RUPANTAR committed to development through social transformation
Rupantar is founded in 1992, and started its operations from 1994 in Khulna and Bagerhat district. At the beginning activities were mainly cultural; Rupantar activists performed theaters and popular folk music on various social issues. The fundamental principal of Rupantar is based on the hypothesis that culture and sustainable development are closely connected. This connection is an emerging concept in the development world. Although the identity of a society is largely determined by its culture, yet is difficult for any society to have a static sense of the culture. Both society and culture are changing simultaneously. The connection between culture and development works at least in three ways. First, cultural diversity can be used as a national asset for developing the tourism industry. Therefore, it is essential to restore and preserve heritage, various traditions, folk songs, dances, dramas and theatre etc. Secondly, culture can be used as a means for building awareness among people, especially among the illiterate. In this respect, theater, folk songs and other indigenous forms of entertainment can be used to raise awareness and inform people of new ideas. This form of entertainment media can also be used to strengthen the participatory process, organizational capacity building, conflict resolution and towards ensuring good governance. Thirdly, culture can be used to counter the negative forces or impacts that prevail as social customs, norms and beliefs having detrimental effects on economic and social development. Rupantar attempts to address culture-development connection in all three ways. In facilitating social transformation, they undertakes initiatives for advocacy and raising awareness, disseminating information at the grassroots levels, etc. by using culture. They promote theaters, popular publications and traditional folk songs to communicate developmental and other social issues to the people. They revive, restore and use various forms of local culture. They use positive culture to remove prejudice, incorrect information, myths, superstitions, etc. and in the process try to unite the community and build social cohesion. The workers of Rupantar are mainly activists with extensive experience in working at the grassroots level. Over the years, they have developed the capacity to organize people at the grassroots level and an understanding about the dynamics of a society. In addressing social issues, they are practical, result-oriented, innovative and risk-taker. The organizational structure of Rupantar is not vary hierarchical in nature, and has shown good team spirit. These characteristics are essential for undertaking activities in areas of socio-political development at the grassroots level.
Development Of Rupantar
Rupantar is registered as NGO in December 1992. The field activities of Rupantar started in 1995 initially with cultural activities using alternative theatre, folk drama and popular publications for the grassroots poor male-female. Rupantar has always been implementing new activity with the past field experience and learning. Rupantar to-day stands as a unique development organization with special characteristics towards contributing in mainstream development process in Bangladesh. Rupantar started research with the local folk culture of the Sundarbans Region to find out the scope for mainstreaming the folk culture in development. After a great deal of research Rupantar identified a number of about to be extinct folk cultural media that were used as education and communication media in the past. These cultural media are being developed and updated to be used as communication media. One of the important media is the POT SONG. The Pot song got extinct in the last one hundred years or so. Rupantar became acquainted with this form of cultural media from a few old cultural activists of the Sundarbans area in the year 1996. The awareness at the grassroots level through theatre and popular publication became well known to many in a very short period of time. The methodology of awareness campaign using cultural media and popular publication is known as “Rupantar Method of Development Communication” and it drew the attention of many government and non-government organizations and international development communication specialists. And thus Rupantar continue to receive due advantages of receiving donors funding for various projects. In course of very short span of time Rupantar has been working in partnership with donors like USAID, SDC, Manusher Jonno Foundation, OXFAM, Plan Bangladesh, Save the Children-UK, UNICEF, Water Aid, LGED, Sida-Swedish ITI, The Asia Foundation, CARE and IOM with projects dealing with Women leadership development (empowerment) at the grassroots level, Improving local level governance by strengthening Union Parishads, Reducing vulnerability to Climate Change, Environment and Disaster management, Reflect education and awareness, Water resource management, Bio-diversity Conservation of the Sundarbans, Women Empowerment at the Union Parishads level, Reducing Violence against women and gender disparity, Prevention of trafficking of women and children, Child Theatre Education etc. Rupantar has the view of working for the people without going for any direct service delivery like services on health, education, relief, rehabilitation and micro-credit. Rupantar believes that people if are aware of their problems and go for solution with determination, can effectively do everything at their own initiative for their own betterment and development. Development is a long-term process and calls for people’s participation in the right direction with aspirations. Rupantar works in the establishment of people’s rights, aware the people for the right direction with positive outlook for development through the utilization of Rupantar Method of Development Communication. Most of the people of Rupantar come from the folk cultural atmosphere and so continue to search for better forms of communication process for cultural media and popular publication. The cultural activity of Rupantar also encompasses the Grassroots Theatre Forum, a networking of cultural groups of the southwestern region of Bangladesh and perhaps, it is the biggest cultural network of the country having 58 cultural organizations as members.