Since the end of 2009, Mati and Stiftung Brücke* have cooperated on implementing parts of the Millennium Development Goals in a participatory approach, together with the villagers of Harguzirpar, 5 km out of Mymensingh town, District Mymensingh in Bangladesh.
The organisation Mati was founded in 1998 through the personal conviction of its founder Lenen Rahaman, that extreme poverty in rural Bangladesh is a severe form of injustice (as it is anywhere else in the world), which cannot be tolerated in any society that claims to be civilized. From the beginning, poverty reduction through people's empowerment, especially women's, and self-defined, participatory development methods were at the core of Mati's activities.
Mati wanted to understand about the way projects were implemented in communities. The affected parties, i.e. the poor, are seldom included, and do not really participate at a grass roots level.
The village of Harguzipara near Mymensingh, appeared to be an appropriate place since no other NGO works directly in this village, and 70% of the almost 300 households are in the poor or extreme poor categories.
Evaluation of the Work 2010-2012
At the end of October 2012, Mati asked the villagers to evaluate the work of the past two years. People started to evaluate more precisely every part of the project through a participatory method adapted to the fact that most of the families are illiterate.
In discussions with groups of 20-25, the villagers described the strengths and weaknesses of the different areas and assessed them via a color scale. At the same time, the participants were encouraged to provide solutions to problems and ideas for further improvement.
The results of this evaluation and the suggestions of the villagers are reflected in the recommendations for 2013. The evaluation took two days of preparation, four days in the village itself, two days of data analysis and feedback, and two days for drawing up the reports.
Overview of the project activities and results with focus on 2012
MDG 1: Between 1990 and 2015: Halve the proportion of people who live in poverty, especially in extreme poverty on less than one dollar a day.
Around 70% of the 300 households in Harguzirpar belong into that group. To move towards that goal, the inhabitants decided that income possibilities for women should be created though vocational training possibilities and loans for income-generating activities (link to MDG 3: eliminate gender disparity). Consequently, a) a sewing training facility was set up in the community center of the village and b) access to interest-free loans was arranged via the women groups and their savings program, accompanied by advice on debt-clearance and motivation not to take further micro-credits from NGOs who charge high interests.
Sewing Training for Women and Girls in Harguzirpara’s community center
The aim is to access sources of income for women through qualified training possibilities, which in turn helps them to improve the family conditions. Since day one, the course is being led by Rotna (18 years old), a young woman from the village, who was also able to improve her own skills over time and whose social status within the community has increased visibly since.
44 women have successfully completed the sewing training since its start at the end of 2010
26 women completed the training in three courses throughout 2012
10 women are participating in the current course which will finish in 2013
24 women have accepted a sewing machine on credit
13 women now earn an income between 500 and 1500 Tk (5-15 €). This still excludes the 4 women who have just accepted a sewing machine.
Younger girls are interested in the training in order to improve their prospects in choosing a husband. Several women have taken the course to be able to make inexpensive garments for their own families.
Stiftung Brücke has financed 25 sewing packages in 2011 and 20 packages in 2012. As not all women who completed the course also accepted a sewing machine, some funds are still available to finance further trainings.
The overall assessment of the course was very positive. Some women remarked that they did not accept a sewing machine after completing the course, because they already had another outstanding loan with Mati. One woman explained her lack of experience kept her from taking up orders. Another woman said it was a problem that if you did not take the machine immediately after the course, you quickly loose the newly acquired skills.
In future the women will be able to take a sewing machine, even if they have another outstanding loan. The weekly repayment will increase only minimal, depending on the individual family situation.
Mati will offer retraining courses of 2-3 weeks to graduates from earlier courses. These will be held after each regular course, depending on the demand. Once the current running course finishes in June 2013, a retraining course will be offered.
The issue of gaining orders from outside the village will have to be tackled by the women themselves. Mati suggested setting up a cooperative, but so far without success. Mati will further try to encourage them to produce simple children’s clothes and sell them a Mati stall in Mymensingh in June, where other Mati products also will be sold. This can be a test, if some women are able to produce for a market outside the village.
*Stiftung Brücke (the Bridge Foundation) helps people living in poor regions to free themselves from extreme poverty by developing lasting alternatives. It is a bridge to self help and self reliance.
To read the rest of Mati's Annual Report on their activities and developments in the Millennium Village please download their full report here: