By Mamun Islam
RANGPUR, April 29, 2016 (BSS) - The Gangadas Baraipara villagers under Sadar upazila here have set up a glaring example of winning over vicious cycle of extreme poverty through social, economic, political and women empowerment.
The successful villagers, who were earlier trapped in the cycle of generational poverty, have become self-reliant and empowered now making a transformational change in their lives.
The women in the community is now playing vital role in their family and community affairs.
This transformational change process prompted in 2009 with supports of the Social and Economic Transformation of the Ultra-Poor (SETU) project of CARE Bangladesh.
The project is funded by UKaid from the Department for International Development (DFID), the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Government of Bangladesh through Stimulating Household Improvement Resulting in Economic Empowerment (SHIREE), a management agency of DFID.
The community-led total development approaches of the project facilitated environment for the change through enhancing human, social, economic and political capitals.
Talking to BSS, the villagers narrated as how they began the journey with community action plan, based on participatory analysis of extreme poverty.
"We identified our problems first and collectively took decision to address those," said President of Baraipara 'Para Unnayan Committee' Naresh Chandra.
The villagers have not only used the project's grants, but also have mobilised and utilised local resources, potentials and taken individual as well as collective actions.
They have significantly diversified livelihoods, built own organisations and relationship with local Haridebpur union parishad (UP).
They identified open defecation practice as a major reason for various water-borne diseases and frequent sickness.
Community Facilitation Officer of SKS Foundation, a partner organisation of CARE Bangladesh, Jahangir Alam said, "The villagers brought all 62 households under cent percent sanitation coverage at their own within only three months."
Getting Taka 22,800 assistance from the SETU project under Cash for Work programme, the villagers renovated their 'Hari Mandir' and celebrated Durga Puja festivity with huge enthusiasm for the first time.
To cope with lean season when they had to sale labour in advance, the villagers formed 'Baraipara Women Savings Group (BWSG)' with 37 members and women forum 'EKATA' with 25 volunteers, said Jahangir.
Volunteer of 'EKATA' Pompa Rani said, "Our village is now neat and clean,free from water-borne diseases, child marriage, malnutrition, illiteracy, women repression and able couples, pregnant women and adolescents have knowledge about health and hygiene."
Moyna Rani, President of BWSG said, its members deposited fistful rice every week as savings for three and a half years period when they could take rice as loan at vulnerable times and repaid again.
Following improvement of their socioeconomic, sanitation, nutritional and health conditions, members of BWSG sold deposited rice at Taka 37,000 in 2013 to turn their savings in cash.
"Observing our success, the SETU project then added Taka 20,000 to our savings when we started providing Taka 500 loans in the beginning and up to Taka 8,000 now to our members for income generation activities," Moyna added.
SETU project beneficiary Joytsna Rani, Jamuna Rani and widow Shanti Rani said they have taken Taka 8,000 each as interest free loans from BWSG and invested in different businesses and income generation activities.
"Our members are depositing own savings with local bank and also adding Taka 10 weekly with the group savings now," said GeneralSecretary of BWSG Bharoti Rani.
"Every family is now earning well and our children are going to schools.
SETU project has provided grants ranging from Taka 7,500 to 14,000 to every selected household depending on skills and micro-plan," she added.
For her huge contribution to transformational change in lives of the backward women community and women empowerment, local people elected Bharoti Rani as Female UP Member from reserved wards of Haridebpur union in 2015.
Team Leader of the SETU project Abdul Matin Shardar said, "The project has transformed lives of the targeted 45,000 households under 25 unions of Rangpur, Lalmonirhat, Gaibandha and Nilphamari districts during the last 7-year period."