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
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  12. https://bit.ly/2mR8qf2
  13. https://bit.ly/2uTTscm
  14. https://bit.ly/2NSVeS7
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  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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