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ADVISOR
Senait Gebregziabher
Soumya Brata Guha
EDITOR
Tony Michael Gomes
EDITORIAL BOARD FOR THE ISSUE
Shamim Ahsan Khan
Sarah F Carpenter
Md Abu Hanif
PHOTOGRAPHS
Salma Sultana
Saikat Mojumder
Tanjimul Islam
Kuntal
COVER PHOTO
Tony Michael Gomes

DISCLAIMER

Plan is committed to ensuring the security, privacy and dignity of all the children that we work with. All
copyrights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval system or transmitted,
in any form or by any means without prior permission of Plan International Bangladesh.
Please mail at plan.bangladesh@plan-international.org for more information.

COUNTRY DIRECTORS MESSAGE

A warm welcome to Plan International


Bangladeshs third issue of Learning 4 Change. We
are pleased to bring you this publication to share
our learning and evidence on issues affecting
children in Bangladesh. This issue reflects the
diversity of Plans work by bringing you articles
on childrens right to health, economic security
and protection.
This issue shares the results of our extensive
maternal and child care study that surveyed over
1,200 pregnant and recently delivered women
to assess knowledge, attitudes and practices. It
showcases Plans commitment to girls and young
women by sharing our learning from two successful
protection projects aimed at empowering girls
and young women against violence through selfdefence training and social protection groups.
This issue also shares our learning from using
mobile money transfers to deliver cash assistance to
populations affected by Tropical Storm Mohasen.

This was the first time that this technology was


used at a large scale in Bangladesh and were
pleased to share our experience. It also features
our learning from partnering with the garment
sector to provide training and apprenticeships for
nearly two thousand marginalized youth.
I hope this publication encourages you to engage
with Plan International Bangladeshs programming
and research so that more children can realize
their rights and fill their potential. Together we
can continue to achieve lasting improvements
in the quality of life of children everywhere.
Together we can continue to transform the lives
of the worlds youngest citizens.

Senait Gebregziabher
Country Director
Plan International Bangladesh

Photo: Baby delivered by a community skilled birth attendant

Community Skilled Birth Attendants:


A Perception Survey
Dr. Ikhtiar Uddin Khandaker3

BACKGROUND
Bangladesh has achieved remarkable progress in
reproductive health during the last decades. However,
rates of maternal, neonatal and child mortality remain
high compared to other developing countries. A
2010 study revealed a maternal mortality ratio of
194 per 100,000 live births despite a 40% decline
in the last decade [1]. Under-five mortality declined
from 133 to 53 per 1,000 live births between 1994
and 2011 according to Bangladesh demographic and
health survey data [2]. However, newborn mortality
experienced slower rates of decline in the same period
(52 to 33 per 1,000 live births between 1994 and
2011). Indeed, newborn deaths account for 70% of all
infant deaths in Bangladesh [2].
The overall proportion of deliveries attended by skilled
birth attendants increased more than fivefold in the
last two decades in Bangladesh - from 5% in 1991 to
26.5% in 2010 [1] however these rates remain very
low. A 2010 survey called the Utilization of Essential
Service Delivery shows that the proportion of skilled
attendance at birth is seven times lower among the
poorest households (9%) compared to the richest
households (63%) and that it is almost three times less
frequent in rural areas compared to urban areas [4].
The Government of Bangladesh has committed to
achieve Millennium Development Goals (MDG) 4 and
5, which are to reduce child mortality by two-thirds
(target for under-five and infant mortality is 50 and
31 per 1,000 live births respectively) and maternal
mortality by three-quarters (target is 143 per 100,000
live births) by 2015. Its Health, Population and
Nutrition Sector Development Program (HPNSDP)
2011-2016 identifies the improvement of antenatal
care (ANC) and postnatal care (PNC) coverage as well
as delivery by skilled persons as priority areas. It aims
to increase the number of institutional births while also
increasing the utilization of Community Skilled Birth
Attendants (CSBAs) since home births still constitute
the majority (73%) of all births in Bangladesh [1].
Indeed, available data from 2013 shows that CSBAs
contributed only 0.3% of the total skilled attendance
at birth in Bangladesh and that they were performing
only 2 to 3 deliveries per month on average [6].

Plan International Bangladesh is a development


partner of the Government of Bangladesh. It supports
the governments strategy and plan to achieve the
goals and targets of the sector development program.
Accordingly, Plan is designing a Behavior Change
Communication pilot program to promote utilization
of CSBAs and strengthen referral linkages for maternal
and newborn complications between CBSAs and
referral sites at the district and divisional level in

three upazilas of the Lalmonirhat district. Plan is also


monitoring the performance of CSBAs and reporting
its findings and learning to the government to facilitate
the governments eventual scaling up of this program.
The program will align with and support the HPNSDP
(2011-16) objectives.
Plan conducted a research study to inform the design
of the Behavior Change Communication pilot program.
This article identifies the results of this study and their
impact on project design.
OVERVIEW OF THE STUDY
The overall objective of the study was to understand
the knowledge, attitude and practices regarding
maternal and child care of women who had a live
birth within 5 years preceding the survey (recently
delivered women) and women who were currently
pregnant. The study also assessed the awareness of
the community about CSBAs and their activities.
It also determined the utilization patterns of CSBAs
for ANC, PNC, delivery and childcare services and
identified barriers for utilization of CSBAs for maternal
and childcare services.
The study was conducted at three upazilas (Hatibandha,
Kaliganj and Patgram) of the Lalmonirhat district
using both quantitative and qualitative methods. A
multistage cluster sampling with PPS (probabilityproportional-to-size) method was designed to select
the target groups a) recently delivered women
(n=902); and currently pregnant women (n=390).
Data from these target groups was collected through
interviews using structured questionnaires that were
separately designed for each group. Qualitative
information related to the perception of CSBAs, their
activities, utilization and barriers was collected from
the community (such as husbands, in-laws, community
groups, service providers, etc.), local government
members, and upazila health and family planning
managers through focus group discussions and key
informant interviews. Data was analyzed descriptively
to fulfill the objectives of the study.
PROFILE OF THE RESPONDENTS
The study surveyed 902 recently delivered women
(women who had a live birth within 5 years preceding
the survey) and 390 currently pregnant women. The
mean age of recently delivered women respondents
was 25.4 years compared to 27.2 years for currently
pregnant women. About 90% of recently delivered
women surveyed were between 20-39 years of age.
In the case of currently pregnant women, about 70%
of them were in this age range. The majority of the
respondents were housewives (96% for recently

delivered women and 94% for currently pregnant


women) and a minority of them was uneducated (16%
for recently delivered women and 9% for currently
pregnant women).

(b) Places of Delivery

FINDINGS OF THE STUDY


(a) Rates of Antenatal and Postnatal Care

The study revealed that coverage for ANC was quite


good in the targeted upazilas, better than the national
average for rural areas but that coverage for PNC was
very low, both in absolute terms and in comparison
to the national average. The coverage for any ANC
and PNC by medically trained persons for recently
delivered women was 72% and 25% respectively
compared to the national average of 48.7% and 27%
(BDHS 2011, rural). The coverage for 4 or more ANC
and PNC, which is the minimum standard set by the
Government of Bangladesh and the World Health
Organization (WHO), was 45% and 4% respectively
compared to the national average of 19.8% (rural)
and 26% (total) (BDHS 2011, rural). A minority of
recently delivered women had correct knowledge on
number of ANC (23%) and PNC (13%) needed during
pregnancy/postpartum period. Pregnant women
were similarly uninformed with only 30% and 18%
of them having correct knowledge on ANC and PNC,
respectively.
Both ANC and PNC coverage for recently delivered
women varied across upazilas. Kaliganj had the highest
rates for 4 or more ANC and PNC of the three upazilas.
Patgram had similar ANC coverage levels to the other
upazilas but had the lowest rates for PNC. Hatibandha
had coverage levels that were in line with the other
upalizas except for 4 or more ANC where it faired
worse. These results are interesting since they dont
correspond well with the differing rates of women
who report correct knowledge on number of ANC and
PNC across upazilas. Knowledge on both ANC and
PNC among recently delivered women and pregnant
women was greatest among survey respondents in
Hatibanda and lowest in Patgram.

The study revealed that the rate of institutional delivery


in the Lalmonirhat district was relatively low compared
to the national figures. Only 16% of recently delivered
women delivered at hospital compared to the national
average of 23% of rural areas (BDHS 2011; rural). The
rates of institutional delivery differed greatly between
the upazilas studied from 7% in Patgram to about
20% in Kaliganj and Hatibandha.
The rate of institutional delivery exceeded the rate of
home delivery by a skilled person in all three upazilas
studied (6% compared to 16% at the district level).
About 60% of currently pregnant women surveyed in
Lalmonirhat plan on delivering at home. This rate was
highest in Patgram (73%) and lowest in Hatibandha
(43%), which corresponds inversely with the rates of
institutional delivery for recently delivered women in
these upazilas.
The gatekeepers (husbands, mothers and mother-inlaws) confirmed these findings by stating that most
of the deliveries in the village/union are conducted at
home by trained birth attendants or relatives. They,
however, perceived that delivery should be conducted
by trained persons to avoid problems.
(c) Meeting Pregnancy Related Needs

On the whole, the survey revealed that the pregnancyrelated needs of women are not being met. Although
22% of recently delivered women reported
complications during their last pregnancy, delivery or
postpartum period, only just over half of them report
their needs being met despite 78% of them consulting

a skilled person. Similarly, although about a quarter


of pregnant women surveyed reported complications
during pregnancy, only a little more than a third of
them report their needs being met despite 74% of
them consulting a skilled person.
(d) Knowledge of Neonatal Care
Knowledge of recently delivered women and currently
pregnant women on neonatal care was found to be
unsatisfactory in some subject areas but extremely
satisfactory in others. Among recently delivered
women, only 30% had correct knowledge on
exclusive breastfeeding for six months and 62% had
correct knowledge on bathing (after 3 days) of the
baby. However, knowledge among these women on
immediate drying and wrapping and giving colostrums
to newborns was almost universal.
(e) Contribution of CSBAs to ANC, PNC and
Delivery
Though better than the national figures, contribution
of CSBAs for ANC, PNC and home delivery was
found to be negligible. Overall, only 1.3% of recently
delivered women received ANC by a CSBA and only
1.2% received PNC by a CSBA. Hatibandha (2.7%)
had the highest rates of coverage for any ANC by a
CSBA of the three upazilas (1% in Patgram and 1.3%
in Kaliganj). Patgram (2.3%) had the highest rates of
coverage for any PNC by a CSBA of the three upazilas
(0.7% in Kaliganj and Katibandha).
Although six percent of the home deliveries were
conducted by skilled persons, CSBAs performed only
30% of these deliveries. This number varied greatly
in the three upazilas studied from a high of 42% in
Kaliganj to a low of 12% in Patgram. Moreover, only
6% of currently pregnant women plan on having a
CSBA deliver their baby.
(f) Perception about CSBAs, their utilization and
barriers

6
The gatekeepers were totally unaware of CSBAs in
the community and their activities as were a large
proportion of the community group members. Similarly,
only about 20% of recently delivered and pregnant

women were aware of CSBAs and their activities


though they had good attitude towards CSBAs. For
instance, although more than three-fourths of recently
delivered women did not have any information about
CSBA, or were aware of their responsibilities, about
90% of them would recommend CSBAs for ANC,
PNC and home delivery. These rates didnt differ
much between upazilas. A majority of frontline health
workers were aware of CSBAs and their activities.
Awareness was lower among trained birth attendants,
with only half reporting an awareness of CSBAs and
some of their activities. Trained birth attendants
expressed a positive attitude towards CSBAs, however,
and a willingness to cooperate with them.
From the perspective of community members, the
main reason for the low rate of home deliveries and
service provision by CSBAs is because CSBAs are not
familiar with local people. From the perspective of
frontline health workers, the reasons for not taking
assistance from CSBAs were that (1) CSBAs and their
activities are unfamiliar to the community; (2) no
promotional activities related to CSBA activities exist in
the community; and (3) there is an inadequate number
of CSBAs to fulfill the demand of the community. The
CSBAs working at the targeted areas admitted their
under-utilization, which they think stems from a lack
of community awareness about their presence and
activities. One of the main barriers of their utilization
that they cited is the presence of other health workers
(e.g., BRAC, RDRS) who provide services free of cost
while CSBAs charge service fees.
The community people opined that utilization of
CSBAs can be increased if they attend the community
level meetings and suggested that they promote
themselves by hanging their names, photographs
and mobile phone numbers on the community clinic
walls. Some of the participants also suggested that
providing more training to the CSBAs and providing
them incentives to increase their utilization rate will
increase uptake by the community. Frontline health
workers suggested the following measures to promote
CSBAs for maternal and child care services: (1) ensure
participation of CSBAs at different community level
meetings; (2) regular monitoring of CSBAs activities
by their supervisors and ensure accountability; (3)
provide some incentives and rewards; (4) provide
more training to CSBAs; (5) prepare and provide lists of
pregnant women to the CSBAs and; (6) ensure regular
communication with health assistants, family welfare
assistants and community health care providers.
CSBAs themselves recommended the following to
increase their utilization: (1) arrange more community
meetings, like uthan baouthak by CSBAs; (2) provide
CSBAs with adequate iron and vitamin tablets; (3)

raise awareness about CSBAs in the community; (4)


meetings and regular communications with family
welfare visitors and community healthcare providers
at union health and family welfare centers as well as
community clinics; and (5) give contact number of
CSBAs to each health center.

Recommendations Related to the


Design of the Behavioral Change
Communication Pilot
This study reported findings on the rates of ANC and
PNC, places of delivery, meeting pregnancy related
needs and knowledge of neonatal care to rationalize
the positioning of indicators related to CSBAs. As a
result, the following recommendations stem from
findings related to the contribution of CSBAs to ANC,
PNC and delivery as well as community perception of
CSBAs, their utilization and barriers.
(a) Behavioral Change Communication and other
promotional activities for CSBAs
The community may be confused about the skilled
maternal and child health service providers in the
field since several categories of service providers
(e.g., government, NGOs and private) are available at
grass root levels and only a few of them are skilled
(e.g., untrained family welfare assistants and health
assistants; and Sastha Kormi and community health
workers of NGOs). It would therefore be a challenge
to rightly introduce the CSBAs to the community as
skilled service providers for maternal and child health
services. The following specific Behavioral Change
Communication activities may be undertaken to
introduce the CSBAs and promote their activities in
the community:
Introduce a Behavioral Change Communication
program that includes stickers, posters, calendars,
theatre for development for general awareness of
the community on safe delivery and role of CSBAs.
Introduce CSBAs directly to pregnant women
by organizing periodical pregnant womens
gatherings. To improve confidence of the
community, encourage some of the women who
had delivery by CSBAs present in the gathering
to share her experience of delivery by CSBA at
home.
Seek opportunities to promote CSBAs
through local government bodies, community
groups, community support groups and other
opportunities (e.g., religious leaders etc.).

Promote CSBAs through community clinic


activities, such as by hanging their names,
photographs and mobile phone numbers on the
wall including their activities.
Improve coordination and collaboration with local
NGOs working in the field to share information of
pregnant women with CSBAs and promote CSBAs
through them.
To distinguish the CSBAs from other community
health workers, consider providing CSBAs with a
specific dress code (branding) that could be easily
recognized by the community.
Persuade field level health and family planning
staff to promote CSBAs for ANC, PNC and delivery
during pregnant women registration and birth
planning sessions and to share the list of pregnant
women with the CSBAs.
Encourage CSBAs to maintain good relationship
with government field workers (such as health
assistants, family welfare assistants, community
health care providers, health inspector, family
planning inspector), NGO workers, trained birth
attendants and village doctors in the locality.
(b) Improving monitoring
supervision of CBSAs

and

supportive

Supportive supervision is a facilitative approach to


supervision that promotes joint problem-solving,
mentorship and communication between supervisors
and supervisees. It promotes health care quality
by placing an emphasis on identifying and solving
problems. Monitoring also promotes health care
quality by strengthening accountability, management
capacity and learning from the field. The focus group
discussions and key informant interviews indicated
that there is no substantial monitoring and supportive
supervision of CSBA activities in the field. To develop
a supportive supervision monitoring system both for
public and private CSBAs, the study recommends that
the project select one skilled person (Medical Officer
with emergency obstetric care training or family
welfare visitor) at each of the upazilas to provide
supportive supervision. In addition to periodical field
visits, she/he should provide technical supports to
CSBAs through mobile phone consultation whenever
CSBAs face a problem in managing a patient in the
field. The study also recommends that the project
introduce a CSBA reporting format whereby CBSAs
will report their monthly performance to a focal
person (e.g., statistician or another selected person),
who will then compile the reports and present them in
the monthly coordination meetings for review.

(c) Other recommendations

References

Since the cost of CSBA services was a concern to


the community, the study suggests that the project
discuss with local government and local leaders the
possibility of fixing a reasonable fee that is affordable
and acceptable both to the community as well as by
private CSBAs. It also recommends that the project
introduce non-monetary incentives and rewards for
the CSBAs based on their performance.

1. USAID, Australian Government, UNFPA, MEASURE,


ICDDR,B, NIPORT. Bangladesh maternal mortality and
health care survey 2010: summary of key findings and
implications. NIPORT; 2011
2. NIPORT, Mitra and Associates, Macro International.
Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey 2010.
NIPORT; 2011
3. National Institute of Population Research and Training
(NIPORT), Mitra and Associates, Macro International.
Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey 2004.
NIPORT; 2005.
4. National Institute of Population Research and Training
(NIPORT), Associate for Community and Population
Research. Utilization of Essential Service Delivery
Survey 2010: Provisional Findings. NIPORT; 2011
5. Government of Bangladesh. Health, Population and
Nutrition Sector Development Programme 2011-2016.
Government of Bangladesh, Dhaka, 2011
6. Directorate General of Health Services, UNFPA.
Evaluation of the Community Based Skilled Birth
Attendant (CSBA) Program Bangladesh. DGHS; 2011

Karate:
Building Confidence,
Empowering Girls
Mohammad Masud, Sarahzin Ahmed
Jolly Nur Haque and Sarah Carpenter
9

INTRODUCTION
Violence and discrimination against girls and young
women is a serious and complex problem that is deeply
embedded in Bangladeshs traditions, cultures and
practices. Girls in Bangladesh grow up in settings where
unequal treatment on the basis of sex is considered
normal. Discrimination starts from the period of
early childhood and becomes evident in the range of
barriers that girls encounter within the household, at
school and in the community during their transition
to adulthood. These barriers hinder their ability to
access and participate in school, find paid employment,
engage in sport activities, access quality health
services, have free time and fulfill their roles as active
citizens. As a result of limitations on their social and
economic participation, girls and young women have
much lower outcomes than boys on a range of health,
education and livelihood indicators. Girls aged 14 to 17
are more likely to commit suicide, and attempt suicide
than boys1. Violence against girls and young women
comes in multiple forms including bullying, beating,
stalking, child marriage, child prostitution, child labour,
sexual harassment and acid throwing. Existing social
protection mechanisms and legal frameworks are
inadequate at safeguarding against these abuses. The
pervasive violation of the rights of girls and young
women severely compromises their ability to fully
contribute to, participate in and benefit from the
economic and social development of Bangladesh.
Plan International Bangladesh is helping to reduce
gender-based violence against girls and young
women. Since 2011, its been implementing the Girl
Power Project, a five year multi-country project
funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs in
partnership with 10 national NGOs. In eight districts of
Bangladesh2, the project is strengthening the capacity
of civil society organizations to influence policy
makers through lobbying and advocacy; increasing
awareness and sensitizing duty bearers on the rights
of girls and young women; improving Bangladeshs
legal protection system; and empowering girls and
young women to resist violence, report on violence
and access protection mechanisms.

10

The Girl Power Project is using self-defence training


as a tool for increasing the ability of girls and young
women to protect themselves against violence and
claim their rights.

SELF-DEFENCE TRAINING FOR GIRLS


AND YOUNG WOMEN
In Bangladesh girls and young women rarely participate
in sports due to prevailing social and cultural norms.

Plan International Bangladesh is challenging these


norms by teaching girls karate in order to build
their confidence and further empower them against
violence.
Six hundred and sixty girls and young women aged
14 to 17 years old in Bangladesh are receiving three
months of self-defence training through the Girl
Power Project. Many of these girls are members of
ethnic and other minority groups such as the Bihari,
Horijon, Munda, Shaotal and Telegu. Trainers submit
a request to the principal or the School Management
Committees head teacher for permission to conduct
the training at their school. After permission is
received, the school teachers announce the karate
training schedule to the students and ask interested
participants to apply. Parents give their consent by
signing the application forms of their children. During
the training, the projects staff members ensure the
safety and security of the participants by acting as
chaperones. Most training is conducted in the school
field, which has the added benefit of being both safe
and cost effective. Karate uniforms are loaned to the
participants for the duration of the course. These
uniforms are then returned after the completion of
the training and kept in schools for future participants.
The Girl Power Project is not only breaking social
stigmas surrounding female participation in sports but
is also advancing female empowerment. The projects
midterm review in September 2013 confirmed karates
effectiveness in protecting girls and young women
from violence. Prior to project implementation,
the percentage of females of selected project areas
between the ages of 14 and 17 who knew how to act
when in need of protection against violence was around
20%. At time of midterm review, this percentage
increased to 88%. Girls trained in self-defence by the
Girl Power Project mentioned that they will use their
karate skills to protect themselves from violence.3
Moreover, almost 100% of the respondents reported
that they can stand-up against violence. This confirms
the projects effectiveness in raising the confidence
level of girls and empowering them to raise their voice
against violence.

FACTORS FOR SUCCESS


The following factors were necessary for the success
of the self-defence training component of the Girl
Power Project.

Overcoming Gender Bias in Sport


The Girl Power Project had to overcome a number
of hurdles in order to compel the community to

accept karate as a protection tool for girls. In many


of the projects target regions, people live according
to strict religious customs that discourage girls from
becoming involved in sports. Typically adolescent
girls are expected to adhere to purdah, a religious
practice whereby women cover their bodies in
public and generally avoid being seen by men who
are not directly related to them. Societal attitudes
further discourage female participation in sports by
advancing the view that girls should only be involved
in household activities. Parental concerns regarding
the safety of their daughters when theyre outdoors
also undermine their participation in sports. As a
result of these religious and social customs and safety
concerns, girls and their family members initially
rejected the idea of a female karate course out of
fear that theyd be stigmatized by other community
members for participating in such a course.
The project successfully gained acceptance from the
community by hosting discussions at the individual and
group level with community people, parents, schools
teachers and committees, local administration, girls
and young women as well as other stakeholders. Local
civil society organizations that know the communities
well played a key role in organizing and facilitating
these discussions. Girl forums proved especially
effective at gaining buy-in from girls and young
women. At the girl forums, girls were taught the value
of learning karate by project staff members. Girls who
previously completed the self-defence course shared
their experiences. The girl forums also had the added
value of serving as a platform where girls and young
women would lead their own discussions about
gender-based violence and reduction strategies.

Partnering with the Right Organization


The Girl Power Projects partner organization - Nari
Uddug Kendra (NUK) - has a strong background
of empowering girls and young women through
teaching karate. At the beginning of the project,
NUK gave very valuable technical support to other
partner organizations on how to properly conduct
karate training. Presently partners are in touch with
each other to share trainers, which helps to keep
costs down, and some regions have even started
offering training through their local karate federation
thus contributing to the sustainability of the project.
The project wouldnt be possible without its other
partners as well whose commitment to the cause and
strong background in child rights and working with
disadvantaged groups propels the project forward.

Creating Best Practices for Government to


Replicate
As a result of the tremendous success and impact of
the Girl Power Projects self-defence training course,
the Additional Deputy Commissioner of the Gazipur
District committed to organize and fund self-defense
training for 400 girls in 10 schools. This outcome was
in part a result of the projects commitment to involve
government officials from the very beginning. A
memorandum of understanding was signed between
the District Commissioner and the Dhaka Ahsania
Mission (DAM) - a partner of the Girl Power Project
- for providing technical support to this government
initiative. The same result occurred in the Lalmonirhat
district where the District Commissioner showed
interest in incorporating self-defence training within
the local government structure. The project is proud
of this success and plans to advocate the National
Curriculum and Textbook Board authority with Nari
Uddug Kendra (NUK) for the inclusion of karate training
in the national physical curriculum. Additionally, the
Girl Power Project is engaging with the media to help
bring national attention to the merits of self-defence
training for girls and young women.

LESSONS LEARNED
Karate is an effective means of empowering
girls and young women
I did not learn self defence to hit anyone, but to
make myself confident, says Morium Akter (18 years
old), President of the Mirpur Bawniabadh Girl Forum.
She received karate training through the Girl Power
Project and now gives self-defense training to other
girls and young women. I stopped my education for
economic reasons and also due to stalkers, who used
to stalk me on the way of my school. But after getting
the karate training, I feel confident and can move
freely, says Morium.
Nahid Pervin (17 years old) also speaks of being
empowered by the project. She lives in Dhakas
Geneva refugee camp, which shelters thousands of
stateless Urdu-speaking Muslims, and studies in the
Pioneer College. As a result of karate training, Nahid
says, I am very confident and feel secure about my
life. Some days ago I couldnt think about my future
and even couldnt think to protest when someone did
something that was wrong. Karate training has made
me confident and self motivated to do anything with
courage. Now I encourage other girls to improve their
confidence by taking karate training.

11

12

Karate can lead to greater economic


opportunities for girls and young women
Bangladeshs police force and military use physical
and mental strength as a selection criterion when
choosing new recruits. Girls who are interested in
these professions have the ability to leverage their
self-defense training to increase the competitiveness
of their applications. Indeed, six young women from
the Kisoreganj district of Dhaka division who received
self-defense training through the Girl Power Project
have since been hired as police officers or recruited as
members of Bangladeshs military.

References
1 UNICEF Women and Girls in Bangladesh
2 The Girl Power Project is being implemented in
Gazipur, Kishoreganj, Rajshahi, Dinajpur, Nilphamari,
Lalmonirhat, Shariatpur and Dhaka.
3 MTR report, page: 21

Female adolescents have also been hired as karate


trainers after receiving self-defense training through
the Girl Power Project. Indeed fifteen girls are now
working as karate trainers after receiving advanced
training from Nari Uddug Kendra (NUK). Since
economically solvent girls typically exercise more
power in their families and society, the economic
opportunities created by this project are further
empowering girls to become active citizens of
Bangladesh.

13

An Experience of Mobile Money Transfer in


Early Recovery Project
By Zinat Ara Begum and Golam Rabbani

14

15

INTRODUCTION
The use of cash assistance in humanitarian programs
is becoming increasingly popular. Both people in need
and humanitarian communities consider cash as one
of the most effective means to support a disaster/
crisis affected population. It is gradually replacing food
or in-kind assistance because it allows the affected
population to decide on their own needs, is easy to
carry and also helps to restore the local economy.
However in most cases cash is handed over manually,
which poses problems with regards to manipulation
by middlemen, timely delivery and logistics in terms of
securing the cash during its journey to the distribution
centers. Considering the limitations of manual cash
transfer, Plan used Mobile Money Transfer (MMT) to
support early recovery after Tropical Storm Mohasen.
This case study describes how MMT technology was
used in a cash based program that aimed to ensure
food security and extend early recovery support.
It highlights the experience of Plan Bangladesh and
four international non-governmental organizations
in using technology as an empowering approach
to delivering cash assistance to the Tropical Storm
Mohasen affected population. It also documents the
process used for MMT, good practices, lesson learnt,
challenges faced and recommendations for using
MMT in future projects.

BACKGROUND
Plan International Bangladesh serves as the lead
organization of the National Alliance for Risk Reduction
and Response Initiative (NARRI) consortium, which
includes Concern Universal, Islamic Relief International,
Oxfam and Solidarities International. Under the DFIDfunded early recovery project for Tropical Mahasen,
NARRI supported 14,481 households in Barguna and
Patuakhali districts with interventions involving cash
for livelihoods, cash for work, vegetable seeds for
homestead gardening support and awareness training.
For cash based interventions, the project transferred
money using a Mobile Money Transfer (MMT)
platform to avoid many of the challenges associated
with handing over cash manually.

16

Rationale for using Mobile Money Transfer


in the Early Recovery Project
MMT is an innovative electronic platform designed
to enable access to financial services through mobile
phones for populations with or without banking facilities.
It enables clients to send a small amount of money

through a short message system (SMS). The electronic


money transfer process has many advantages (see Box 2
for full list of advantages and limitations), including the
benefit of allowing money to be transferred quickly in a
secure manner across large distances. It also reduces the
potential risk of fraud and misappropriation and has the
advantage of exposing the most vulnerable population
to a technology which provides other benefits including
communication with others and the receipt of early
warning messages. MMT was recommended by the
Government of Bangladesh and UKs Department for
International Development (DFID) for use in the early
recovery project. In Bangladesh, it was first used by
Oxfam but on a smaller scale than this project. Oxfams
learning was instrumental to informing the design of
NARRIs use of MMT including developing the pictorial
guideline for beneficiaries and negotiating with cell
phone operators for the SIM card cost and transfer fees.

Process of Using MMT Technology


The process of setting up and implementing MMT was
as follows:
(a) Selection of mobile phone operators and cash
transfer agents
Initially, Banglalink was selected as the sole mobile
phone operator because of its commitment to provide
SIM cards for free. bKash was also initially selected as
the sole financial service provider (cash transfer agent)
due to its wide coverage of agents and amicable MMT
experience with Oxfam. However, Grameenphone
and Dutch Bangla Bank Limited (DBBL) a mobile
phone operator and a cash transfer agent respectively
- were later included in the project due to bKash and
Banglalinks weak or absent network coverage and
agent presence in some of the intervention areas. A
memorandum of understanding was signed between
each implementing agency and their respective
service providers.
(b) Registration of beneficiaries
Setting up mobile bank accounts is a similar process
to setting up formal bank accounts in terms of
identification documents, photographs and bio-metric
identification information. During the rollout of the
system, two registrations were required 1) registration
with the mobile phone company when the SIM card was
distributed and 2) registration with the cash transfer
agent when the financial account was opened. The
consortium agencys field staff collected all required
documents and photographs (the cost for photographs
was covered by the agency) at the time of registration.

Field level staff from mobile phone operators and cash


transfer agents were also assigned to help register the
huge number beneficiaries within a short span of time.

in their register books, which were then collected by


the implementing agencies for future reference.

(c) Assigning a personal identification number


(PIN) to each beneficiary

BOX 1: TESTIMONIES FROM BENEFICIARIES

PIN numbers were used as a security measure to


prevent unwanted fraud and theft. Accounts were only
accessible through the use of a unique PIN that each
beneficiary received during SIM card distribution. PIN
numbers were randomly generated in a password
protected Excel file that was only accessible by the
partner project manager and INGO project manager.
Beneficiaries were informed of the importance of
keeping the number private and storing it in a safe
place. They were also oriented on how to use their PIN
number during the cash out process.
(d) Distribution of mobile SIM cards
A total of 14,481 mobile SIM cards were distributed
to beneficiaries through distribution centers.
Banglalink provided 2,610 free SIM cards and the rest
were purchased by the consortium at 99 BDT (1.30
USD) from Grameenphone. Distribution was closely
monitored by the consortium to ensure that SIM cards
were distributed directly to beneficiaries rather than
their relatives or a representative.
(e) Awareness raising in the community on cash
transfer
A leaflet on the mobile money transfer methodology
was developed as a tool to increase community
awareness on how the cash transfer process worked.
The field facilitators also organized community
awareness raising sessions and some demonstrations.
The project implementation committee oriented
respective beneficiaries on the Dos and Donts of
cash transfers to minimize mistakes and build the
confidence and skills of the beneficiaries.
(f) Cash in and cash out
After beneficiaries were registered, bKash/ DBBL
transferred the money to the mobile e-wallet/account
of each beneficiary enabling them to withdraw cash
from the nearest bKash/DBBL agent. Beneficiaries
with cell phones received a SMS once the money was
transferred and spread the news across the community
to notify beneficiaries without cellphones. BKash/
DBBL temporarily employed agents when existing
agents were inadequate. During the cash withdrawals,
bKash and DBBL collected signatures of beneficiaries

We were happy to receive cash


through MMT. It gives us exposure to a
new technology. We felt dignified when
we took out money from the vendors
of our locality.
We received cash at the time when
we were supposed to restart some
livelihood options. We were able to
buy livestock or poultry according to
our choice and need and according to
the space we have in our tiny houses.
We have been able to meet our food
demand, medicine, health services,
and education and also saved some
money for future days because of the
cash grant we received through MMT.
MMT has given the choice; we will be
able to use this system in future. Our
family members will be able to send
money through MMT without any
hassle when they will go out of area for
seasonal works.
We had a chance to go to market and
purchase products on our own choice.
We poor people usually dont have
such chance, as usually are given or
donated goods. beneficiary.
17

BOX 2: ADVANTAGES AND LIMITATIONS OF MOBILE MONEY TRANSFER COMPARED


TO MANUAL CASH TRANSFERS

Advantages

Limitations

MMT allows beneficiaries to decide for


themselves when and how much money they
want to withdraw. This respects the dignity of
the beneficiaries.

MMT isnt feasible in all areas, especially


remote areas, due to the unavailability of
vendors and local agents for cash withdrawals
and the absence of good mobile networks.

MMT gives beneficiaries assets SIM card,


mobile phone account and financial account
that can continue to provide benefit beyond
the lifetime of the project.

The use of MMT for early recovery is relatively


new. As a result, the knowledge and awareness
of humanitarian workers, emergency response
providers and beneficiaries on MMT is very
low. Moreover, MMT operational guidelines
dont exist and implementers dont have the
benefit of building on a system that was left
behind by previous MMT interventions. As
a result, using MMT in early recovery at this
time is very challenging.

MMT has a very high level of acceptance


among beneficiaries.
With MMT, the money is easier to track and
theres only one middleman between the fund
and the beneficiary. This reduces corruption
and fund misappropriation and increases
accountability and transparency.
With MMT, responsibility for the security of
the money before its given to the beneficiaries
is born by the cash transfer agents instead of
the implementing agency.
MMT strengthens institutional relationships
between the NGO sector and the corporate
world, which could lead to further
collaborations.
MMT complies with instructions from
Bangladesh Bank the regularity authority of
financial institutions to reduce the practice of
handing out cash manually.

Technical errors sometimes occur that make


it difficult for beneficiaries to receive their
money (ex: SIM card locking). Moreover,
local agents sometimes lack the financial and
technical capacity to support MMT and help
troubleshoot problems.
There are very few MMT companies with
adequate network coverage. As a result,
a monopoly may emerge which NGOs are
dependent on. Fortunately, more agencies are
emerging.
Cash transfer agents and mobile phone
operators charge significant fees to transfer
money via mobiles. A cost analysis between
MMT and manual cash transfer has not
been systematically done however there is a
common feeling that the medium is costly.
Meeting government requirements, such
as the National Identity Card rule by the
Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory
Commission (BTRC), is onerous.
MMT takes longer to roll out given the level
of administration needed to set up the system.
As a result, it may not be appropriate for
immediate emergency contexts.

18

LESSONS LEARNED AND


RECOMMENDATIONS
(a) Technology can
communities.

be

used

to

empower

The use of MMT in the early recovery project


demonstrates the positive impact that technology
can have on empowering people who are poor
and vulnerable. By giving both the SIM card and
PIN to women beneficiaries in the early recovery
project, they felt empowered from owning a
valuable new asset.
(b) Build the knowledge of beneficiaries on MMT
before initiating any electronic transfer.
Most of the beneficiaries of the project were
illiterate and had never used MMT before to
receive or send money. They were not aware
about the risks of potential fraudulent ways by
vendors or others. In some cases, beneficiaries
disclosed their PIN to vendors and relatives, which
led to funds being withdrawn without the consent
of the beneficiaries. Building the knowledge of
beneficiaries on the Dos and Donts of MMT
before initiating any electronic transfer is important
in order to lower the risk of misappropriation of
money during cash withdrawal.
(c) Conduct a feasibility study of MMT prior to
project implementation.
MMT was a new approach in the region as a method
for transferring cash. As a result, understanding
the operational practicalities of using MMT was
limited, which lead to delays in the project due
to the lack of vendors in the project locations and
problems with network coverage. An in-depth
study on the feasibility of MMT in vulnerable
locations (with a comparative analysis of direct
cash distribution) is recommended in order to
minimise delays and assess whether MMT would
be the most suitable approach.

(d) Enhance INGOs capacity to implement,


monitor and evaluate MMT.
The capacity and skills of an organisation to
integrate MMT into a project plays a crucial role
in its success. Since the majority of staff of the
implementing agencies had little to no experience
with MMT, building their capacity through
investments in training and coaching would
ensure the realization of MMTs socio-economic
benefits. Guidelines on the MMT process and
a more coherent MMT design would improve
quality. Moreover, a stronger technical drive
from the consortium to develop operational
guidelines and an orientation package on MMT
for humanitarian staff and stakeholders would
also improve quality of execution. Lastly, a
unified monitoring and evaluation approach for
MMT would assist in collecting appropriate data
for project management and reporting.

CONCLUSION
MMT as a modality for cash transfers was a successful
part of the Tropical Storm Mahasen early recovery
project and was highly accepted by the beneficiaries.
It is evident that vulnerable populations can benefit
from the use of such technology in the early recovery
period following an emergency however the roll out of
such a methodology may be less feasible for immediate
emergency contexts considering factors such as the
level of administration needed to set up the system.
It is important to continue national advocacy efforts
with corporate stakeholders to reduce transfer fees
and widen network coverage especially in remote
locations. This will make MMT a more effective and
efficient tool for cash transfer during humanitarian
responses.

19

20

Using Social Protection Groups to Reduce


Domestic Violence: Lessons from the
Protecting Human Rights Program, Bangladesh
By Farhana Afroz, Nazmun Nahar and Tania Zaman
21

INTRODUCTION
Protecting Human Rights (PHR) is a five year program
funded by USAID to reduce domestic violence and
related human rights abuses (such as dowry, child
marriage) through an integrated, grassroots and
broad-based approach which includes advocacy,
capacity building, access to justice, services for victims
of gender-based violence, and mass awareness and
educational program. PHR is being implemented in
102 Unions in eight upazilas of six districts. The districts
- Barguna, Bogra, Chittagong, Dinajpur, Jessore and
Sylhet are distributed all over the country. At the
heart of PHR are community-based units called Social
Protection Groups.

CONTEXT
PHR began operations in 2011 after the enactment of
the Domestic Violence Act of 2010 but the program
really took off in mid-2012. At the beginning of the
program a lot of thinking went into exploring ways
to address the issue of domestic violence where most
of it was occurring inside the homes of the villages
of Bangladesh. Reaching this level with information
about domestic violence and its legal consequences
and putting in place preventive mechanisms and
getting services to victims of domestic violence was
considered a major challenge. This challenge stems
from patriarchal norms that lead women to think that
physical and mental abuse is not a form of abuse but
rather that it is acceptable for a man to beat his wife as
he is the breadwinner in the family. It also stems from
prevailing culture that sees such matters as private and
that it is shameful for households to make their family
matters public.

22

Around the same time that the PHR was forming


its approach, Plan International Bangladesh began
implementing a mechanism for protecting children at
the community level called the Child Protection Group
(CPG). The guiding principle for the CPG was that any
community mechanism for protecting children must
be able to sustain itself without an intervening entity
(such as Plan). The Union Porishod (UP), the basic unit
of local government for rural areas1, was identified as
an appropriate body for addressing gender-based
violence issues because all UPs are mandated to have
committees for the betterment of the family, women
and children. Plan selected the Standing Committee
for the resolution of family conflict and welfare of
women and children as the focal point for the CPG so
that in essence the CPGs function as extended action
groups of this standing committee. Other stakeholders
would work with this committee to ensure reporting
on, and responding to, child protection issues. The

mechanism seemed to be effective though not much


experience had been gathered to-date.

Building on existing mechanisms: creation


of the SPGs
PHR considered, but had to put aside, the CPG as
its entry point. A major shortcoming of the CPG, for
PHRs purposes, was that its protection was limited to
children - those 18 and under - whereas PHRs focus is
on the prevention of all domestic violence whether
the victims are girls and boys or women and men. PHR
staff brainstormed different ideas and decided to take
the concept of the CPG one step further by broadening
it in terms of both remit and membership. The Social
Protection Group (SPG) was born. The SPGs mandate
would be to prevent gender-based violence and the
duty-bearers would include the Chairman, Secretary
and all women members of the UP as well as key
members of the community such as school teachers,
religious leaders, social workers, union marriage
registrars, village doctors, local elites and boy and girl
students (children). The goal was to bring together
individuals who could influence, monitor and prevent
domestic violence and related abuses and whose
approval would be crucial to initiating PHR activities
in their communities. In its early days PHRs efforts
went into mobilizing members into coming together
as a group.

Making SPGs functional


Once SPGs were formed, the objective was to
capacitate them as quickly as possible so that they could
start playing an effective role against gender-based
violence. PHR initiated a series of basic and refresher
training courses on the issue of gender-based violence
and its many forms, such as domestic violence, as well
as prevention mechanisms for adults and children. The
training ensured that SPGs understood the issues, the
laws, the consequences of violating such laws, where
to reach out for support and how to make themselves
effective community agents. The training content also
included information on the issues of child marriage
and dowry.

SPGs today
Today SPGs are fully functional protection mechanisms
within their communities. SPGs prepare quarterly
outreach plans and meet quarterly to review their
tasks related to gender-based violence. The 102
SPGs around Bangladesh have, at any one point,
between 15-19 members. At present, the total SPG
membership is 1,945 individuals of which 663 are
women and 1,282 are men. Men outnumber women
as certain positions in the community are, by tradition,

held by men such as religious leaders (imams), the UP


Chairman and kazis (marriage registrar).
The most important tasks of the SPGs fall into two
categories: creating awareness and preventing
violence. SPGs have taken the lead role in organizing
awareness-raising events on domestic violence and
human rights issues within their Unions. These events
include drama, folk songs, mass rallies and communitywide discussion sessions.
SPGs prevent gender-based violence by monitoring
its incidence within their Unions. The most extreme
forms of gender-based violence are related to dowry
and matrimonial matters such as remarriage, divorce,
dower and maintenance. Within marriages, verbal
and physical abuse is common. Girls and women are
disproportionately at the receiving end of the abuse
and violence whether at the hands of men or women.
As child marriage is widespread, most of the domestic
violence that takes place is actually against children.
The awareness raising and monitoring roles of SPGs
have been instrumental in preventing child marriages.
They prevented 400 child marriages between
2012 and 2014 with the direct involvement of local
government.
Online birth registration, which has been initiated by
the Government of Bangladesh, is also considered an
effective strategy for stopping child marriages. Each
Union has an information center to register birth data.
Many parents of young girls attempt to secure a false
date of birth for their girl child to facilitate marriage
before they turn 18. As child marriage contributes to
the occurrence of domestic violence, UPs in the PHR
working areas have been motivated by the SPGs to
reach 100% online birth registration. A total of 30 out
of the 102 Unions have reached 100% online birth
registration and the SPGs in the remaining 72 Unions
are committed to reaching the 100% birth registration
goal by the end of 2014.
Another key contribution of SPGs is in the provision
of Union-level safety nets for survivors of domestic
violence. SPGs, and individual members, spearhead
activities within their Unions to optimize legal and
other services for victims of domestic violence. They
provided services to 619 domestic violence survivors
through referral mechanisms. These services - medical,
livelihood, skills training and shelter support were
made possible by the assistance of SPG members and,
in many cases, SPG members have directly provided
livelihood support and skills training services to
survivors.
A notable achievement of SPGs has been that 80 of

the PHR Unions have successfully lobbied the UP to


create a welfare fund and allocate a budget of BDT
3,000-80,000 for victims of violence in the upcoming
budget of FY 2014-15. This budget line item is to be
made permanent for UP budgets from this year.

Effectiveness of SPGs
PHR has established a performance evaluation matrix
to annually measure the efficiency and effectiveness
of individual SPGs based on the following criteria:
number of child marriages stopped, number of cases
referred to PHR legal counselors at the Union level
and attendance rate of SPG members in the quarterly
meetings. By using these criteria PHR has formulated
three categories of SPGs A (good), B (satisfactory)
and C (poor). A total of 44 SPGs received an A grade,
35 SPGs received a B grade and 23 were graded as Cs.
The As are the oldest SPGs so PHR has nurtured them
for a longer time (two years). The Bs are the SPGs
whose leadership were not as active or committed.
Almost half of the SPGs that received a C rating are
from Barguna, a coastal area. Indeed Barguna has 10
SPGs and nine were rated as Cs. The projects analysis
is that the high number of Cs in Barguna results from
its geographical location, vulnerability to natural
disasters and lack of public sector services due to
its remote location. From the PHR perspective, the
project was not able to adequately nurture the SPGs
in Barguna due to a lack of local skills to serve the
project. High staff turnover is also partly to blame,
which is a result of Bargunas remote location and
because staff needed to be recruited from other places
in Bangladesh.
PHR is utilizing the results of the first such assessment
to target SPG capacity building and training initiatives
and to substitute inactive individuals with more
promising ones.
Regardless of their ratings, SPGs have emerged as
effective platforms for addressing gender-based
violence issues. SPGs have already proven to be
the basic building block for PHRs awareness raising
campaign to reduce the level of gender-based violence
and other human rights abuses at the Union and Ward
levels. SPG membersindividually and collectively
have proven to be the most important effective
change agents against the pandemic of domestic
violence and human rights abuses at the community
level.

Strategic and success factors


One of the most difficult steps in initiating any sort
of development activity in a community is to find
the most appropriate point of entry and, once in

23

24

the community, to get buy-in from those who could


be potential threats. The key to SPGs success was
in the alignment of PHR activities with those of the
UP the institution holding power and resources in
any community in rural Bangladesh. PHRs strategy to
work hand-in hand with elected representatives in the
102 Unions is paying handsome dividends.
It is widely acknowledged how challenging it is to
involve peoples representatives in social change
initiatives. Politicians are usually reluctant to associate
themselves with controversial issues as they are in
close proximity to the community and fear that it may
cost them an election. However its important that
they be involved because they have authority and a
lot of influence. Unless we assure the participation of
peoples representatives, we cannot mitigate the risk
that they may turn a blind eye to some child marriages
and human rights violations. UP members who are
part of SPGs can also counter the influence of any
influential community members who are party to child
marriages and domestic violence.
By defining domestic violence more broadly as genderbased violence, PHR was able to ensure that the root
causes of domestic violence would receive attention,
such as low educational rates for girls and marriages at
a young age, with dowry identified as a contributing
factor.
Another strategic move was to co-opt individuals
holding key community positions and responsibilities
such as imams (religious leaders) and kazis (Muslim
marriage registrars) who are often-times party to the
abuses. Corrupt kazis are willing to register marriages
knowing that the bride is underage or to deliberately
overlook the issue. Imams, similarly, often perform
the religious ceremony that signifies that a marriage
has taken place, which the community will consider
valid in spite of it not being registered. Their positions
place them in a particularly advantageous position to
prevent a child marriage from taking place and, as a
result, the SPG identified these individuals as key to
both monitoring and prevention.

By involving the State and its resources (UP and its


budgets), PHR has been able to make duty bearers
assume their responsibilities. As part of the SPG is
made up of elected representatives, the UP is positively
influenced to make budget allocations for supporting
survivors of domestic violence as well as awareness
raising events. The SPGs, by partnering UPs with
key community stakeholders, actually help the UPs
to function more effectively as local government
institutions. In this way, the SPGs are beginning to
contribute more broadly to the creation of democratic
societies.

Completing the circle


PHR built its interventions on the model of the CPGs
but was able to adapt it for its own purposes. Now
that the model is working, PHR is assessing how
to make SPGs even more effective, whether its
training, modifying the composition of the SPG or
the mass awareness work that propels UPs and other
community leaders to capitalize on the opportunity to
play a role in a national effort. PHR is exploring what
key elements are required to make the SPG model
sustainable. PHR is therefore continuing to learn even
as it is implementing.

Reference
1 Villages in Bangladesh are grouped into Wards. Seven
villages make up a Ward and nine Wards made up a
Union. One Union is administered by a Porishod
(council) that is made up of a Chairman and 12 general
members. Nine of the general members are directly
elected one from each ward. The remaining three
general member positions are reserved for women
each woman member represents three Wards.
Members are responsible for the Wards from which
they have been elected. One of the responsibilities that
they have at the Ward level is to build up a movement
against dowry, child marriage, multiple marriages, acidthrowing and drug addiction. In addition, they must
support birth and death registration. At the council
level, committees target various issues (resolution
of family conflict and welfare of women and children
is one such committee) and an important duty is to
ensure birth and death registration.

25

26

Skills for Better Employability and Life


By Mohammad Tarequl Hoque

27

The labour force in Bangladesh increased


from 49.5 million to 75.42 million from 2006
to 20121. Every year some 2.7 million young
people become eligible for jobs whereas only
about 0.7 million2 of them gain employment.
Female economic activity accounts for 52.7%
of the economy but females earn less than
half the income of their male counterparts.
Youth unemployment rate is more than double
that of adults (9.3% vs. 4.5%). Female youth
experience higher unemployment than their
male counterparts (5.8% vs. 4.1%). 60% of
employed women are unpaid family workers.
The Youth Apprenticeship and Job Placement (YAJP)
project aims to increase the monthly income of 1,900
marginalized youth aged 18-30 years (60% females)
by 50% through training and skilled job placements in
formal industries.
Plan International Bangladesh has partnered with
the garment sector to implement an apprenticeship
training programme for marginalized youth that
focuses on sector required technical and life skill
training. The design of the program encourages
100% job placement within the companies in which
the youth were trained.
In the project, companies provide the expertise and
resources to train the youth and serve as the main
training providers. They provide technical training
on manual skills, work processes and procedures that
reflect the needs of the sector. They also provide
life skill training to help workers navigate workplace
culture, and other relevant issues that affect their
lives. The project tries to address barriers not related
to skills such as safe accommodation, transportation
costs and child care facilities that may affect a youths
ability to accept or look for work.

28

The YAJP project is a multi stakeholder project that


emphasizes collaboration and shared responsibility
with the corporate sector. Securing the corporate
sectors full engagement in the project has been
challenging given their competing time commitments,
differing levels of interest in the project and mistrust
of development organizations. Such challenges
presented Plan with an opportunity to think differently
about how it motivates and engages its stakeholders.
As part of project learning, here are some lessons from
project implementation and design.

Youth selection and support is critical


According to the CIA World Factbook, 18.8% of
Bangladeshs population is between the ages of 15
and 24. This young workforce represents one of the
countrys most important assets and potential engines
of growth. However, if they are not provided with
access to opportunities, its young workforce could
perversely turn into Bangladeshs largest liability.
By mandating that at least 60% of trained youth
are females, the YAJP project has the overall aim of
economically empowering young females. This helps
to improve gender relations and promote gender
equality in the workplace especially in terms of equal
pay between men and women who have the same
competencies and level of productivity.

Research shows that if a girl receives seven


or more years of education, she will marry
four years later and have 2.2 fewer children3.
When 10% more girls go to secondary school,
a countrys economy grows by 3%4 and
when an educated woman earns income, she
reinvests 90% of it into her family, compared
to 30 to 40% for a man5.
The project specifically focuses on female youth who
are marginalized due to poverty, low or no education
and marketable skills, marital status (e.g. abandoned
wives, divorced, single mothers) and geographic
isolation. In offering these youth better employment
opportunities and access to formal jobs, this project
advances their social position in their families and
society.
The project carefully reviewed the economic, social,
institutional, and administrative constraints of female
youth that may hinder their participation in the training
and accompanying job placement. Along with a decent
job, the project found that safe accommodation is the
highest prerequisite for female adolescents to move
outside their communities for work. As a result, Plan
partnered with companies who offer safe and gender
sensitive accommodation facilities (ex: dormitory
or cluster housing with fire prevention, burglar
prevention, electrical safety and dormitory conduct)
close to the factory premises for their workers. The
safety and security of youth in and outside the factory
is also a major concern of youth and their parents.
In response, Plan designed off-campus safety in the
project to supplement the companies out of campus
along with on-campus safety and security measures.
Companies also offer transportation to the workers
who reside outside the dormitory from certain pick up

points to facilitate timely arrival and departure from


the factory.
In some rural areas migration becomes inevitable due
to the absence of formal sector opportunities. The
project found that orientations to parents, community
and social elites on technical training and future
opportunities create an enabling environment to
support youth, especially female youth, to move out
of the local labour market in search of better job
opportunities outside the community. The project
also found that the participation of local government
institutions (i.e. Union Parishads and Upazila Parishad)
is crucial in building trust, transparency and social
security to engage youth from the remote rural
areas. Active engagement of the local government
institutions and local administration enhances the trust
of parents and youth and also reduces trouble from
law enforcement agencies assigned for preventing
human trafficking to move female youth outside the
district for employment.
Single mothers with young children are the most
marginalized and face the most trouble during training
and employment. Although Plan and its corporate
partners provide support for day care facilities, this
hasnt been adequate to retain them in the job. Plan
and its partners plan to introduce a cluster in the
dormitory with day care and care givers facilities for
the workers who are single mothers to help increase
their retention rates. Plan also intends to reduce other
barriers faced by them, such as negative stereotypes
held at the frontline supervisors and mid management
level and adequate time for breast feeding and child
care during working hours.
YAJP youth are mostly in their first employment and,
as a result, experience difficulties in understanding
and following commands and direction of supervisors
as well as corporate norms and practices. Thus Plan
developed and is delivering life skill training for young
apprentices, which it sees as equally important in
order for the apprentices to cope with the corporate
environment.
Plan has also found that capacity building initiatives
and training needs to be extended to frontline
managers (line supervisors, floor in-charge, midlevel managers, etc) in order to improve and ensure
teamwork, communication and a non-coercive and
joyful workplace environment. Besides management
functions, training is continuously needed in the areas
of work performance, leadership and attitude. Plan
has also found that capacity building of corporate
partners on persons with disabilities is needed in order
to include this marginalized group in the workplace.

As manual labour based work specifically in the readymade garment sector demands physical fitness, only
youth aged 18 or above with reasonable medical
fitness can meet the demands of the job. The project
gives special attention and care to these youth for the
course period in order to keep them physically and
mentally fit to retain them in the sector.
The youth are selected with the help of their
communities and relevant local government institution
i.e. Union Parishads and Upazila Parishad, which
is crucial in building trust, transparency and social
security to engage youth, especially female youth,
from the remote rural areas. The project targets
youth who are the most motivated to transform their
lives through skilled employment in the formal sector.
Youth who dare to overcome the initial uncertainty,
nervousness and fear of the future that comes with
major life changes succeed in their training and job
placements.
Corporate Engagement to success
Corporate engagement in the project is crucial for
success and remains an ongoing priority. Establishing
strong partnerships between Plan International
Bangladesh and the corporate sector is challenging,
as the corporate sector fears that development
organizations like Plan will mobilize their workers
to claim their rights. Indeed, the ready-made
garment industry largely blames non-governmental
organizations for the labour unrest in the industry.
Plan International Bangladesh overcame the
prejudices of the corporate sector by organizing a
series of orientations on Plans program interventions
in Bangladesh. Plan also organized exposure visits
for the senior management of corporate partners to
Plan program areas and opinion sharing meetings. As
a result, Plan is now involved with Fakhruddin Textile
Mills Limited, a sister concern of Urmi Group6, and
Amantex Limited, a sister concern of Aman Group7,
to develop the competent and trained workforce that
their factories need.
Plan has conducted a thorough assessment8 of each
of its corporate partners to ensure their suitability
for the project. Although the assessment process is
not watertight, Plan has made every effort to ensure
that the apprentices are safe, secure, and enjoy basic
labour rights.

29

Business Case Model matters


Plan is using a Business Case Model as an
implementation approach that estimates the cost,
timing and benefits (both current and future) of the
project and establishes a logical business growth and
profit forecast. Its a win-win approach for businesses,
Plan and marginalized youth.

1 CIA World Factbook, http://www.indexmundi.com/


facts/bangladesh/labor-force

The YAJP project is designed to maximize sustainability


by aiming to develop technical skills, life skills, and
communication skills that benefit both job seekers and
employers.

4 George Psacharapoulous and Harry Anthony Patrinos,


Returns to Investment in Education: A Further
Update, Policy Research Working Paper 2881
(Washington D.C.: World Bank, 2002

From the employers perspective, the project gives


them access to a source of motivated and interested
youth who want a decent job in the formal sector
as well as access to job seekers who are skilled in
industry required technical and life skills. Since job
seekers are trained on factory premises with the
same machineries used by workers, they substantiate
as highly productive and efficient from day one of
employment. A motivated, skilled and conversant
workforce contributes to higher staff retention, which
reduces frequent recruitment and staff development
costs. To keep the supervisors and mid level managers
enthused and engaged, the project also organizes
training and orientation and helps make them feel that
they are a part of the work that workers care about.
It generates pride, loyalty and passion towards the
companys mission, and thus increases productivity of
the company. All of these factors contribute to the net
profit margin of the business.
From Plans perspective, its partnership with the private
sector reduces child poverty by linking youth who are
the most marginalized, especially abandoned/divorced
wives with young children, to decent work. It creates
the capacity of corporate partners on competency
based training in line with recently approved National
Skills Development Policy. It establishes linkages
between employers and prospective employees of
remote rural areas that will likely sustain beyond the
project period.

30

References

2 http://www.academia.edu/859072/Unemployment_
Problem_in_Bangladesh
3 United Nations Population Fund, State of World
Population 1990

5 Chris Fortson, Womens Rights Vital for Developing


World Yale News Daily 2003,
6 Urmi Group is one of the leading manufacturers and
exporters of knit garments in Bangladesh. It won
HSBC Export Excellence Awards 2011 as top exporter
in group-B for companies with an annual export
turnover of less $50 million. For details see http://
www.urmigroup.net
7 http://www.amangroupbd.com/
8 Plans partnership assessment policy checks
the organizations strategy, governance, finance
and administration, human resource, policy and
procedures, and program elements.

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