Women are taking the lead on Swandip Island
December 1, 2009
As you make your way into the center of the village where the EKATA (Empowerment Knowledge and Transformative Action) Group meetings are held, you are met with a wall of posters blowing in the reeze covering everything from the Bangla alphabet to the list of EKATA Group member’s names, and awareness raising posters on violence against women. It is just one of the signs that the member’s of this women’s empowerment group are working together well to solve some of the community’s roblems.
With assistance from the SHOUHARDO program and Society for Development Initiatives (SDI), a
national Non Government Organisation, the women of Uccharpara Village in the Rahamatpur Upazilla on Swandip Island are coming together to problem solve issues at the local level. Not only are they doing things on their own like building a road to improve communications and access to schools during the monsoon season, they are participating in local governance through having representation on the local Union Parishad Nari O Shishu Nirjaton Protirodh Committee (NNPC) Standing Committee which focuses on stopping violence against women, the local Village Development Committee, and through developing linkages with local service providers such as CARITAS, Bangladesh Nari Progoti Shongha (BNPS), and local Government.
At today’s meeting the women are eager to talk about the four early marriages they have stopped in the village, explaining how they educate the parents about the pitfalls of marrying their daughters early.
“We tell the parents early marriage is dangerous for their daughter. They face health problems if they have babies too early, they could be mistreated by their husband or their mother in law, and will not receive an education,” says Nasima Aktar, the EKATA President.
As well as educating the parents, the EKATA members support the girls themselves by paying
their school fees, and raising awareness about the importance of waiting until they are over eighteen before getting married. The women are also actively involved in addressing domestic abuse, and have intervened in more than one household to educate both women and men that violence against
By following the SHOUHARDO approach for developing sustainable progress in the area of women’s empowerment, the EKATA members are making changes both at the local level, and at the Upazilla level. With representatives on the NNPC Union Parishad Committee, Union Disaster
M anagement Committee Standing Committee, and members in the Village Development and Parent Teacher Association Committees, the women are representing themselves and the rest of the community in areas as varied as local infrastructure and access to water, through to child education, income generating activities, and the rights of women.
As well as having representation in local governance, every woman in the EKATA Group contributes to a combined savings account, which saves 320 taka per week. They began saving in February 2008, and since then two women who are not EKATA members have also started giving monthly contributions after hearing about the initiative, which is a demonstration of how well received the group is in the community. The funds are put aside to pay for local infrastructure projects, to support income generation, and as part of their disaster preparedness.
As the day draws to a close, and the afternoon sun casts a warm light over the village, we listen to the community’s plans to continue their hard work well beyond the life of the SHOUHARDO program which finishes in September this year. Nasima is being trained by the EKATA Volunteer to take over leadership of the group from September, and the women are focused through their Community Action Plan to address six priority areas: roads and communication infrastructure, education, sanitation, awareness of land rights, addressing school drop-outs, and continuing to raise awareness regarding early marriage and dowry. Under Nasima’s eadership, and with the skills, training and resources provided by the SHOUHARDO program, the women of Uccharpara Village are looking forward to a future that holds more opportunities than ever before, opportunities they are pioneering themselves.
By Lyrian Fleming, Regional Communications Assistant
SHOUHARDO, CARE Bangladesh
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