GramBangla Unnayan Committee

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Description of Ongoing Programs
Mobile School Program for the Bede River Gypsies
More than 95 percent of the 800,000 nomadic Bedes are illiterate in Bangladesh. Children of the Bede community are deprived of getting opportunity to attend a school because they have to roam throughout the year with their parents. Since Bede children do not have any opportunity to go to school so the mobile boat schools travel with the nomadic group to educate the Bede children. In a nomadic group one person is assigned with educational materials so that he or she can teach one group of nomadic children. Currently 21 mobile schools are operation. A UNESCO publication recognized this mobile school approach as a good practice of inclusive education. Directorate of Primary Education of the Ministry of Education (PEDP II), Research Initiatives Bangladesh, ActionAid Bangladesh, Bangladesh Freedom Foundation and Jamil-Sorwar Trust are supporting this program. The teacher also discusses about health education and rights of the Bedes with their community people during the meetings of the mobile school management committee. This innovative initiative encouraged other nomadic groups in education.

Rural Credit and Training Program (RCTP):
This program organizes the landless poor and socially excluded community through social mobilization. It provides credit and training to the poorest women and men and helps them initiate activities for generating income for their families. Microcredit program of GUC has been regarded as the most powerful means of income generation and poverty alleviation. The objective of microcredit program is manifold, encompasses areas such as group formation, savings in the name of group, skills training for group members, enhancing accounting, managerial and leadership capacity building of group members, who at the same time, take active part in the entire process of development programs of GUC. The sector-wise major fields of loan disbursement are small business, livestock, agriculture, fishing, agriculture equipment, low cost housing, land recovery, poultry, nursery, tube well, sanitary latrine and transport.

Mobile Early Childhood Care Development (ECCD) program:
With each of the mobile schools there is early childhood development activities. All the teachers and concerned program managers have been trained on ECCD by the expert team of Save the children, USA and CAMPE.

HIV/AIDS Program:
Since 2003 UNESCO has been extending their assistance to GUC for a Mosque Based HIV/AIDS awareness activities. GUC oriented 300 Imams i.e. Muslim religious leaders of Savar and Mongla upazilas on HIV and AIDS. In a rural Mosque around 100-500 people usually attend in the Jumma (Friday’s congregation). The aim of this itnervention is to impart knowledge and skills to the Imams so that in every Friday they talks about risks and ways of prevention of HIV & AIDS for 2-10 minutes before the Muslims. The trained Imams directly oriented around 100,000 people on HIV & AIDS and it has found that generally these people communicate these messages to their family members, neighbors and friends. GUC has published the “HIV & AIDS Training Manual for Imams and Religious Leaders” and many other types of Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials e.g. poster, leaflet, newsletter, flipchart on HIV and AIDS. GUC conducted 24 orientation workshops through
experienced local NGOs on the roles of religious and community leaders and other key stakeholders in response to HIV/AIDS in 24 districts of Bangladesh. Each of the person oriented or trained on HIV & AIDS facilitates 10 orientation sessions with women of village microcredit associations (samity). Already 6370 discussion sessions were organized to orient around 200,000 rural women on HIV & AIDS. GUC imparted capacity building training to 120 development workers, local and religious leaders from 120 NGOs from all over Bangladesh to develop 120 Master Trainer on HIV & AIDS.

Housing Program for the Rural Poor:
Grambangla Unnayan Committee is implementing a low cost housing program for the rural poor, homeless people and people affected by natural disasters. The project is being funded by the Housing Fund of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh through the Bangladesh Bank, the central bank of Bangladesh. Under this project the eligible are given Tk.27,500/- (US$.400) for a period of 5 years with a simple 5 percent yearly interest rate. The houses under this project are of 220-250 square feet (20–23 square meter). The construction materials are corrugated tin, wood and concrete (RCC) pillar.

Training on Arsenic Mitigation:
Grambangla Unnayan Committee organized 5 community campaign meetings to raise awareness about arsenic contamination in groundwater. Through this initiative GUC facilitated the villagers to test their tube wells’ water to determine arsenic in the tubewell’s water. GUC also made aware the community people on the preventive measures for arsenic contamination in groundwater.

Program for Risk reduction in Solid Waste Management:
Child laborers, destitute women and drug users of Dhaka city are engaged in collection of solid waste and disposal of it in the municipal bin using a van, collection of waste paper from municipal bins. These people get injured or infected during waste collection and suffer from many types of health hazards. GUC is engaged in orientation of these people on risk reduction in waste collection and disposal and solid waste management activities. GUC works in partnership with the Dhaka City Corporation in one ward.

Capacity Building through Skill Training:
Rural women as well as Bede women are trained on entrepreneurial capacities e.g. literacy, simple calculation, simple accounting, business planning and livelihood training on different skill trades e.g. sewing, poultry raising, block-batik printing, food and snacks preparation, paper bag making or any other prospective trade based on local market demand. Two training centers are in operation in two Dhaka and Barisal. After imparting training the trained women are given microcredit for involving them in income generation activities.

Disaster Management Program:
Grambangla Unnayan Committee has developed a disaster response mechanism by undertaking timely relief and rehabilitation and livelihood security programs. It has provided food, clothes, medical services and house reconstruction materials to the flood victims of 2004 and cyclone victims of 2007.

Social Forestry Program:
GUC assisted 8 nursery development initiatives. The group members of GUC has developed this nurseries. Moreover, GUC planted trees along 10 kms of road-ways, embankments and dikes.

Nutrition Promotion and Kitchen Gardening Program:
Grambangla Unnayan Committee is working in the field of nutrition promotion for the malnourished children and mothers. GUC beliefs in community based solution of this problem so it promote kitchen gardening to produce vegetable by the poor villagers and to aware people on low cost solution for collecting nutritious food from their community. GUC distributes seed of vegetable for cultivating vegetable. GUC also provide microcredit for poultry rearing and fishery so that the village people have the opportunity to have protein and to sell those products in the local market for money earning. Eventually these initiatives promote nutrition situation of an area.

Child Labor Elimination Program:
Child Labor Elimination Program through Illiteracy Eradication and Skill Development is one of the most oldest program of Grambangla Unnayan Committee. In Jhalokati and Patuakhali Districts, GUC is operating night schools for the child labourers who are working as domestic labourers, restaurant workers and porters. Apart from implementing night school program for the child laborers, GUC also impart skill development training especially to the female child laborers. Currently 42 formerly female child laborers are working at a production centre of GUC as a sewing operator.

Bare Food Doctor Training Program:
GUC imparts training on health education and health care to the traditional healers and Kabirajs (herbal medicine practitioners) to promote health of the poorest of the poor who are the users of health services of the traditional healers and Kabirajs. GUC developed a 22 days’ training module to train them. Already 40 persons who are traditionally engaged in health care services have been imparted this training.

Human Rights program:
GUC organizes discussion at the village level to discuss and to take initiative against sexual violence, violence against women and children, violence against workers especially garment workers, domestic violence, acid violence, Fatwa related violence, extortion by the state and non-state actors. GUC also advocates for promoting the conditions of prisoners i.e. overcrowding, unhygienic conditions and ill treatment of prisoners leading to a high number of casualties. GUC works for promoting rights of the socially excluded communities e.g. nomadic Bedes, cobblers or charmakers, sweepers, kowra or pig rearing community. GUC works with these communities to promote their rights to education and health, rights to land, livelihood, habitat and personal security. GUC tries to promote the overall human rights situation stressing especially on rights of the disabled, rights of child, rights of migrant workers, right to education, right to health, right to shelter and safe environment. GUC organized 67 community meetings to orient and to make conscious the community people on human rights issues so that they become proactive in promoting human rights situation in their community. Currently GUC is imparting training on human rights for the women of Sweeper, Cobbler, Bede and Cowra communities.

Promoting Rights and Access to Services of the People with Disabilities:
GUC has organized 18 advocacy workshops to promote enabling environment for the children with disabilities in schools. GUC has already organized 50 community meetings with the teachers of local government primary schools, members of School Management Committee and community leaders. As a result in the concerned areas children with disabilities are now getting enrolled in the local government primary school in a increased rate and thus inclusive education is being promoted at the community level.

Fish culture:
Fish culture has been adopted as a means of poverty alleviation for the marginal farmers. The members of the Village Organizations (VOs) collectively take initiative for fishery project. Members of the village organizations in association with the GUC took 9 ponds as lease. They re-excavated those ponds according to the advice of the local fishery officer and started fish cultivation. Members of the VOs and GUC jointly implement the project on share basis where members of VOs has 50 percent share and GUC has 50 percent share.

Health, Water & Sanitation Program:
From the inception of GUC, it has been working for promoting curative and preventive health care of the local people. During 2004-05 Grambangla Unnayan Committee provided health services to 2000 people. GUC also provide interest free loan to install sanitary latrine and tube wells. GUC provided interest free loan to 256 households to install sanitary latrine and organized community 287 meetings in 39 villages to promote use of safe water i.e. germ free and arsenic free water. Grambangla Unnayan Committee has built a mobile training centre (small water transport i.e. engine boat which is 50 feet long and 18 feet wide).

Dissemination of Improved Cook Stove:
Grambangla Unnayan Committee is implementing a project to disseminate improved cook stoves with assistance from German Technical Cooperation (GTZ). These improved cook stoves saves 60 percent biomass fuel than traditional cook stoves. These cook stoves save fuel, conserve environment and improve health of the people.

Right to Information:
Grambangla Unnayan Committee is implementing a project on “Right to Information” with assistance from Mass Line Media Centre and Article 19, UK to ensure access to information for poverty alleviation, strengthening democracy and transparency guarantee.