Bare Foot Researchers (GGS) Convention at Patnitala, Naogaon

Mahmud Hasan Rasel
Joutho Chinta, Joutho Shokti, Sanggathane mukti’ keeping this slogan in front of GGS leaders arrange a convention in Patnitala Upazila, Naogaon. 1454 members came from 160 GGS of 12 unions. 322 peoples came out of these GGSs.

Patnitala is one of the Upazilla where THP working with all Unions. This Upazila constituted with 11 Unions under Rajshahi region. Also, there has another union from Mohadevpur  Upazila.  THP Bangladesh has been started working at Patnitola from 2008 and PAR program introduced in 2010.

Participatory action research method was used to scale up GGS (Gono gobesona Sangathan) leadership from community level to Upazilla level for better coordination between all GGSs of Patnitola. In last reflection (December-2017) one of their important issues was GGS Upazilla convention. All GGS leaders who joined reflection meeting has made a consensus to organize the convention. The most important thing was that the financial contribution for the convention was only from GGSs. Also, GGSs leaders have joined convention from the remote village of Patnitola by their own expenses.

Opening session:

Upazila GGS foram president Shahinur Rahman presided over the convention. Whip Shahiduzzaman Sarkar (Member of the parliament) was the chief guest.  Dr. Badiul Alam Majumdar country director of THP Bangladesh was the special guest. Gonggachara Upazila GGS forum president Nazmunnahar and vice president Nishat Choudhury has joined to learn at their own cost. Also UP chairmen, Government officials and local civil society leaders also joined the convention as a guest.

Convention started at 9.30 with a chorus of National Anthem. Then convention president Sahinur Rahman took a seat with guests. GGS forum secretary kept a well come speech. Later on, GGS leaders shared their experiences with the audience and to the guests. One after another GGS leaders being explained, How PAR helps them to change their life, How they solved social and economical problem through practicing PAR and using organizational unity, Why and How they developed GGS, How benefited from GGS, What kind of potentiality generated by the development of GGS to make poverty and hunger free community as well as Gangni Upazilla, What are the challenges of PAR and GGS, How they solved it, What is the vision of GGS and What type of cooperation needs from government and non-government offices, institutions and officials.

We have developed GGS through PAR. Now we know where we are and what we have to do. We have to develop Patnitola as a model Upazilla of inclusive development with a peaceful society. We will develop an alternative market chain for our products for fair market price. We shall have a walk together for a long way to reaching our goal. – Sahinur Rahman. President, GGS forum.

Few of remarkable shared experiences mentioned below-

`It was very challenging to develop GGS within our community after PAR workshop. But I have overcome those challenges successfully and develop many GGS in our area. All the GGSs are doing very well. We have capital which we save day after day, little by little and now we are not dependent for money on our husband, family or money lenders. We lend money from our GGS and invest for income generation. Now we are self-reliant by our own savings’. – Shimu khatun,Moheshpur GGS.

`We want to develop our village Chemical fertilizer free through GGS. We have started produce vermin compost and cultivating vegetables in homestead to fulfillment our nutrition. I would like to call you of GoB officials who are present here- you have many resources and services. Please stand beside me; we need more skill training to make skilled people for creating more employment’.  -Julfikar Ali, Daul barbadpurGGS.

`We have developed GGS to achieve self-reliant and we are on the right way to self-reliant’. -Lata Rani dash, Milon tithi GGS.

`I came here only to learn. I feel good to see all leaders. Now strongly  I believe that I am not alone’.-Selina begum, Dochai GGS.

`I know how I achieved success in my GGS, so I know all of your history of success. Once we were dependent, powerless, vulnerable and neglected in the society and by the society even though famil;. But now we stand strongly by our joint knowledge and spirit, unity and organization, savings and investment, dignity and power’. – Lovely Chowdhury,Shapla GGS.

`I am a tribe. I don’t have an opportunity to go out anywhere from my house. But today I am here. it was my dream. my vision has expanded a lot through joining this convention. I think its a great opportunity for me’.-Basonti Rani, Nodhuli Gazipir Mohila GGS.

Chief guest Whip sohiduzzaman sarkar(Parlament member) said.` Any type of development is impossible without GGS. All of you are those change makers, who are working for changing the society . Through your GGS activities Bangladesh will develop day by day. I am glad to say that you the GGS members not only increase your money but also  increase  dignity by solving social problems.`

 Special guest Dr. Badiul Alam Majumdar said, ‘Gonogobeshoks are today’s freedom fighter. ; you are the fighter for poverty free Bangladesh. After completing this convention, you will back to your GGS and seat together on how can you remove poverty by your own way. We are with you all the time. `

Union Chairmen, civil society representatives, Government officials gave commitment that they will stay beside GGS and help them as much as possible.

Notable aspects of the convention:

  • Professor Anisur Rahman wrote: PAR “is a process of ‘praxis’– the cycle of action and reflection that transform not only of the relations of production but also of the relations of knowledge in society for people’s liberation.” It is an art of dialogical method to articulate existing knowledge and innovation new knowledge on basis of community identified problems and agendas towards better and real solution. PAR explores human spirit on the way of searching of the cause behind the cause of the poverty of present situation diagnosis and historical background of human beings with a history of evaluation as mankind. Through PAR poorest identified that main cause of the poverty is social exploitation and unjust. They also identified GGS through PAR process and GGS creates space for poor to stand against all kinds of social, economic, political and cultural exploitation and discrimination. In this way, GGS is a real platform for rural poor of Bangladesh to eradicate all kinds of hunger and poverty by creating social inclusiveness within and outside of the community. Gathering of GGS members indicates that this platform can solve any type of problem by their collective initiative.
  • Participants of the convention are mainly from poorest of the poor of the community.
  • From the early of GGS evolve one of the common activities was savings small amount of members. Savings create the capital of poor members for taking economical initiatives for solving their economic problems as firm and non-firm IGA. The savings of GGSs increase consistently. For that reason the poorest member of GGSs taking many initiative to solve their economic difficulty at the same time they decrease their dependency of the local moneylenders and micro-credit NGO’s.
  • GGS is their own organization, they develop it, they manage it and full control over its funds and function.
  • Poor have some natural individual and community skills, knowledge and resources that they identified through PAR. GGS utilize all those for creating their new economic opportunity as IGA initiative. Some of IGA initiatives of GGSs are Swing, hand bag, parts, showpiece making, cap making, vermin compost, organic fertilizer and pesticides, organic agriculture and livestock. These IGAs initiatives create employment and increase the income of GGS members.
  • Culturing of vermin compost had reduced the cost of agriculture. It creates the ultimate result of eco-friendly sustainable agriculture. Farmers are habituated on organic fertilizer and pesticides instead of dependency on chemical fertilizer and pesticides that are destructive for ecological diversity.
  • GGS members collect the money from each GGSs donation. Also from selling the ticket of the lottery.
  • To organize the convention successfully volunteers to divide into a small group and do their duties punctually. For that reason, whole day seems discipline in the convention.
  • Most of the time GGS members told about their success which increase encouragement of all.
  • Attendance of government and non-government officials proof that this it is also their conference. To develop this upazila there is no alternative to working together.
  • Three of four of the total number of the participants were female. They are from root level. Most of them came first time in their life without the help of their husband only for this conference.
  • The whole day the conference was lively. GGS members participation was spontaneous.
  • Through PAR researchers identified various kinds of individual, community and social cause of the poverty. They also identify how to eliminate causes and take collective actions to solve them, helping them to achieve lives of greater fulfillment and dignity. In this process, they change themselves individual mindset, attitudes, views, values and thinking process. As a result, increase personal relationships with family members and neighbors and reduce conflict and quarreling within family and neighbors. The need of collective action to solve every imbalance of poorest life evolved GGS that is a new discovery of their life they found on the way of PAR process. GGS is a commonplace of poor to thinking, working and acting collectively that is made them transform of every member as an individual, the community as well as society. In GGS they identified all their problems nobody can hide their faults. They elected leaders of the GGS as management committee with full democratic manner. They also develop their by-laws as principles and activities.
  • Team work of PAR unit, regional staffs and volunteers was really fantastic. Which brings energy to make the conference successful.
  • At last, their plan of creating new GGS through PAR practice indicates all believe that GGS is their most important part of life.

GGS representatives arrange a cultural show and showing their own performance. They sang, they danced together and joking with huge entertainment. They also arrange a lottery.

More than 25 journalists from national and local electronic, print and online media were present to cover the convention. Few links are available here-

  1. https://bit.ly/2OqtKnZ
  2. https://bit.ly/2NSjzaS
  3. https://bit.ly/2OpPdhd
  4. https://bit.ly/2K3KzSj
  5. https://bit.ly/2K4dpSD
  6. https://bit.ly/2LHykjm
  7. https://bit.ly/2ven6Zd
  8. https://bit.ly/2mO7x6T
  9. https://bit.ly/2LtgxwV
  10. https://bit.ly/2LtgSjb
  11. https://bit.ly/2AilTWH
  12. https://bit.ly/2mR8qf2
  13. https://bit.ly/2uTTscm
  14. https://bit.ly/2NSVeS7
  15. https://bit.ly/2v9MeR2
  16. https://bit.ly/2OpARNI
  17. https://bit.ly/2mN67tf
  18. https://bit.ly/2NSRi3X
  19. https://bit.ly/2LWCRLD
  20. https://bit.ly/2NRmctk
  21. https://bit.ly/2vbXGvq
  22. https://bit.ly/2LTlwDn
  23. https://bit.ly/2NSjzaS
  24. https://bit.ly/2LKyq9K

Moreover, GGS convention is a big get together for GGS leaders and a big space for reflecting their experiences and learning. It is a larger platform for practicing democracy. They also practice a very complex and challenging process for selecting leadership. Convention makes stronger their unity and empowering them. Finally, Convention is a big step to move forward to end hunger and poverty with achieve self-reliance.

 

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Peace Ambassador #1

The Hunger Project-Bangladesh launched the People Against Violence in Elections (PAVE) program in 2015, empowering a group of individuals from political parties and the civil society as members of Peace Pressure Groups (PPGs) and Peace Ambassadors. It was launched with the support from U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)Department for International Development (DFID) and in partnership with International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and Democracy International (DI). At present we have 58 PPGs, 1362 PPG members, 174 Peace Ambassadors and 58 PPG Coordinators across 31 districts of 7 divisions of Bangladesh.

Included here are the activities of the PPG members and Peace Ambassadors in their communities. They are using their new by acquired skills to resolve conflicts, bringing together people across political and cultural divides, and hold public events where leaders and communities publicly demonstrate their commitment to social cohesion and peace — setting the foundation for a pluralistic, tolerant and inclusive Bangladesh.

Peace Ambassadors contribute to a peaceful city corporation election in Khulna
21 June 2018


The Khulna City Corporation (KCC) election was held on May 15, 2018. A total of 192 candidates contested mayoral and councilor races. Peace Ambassadors and PPG members of Khulna city corporation along with SHUJAN: Citizens for Good Governance carried out a month-long campaign for free, fair, peaceful and credible election. These efforts of Peace Ambassadors and PPG members created a greater sense of tolerance among candidates, paving the way for interactions between citizen and political leaders.

Below are campaign highlights:

15 April 2018
A Press Conference was held in Khulna Press Club highlighting the roles of all the stakeholders – the Election Commission, law enforcement agencies, political parties, candidates, media and the civil society for free, fair, peaceful and credible election. The speakers highlighted that a peaceful election day does not necessarily reflect peaceful election. The election is a process; the whole process needs to be fair and the stakeholders must play their desired roles for a Peaceful and credible election.

28 April 2018
All five mayoral candidates were invited to a “Meet-the-candidate Forum” in Shaheed Hadis Park, Khulna. After a brief presentation about their election manifesto, all candidates took an oath before the voters that they would follow the electoral Code of Conduct, not misuse the power if elected and accept the election results if it is held in a transparent and credible manner.

More than 3,000 voters participated in the event. Voters also asked them questions which they answered.

The whole event had a festive mood and it allowed the voters to know more about the candidates for making informed decisions.

Following the success of the mayoral forum, Peace Ambassadors and SHUJAN organized similar events during May 3 to 12, 2018 in 14 wards with councilor candidates.

12 May 2018
Human Chain was organized at Shibbari More, Khulna to remind all the stakeholders about their role for promoting free, fair and peaceful election. The speakers also urged voters to vote for honest, capable and clean candidates.


May 1-12 2018
A cultural team was formed to run a Cultural Campaign to promote voter awareness. The cultural team went to every nook and corner of the city to create awareness among voters to vote for clean candidates and to renounce violence in the election.

April 1- May 13, 2018
Social Media Campaign using Facebook (www.facebook.com/shujan.bd) was launched to engage voters, especially the first time voters. The social media profiled video interviews of all mayoral candidates. It also featured comparative statements of the antecedents of candidates, highlighting their assets, liabilities,  education, criminal records to help voters to make informed choices.

Political Leaders signed Code of Conduct (CoC) in Dakshin (South) Sunamganj, Sunamganj
12 May 2018



Peace Ambassadors and PPG members in Dakshin Sunamganj Upazila brought together political party leaders from Bangladesh Awami League, Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jatiya Party (Ershad) along with local civil society and media representatives to sign a Code of Conduct (CoC), committing to a pluralistic, tolerant and inclusive society.
The CoC includes commitments to: avoid violence and uphold democratic values and civic rights; be respectful of individual’s dignity and right of self-expression; recognize the existence of and be respectful to diversity; promote pluralism; resist ethnic and religious extremism and intolerance; and resolve conflicts through peaceful dialogue.

Ataur Rahman, Secretary Dakshin Sunamganj Upazila Awami League said about the CoC, “We are committed to have a violence-free national election and ensure peaceful coexistence in our community.” Similar views were echoed by Faruk Ahmed, President, Dakshin Sunamganj Upazila BNP and stated, “Such events should be replicated all over Bangladesh.” 

Political Leaders sign CoC in Jamalganj, Dinajpur
15 May 2018


Peace Ambassadors and PPG members in Jamalganj Upazila invited forty-seven (47) political party leaders from Bangladesh Awami League, Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jatiya Party (Ershad), elected local government representatives, government officials, CSO and media personalities to a ceremony to sign a Code of Conduct. Attending the event, Faruk Ahmed, President, Jamalganj Upazila Jatiya Party said, “We all have to work together to keep the next election free from violence.”  Abdul Malik, Secretary, Jamalganj Upazila BNP said, “Without the commitment of the ruling party, the upcoming national election will not be free and fair. However, we do not want conflict in our Upazila.”

Abul Hashim, Officer In-charge, Jamalganj Police Station said, “The law enforcement agencies will play a neutral role during the election and will support the efforts to maintain peace in the area”. Shamim Al Emran, Upazila Nirbahi Officer said, “I am really happy to see leaders from all political parties come together to sign a peace treaty for establishing peace and harmony in their community.” 

Inter-Party Peace Dialogue in Derai, Sunamganj
23 May 2018



Peace Ambassadors and PPG members organized a peace event titled “Inter-Party Peace Dialogue”. More than 50 political leaders from all major political parties attended the event. The dialogue was interactive and people shared their diverse opinions publicly. Below are some notable quotes from the event:

“To have a free, fair, credible and violence-free national election, the EC should apply its power with neutrality.” 
-Joynal Abedin, President, Derai Upazila Jashad-Enu

“Awami League believes in the free, fair, credible and violence-free election. The Election Commission should strictly play its desired role.”
-Advocate Shohel Ahmed Soil Mia,Senior Vice-President, Derai Upazila Awami League

“BNP will not indulge in any non-democratic or violent action during the election.” 
-Kamruzzaman, President, Derai Upazila BNP

“During the national election, the government should act neutrality for the sake of democracy and people’s right.” 
-Rashid Mia, Secretary, Derai Upazila BNP

“Participation of all political parties must be ensured in the upcoming national election and there should be a level playing field for all.”
-Shiraj Daula, Vice-president, Derai Upazila Awami League

“Firstly, we need the participationof all political parties in the national election. Secondly, we need neutral EC, administration and law enforcement agencies. We also have to avoid the use of muscle power in elections.”
-Aminul Islam Amin, Secretary, Derai Upazila Jashad-Enu,

Facilitating the interactions, Peace Ambassador and President of Derai Press Club, Shamsul Islam Sarder said, “The EC should be a totally independent institution to ensure a free, fair, credible and violent free election. It must ensure the participation of all political parties in the election.” 

From all these discussions a consensus emerged that all participants will work together to make the upcoming Parliament election free and fair and maintain peace in their area.

All Party IFTAR for Harmony in Rajshahi
May 2018


In the spirit of self-discipline, self-purification and charity of the holy month of Ramadan, the Peace Ambassadors and the Peace Pressure Groups (PPGs) members of Rajshahi district invited political leaders to Iftar for Harmonygatherings in their Upazilas. Invited by the PPGs of Puthia, Paba and Mohanpur Upazilas, about 100 political leaders, including Presidents and Secretaries of major political parties as well as civil society leaders and media representatives gathered in their respective Upazilas. Peace Ambassador and Secretary, Puthiya Upazila Awami League Md. Abdul Malek, Peace Ambassador and Mayor of Nawhata Municipality Sheikh Mokbul Hossain from Paba PPG and Peace Ambassador and Assistant Professor of Mohanpur Degree College Md. Ashad Ali from Mohanpur PPG organized these events. The events were intended to promote inter-party interactions and fellowship.

Attending the event, Peace Ambassador and Awami League leader Md. Abdul Malak said, “Thepeacebuilding movement is our own responsibility. We have to spread the movement to Union levels and we will form Peace Pressure Groups in all unions of Puthia.”
Peace Ambassador and Teacher of Mohanpur Degree College Md. Ashad Ali said, “To strengthen thepeacebuilding movement, we will have to keep involving more influential political leaders.”

Social Harmony Festival in Charghat, Rajshahi
7 June 2018



The Peace Pressure Group (PPG) at Charghat Upazila of Rajshahi district organized a Harmony Festival. The event was attended by members of SHUJAN: Citizens for Good Governance, Unleashed Women Network, Village Development Team members, and Youth Ending Hunger. The event was presided over by Peace Ambassador and member, Rajshahi district Awami League Md. Saiful Islam Badshah, while Dr. Badiul Alam Majumdar, Country Director of The Hunger Project Bangladesh attended as the Chief Guest. Upazila Chairman and Chargat BNP President Md. Abu Said Chand and Upazila Nirbahi Officer of Charghat Ashraful Islam, General Secretary of Charghat Upazila Awami League Fakrul Islam, President of Charghat Upazila Jatiyo Party Md. Rafiqul Islam Chowdhury also attended the event as special guests.
The speakers at the event recognized that people of Charghat are peaceful with a strong tradition of peaceful past. But due to overly partisan politics at the national level, they became divided. Now the time has come to reunite – not only unite the political leaders but also the people, especially women, youth and civil society groups.

Attending the events, BNP leader Md. Abu Said Chand said, “We will support the movement initiated by PPG Charghat to ensure peace and harmony among and within the political parties.” Local animator and president of Village Development Team member, Jhoaz Uddin said, “I have organized people to form village development teams. We are uniting the people at the grassroots for peace and prosperity.” 

The Hunger Project animators highlighted their peace-building efforts along with their attempts to engage youths for building community resilience against curses of child marriage and drug addiction. Shammi (Grade 9) expressed her experience at the event by saying, “Many of my friends took drugs out of their curiosity, and now some of them have become addicted. I am afraid that they might become the threat for us. If we can help them overcome their addiction, we could expect peace and harmony in our community.” 

Discussion meeting on “Citizens’ Responsibilities to Promote Social Harmony” in Tarail, Kishoreganj
5 June 2018


Peace Ambassador Rabindra Sarker organized a discussion meeting on “Citizens’ Responsibilities to Promote Social Harmony.” More than 50 community-based opinion leaders, including senior leaders of political parties, principals of colleges, religious leaders, Upazila Nirbahi Officers, Officers In-charge of Police Stations, journalists and representatives of various civil society organizations attended the event.

Sharif Noor Chowdhury, Chairman of Raouti Union Parishad said, “PPG has created such a great platform where anybody can come and express their opinions openly”. Chowdhury Mizanuzzaman, Officer in charge, Tarail Police Station said, “The burden on police will decrease as the PPG function effectively”.

Peace Ambassadors led Social Harmony workshops in Bhuapur, Tangail
May 2018


Peace Ambassadors Mirza Mohiuddin Ahmed and Shah Alam Pramanik, along with other PPG members, conducted three PAVE Harmony workshops with about 150 community members, especially opinion leaders, women and youth groups. These workshops focussed on the community’s role in maintaining social harmony as part of peacebuilding efforts at the grassroots level.

New PPG formed and Peace Ambassadors selected in Morelganj, Bagerhat
30 May 2018


The peacebuilding activities in Bangladesh has expanded into a new Upazila on May 2018, resulting in the formation of a new PPG in  Morelganj Upazila of Bagerhat district. Presided over by Md. Shah-E-Alam Bachchu, Upazila Chairman & Vice President of Bagerhat District Awami League, the PPG members unanimously selected three Peace Ambassadors and one PPG coordinator for the newly formed Morelganj PPG. Newly selected Peace Ambassadors are  M. Emdadul Haque, General Secretary, Morelgonj Upazila Awami League, Ms. Azmin Naher, Upazila Vice Chairman & Convener of Upazila Mohila  Awami League and Abdul Mazid Zabbar, President, Morelganj Pourashava Bangladesh Nationalist Party. Md. Zakir Hossain, Assistant Professor & General Secretary of Morelgonj NGO Foundation will act as the PPG Coordinator.

Mr. Bacchu, Upazila Chairman said, “We started a new journey by organizing like-minded, but diverse political leaders to bring peace and social harmony to Morelgonj Upazila.” 

Congratulations to the new team in Morelganj PPG! 

Peace Ambassador #2

 

The Hunger Project-Bangladesh launched the People Against Violence in Elections (PAVE) program in 2015, empowering a group of individuals from political parties and the civil society as members of Peace Pressure Groups (PPGs) and Peace Ambassadors. It was launched with the support from U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)Department for International Development (DFID) and in partnership with International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and Democracy International (DI). At present we have 58 PPGs, 1362 PPG members, 174 Peace Ambassadors and 58 PPG Coordinators across 31 districts of 7 divisions of Bangladesh.

Included here are the activities of the PPG members and Peace Ambassadorsin their communities. They are using their new by acquired skills to resolve conflicts, bringing together people across political and cultural divides, and hold public events where leaders and communities publicly demonstrate their commitment to social cohesion and peace — setting the foundation for a pluralistic, tolerant and inclusive Bangladesh.

Peace Ambassadors contribute to a peaceful city corporation election in Khulna
21 June 2018


The Khulna City Corporation (KCC) election was held on May 15, 2018. A total of 192 candidates contested mayoral and councilor races. PeaceAmbassadors and PPG members of Khulna city corporation along withSHUJAN: Citizens for Good Governance carried out a month-long campaign for free, fair, peaceful and credible election. These efforts of Peace Ambassadors and PPG members created a greater sense of tolerance among candidates, paving the way for interactions between citizen and political leaders.

Below are campaign highlights:

15 April 2018
A Press Conference was held in Khulna Press Club highlighting the roles of all the stakeholders – the Election Commission, law enforcement agencies, political parties, candidates, media and the civil society for free, fair, peaceful and credible election. The speakers highlighted that a peaceful election day does not necessarily reflect peaceful election. The election is a process; the whole process needs to be fair and the stakeholders must play their desired roles for a Peacefuland credible election.

28 April 2018
All five mayoral candidates were invited to a “Meet-the-candidate Forum” in Shaheed Hadis Park, Khulna. After a brief presentation about their election manifesto, all candidates took an oath before the voters that they would follow the electoral Code of Conduct, not misuse the power if elected and accept the election results if it is held in a transparent and credible manner.

More than 3,000 voters participated in the event. Voters also asked them questions which they answered.

The whole event had a festive mood and it allowed the voters to know more about the candidates for making informed decisions.

Following the success of the mayoral forum, Peace Ambassadors and SHUJAN organized similar events during May 3 to 12, 2018 in 14 wards with councilor candidates.

12 May 2018
Human Chain was organized at Shibbari More, Khulna to remind all the stakeholders about their role for promoting free, fair and peacefulelection. The speakers also urged voters to vote for honest, capable and clean candidates.


May 1-12 2018
A cultural team was formed to run a Cultural Campaign to promote voter awareness. The cultural team went to every nook and corner of the city to create awareness among voters to vote for clean candidates and to renounce violence in the election.

April 1- May 13, 2018
Social Media Campaign using Facebook (www.facebook.com/shujan.bd) was launched to engage voters, especially the first time voters. The social media profiled video interviews of all mayoral candidates. It also featured comparative statements of the antecedents of candidates, highlighting their assets, liabilities,  education, criminal records to help voters to make informed choices.

Political Leaders signed Code of Conduct (CoC) in Dakshin (South) Sunamganj, Sunamganj
12 May 2018



Peace Ambassadors and PPG members in Dakshin Sunamganj Upazila brought together political party leaders from Bangladesh Awami League, Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jatiya Party (Ershad) along with local civil society and media representatives to sign a Code of Conduct (CoC), committing to a pluralistic, tolerant and inclusive society.
The CoC includes commitments to: avoid violence and uphold democratic values and civic rights; be respectful of individual’s dignity and right of self-expression; recognize the existence of and be respectful to diversity; promote pluralism; resist ethnic and religious extremism and intolerance; and resolve conflicts through peacefuldialogue.

Ataur Rahman, Secretary Dakshin Sunamganj Upazila Awami League said about the CoC, “We are committed to have a violence-free national election and ensurepeaceful coexistence in our community.” Similar views were echoed by Faruk Ahmed, President, Dakshin Sunamganj Upazila BNP and stated, “Such events should be replicated all over Bangladesh.” 

Political Leaders sign CoC in Jamalganj, Dinajpur
15 May 2018


Peace Ambassadors and PPG members in Jamalganj Upazila invited forty-seven (47) political party leaders from Bangladesh Awami League, Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jatiya Party (Ershad), elected local government representatives, government officials, CSO and media personalities to a ceremony to sign a Code of Conduct. Attending the event, Faruk Ahmed, President, Jamalganj Upazila Jatiya Party said, “We all have to work together to keep the next election free from violence.”  Abdul Malik, Secretary, Jamalganj Upazila BNP said, “Without the commitment of the ruling party, the upcoming national election will not be free and fair. However, we do not want conflict in our Upazila.”

Abul Hashim, Officer In-charge, Jamalganj Police Station said, “The law enforcement agencies will play a neutral role during the election and will support the efforts to maintain peace in the area”. Shamim Al Emran, Upazila Nirbahi Officer said, “I am really happy to see leaders from all political parties come together to sign a peace treaty for establishing peace and harmony in their community.” 

Inter-Party Peace Dialogue in Derai, Sunamganj
23 May 2018



Peace Ambassadors and PPG members organized a peace event titled “Inter-Party Peace Dialogue”. More than 50 political leaders from all major political parties attended the event. The dialogue was interactive and people shared their diverse opinions publicly. Below are some notable quotes from the event:“To have a free, fair, credible and violence-free national election, the EC should apply its power with neutrality.” 
-Joynal Abedin, President, Derai Upazila Jashad-Enu“Awami League believes in the free, fair, credible and violence-free election. The Election Commission should strictly play its desired role.”
-Advocate Shohel Ahmed Soil Mia,Senior Vice-President, Derai Upazila Awami League“BNP will not indulge in any non-democratic or violent action during the election.” 
-Kamruzzaman, President, Derai Upazila BNP
“During the national election, the government should act neutrality for the sake of democracy and people’s right.” 
-Rashid Mia, Secretary, Derai Upazila BNP“Participation of all political parties must be ensured in the upcoming national election and there should be a level playing field for all.”
-Shiraj Daula, Vice-president, Derai Upazila Awami League“Firstly, we need the participationof all political parties in the national election. Secondly, we need neutral EC, administration and law enforcement agencies. We also have to avoid the use of muscle power in elections.”
-Aminul Islam Amin, Secretary, Derai Upazila Jashad-Enu,Facilitating the interactions, PeaceAmbassador and President of Derai Press Club, Shamsul Islam Sarder said, “The EC should be a totally independent institution to ensure a free, fair, credible and violent free election. It must ensure the participation of all political parties in the election.” 

From all these discussions a consensus emerged that all participants will work together to make the upcoming Parliament election free and fair and maintain peace in their area.

All Party IFTAR for Harmony in Rajshahi
May 2018


In the spirit of self-discipline, self-purification and charity of the holy month of Ramadan, the PeaceAmbassadors and the PeacePressure Groups (PPGs) members of Rajshahi district invited political leaders to Iftar for Harmonygatherings in their Upazilas. Invited by the PPGs of Puthia, Paba and Mohanpur Upazilas, about 100 political leaders, including Presidents and Secretaries of major political parties as well as civil society leaders and media representatives gathered in their respective Upazilas. PeaceAmbassador and Secretary, Puthiya Upazila Awami League Md. Abdul Malek, Peace Ambassador and Mayor of Nawhata Municipality Sheikh Mokbul Hossain from Paba PPG and Peace Ambassador and Assistant Professor of Mohanpur Degree College Md. Ashad Ali from Mohanpur PPG organized these events. The events were intended to promote inter-party interactions and fellowship.

Attending the event, PeaceAmbassador and Awami League leader Md. Abdul Malak said, “Thepeacebuilding movement is our own responsibility. We have to spread the movement to Union levels and we will form PeacePressure Groups in all unions of Puthia.”
Peace Ambassador and Teacher of Mohanpur Degree College Md. Ashad Ali said, “To strengthen thepeacebuilding movement, we will have to keep involving more influential political leaders.”

Social Harmony Festival in Charghat, Rajshahi
7 June 2018



The Peace Pressure Group (PPG) at Charghat Upazila of Rajshahi district organized a Harmony Festival. The event was attended by members of SHUJAN: Citizens for Good Governance, Unleashed Women Network, Village Development Team members, and Youth Ending Hunger. The event was presided over by Peace Ambassador and member, Rajshahi district Awami League Md. Saiful Islam Badshah, while Dr. Badiul Alam Majumdar, Country Director of The Hunger Project Bangladesh attended as the Chief Guest. Upazila Chairman and Chargat BNP President Md. Abu Said Chand and Upazila Nirbahi Officer of Charghat Ashraful Islam, General Secretary of Charghat Upazila Awami League Fakrul Islam, President of Charghat Upazila Jatiyo Party Md. Rafiqul Islam Chowdhury also attended the event as special guests.
The speakers at the event recognized that people of Charghat are peaceful with a strong tradition of peaceful past. But due to overly partisan politics at the national level, they became divided. Now the time has come to reunite – not only unite the political leaders but also the people, especially women, youth and civil society groups.

Attending the events, BNP leader Md. Abu Said Chand said, “We will support the movement initiated by PPG Charghat to ensure peaceand harmony among and within the political parties.” Local animator and president of Village Development Team member, Jhoaz Uddin said, “I have organized people to form village development teams. We are uniting the people at the grassroots for peace and prosperity.” 

The Hunger Project animators highlighted their peace-building efforts along with their attempts to engage youths for building community resilience against curses of child marriage and drug addiction. Shammi (Grade 9) expressed her experience at the event by saying, “Many of my friends took drugs out of their curiosity, and now some of them have become addicted. I am afraid that they might become the threat for us. If we can help them overcome their addiction, we could expect peaceand harmony in our community.” 

Discussion meeting on “Citizens’ Responsibilities to Promote Social Harmony” in Tarail, Kishoreganj
5 June 2018


Peace Ambassador Rabindra Sarker organized a discussion meeting on“Citizens’ Responsibilities to Promote Social Harmony.” More than 50 community-based opinion leaders, including senior leaders of political parties, principals of colleges, religious leaders, Upazila Nirbahi Officers, Officers In-charge of Police Stations, journalists and representatives of various civil society organizations attended the event.

Sharif Noor Chowdhury, Chairman of Raouti Union Parishad said, “PPG has created such a great platform where anybody can come and express their opinions openly”. Chowdhury Mizanuzzaman, Officer in charge, Tarail Police Station said,“The burden on police will decrease as the PPG function effectively”.

Peace Ambassadors led Social Harmony workshops in Bhuapur, Tangail
May 2018


Peace Ambassadors Mirza Mohiuddin Ahmed and Shah Alam Pramanik, along with other PPG members, conducted three PAVE Harmony workshops with about 150 community members, especially opinion leaders, women and youth groups. These workshops focussed on the community’s role in maintaining social harmony as part of peacebuilding efforts at the grassroots level.

New PPG formed and Peace Ambassadors selected in Morelganj, Bagerhat
30 May 2018


The peacebuilding activities in Bangladesh has expanded into a new Upazila on May 2018, resulting in the formation of a new PPG in  Morelganj Upazila of Bagerhat district. Presided over by Md. Shah-E-Alam Bachchu, Upazila Chairman & Vice President of Bagerhat District Awami League, the PPG members unanimously selected three PeaceAmbassadors and one PPG coordinator for the newly formed Morelganj PPG. Newly selected Peace Ambassadors are  M. Emdadul Haque, General Secretary, Morelgonj Upazila Awami League, Ms. Azmin Naher, Upazila Vice Chairman & Convener of Upazila Mohila  Awami League and Abdul Mazid Zabbar, President, Morelganj Pourashava Bangladesh Nationalist Party. Md. Zakir Hossain, Assistant Professor & General Secretary of Morelgonj NGO Foundation will act as the PPG Coordinator.

Mr. Bacchu, Upazila Chairman said, “We started a new journey by organizing like-minded, but diverse political leaders to bringpeace and social harmony to Morelgonj Upazila.” Congratulations to the new team in Morelganj PPG! 

 

Political Participation of Women for Equal Rights (POWER)

A new study of The Hunger Project’s work in Bangladesh shows a 131% increase in respondents who believe that women should report domestic violence to authorities. The report reviews progress from a baseline to endline study of the POWER program in Bangladesh, which aimed to empower women leaders so that they effectively participate in local politics and challenge gender inequality and violence against women. In Bangladesh 53% of women experience physical and/or sexual violence from their partners. The baseline survey, conducted in 2015, showed that only 42% of respondents said that women should report domestic violence to authorities. The endline survey, conducted in 2017, showed that 97% of respondents now believe that women should report domestic violence to authorities. The full report included an excerpt from a discussion with one of the women leaders of Sarappur Union. She said: “In past, when violence against women used to take place, we just watched. We did not know that it was a crime. We thought that men do it and it is legitimate to hit someone. We never tried to intervene and stop it. But now, we do it as we know if we don’t resist, it will not be stopped. THP has trained us what to do in such a situation.” For more information as well as quotes from community members, check out the POWER Report Summary or read the full report.

 

Visit to some gonogobeshona groups in the Hunger Project in Rangpur and Gaibandha-by Md. Anisur Rahman (26-28 May 2007)

Gonogobeshona in the Hunger project started in this area following participation in 2005 of 45 of its “Ujjibaks”1 in a three-day PAR workshop at Nilfamari given by Development Research Centre ) DRC. headed by Dr. Lenin Azad. More than 25 gonogobeshona groups have reportedly been formed in Rangpur following this workshop. The groups have been formed by voluntary ‘animators’ mobilized by the ‘ujjibaks’ who attended the PAR workshop. They do not keep contact with the DRC animators who are paid workers of the Centre purportedly working to promote DRC’s specific ‘ideology’.

Of these gonogobeshona (henceforth gg) groups, most are female groups with four male groups only. The reason of greater female interest in gonogobeshona is perhaps the greater sense of oppression for dual economic and cultural reasons, and less time spent in work by the women outside the household which facilitates their getting together.

The Chairman of the Kolkond Union Parishad, an Awami Leaguer, one of the more enlightened ones I have met, has himself taken the “ujjibak” training and is actively supporting the gonogobeshona groups in his Union, visiting them, encouraging them, advising them (sometimes over-advising, I was told, not unexpectedly as he is not indoctrinated in the philosophy of PAR!).

gg group in a ‘char’ area

The first gg group I visited was in a ‘char’, an island in Kolkond union where the inhabitants are constantly chased by the river eroding its bank breaking into their inhabitation and dislocating them, besides posing a great risk to their children disappearing suddenly if unattended. Most inhabitants are acutely income-poor; but still the basic ‘poverty’ of an unsettled and precarious life chased by the river affects all irrespective of income, and forges a solidarity to face this struggle together. A male leader of moderate means from the community became an ujjibak and attended the PAR workshop, after which he has initiated formation of an all-female gg group about one year old with 33/34 members. The group has started a saving fund

to help its members at times of dire distress, putting in taka 10/- per week each. Discussion on what can be done with the group fund, who amongst them need help from the fund most, the terms at which help is to be given, seemed to be the principal subject of discussion in the weekly group meetings. The sense of ‘gonogobeshona’ as a collective exploration of problems of all kinds affecting their lives has not yet taken root, and the male ‘animator’/ujjibak did much of the talking with us despite my repeated effort to stop him and let others speak. When stimulated some women showed potentials for leadership, and inspiring fighting spirit to face their hazardous life. They have accepted their life itself as one of constant hazard, fighting which, shifting their abodes from one place to another as the river breaks into their habitation and dislocates them, being the very meaning of life for them. No development theory is relevant for them, except perhaps improving their access to medical facilities in need, and any assistance that can be given toward their children’s education, besides giving them courage to keep fighting with the river, and the group formation is helping in this fight. The Hunger Project will do well to try calm the enthusiasm of the male animator/uzzibak to do most of the talking (and thinking) himself and stimulate democratization of the discussions and growth of leadership from among the women members of the group as well as wider participation in the group’s deliberations.

20 women from 4 gg groups

Back from the island we sat with 20 women who came from four gg groups in uttar kolkonda. Mostly low-income, with a few belonging to lower-middle class one of whom served us lunch in her house of moderate amenities.

Relatively recent gg groups, formed about two months back after they attended an “initiative fair” of a large number of gg groups end of last February. After formation of one group others followed and formed theirs. The respective groups have formed their organizations with a President, Secretary and Cashier in each. First activity the starting of group saving funds. They are in a planning phase, doing ‘gobeshona’ on what they will do with their savings and what other activities to initiate. Ideas include bulk purchase of rice when price is low, to sell when price goes up; the proceeds will help bring up their children; lend money from saving to members in need, with thinking of 50 % interest for business loans and no interest for distress loans; acquire sanitary latrines; have better medical care. Vocal about stopping child marriage and dowry. Will put collective pressure on local hospital for proper supply of medicines.

Following suggestion of the Union Council Chairman one group is starting a cooperative consumer store. The Chairman saw this model in Kerala in a visit there a couple of years back. All members of the group will buy from this store. One member of the group will manage the store and will keep

one-third of the profit. The rest of the profit will go to the group fund. An innovative idea that will both raise the group income as well as reduce the members’ expenses for essential consumables – poverty can be reduced both by increasing incomes and reducing expenses, a strategy generally missed in poverty alleviation discussions. The cooperative store was to start the following day. Its experience should be followed with great interest, and if successful the example will deserve to be spread to other low-income groups across the country.

Only a few of those present talked and others appeared shy, suggesting domination of a few in group discussions and decision making. Natural to start with, but wider participation should be actively encouraged with concern for development of personality and articulation of all. The office bearers have been elected for five years, and when questioned the idea of permanency of leadership was not seen to be considered undesirable. Again, understandable as an initial awareness when they have come together for the first time under positive leadership chosen by themselves. But the development of awareness toward broadening leadership skills and of wider sharing of responsibilities is important. I left this question with them, suggesting also that they could think of strategies toward development of leadership potentials of others like “today so and so, though not an office bearer of the organisation, will conduct our gg sesssion”.

The Union Council Chairman joined us in the discussion, and I was impressed by his very positive and supportive attitude toward gonogobeshona and group formation of the disadvantaged people.

An older group in south Kolkond

A women’s gg group of 40 members, 2 ½ years old. Organized. Saving at the rate of 5 Taka per member per week. Lending to members for small business like paddy husking, ‘pitha’ (rice cake). Weekly repayment (“kisti”) like the NGOs, but if some one gets into difficulty then the group discusses with her and relaxes repayment schedule – e.g. a loanee’s son got sick six months after taking loan, and the group allowed her to defer payment of kisti

for six months – kind of humane handling of repayments unheard of in the NGO-Grameen-micro-lending system.

The leader (President) of this group, interestingly, a member of the Union Council, a middle class woman.

The group has been very active resisting oppression on women. A husband used to beat his wife and took a second wife. This further increased beating of the first wife keeping her ill-fed as well. The group intervened and forced the husband to keep the two wives separate from each other ensuring care for the first wife. They have stopped three child marriages and one second marriage of a husband, and such instances are now stopping by themselves out of fear of resistance from the group. They are mobilizing against divorce and “hillah” (the fundamentalist practice of forcing a verbally divorced wife to take another “husband” for a night before the original husband takes her back). Internal harmony in the families is increasing with greater civil dialogues and less quarrels, abuse-hurling and beating. Wife-abuses are reported to the group which sends emissaries to the offending husband who admits mistake.

A new dimension of group activity – groups arrange for care of expectant mothers that husbands do not take care of such as arranging for blood group recording and taking body weight and blood pressure.

I raised the question in this group also of the need to develop alternative leadership, to which the leader of the group responded positively. A number of the group members other than the leader herself were quite vocal –the group is of course relatively older.

Another group in north kolkond

Fourteen months old group. 60 members with 59 women and one male. The male member, who initiated the group formation, is the President. Sub- groups in four paras (hamlets). 5 taka a week saving. Loans are given to members from group fund with the consent of the sub-group of the concerned para which supervises the loan and advises handling of repayment if the borrower gets into difficulty – as against the practice, as they said, of Grameen, BRAC and other NGOs to “come and shout in case of failure to pay kisti in time”.

They resist child marriage and dowry. A latest incident was a husband who married 10 years back without dowry and was now demanding dowry – the group went to the husband and pressured him to drop his demand. Now child marriage and dowry have virtually ceased as a result of the group’s vigilance. And status of the women in the family has risen.

I raised the question why the single male member was the President. It appeared that the decision had been taken impulsively as the male member had initiated the group formation, and no one raised the question of some woman member taking over from him. Some said that they had decided to change the President – this did not appear to be very convincing. I suggested that they should discuss this seriously in their group meeting in the presence of the male President without dishonouring him, and he should also agree to step down if he is committed to women’s empowerment.

a gg group in bharatkhali union, Gaibangha

Formed by a woman leader W from the very disadvantaged class who attended a PAR workshop in Nilfamari taken there by a local NGO three years back. Upon returning she shared her experience with other women of disadvantaged classes which resulted in the formation of a gg group of 25 women. W is exceptionally smart and courageous and smartly shook hands with me, the first such greeting from a woman gonogobeshok I got in this visit.

The group has the usual organizational structure and saving programme with 5 taka per week contribution per member. It meets once every week. W explained the objective of the group as empowerment of the members, wiping out all weaknesses and gaining maximum strength. They insure that government distribution of relief blankets is fair; there is no child marriage in the union; school teachers take their teaching duties seriously; elimination of dowry and physical oppression on women; practice of family planning among the women. They say they have become a “mukti fouj” (freedom squad). They have organized a “mothers’ assembly” against child marriage.

W keeps a mobile phone and phones the Union Council Chairman and the Police Station to stop cases of child marriage and other oppressions if local action by the group cannot tackle them. The chairman and police respect her for her outspokenness and courage and her appeal to law, and intervene when she phones them. One noteworthy achievement beside other more

usual types: 20-25 youth boys of the area kidnapped and brought a girl from Dhaka and were about to assault her when W mobilized women and rescued the girl under intimation to the police and Chairman, and the girl was given in marriage to a local boy to save her honour. W said she was scared if she could hold out.

W talked of the need for women to come out of their homes to overcome their shyness. She was outspoken against the hadith (life and teachings of Prophet Muhammad), saying that adherence to hadith will mean continuation of oppression on women – instead it is necessary to follow the Law, adding that following the hadith the moulanas are going for multiple wives and oppressing them.

The group has motivated and assisted women in 8/10 nearby villages to form their own gg groups and have given them, in their words, “training” to form and run gg groups.

W sometimes talked vigorously herself, sometimes she was absolutely quiet letting others talk. A number of others were quite vocal. The group of course is one of the oldest among gg groups, but obviously W has also helped other members to overcome their ‘shyness’ and encouraged development of their articulation and assertion.

Seeing the group more advanced than the others I visited, I invited it to take their “gobeshona” one step forward by way of initiating organized research (inquiry) on specific issues like collecting case histories on various instances of oppression on women, to develop their own organized knowledge as well for presenting such information to the wider society and authorities. The discussion converged to the suggestion that a high school going girl from among the group may undertake a systematic study of cases of oppression on women in the locality by means of a house-to-house survey. The girl I suggested agreed to do so over the coming months. Her study may thereafter be discussed in the group before finalizing. We should eagerly await the study, and hope that the Hunger Project will give necessary encouragement and facilities for the study by way of providing the girl with a pencil and notebook and visiting her from time to time to give her encouragement to complete the task and thus make a contribution to taking gg to a higher level in the country.

Meeting leaders of a number of gg groups

My last session was with leaders of about ten gg groups who assembled to meet me. W was also there, quiet unless specifically addressed to. A number of them also belonged to groups under a local NGO, “X”, which was talked of as being sympathetic to gg and against micro-credit type of lending.

When reporting to me of their activities I found them rather mixed up as between activities under the NGO with which they were associated from before they formed gg groups, and of their activities as gg groups. They also seemed more eager than the other gg groups I had met, to have “advice” from me, and this looked like an influence of “NGO culture”. I refused to give any advice, and challenged them to seek answers to their questions themselves. They also talked in languages like “we are the leaves and Hunger [Project] is the tree, our strength” (NGO-influenced thinking again!). To this I disagreed sharply and asked them to think of themselves as the main strength.

The discussion veered to the coming election of the Union Council and I asked if they were thinking of electing someone from among them to the Council, even to become the Chairman. Sadly, they replied in the negative, saying that they would stay out of the Union Council and would make demands to it, and that if they went in they could get corrupt! I disagreed sharply again – if they were not willing to take responsibility themselves they would continue to be exploited. There was uneasiness among them to what I was saying. I turned at W who had been quiet all along with her head bowed down. She shook her head firmly and said that they must capture the Union Council and they should work toward it. The others then slowly started repeating her, but obviously they lacked independent and clear thinking on this question.

overall reflections

The sample of gg groups under the Hunger Project that I visited is on the whole rather encouraging. A special feature of these groups is that they are not being ‘animated’ by any paid cadre whether from outside or from amongst them, so that the question of their sustaining depends on their internal dynamics and strength only. Apparently, their successes in stopping oppression on women plus the saving funds under their own control being used as a social security are strengthening their solidarity and contributing to sustaining their organisations and gonogobeshona discourses. However, the Hunger Project is in a position to influence their course and development as

these groups are growing under the ‘umbrella’ of this project. Assuming a commitment to empowerment of the disadvantaged the Hunger Project staff and ujjibaks who are being created in its programme may seek to collect their thoughts toward helping to advance the empowerment content of the gg groups and the overall gg movement it is promoting without imposing itself in any way upon the autonomy of the groups and the movement. This can be done by way of suggesting elements of advanced culture of gonogobeshona. Some such elements have been touched upon in presenting my experiences with groups that I visited , viz., widening the participatory culture in the groups and improving the articulation of individual group members, seeking to develop alternative leaderships so as to reduce dependence on a single set of leadership as well as broadening the leadership spectrum of the groups; seeking to foster a cautious attitude toward relation with NGOs rather than conceptually mixing up grouping under an NGO and self-grouping for gonogobeshona and self-empowerment; and guiding the groups toward higher forms of gonogobeshona by way of more systematic collective social inquiry rather than the present dialogical form of collective discussion only (examples of such higher forms of systematic collective inquiry by the disadvantaged abound in the PAR literature with which the concerned staff of Hunger project may wish to get familiar and which they may wish to bring to the attention of ujjibaks overseeing the gg groups as well). Attempt needs to be made also to generate greater clarity among the gg groups about the broader perspective of their movement in terms of the power balance in the society -i.e. the question of pressure group activities versus aiming to share or take over power at higher levels of social/national administration.

On such questions I have discerned a view among some animator quarters that it is not the function of external animators to raise such questions – they should only seek to stimulate the gg groups to get together and deliberate anything they want by themselves. This is an unfortunate position that denies the gg groups the benefit of interacting with knowledge, thinking and experience of others. The disadvantaged people have the right to access knowledge, thinking and experience of any quarter anywhere in the world to consider for their own development without being dominated by them. In this respect what is needed is not withholding such knowledge, thinking and experience from them but to be sensitive as to when these may be introduced to them for their consideration and in what manner, so as not to alienate or overpower them with apparent ‘superior’ wisdom but to help them develop their own position on concerned issues in full consideration of external

knowledge on the issues. On this task the words of Kahlil gibran on the ‘teacher’ (our word: the ‘animator’) cannot be surpassed:

“No man can reveal to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of your knowledge.

If he [the teacher/animator] is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of his wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind.” (The Prophet, on Teaching).

To develop the proper sensitivity on this question so as to judge the ‘threshold’ of the people’s mind for acquainting them with relevant outside wisdom and experience is the most important challenge for the (external) animator, on which his/her success in promoting true empowerment of the disadvantaged, developing their indigenous knowledge as well as absorbing and recreating knowledge generated elsewhere, depends.

In their bid to self-empowerment, struggle against oppression and assertion of their rights including right to rule over their own destiny, promotion of literacy is a very important need for enhancing their capability in many directions. For most disadvantaged people lack of literacy will remain a major handicap both for performing tasks they may be capable, if literate, of performing at their own levels as well as at higher levels that they may aim to capture, and also to communicate with and participate in a modern world of letters instead of ‘thumb-signing’ away their power and possessions. The gg movement will remain essentially handicapped unless the average ‘capability’ of the gonogobeshoks is raised by adult literacy measures. This I suggest should be seriously taken up by any ‘parent’ organisation which is seeking to promote gg of disadvantaged people.

More than 100 community philanthropists meet and share their groundbreaking stories

Abu Bakar Siddique Rubel
Mr. Motiur Rahman is a leading community philanthropist. He came from Kishoreganj to attend the Annual Conference on March 28, 2018 and shared his story with 130 philanthropists from across the country:

After receiving the leadership training on community philanthropy, I went back to my community. I learned that 100 acres of land of 115 marginalized farmers was useless. The land was underwater for months. A neighbor, Mr. Kebadur Rahman, created the problem because he raises the surface level by filling-up his  land with mud. With my fellow animators of the community, we decided to intervene. We sat with both parties and listened to them. Finally, we went to Mr. Kebadur and showed him how the community would benefit if we can convert these 100 acres of land into production. Mr. Kebadur agreed to release some part of his land to dig a canal for water release. Other villagers volunteered to dig the canal. This year (2017) we were able to produce 250 tones of rice from that land. We all have invested our money, labor and time to solve this long standing community problem.

Motiur’s story was echoed in other philanthropists’ voices. Mr. Santosh Datta from Tangail shared the story of getting electricity services to 9 disadvantages families. Ms Anju Anwara Moina from Tangail shared the story of livelihood support to poor women by giving them goats as his donation. Ms. Papia Rani Barman from Kishoreganj shared how she successfully negotiated with the government to include 15 vulnerable poor people into different social government safety-net schemes. Mr. Mozammel Haque of Meherpur shared how he raised one million taka through community philanthropy initiatives for the well-being of his fellow community members. 

These groundbreaking stories were the highlight of the conference at Gonosashthaya Kendra – our Dhaka storytellers reunion. One hundred and thirty community philanthropists from seven districts attended the conference. The Hunger Project’s country director Dr. Badiul Alam Majumdar, the Aga Khan Foundation’s representative Ms. Tania Sharmin and other dignitaries attended the  conference to join these storytellers.

One hundred and fifty community philanthropists have mobilized a total of BDT 3,797,695 from their communities to support the wellbeing of the most deprived in the community. In 2017, they have supported 16,764 people. In addition, these philanthropy leaders connected 347 deprived people with government safety-net schemes. The conference concluded with high expectations to achieve more in the coming days.

Reconciliation and a New Beginning in Nasirnagar

October 30 2016, a Facebook post falsely accused a member of the Hindu community of defaming Islam in Nasirnagar upazila at Brahmanbaria. Vandalism and a series of attacks were carried out by religious fanatics and other miscreants in 15 temples and 300 homes in Hindu communities. There was widespread looting of valuables and burning of fishing nets – the only means of livelihood in these communities. The country’s leading english newspaper, The Daily Star, reported the next day: Mayhem in B’baria

As soon as the story broke out about the violence, the members of our nearest Peace Pressure Group (PPG), which is located 40 K.M. away in Brahmanbaria, intervened. The PPG members visited the affected area to show solidarity with the victims and speak with the leaders of the Muslim community to restrain them. Our Peace Ambassador Nisat Sultana, the elected Upazila Vice-chairperson and member of the ruling played a critically important role in bringing the two communities together and trying about a political settlement. The atrocities created deep wounds, and a sense of insecurity and alienation among Hindu communities, most of whom belong to very marginalized fishing communities.

In September 2017, in order to heal the wound and restore trust between Hindu and Muslim communities, The Hunger Project Bangladesh, the country’s largest volunteer based organization with over quarter of a million volunteers, intervened to empower communities to uphold the values of pluralism, tolerance and inclusion for redressing identity-based prejudice, and promoting social harmony and religious freedom with the support from Canadian High Commission.

A series of Activities were implemented to build community resilience to extremism and religious bigotry and trained 150 community people as volunteer catalyst. These volunteers mobilized the entire community with “peace building messages” and sensitized against identity-based prejudice, hate-speech and hate-crime. These very efforts produced very positive results to heal the wounds and bring the two communities together.

nasirnagar_img-2
Madhuri Chakrabarti, Animator, Nasirnagar, Brahmanbaria

In February 17 2018, with high enthusiasm and festivity, people of Nasirnagar spent a whole day for Interfaith Festival, which they describe as an event for reconciliation and a new beginning. A Local Hindu Priest and a Muslim Imam, inaugurated the interfaith festival by exchanging their holiest scriptures – the holy Quran and the holy Vagabat Gita. Exchange of their holy scriptures symbolized their willingness to eliminate the ignorance and prejudice towards each other. A colorful, grand rally marched around the Harinber Bazar chanting “Hindus and Muslims are brothers, and will live happily ever-after”. The rally attracted the whole community. This is the same Nasirnagar where community trust was deeply shaken and shattered by a series of heinous attacks in 2016.

On March 5 2018, Babu Bijoy Das, General Secretary of Bangladesh Awami League and Hazi Titan Ali Fakir, President of Bangladesh Nationalist Party of Haripur Union signed a Code of Conduct for peace and harmony. The Code of Conduct upholds the values of Dignity, Security and Diversity — all of which form the essential prerequisites of a pluralistic, tolerant and inclusive society.

We believe the effort of Nasirnagar will have a ripple effect to restore social harmony throughout the country.