SWAPNO enabling poor women to be self-reliant


DHAKA, Nov 24, 2019 (BSS) – Aleya Begum, a dweller of Matikata Mor union under Chilmari upazila in Kurigram district, faced horrible situation when her husband divorced and abandoned her with a six-month-old baby.

She was forced to take shelter in her parents’ house-a tiny dark room. She lived these with her son and elderly father and mother.

“I had to face a very hard time . . . I had no education and no capital to support my son and parents. But I have been able to overcome the situation and conquered the poverty with the help of the government’s Strengthening Women’s Ability for Productive New Opportunities (SWAPNO) project,” said Aleya Begum.

At that time, Aleya Begum started working as a housemaid. However, since she had to take care of her toddler and carry out her duties simultaneously, people were reluctant to employ her.

“I was passing my days in abject hardship with no guarantee for the future of my son and myself,” she said.

“However, there was light at the end of tunnel. I was working away on a certain afternoon, I heard an announcement that the union parishad through SWAPNO were going to employ poor women for public works. I decided to go to the union parishad. Fortunately, I was admitted to the SWAPNO project as a beneficiary through an open lottery,” Aleya added.

Aleya’s fortune gradually began to turnaround; she started earning a regular wage through doing job in public works. She further received life skill training that strengthened her resilience, self-esteem, independence and gave her a voice in her life.

Aleya also received skill development training in business management, farming and livestock rearing. She became part of a group of 8-9 women who were also beneficiaries of SWAPNO, and they all began saving together in association knows as Rotating Savings and Credit Association (ROSCA).

Taking advantage of the skills development training and her group savings through ROSCA, Aleya opened a snacks stall with an initial investment of Taka 10,000. The community loved her tasty snacks, and her business capital jumped to Taka 40,000.

She worked in SWAPNO facilitated public works in the morning and ran her snack stall in the evening. As her employment tenure came to an end after 18 months, her savings accumulated to Taka 22,500.

She invested this amount along with credit from a micro finance institution for expansion of her small business.

Today, Aleya runs a restaurant which serves delicious and affordable meals cooked under her supervision. For one-and-a-half-year, her business has been thriving. Now her capital is Taka 400,000.

“I can now afford to live in a permanent shelter, my son is studying in a good school,” she proudly said.

Like Aleya, a total of 8,928 poor women in Satkhira and Kurigram districts have given assistance under the two phases of SWAPNO project.

After getting huge responses in the two districts, SWAPNO, a social safety project of the government, has expanded its activities in Lalmonirhat, Gaibandha and Jamalpur districts.

Talking to BSS, National Project Manager of the SWAPNO Kajal Chatterjee said SWAPNO is a social transfer-based graduation model project targeting ultra-poor rural women mainly widows, divorced, abandoned or left by disabled husband.

“Major interventions of the project include: fixed wage contract for 18-month under public works component; need-based life skills and livelihoods trainings and formal financial inclusion,” he added.

He said that the Local Government Division has been implementing the project from April 2015 to December 2020, with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Marico International and BSRM.

In order to ensure livelihood sustainability post project intervention, Kajal Chatterjee said, SWAPNO takes on a market system development approach that ensures that project outputs fit in with national labor demand and market demand.