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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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.

What constitutes an enabling environment for the poor to succeed in their own development?

Working paper for a National Strategy Forum, April 1994, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to provide a framework that will facilitate the participants in the upcoming strategic forum to identify new openings for action to provide an enabling environment for the poor. As will be shown below, the lack of a clear and shared understanding of what constitutes an enabling environment is a major obstacle to mobilizing concerted, strategic action to providing one.

We envision this forum to be the first step in an ongoing process. It will reveal openings for action that The Hunger Project and other organizations can take to provide an enabling environment. In addition, it has the potential to identify areas where the next breakthrough in thinking is required, thus pointing the way to the next strategic forum.

Acknowledgements

We would like to express our appreciation to all the individuals and organizations in Bangladesh whose dedicated work has demonstrated to the world the critical importance of providing an enabling environment for the poor. In particular, the preparations for this strategic forum has depended on the generous assistance of:

  • Mr. Fazle Abed, founder and director of BRAC, who first suggested this topic and who has advised on the format and design of this meeting;
  • Mr. Alex Counts, senior advisor in the international training division of the Grameen Bank, who wrote an initial overview analysis of the experience in Bangladesh in providing an enabling environment, and Prof. Muhammad Yunus for generously permitting Mr. Counts to assist us in this way;
  • Mr. Abdur Rab Chaudhury, MP, for his advice and willingness to facilitate the discussion;
  • Mr. Mahfuz Anam, editor of the Daily Star, whose recent round-table discussion on Pro-Poor Planning highlighted the importance of a breakthrough in thinking in how economic planners must think of the poor; and
  • The Asia Foundation, which has provided funding both for this meeting and for the follow-up actions that it inspires.

Section one: Setting the context

Empowering the poor — the key to a self-reliant future for Bangladesh

The concept of an “enabling environment” is new, and it reflects nothing less than a paradigm shift in thinking as to how nations like Bangladesh can achieve a new, self-reliant future — a future where all citizens have the chance to lead a healthy and productive life. This paradigm shift rests on two major recognitions.

First: People now recognize that the poor are the principal agents to improve the quality of their own lives.

No matter how successfully society allocates resources to help meet the needs of the poor, these are small compared to the resources that poor families will spend to meet their own needs. Therefore, to make any significant difference in the lives of the poor, public investments must “enable,” or leverage, the enormous investment the poor make in themselves.

Second: People are now beginning to recognize that enabling the poor to move out of poverty is the key to the nation’s economic development.

This represents a profound transformation in attitudes towards the poor and their role in the economy. The statement made by Mahfuz Anam at the recent round-table on “pro-poor” planning published in the Daily Star put it clearly:

“Recent examples, especially in the SAARC countries have shown that given the right type of environment in terms of credit, in terms of decision making, in terms of empowering the poor, it has been possible to prove that [the poor] are perhaps the most effective group to produce wealth…. it is perhaps the way that the poor has been looked at that is responsible for the continuation of poverty.”

Dr. Maqsood Ali underscored the new view that the poor are economic assets: “There must be a social mobilization of the poor which recognizes the intrinsic dynamism of the poor and goes straight to organizing the poor and releasing their dynamism, the hidden capability of capital accumulation potential which they have. The World Bank and IMF are saying that you have to raise growth in order to reduce poverty. Now we are saying you have to reduce poverty to raise the growth.”

This revolution in thinking comes at a propitious time — a time when Bangladesh is transforming its own structures and when international institutions are increasingly open to human-centered approaches to development.

Society’s institutions still, by and large, reflect the old paradigm. Transforming them to be useful to providing an enabling environment will require rigorous, systematic and scientific thinking and concerted, strategic action. It is the intention of this meeting to develop the framework of that thinking, and identify new openings for action.

Section two: Establishing key distinctions

It has been The Hunger Project’s experience that many meetings fail to generate any meaningful action because they fail to develop a set of sufficiently powerful distinctions. Too often, meetings about poverty alleviation produce only lists of problems, rationales, goals, targets, and opinions about service programs.

To actually make something happen, distinctions must be created that are powerful enough to cut through the unclarity, to get underneath the differences of opinion, to generate alignment on key principles and to reveal strategic openings for concerted action.

Therefore, establishing powerful distinctions for thinking rigorously about providing an enabling environment is a major objective of this meeting.

A. The Distinction “Enabling Environment” vs. “Service Delivery”

A service delivery system is the organized provision of critical services, such as healthcare, education and emergency relief to people who can benefit from those services.

Clearly, much important work is being, and must be done to improve the delivery of human services. However, this paper will NOT discuss service delivery issues. It will devote itself exclusively to the issue of creating an enabling environment.

Often these two distinctions are collapsed. When the distinctions are collapsed, the inquiry into these issues lacks the rigor, clarity, precision and discipline that would reveal pathways to effective action, and galvanize the will to take the action that is necessary.

Effective service delivery is critical, and particularly for governments. People create governments specifically to provide services that are best provided collectively rather than individually.

The notion of “enabling environment” however is new, and reflects the recognition that most human progress is not a function of service delivery, but rather of the creative and often organized efforts of people themselves.

The strategic thinking called forth when considering “enabling environment” and “service delivery” is completely different. One must consider different actors, different resources and different constraints.

In service delivery, the actors are the functionaries, the primary resources are the official budget and the pool of trained personnel, and key constraints are managerial factors: resource scarcity, planning, management and staff effectiveness.

In an enabling environment, the actors are the people themselves, and the primary resources are the talents, knowledge and resourcefulness of the people. Instead of considering what can be done “for” the poor, one must consider what can be done “by” the poor. In this way of thinking, the key constraints are social factors: unity, leadership, equity, public attitudes, and self-confidence.

Enabling Environment Service Delivery
Actors: People themselves Functionaries
Resources: Local incomes and material

resources

Talents

Leadership

Resourcefulness

Official budgets

Trained personnel

Managers

Constraints: Equity

Access to resources

Access to information

Leadership

Attitudes

Social harmony

Self confidence

Resource scarcity

Planning

Management

Staff effectiveness

When one confronts the challenges faced by Bangladesh, it is impossible to imagine meeting them with only the resources that can be channeled effectively through service delivery mechanisms. Only by unleashing the creativity, resourcefulness and determination of the entire population can the challenges be met and a sustainable future for Bangladesh assured.

The concept of enabling environment means restoring people to control over their own destiny, by putting them in control of the institutions and decision making processes that affect their own lives.

B. Definition of “Enabling Environment”

We will define “enabling environment” to consist of the attitudes, policies and practices which stimulate people to take action and enable them to succeed.

By that definition, we want to consider an enabling environment for the poor which consists of attitudes, policies and practices which stimulate the poor to take action for their own development, and enable them to have that action produce meaningful improvements in the quality of life.

For example:

  • the attitude concerning the economic value of girl children often determines whether poor girls receive education.
  • the policy of who hires and fires school teachers often shapes the degree to which local people can depend on that teacher to provide quality instruction.
  • the practices by which NGOs form local organizations can shape the degree of initiative and independence local people express in that organization.

C. What are Key Elements Within an Enabling Environment?

In analyzing what people need from their environment in order to succeed in their own actions, we can see at least four major elements:

AWARENESS: People must have a clear understanding of the issue and the possible solutions in order to take effective action.

ACCESS: Whatever training, information or resources people need to succeed in their own action must be physically available in the community, and unencumbered by social barriers that could stop people from having it.

AFFORDABILITY: In taking their own actions, the poor depend primarily on their own resources. Therefore, the poor must be able to afford what they need. To a family living in poverty, issues of price gouging, bribery and exploitation all have the same effect of preventing the family from affording what it needs.

ACCOUNTABILITY: While people themselves are the primary source of action, at some point they must trust and depend on others — teachers, health workers, well diggers and other functionaries. People must have ways to hold these functionaries to account.

D. What does this Inquiry Need to Produce?

The outcome of a strategic inquiry into an enabling environment does not need to produce a comprehensive or rank-ordered analysis. It does not need to produce a master plan or a comprehensive blueprint.

The experience in Bangladesh has proven to the world that people living in the conditions of poverty are so resilient, so creative and so determined that when they are offered ANY opportunity to improve their lives, they seize it.

Therefore, the goal of this exploration is to reveal openings for action that would result in any meaningful improvements in the environment that can provide additional empowerment of all the poor to improve their lives, and contribute to the nation.

As these openings are acted upon, further openings should appear on the pathway to providing an enabling environment.

E. In What Areas of Life is the Enabling Environment Crucial?

For those living in poverty, meeting basic human needs consumes most of one’s time, energy and resources. This inquiry will look into six key areas in the lives of the poor where an enabling environment would make a critical difference:

  • Ensuring the health of one’s family
  • Educating one’s children
  • Earning income
  • Drinking clean water and practicing good sanitation
  • Preserving the natural environment
  • Planning the size of one’s family

F. What Questions should Guide the Inquiry?

This paper will next take a look at the four elements of the enabling environment in each of the key sectors of the lives of the poor. At each point, we will address:

What’s so — what is the current situation — right now in the environment of the poor, given the progress to date and the challenges that the poor face, and

What’s missing which, if provided, would empower the poor to succeed in their own action.

We have found that rigorous clarity in addressing these two questions reveals openings for action.

G. What’s Next?

As we stated, we intend for this forum to be one step in a dynamic process. Following a detailed look in the next section of this paper into what’s so and what’s missing, we will develop a framework to seize the openings for action that get revealed, and to feed back the experience gained into the next inquiry.

Section 3: A detailed look into six key areas of life

A. Ensuring the Health of One’s Family

Bangladesh has pioneered breakthroughs in affordable and appropriate medications and in low-cost child-survival strategies. It has allocated huge sums of money to health care, yet child and maternal mortality and morbidity rates remain high. What is missing which, if provided, would enable the poor to ensure better health for their families?

AWARENESS: Many families currently do not know how to prevent and treat the most frequent and serious maladies that harm their health, such as diarrhea and acute respiratory infection. What is missing is a reliable, authoritative source of health information that reaches every family.

ACCESS: Families need access to affordable and appropriate medications, and to competent health workers. Enormous public investments have been made to train and provide health workers. It is likely that the major constraints to access now lie in a lack of accountability of those health workers to the local people.

AFFORDABILITY: Great strides have been made in making basic drugs affordable and available in the marketplace. One dangerous aspect of the present environment is that the freeing of markets makes it profitable to promote inappropriate drugs, eg: the promotion of expensive and dangerous anti-diarrheals in place of safe, low-cost oral rehydration solution. This trend must be countered both with more awareness and more local accountability.

ACCOUNTABILITY: At present, there are few, if any, existing mechanisms by which the poor can hold health services to account. What’s missing are strategies to strengthen the ability of the poor to gain accountability from local health services, perhaps through local committees, improved training of union councils and motivation of health workers.

B. Educating One’s Children

Education is a top priority in Bangladesh, and another area where breakthroughs have occurred in providing affordable, quality education. What is missing which, if provided, would enable poor families to provide their children with an education that is relevant to improving their lives?

AWARENESS: Given the tremendous promotion of education, families are now convinced that quality education will improve the lives of their children, at least for their boys and increasingly for their girls. Yet for most families, the quality of available education is poor and people are not aware of ways to improve it.

What is missing is the awareness and understanding as to how people can improve the quality of their local schools. If families were made aware of steps that could be taken to improve the quality of local schools, they would be more empowered to demand that they be taken.

ACCESS: Quality primary education is not currently available in most villages. The “technology” of providing quality non-formal primary education exists, as demonstrated by the BRAC schools, and is within the means and talents of every village. What is missing is the system of training and supervision that could enable every village to access this technology and establish such schools.

AFFORDABILITY: Bangladeshis demonstrate their determination to provide their children with education, even to the extent of spending enormous amounts of money on private tutors. While the poor cannot afford private tutors, they can afford the kind of quality nonformal primary education that has recently been developed. What is missing, therefore, is not the technology to make education affordable, but the structural changes that will give people the power and accountability to implement that which is affordable.

ACCOUNTABILITY: Currently, accountability for the quality of education lies with the delivery system providing it. What is missing is any systematic way for local people to directly exercise the responsibility for the quality of local education. This requires a structural shift towards stronger local government that works in partnership with parent committees. To truly be accountable for quality education, local bodies need ways to “grade” the performance of schools, and the authority to fire teachers who do not perform up to standard.

C. Earning Income

What is missing, which if provided, would empower poor families to securely earn incomes sufficient to meet their basic needs and contribute to national growth?

AWARENESS: As mentioned in the introduction, it is not the awareness among the poor that needs to be transformed, but the mindset of the elite. What is missing is a massive education campaign among the elite to transform their thinking about the poor and create the environment for pro-poor economic policies.

In the meantime, much has been done and can be done to directly empower poor families to raise their incomes. Progressive NGOs have pioneered ways to make the poor aware of new pathways to increased income through self-employment.

ACCESS: To raise their income, people need access to credit, productive resources, a marketable skill and a reliable market for their production. The experience of the Grameen Bank and other organizations have shown that even with one factor – credit – people are greatly empowered to better seize even the smallest market opportunities.

At present, credit, training and market support opportunities for the poor are primarily provided by NGOs, which are not accessible to every family. What is missing is either a way to expand the scale of these NGOs dramatically (and Bangladesh already is home to the largest NGOs in the world) or new strategies to make the techniques NGOs have pioneered accessible to any self-help association of the poor.

AFFORDABILITY: The greatest setback to income security for the poor comes because of financial setbacks such as illness, disaster, theft and wedding costs. What is missing are strategies to ensure that all the poor are able to provide their own first line of defense against setbacks through membership in self-help, risk-sharing groups.

As the second line of defense, the nation and the world community have shown resolve in working to prevent and prepare for larger setbacks such as natural disasters. Yet local people are not sufficiently empowered to do their own planning. It is local-level planning and action that can make the biggest difference the fastest when emergency strikes.

ACCOUNTABILITY: The transformation in thinking about the productivity of the poor will produce a new set of accountabilities. In the old paradigm, the poor are seen as a “burden” to the mainstream economy, and NGOs and other agencies are set up as an alternative to “service” the poor within economic environment that is not hospitable to the poor. In the new paradigm, those who make economic policy must be held to account by the self-organized economic activities of the poor. Larger alliances must be encouraged that give poor families a meaningful voice in economic policy decisions. Those committed to this shift in paradigms must find a way to hold themselves to account for causing it.

D. Drinking Clean Water and Practicing Good Sanitation

Water-borne disease continues to be the biggest killer of children. Major expenditures have provided a greater supply of clean water, but proper sanitation is far from being achieved. What is missing which, if provided, would enable poor families to ensure that they live in a hygienic environment?

AWARENESS: Most families know that they need clean drinking water, but many are not currently aware that clean water must be used for all personal uses (hand-washing, dish-washing, cooking). Many families do not understand the need for sanitation; there is a particularly dangerous notion that it is not important for children. What is missing is a far more rigorous and disciplined approach to empowering people with this information.

ACCESS: Significant progress, both in the public and private sector, has been to make tube wells and the equipment for sanitary latrines available. Where people lack access now, it appears to be most often the case that they lack the awareness or organized clout to access what is already there.

AFFORDABILITY: Affordability does not appear to be the major factor in enabling the poor to meet water and sanitation needs. Existing subsidy schemes and lowering costs in the private sector, have made clean drinking water and sanitation affordable.

ACCOUNTABILITY: One way to look at the challenge of village sanitation is to observe that no one is accountable for it. Awareness alone is not sufficient. In communities where sanitation is solved, it is always the case that strong penalties exist for violating sanitation standards. What is missing, beyond awareness, are strategies to create local accountability for sanitation, including the power to apply meaningful penalties.

E. Preserving the Natural Environment

No one has a greater stake in environmental preservation than do the poor. No one’s livelihood is more closely tied to the health and sustainability of the natural environment than is that of poor families. Among nations, Bangladesh is perhaps most aware of its environmental limits. What is missing, which if provided, would enable poor families to restore and preserve their natural environment?

AWARENESS: Just as with income, there must be a transformation in public attitude from seeing the poor as a “danger” to the environment to seeing the poor as the most committed and able to restore and preserve the environment. It has now been proven time and again that it is the practices of the rich that are the most environmentally damaging, while the more traditional lifestyles of the poor often reflect thousands of years of wisdom in the preservation of the environment.

What is missing is the same campaign as with income — a campaign to transform the thinking of those who shape policies, from seeing the poor as a burden to seeing them as the principal actors to ensure a productive, sustainable future for Bangladesh.

In addition, at the family level, there are new technologies and approaches which would empower poor families to make even better use of their resources, such as improved stoves, bio-gas and intensive organic farming techniques. As is the case in other sectors, what is missing are the channels of information that will reach every family.

ACCESS: In recent history, the poor of the world have been pushed increasingly to marginal and fragile areas of the environment, and have lost traditional rights as the protectors and preservers of forests, fields and water resources. Anti-poor attitudes, conventional practices and policies of modern economic development have reduced access to natural resources by the poor. What is missing are a new set of policies and practices that recognize the poor as environmental protectors (rather than the “threat”) and that restore traditional rights and improve access to resources.

AFFORDABILITY: The conventional approach to economic planning does not factor in the projected cost of continued environmental destruction, and certainly does not account for the lost productivity of the poor as the resource base erodes. The falseness of the delusion that we can “afford” environmental destruction is perhaps most revealed in Bangladesh.

What is missing is a “pro-poor, pro-environment” approach to planning that will redirect budget resources in ways which empower, and even employ, the poor to restore and preserve the environment.

ACCOUNTABILITY: Several NGOs in Bangladesh have pioneered approaches to place accountability – and the economic benefits – for environmental preservation back into the hands of the people with the greatest stake in the matter – the poor.

F. Planning the Size of One’s Family

Bangladesh has recently received international acclaim for reducing total fertility rates even among the poorest people. What is missing, which if provided, would enable poor families to limit their family size to that which is consistent with good health and a sustainable future?

AWARENESS: Progress is being made with awareness: an estimated 70 percent of Bangladeshi women would like to avail themselves of family planning, and about 40 percent of them do. What is missing that would fill the gaps?

  • The awareness component of the “gap” between 70 and 40 percent may be primarily due to attitudes of husbands.
  • The awareness component of the “gap” between 70 and 100 percent can perhaps best be addressed through expanding general female education.

Further analysis is needed of what messages, if in the environment, will close the remaining gaps the quickest.

ACCESS: Another component of the gap between the 70 percent demand and 40 percent usage is simple availability. Initiatives are underway to create “depots” of contraceptives at the village and deliver them door-to-door. Strategies to accelerate and universalize these approaches are currently missing.

AFFORDABILITY: Given the current high-degree of subsidy, affordability does not seem to be a current or prospective issue.

ACCOUNTABILITY: The family planning institutions in Bangladesh are large and well-funded. No institution, however, is large enough to “deliver” family planning services to every household. What is missing is that these institutions do not yet hold themselves responsible for creating an enabling environment in every village.

Section four: What’s next

Fomenting a process of inquiry and action

The intention of this forum is to make a difference for the future of Bangladesh. The high quality and broad range of experience of the leaders participating in this strategic forum should permit it to alter the perspective of all of us. It should allow the distinction of enabling environment to be drawn with such clarity and power that new possibilities continue to be revealed within each participant’s own work.

Following the meeting, The Hunger Project will take the insights gained and work in partnership with government and other NGOs to launch initiatives at the district level to provide what’s missing. We certainly hope other organizations will do the same.

The actions taken out of this meeting will not only contribute to creating an enabling environment; they will also reveal the next areas where a breakthrough is required. For example, the actions that can be taken by existing institutions will likely be insufficient to provide the enabling environment that the poor of Bangladesh need and deserve. Most institutions in society were not designed to provide an enabling environment. In fact, they were designed consistent with an earlier paradigm that does NOT see the poor as “able” and their functioning reinforces the old paradigm.

Structural transformation, therefore, will undoubtedly be required. The individuals who are committed to providing an enabling environment will either have to create new institutions, or transform the ones they are in.

Transformation cannot be accomplished by “outsiders” – it can only be accomplished by those who are directly involved in the action. Therefore, the experience gained in the months following this meeting should lead to participatory forums among those who are committed to bringing about the next level of transformation in specific sectors of society. For example:

MEDIA: The media establishment is currently best suited to bring awareness to the elite of society, and certainly the above discussion calls for significant changes in the thinking of the elite. One next step could be a forum to produce coordinated strategies among progressive NGOs and the media to achieve this transformation in thinking.

MEDIA FOR THE POOR: The above discussion highlights the need for expanded information flows to the majority of Bangladeshi citizens. Perhaps there is even a “market” for this information — the poor have shown great willingness to spend money on education and information that is relevant to their lives.

A next step could be a strategic forum to create an entirely new media “for the poor” to provide them with empowering information, and to help transform destructive attitudes towards family planning, dowry, child marriage, sanitation, appropriate technology and violence against women (to name a few).

GOVERNMENT: The “enabling environment” of the future demands far more local (versus top-down) accountability within the administrative services. Bangladeshis are exploring ways to strengthen local government and initiate bottom-up approaches to planning. Perhaps multi-sectoral forums are required to cause these changes.

POLITICS: The eminent economist Prof. Amartya Sen and others have pointed out how democracy serves the cause of human development. At some point, those who are involved with empowering the poor and those involved in the political process could come together to devise strategies to put “empowerment of the poor” onto the political agenda.

BILATERAL AND MULTILATERAL ORGANIZATIONS: International and foreign government agencies play an important role in Bangladesh’s service delivery systems. They need to ensure that their activities contribute to an enabling environment.

Individuals in these organizations may wish to sit down with local organizations to ensure that programs strengthen local institutions, rather than simply replace them with new, costly service delivery systems. New ways must be created to shift the resources of international organizations from funding expensive expatriate experts and contractors, and increasingly build capacities run and managed by Bangladeshis.

NGOS: Bangladeshi NGOs have pioneered service delivery and local empowerment mechanisms which are being emulated around the world. At the same time, NGOs must continue to identify and alter practices which work against an enabling environment for the poor to take charge of their own local associations.

PRIVATE SECTOR: Bangladesh is rapidly developing its industrial sector, yet this growth has not been infused with a pro-poor strategy. To do so, industrialists and those who work with the poor may need to create strategy forums among people with the experience and clout to transform the input-side of industries. For example, initiatives can be taken in the garment industry that would greatly expand opportunities for the poor while increasing the value-added component of the Bangladesh economy.

Conclusion

The people and institutions of Bangladesh have shown extraordinary resilience and ingenuity, particularly in recent years. Bangladesh has pioneered important breakthroughs in human development, and is now spearheading the creation of an enabling environment for the poor to succeed in their own development.

As this enabling environment emerges, it will unleash the productivity and potential of tens of millions of people, whose energies will create a new future for Bangladesh.

The Hunger Project, in Bangladesh and around the world, is honored to be the committed partner of the Bangladeshi people in calling forth the breakthroughs that will create a sustainable future for Bangladesh, and for all humanity.

The Hunger Project is not a relief or development organization, but rather a strategic organization committed to the sustainable end of world hunger. It is guided by the mandate to identify what is missing in the human component of ending hunger, and to launch initiatives to provide it.

The common element in many consultations with Bangladesh’s development experts, is that what is missing is an enabling environment for the poor to succeed in their own development. Bangladesh has pioneered many of the elements which now go into the concept of “enabling environment”, but what is missing is a clear, rigorous and widely-shared understanding of this concept that can shape the direction and programs of the institutions of society.

Participants

Government

  • Dr. Abdul Moyeen Khan, Minister of Planning
  • Dr. Sheikh Maqsood Ali, Convenor, Taskforce on Poverty Alleviation
  • Mr. S.M. Al-Husainy, Chairman, Swanirvar Bangladesh
  • Mr. Sultan-uz Zaman Khan, Chairman, Securities and Exchange Commission
  • Dr. Fariduddin, Secretary of Social Welfare

Academics

  • Dr. Shamsher Ali, Vice Chancellor, Bangladesh Open University
  • Prof. Shamsul Haq, National Professor
  • Mrs. Hasna Moudud, environment
  • Dr. S.A.L. Reza, Director General, BIDS

Members of Parliament

  • Mr. Abdur Rab Chaudhury (BNP), will moderate forum
  • Mr. Abul Hasan Chowdhury, Son of the first President (AL)
  • Mr. Fazle Rabbi Chowdhury (JP)
  • Mr. L.K Siddiqui, Vice chairman of party (BNP)

Journalists

  • Mr. Mahfuz Anam, Editor, Daily Star
  • Mr. Gias Kamal Chowdhury, Chief Correspondent, BSS

NGOs

  • Mr. Fazle Abed, Founder and Executive Director, BRAC
  • Dr. Qazi Faruque Ahmed, Executive Director, PROSHIKA
  • Dr. (Mrs.) Fatema Alauddin, Family Research and Development
  • Ms. Angela Gomez, Nijera Shekhi
  • Mr. Nazrul Islam, Palli Karma Sahayak Foundation
  • Prof. Muhammad Yunus, Managing Director, Grameen Bank

Business

  • Mr. Kafiluddin Mahmood, United Leasing
  • Mr. Salman F. Rahman, Beximco Group of Industries
  • Donor/International Agencies
  • Mr. Nick Langton, Representative, Asia Foundation
  • Mr. Manzoor Ul Karim, Unicef
  • Mr. Karl Schwartz, USAID

Members of the Global Board of Directors of The Hunger Project

  • Ms. Joan Holmes, President
  • Mr. Robert Chester, Chairman
  • Dr. Peter G. Bourne, President, Global Water
  • Mr. Ramkrishna Bajaj, Head, Bajaj Group of Industries
  • Dr. Ebrahim Samba, Director, WHO Onchocerciasis Control Program
  • Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, Chairman, M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation