RUPANTAR/Programs of Rupantar/Democracy and Governance Programme

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An Alternative Programmatic Intervention to Develop Grassroots Women Leadership in Union Parishads

Project area:

The project is implemented in 32 Unions under Batiaghata and Dacope Upazilla of Khulna district and Mongla and Rampal Upazilla of Bagerhat district.

Project Duration:

The project started in October 1998 and will continue up to June 2010

Project staff:

The project is managed with 80 staff out of which 38 are women.

Project Goal

To promote/facilitate active participation of women in local decision making process that contributes to improved living conditions for the women and the communities, especially the poor.

Project objectives

To train, advice and accompany women leaders, organisations and committees to address women rights, issues and to raise gender awareness of UP and public service providers

To strengthen capacities of Rupantar for more effective measuring, documentation and dissemination of results and for strategic networking and advocacy

Project activities

In achieving the above-mentioned objectives, the following major activities are on-going:

WCC leaders and members skill development through orientation, training and workshop on various issues like social analysis, functions of UP, legal rights and family laws, leadership and development, exposure visit etc. To enhance the women leaders participation and linkage with the local government and citizens certain activities are undertaken like the following:

  • Dialogue meeting between the women leaders and LEBs and citizens
  • Monitoring of Local government activities by women leaders
  • Encouraging participation of women leaders in various formal committees
  • Promoting women leaders in local elected bodies
  • Organizing legal support for the women victims
  • Issue based meeting with the citizens
  • Exposure visit.

Networking of women leaders:

  • Policy guideline and work plan for network
  • Local networking with other CBOs and cultural organizations

Gaining Community support:

  • Orientation meeting with spouses and other males on women issues
  • Gender orientations for couples
  • Observation of national and international days
  • Organizing social movement on issues of emergency
  • Undertaking WCC based cultural activities to raise awareness
  • Cultural training for WCC based cultural teams
  • Cultural training for local cultural groups
  • Cultural performance by WCC cultural teams
  • Women festival at regional level
  • Policy Advocacy Meeting at central level
  • Publication of Brochures and master manual

Undertaking activities with adolescents groups:

  • Adolescents group formation for next generation leadership
  • Orientation workshop with the adolescents on gender, rights and local government
  • Quarterly meeting of the adolescents groups

Organizational Capacity Building:

  • Staff development training on management and finance
  • Staff orientation on project related issues
  • Quarterly staff meeting
  • Exposure visit in-country and abroad

Other activities include monthly meeting of the women organizations (WC, WCC, UCC), quarterly meeting of UzC.

Project Impact

Women leaders are preparing to contest in the next UP election of 2008 in general seats as well as reserved seats to initiate their direct involvement in local government. Some women leaders have already won in bi-elections against male contestant in the general seats. The women leaders are in active coordination with the local level (Union and Upazilla) administration and service providers to ensure services, rights and privileges for the women community. The social action and movement by the women leaders are satisfactory through their participation in local affairs like local Salish, protest for any act of violence against the women and children and various women issues at the local level. The women leaders’ participation in local level arbitration has enhanced largely and it has made the arbitration process and the responsible persons more accountable and transparent. At times, they are playing the third party role in local arbitration. They are also keeping close contact with the district level legal aid organizations. Some members are attending arbitration on a regular basis and the community often seeks their advice and support on various legal issues. The women community is more united and looks for solution to their problems and participates in activities pertaining to the social, economical, political and cultural fields alongside the male counterparts of their locality. The LEBs and the community leaders have accepted the WCC leaders. The women leaders are engaged in rapport building with GO and NGOs and local level service providers in getting due services. They are in open discussion on social and other issues with the local government institutions, Government institutions and other non-government organizations for the betterment of the women community and to get better services and privileges for the women including justice and establishment of rights. The WCC/UCC leaders have become involved in many local committees as active members like Bazar Committee, Puja Committee, Masjid Committee and School Managing Committee etc. The women leaders are more gender sensitive and trying to induce gender equality at the family level as well as in the community level. 96 Adolescent groups at the WCC level of the project area are aware of rights, governance, gender and various women issues. They play the supportive roles to the women organizations. The women leaders have developed capacity to organize observation of various national and international Days as well as organizing cultural programs of Women organizations. A skilled team of Management staff looks after the project. The project staffs appear capable to implement the project activities effectively with adequate knowledge on the issues that they need to deal with. They are also guided with HID values and principles of Rupantar. Project evaluation as well as staff performance evaluation is revealed periodically through Self-evaluation A Master Manual shows details of the project and may be used as a guide in developing a replica to this project Women attending meetings at local level are vocal against early marriages, the dowry system and violence against women. They are trying to arrange dowry free marriages and prevent child marriages in the community. They are also involved in other community work, such as keeping birth, death and marriage registration records on a regular basis and submitting them to the Union Parishad offices. In the cultural area, there is an enthusiasm among women to participate and organize cultural activities. Some of the leaders showed great enthusiasm in their prospect of participating in the local government election process. They gained confidence about themselves and are willing to work along side men to demand what is right for them and for the society. As a result during the Union Parishad election of 2003 as many as 28 numbers of WCC leaders contested directly with the male counterparts in their respective Ward level. Other 24 women leaders contested in the reserved women seats. Out of them 16 women leaders won in the contest. Rupantar organizes ‘Dialogue Sessions’ with chairman, members of UP, local community leaders having the objective of exchanging views on issues of common concern. In this respect, women leaders have opportunities to meet with elected representatives and community leaders and participate on community matters.

Best Practices of the Project Development of Women Organization at the Grassroots Level: This activity is unique for this project as we do not find any such women organization anywhere in the country where the women have developed organizational activities without going for micro-credit and other financial activities. The women leaders proved to be successful in their area by dint of their rapport building activities and coordination with the local male leaders as well as the Local Government Representatives through issue-based dialogue meeting with them. The women leaders at WCC/UCC level brought several cases of violence against women and other social issue pertaining to the women community in general to the LEBs for Local Salish (arbitration) and in most cases the women leaders had pioneering role in local Salish as active member of the Salish Committees. They also organized protest in many occasions and in such conditions where victims did not get the legal support and assistance from the law enforcing authorities. Thus, protest enhanced justice at the local level. The WCC based women leadership at the local level initiated coordination with the local NGOs and Civil society groups and made regular liaison with the government and other service providers to ensure access to various services and privileges for the community people, especially for the women and children. The WCC/UCC initiated activities to get due support from the male counterparts of the community and as such there had been activities other than coordination meeting like gender orientation for couples and social activities along with the male people of the community. We find that during river bank erosion in Batiaghata in 2003 where the women members of WCC/UCC participated directly in the repairing work to protect the river embankment. They also participated in road repairing works in Kailashganj in 2005 and on many other such occasions. The development of adolescent girls group and associating the adolescent boys in gender orientation is the starting point that, in future, will lead to a gender equitable society and create a working environment where male and female will enjoy equal working opportunity to work together. The WCC based women leaders have developed cultural groups in their respective WCC who perform cultural shows on various national and international Days and other occasions. Through the performances, the cultural activists focus certain social issues and try to aware the mass people on positive outlook for the issues. The women organizations at the grassroots level organize observation of various national and international Days through women gathering, rally and discussion meeting followed by cultural performances that initiate mass awareness for the community. Through various types of training such as leadership, gender and development, organizational development, social analysis, socio-cultural and political roles of the women etc., the ability of the women leaders in the area is established and the community people accepted the women leadership through their approaches to these leaders for various problems asking for suggestions and solutions. Many of the women leaders have established their leadership through getting positioned at various local committees like school management committee, bazaar committee, Madrasa and Masjid committee, Puja Committee and nevertheless in the Standing committees of the Union Parishads. The training on legal aids to the women leaders has a great impact on them through which they could learn of the norms of laws especially the family laws and they could effectively handle many small issues at their initiative and intervention.

Project Funding: Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation

Improving Local Level Governance

Project Description: After the severe attack of cyclone Sidr to vast coastal area of Bangladesh, various international and national level humanitarian aid organizations came forward with relief and rehabilitation support to the affected people. The local government representatives played vital and positive role in traditional manner. However, they manifested lack of professionalism and capacity as well as failed to ensure peoples participation in the process. Accountability and transparency were also questionable.

Due to less capacity of local government and lack of people's participation a huge lapses were noticed as regards to accountability and transparency in Sidr response activities. The affected people and their elected representatives did not have proper information and data about relief and rehabilitation activities implemented by the National-International Humanitarian aid organizations in their area. As a result, the relief and rehabilitation works did not bring any remarkable impact. In fact, without peopleand their representatives' participation, sustainable result is hard to achieve.

The reality is that for sustainable development two types of response from the local level is needed; the first one is Local Elected Bodies' (LEBs) skill and knowledge with commitment and the second one is the people's active participation. This can assist in the effective implementation of post-disaster activities in minimizing misuse of allocated resource and overthrow undue interventions from any quarter. The local governments need to be more democratic with skill and capacity in terms of financial and administrative management. At the same time national-international humanitarian aid group and the government should give emphasis in making local government centre of all disaster related activities.

Disasters held back development and progress. Poverty and vulnerability go hand-in-hand, of course, do not completely overlap. Not all disasters affect the poorest most, yet poorer people tend to be both more exposed and susceptible to disaster, suffer greater loss of assets, and have a lower capacity to cope and recover. Furthermore, disasters can induce poverty, making better-off people poorer. Poverty reduction can expedite through using relief materials with accountability & transparency & with peoples participation.

Rupantar has been working on disaster management since 2002 and has gained practical experience in training the Disaster management Committee members and local people. As well, it has been undertaking training for the Local Elected Bodies on various issues including Disaster Risk Reduction. On line with this, it has now become important that further steps be undertaken towards initiating local citizens' involvement and capacity building of the Local Government representatives as well as capacitating the Disaster Management Committees to organize coordinated efforts with transparency and accountability for all disaster related activities.

We believe that the local government and disaster management committees if are confident and have capacity to save life and properties in the event of a disaster, can effectively reduce vulnerability.

Awareness allows people to protect themselves in their everyday life through their professional responsibilities. Understanding of disaster risks also increases the effectiveness of early warning and responding appropriately for safety and security. Awareness also fosters changes in behavior leading towards a culture of risk reduction.

Principal objectives of the project

Build the capacities of the target local governments through training and technical assistance to ensure restored and improved public service delivery to the Sidr affected communities. Integrate the target government organs more closely into the government conducted Sidr relief distribution system and improve the transparency, equity and accountability of the whole distribution system. Strengthen the financial and administrative management capacity of local governments to safeguard and properly utilize public funds. Increase the capacity of local elected officials and citizen group to prepare for and mitigate the impact of future natural disaster.

Expected outcomes: Improved local government’s management and technical skills to serve the communities affected by cyclone Sidr Increased Citizen Participation in Local government decision making process and oversight Ensured restoration of basic public service delivery through local government involvement in the target area

Project Area:

214 local governments including 4 Pourashavas under 25 Upazillas of Barguna, Patuakhali, Pirojpur, Bagerhat, Khulna, Norail, Dinajpur, Nilphamari, Rangpur and Lalmonirhat in southwest and northwest regions of Bangladesh.

Project Duration:

August 2008 to February 2011

Funded by: USAID Bangladesh

Citizen Initiative to Reduce Human and Civic Rights Violations towards Enhancing Local Governance in Khulna City

Project Goal

Reducing human rights violations at Khulna City Corporation by influencing governance through institutional approach ensuring community mobilization

Project Objectives To strengthen and sustain the Citizen’s Organization at Khulna City level in initiating activities towards prevention and protest against human and Civic rights violations To enhance urban governance through sensitized citizen of Khulna City Corporation by organized community mobilization interacting with the City Corporation on participatory budgeting, project planning and implementation process. To undertake advocacy at the City Corporation and other institutional level for ensuring peoples access to resources, services and opportunities To improve social accountability and responsiveness of the service providers for the citizens to various services like health and immunization, cleaning, electricity etc.

Project Area 31 City Wards of Khulna City Corporation

Project Duration Three years (May 2007 – April 2010).

Project Staff Male-12, Fe-male-05-Total-17

Project Activities

  • Capacity Building Training for Citizen Forum and its Apex Body
  • Committee Formation Workshop of Youth forum
  • Election Meeting for Youth forum
  • Bi-annual Election Meeting for Ward Level and Apex Body of Citizen Forum
  • Issue based Campaign Preparation Meeting with Youth Forum
  • Day Observation by the youth (World youth day and drug free Day)
  • By Laws Review Workshop for Citizen Forum
  • By Laws Preparation Workshop for Youth Forum
  • Training of Youth forum on Gender & Development, Governance and Leadership
  • Mass Awareness Campaign Through Cultural Media Using Pot song and folk Theatre
  • Materials & equipment for awareness- Booklet, Leaflet, Poster,Wall Painting, Citizens Bulletin,Sticker
  • Report Card/Score Card Survey
  • Quarterly Meeting with Apex Body
  • Dialogue with community service delivery institutions
  • Dialogue with City Mayor
  • Annual Central Conference of Citizen Forum
  • Workshop for the formation of city lawyers forum
  • Quarterly Meeting with Lawyers forum
  • Pre-budget discussion meeting with City Corporation
  • Monthly Meeting with ward Based Citizen Forum
  • Yard Meeting with the leader of Slum
  • Dialogue with of the citizen committee with ward Commissioners
  • Consultation Meeting on solid waste management (Ward Based)
  • Training on solid waste management of citizen leaders
  • Campaign for solid waste management
  • Mother’s Club for Slum Dwellers
  • Small Business Managment Training for Slum Dwellers

Project Impact

The citizens have become aware of their rights and privileges and also have become united to demand for their rights and privileges. The citizen show changed attitude and behaviour towards demanding for their rights and services and to bargain at the service provider’s level. Citizen forum developed the capacity to organize protest or movement against any human rights violation issues A favourable environment is created in which the Citizen Forum can effectively work on long term basis with the law enforcing authorities. The citizen Forum at the Ward level and the Apex body is being accepted by the people as an effective platform towards restoration of governance and human rights Discussions with various service delivery institutions/organizations including Khulna City Corporation in respect of electricity, health, narcotics control, water supply etc. have paved way to effectively improve such services for the benefits of the citizens. The dialogue with City Mayor and Commissioners responded to initiate better services like installation of more dustbins, street lights, eradication of street dogs, improvement of health services, repairing of roads, modernization of parks, public toilet and water supply that are benefiting the poor city dwellers. Majority of the City ward commissioners and the City Mayor are showing their agreement to the culture of accountability. They expect support from the Citizen Forum in this respect and agreed to take appropriate steps within their capacity and resources to any issue that would be identified and brought to their notice. In this respect they agreed to have at least two meetings in a year with the Citizen Forum. The project has incorporated more than 40% women in the Citizen Forum showing a positive attitude of the citizens towards gender sensitization.

Funding: Manusher jonno Foundation

Voter and civic education and observation of 9th parliamentary election

RUPANTAR and EWG: RUPANTAR is a Member of The Election Working Group- EWG. EWG is a non-partisan 32-member coalition of civil society organizations that share a common commitment to free and fair elections in Bangladesh.

All members of the EWG have committed to abide by the EWG Code of Ethics, which includes maintaining strict political neutrality in carrying out all EWG activities. The Code of Ethics also includes a Code of Conduct for the EWG Secretariat and for all field staff, volunteers and monitors engaged by the EWG, to ensure political neutrality in fulfilling their duties. The Code of Ethics would be administered by a panel of eminent citizens unaffiliated with the EWG or any political party. This panel will review all credible allegations of ethical violations raised against any EWG organization or individual and take action, including potential expulsion from the EWG, should a material breach of ethics occur.

The EWG believes that free and fair elections are a foundation for establishing trust between the people and government of Bangladesh, a partnership that forms the basis of a successful democracy and the social and economic development of the country. Free and fair elections lay the ground for a culture of accountable democratic representation and good governance, and ultimately the prosperity of the country.

With coordinating support from The Asia Foundation and financial support from a consortium of international development partners, the EWG worked to contribute to the 9th parliamentary election through a three-pronged strategy:

  • Domestic election monitoring , including pre- and post-election observation and Election Day monitoring at every polling booth in the country;
  • Voter and civic education initiatives in all 300 electoral constituencies;
  • Select electoral reform advocacy.
  • Rupantar played its active role in implementing the strategic issues of EWG.
  • The voter and civic education of the EWG focuses on a set of six themes identified by the coalition as priority areas for the upcoming election. *These themes are:
  • Prevention of election-related violence
  • Democratic representation and accountability
  • Women’s equal participation in voting and the electoral process
  • Full participation of ethnic and religious minorities and residents of hinterland char and hoar areas in the electoral process.
  • Full participation of disabled persons in the electoral process
  • Addressing the needs of first-time voters.

The EWG implemented community-level programs under the first two themes, and national awareness campaigns on all six areas. RUPANTAR as a partner of The Asia Foundation and Member of EWG provided all out support in the implementation process.

Mission and Objectives The mission of the Election Working Group is to contribute to peaceful, free and fair elections in Bangladesh and to help foster a genuine culture of democracy and the highest standards of integrity and accountability of governance.

The objectives To monitor the pre-election environment nation-wide and report on instances of election-related violence, election malpractice and the status of women and marginalized groups in the electoral process;

To monitor every polling booth in the country on Election Day to verify whether the election is conducted in a free and fair manner; To monitor the post-election environment and report on instances of violence or malpractice, should they occur; To reduce election-related violence through a) Pre-election monitoring and reporting, b) A national awareness campaign and c) Community level forums bringing together the community and police; To promote democratic representation and accountability through national and local level activities and encourage more substantive election campaigning; To promote the full participation of women, disabled persons, ethnic minorities and other marginalized groups in voting and the electoral process; To participate, when appropriate and in a non-partisan manner, in debates over electoral reform issues; In the long term, to promote higher standards of parliamentary governance and greater citizen participation in political affairs; and To strengthen the capacity of civil society organizations to promote free, fair, and peaceful elections and improved governance standards.

Activities and Programs

The activities of the EWG are carried out through a field network of district, thana, and union-level coordinators across the country. EWG organizations are responsible for specific geographic areas, ensuring complete national coverage. EWG activities fall broadly into two categories: election monitoring and voter and civic education.

Election Monitoring

Under the election monitoring program, the EWG monitored the pre-election, Election Day and post-election environment in all polling centers in the country. The EWG used its network members to conduct election monitoring, electoral reform advocacy and to prepare reports on the election process for the public, media and the government authorities. As part of election monitoring the EWG conducted:

Monitor the entire election process over several months, using standardized reporting formats and other common protocols for pre-election, Election Day, and post-election monitoring. Monitor the enumeration and preparation of the electoral roll. Pre-election, deploy specially-trained EWG coordinators who are responsible for program activities at the thana and union levels and who will play a lead role in long-term monitoring. EWG member organizations will monitor all aspects of the political environment, with particular emphasis on election violence and the security of religious and ethnic minorities, women, and other groups that are especially vulnerable to violence or intimidation. On Election Day, deploy trained EWG stationary and mobile monitors at every polling station across the country Monitor the post-election environment, with a focus on post-election violence and the security of communities that are especially vulnerable to violence. Monitor the response of the BEC to formal legal claims of election irregularities and to EWG findings and recommendations. EWG Reporting, BEC Cooperation and Collaboration with International Observers

To ensure the efficient collection, analysis, documentation, and reporting of election monitoring reports, all EWG member organizations followed special data collection, cleaning, and analysis systems and procedures to ensure the accuracy of reporting, assisted the EWG Secretariat to issue timely and informed comments on the integrity of the election, and compile a detailed record that would serve as a reliable baseline for future monitoring efforts. A special EWG committee of member organizations maintained communication and coordination with the BEC. EWG member organizations worked in close collaboration with international observer missions to provide quality information and guidance as domestic specialists that advised on the deployment of international observers. Voter and Civic Education:

Voter and civic education focused on six themes for the 9th parliamentary election: election violence prevention; democratic representation and accountability; first-time voters (youth vote); women’s participation in elections and political affairs; ethnic and religious minorities; and disabled persons.

Voter and civic education materials, methodologies, and general guidelines were designed and developed centrally by committees of EWG member organizations, and were distributed throughout the EWG network.

The main elements of the voter and civic education activities were:

  • A national poster and leaflet campaign featuring posters on each theme.
  • National TV talk shows and animated features exploring different aspects of the main thematic areas.
  • National activities raising awareness and promoting dialogue on certain key issues, including the voter roles and election violence.
  • National and local voter’s guides to compare the platforms of each political party, and potentially local guides comparing the platforms of individual candidates.

Funded by: The Asia Foundation