth of the manufacturing sectors is high.” A good number of NGO’s are found in Bangladesh which functions in almost every part of the country. Some NGO’s work on specific issues and some work in a much general way. They focus on sectors such as Micro Finance, Health, Education, ICT4D, Women empowerment, Human Right and Environment. In other words, their activities include primary and secondary education, primary health care, mass communication, public administration and family planning.

These features are visible through the functioning and achievements of NGO’s such as BRAC, CARE-Bangladesh and HEED Bangladesh in the country.

BRAC

BRAC is a development organization, which each and every citizen in Bangladesh is familiar to. In February 1972, soon after the liberation war, it was founded by Fazle Hasan Abed. Its main objective during the initial stage was to lend helping hands to the refugees and victims of the liberation war. Over time, it modified its motto as “alleviation of poverty and empowerment of the poor”. It has also extended its branches to other Asian countries and Africa.

Economic development, Education, Health, Human rights and legal services, and Social Development are its areas of interest. As a part of social development program, they empower economically backward people by increasing their human, social and political assets so that they are aware about their rights and can refuse to give in to exploitation. They also deal with social problems, especially those related to women. Mobilizing government resources for the poor and encouraging local councils to allocate resources to the needy are some other activities that they work on. BRAC also lends helping hands to the victims of human rights violation, which includes rape, acid throwing and murder.

With the vision of “just, enlightened, healthy and democratic societies free from hunger, poverty, environmental degradation and all forms of exploitation based on age, sex, religion and ethnicity,” they work with poor, illiterate and unhealthy with the aim of bringing a change in their lives. (Visit: http://www.brac.net

CARE- Bangladesh

This organization with the objective of enabling poor communities to improve their lifestyle is part of one of the world’s largest private international humanitarian organizations, CARE International. Care which initiated its work in 1949 in Bangladesh has had a say in the nation’s development through its poverty alleviation programs. It focuses on agriculture, education, health, water and sanitation, nutrition, infrastructure and small enterprise development. Some of its long term goals include empowering the most socially, economically and politically marginalized women, helping the most marginalized urban groups to have viable livelihoods and to provide a helping hand to the communities who are vulnerable to disasters. They also play a role in providing dignified employment for the underprivileged, markets for their products, information and services along with technical support.

Care-Bangladesh moves ahead with the vision “to seek a world of hope, tolerance and social justice, where poverty has been overcome and people live in dignity and security.” (Visit: http://www.carebd.org/

HEED Bangladesh

This Christian, Non-governmental, nonprofit organization’s field of interest is obvious from its title, Heed; which stands for Health, Education and Economic development. The Christian agencies who came forward to provide relief to the victims of widespread famine in the country, a consequence of the liberation war from Pakistan, together formed HEED. During its thirty six years of service since 1974, it has come across various projects related to health, education, social development and economic development sectors.

Some of its achievements in the social development sector include Participatory Development Program (PDP) and Women and Children Education Program (WCEP). PDP is aimed at the underprivileged community with the objective of creating a sustainable livelihood. It empowers people to improve their socio-economic circumstances with their own efforts. For instance, running and developing their own savings and loan scheme would help them to get access to larger loans from HEED’s micro-finance services. In addition to this WCEP is designed to provide free primary education for about 26,000 children and vocational job training for adolescent girls and unemployed women.

This national organization continues to contribute to the nation’s development with the motto “Goal: uplifting the downtrodden, Task: alleviating poverty, Focus: capacitating the powerless.” (visit: http://www.heed-bangladesh.com

With programs that reach even to the grass root level of the society, these NGO’s are functioning as the right hand of the government in leading the country to development. Both directly and indirectly, they serve the citizens of the country. In today’s world where unfortunately, poverty has become a business and development can be entitled as an Industry, these types of NGO’s play a major role in alleviating the burden of local people by providing them with care and assistance.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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