The Gono Kendra Project
The Gono Kendra Project
Bandhabʼs major contribution to development work is the Gono Kendra Project, which lasted from 2009−2014. This project focused on fostering local democratic organisations and increase knowledge about rights, health and social issues, agricultural production and providing skill training among marginalised villagers in the Uchai area in the north western part of Bangladesh and Bagerhat in the south western part of Bangladesh.
Bandhabʼs Partner: BACE
The Gono Kendra Project has been organised together with the Bangladesh Association for Community Education (BACE), which was established in 1977 and is devoted to developing educational programmes that combines awareness education and skill training for poor and marginalized people. BACE has strong roots in the project area and is widely respected.
The Gono Kendras
The point of departure of the project is the 50 development groups named Gono Kendras which been formed in the project areas. These groups allow people to work together in order to identify and solve issues through local cooperation. Towards the end of the project close to 1200 people had chosen to join a Gono Kendra. The majority of them are women.
Improving the Conditions for Women
The Gono Kendra Projectʼs focus on women stems from the nature of patriarchal rural Bangladeshi society, where women are faced with adverse conditions and often are discriminated against. In the Gono Kendras social problems such as dowry, child marriages and violence against women are discussed, and the members are working hard to promote and safeguard the rights of women.
Facilitating Economic Sustainability
The Gona Kendra Project has also been devoted to fostering economic sustainability, and several skill training workshops have been held. A principal goal is to ensure that women are lifted out of a state of dependency on their spouses and male relatives. As part of the economic activities, a welfare fund has also been established, which offers a social security net and has been used by Gono Kendra members to support sick community members and pay for exam-fees so their children can obtain education.
Ensuring the Target Group Feel Ownership
While it has been a central aim of Bandhab to ensure that the Gono Kendra members gain a understanding of constructive dialogue and are provided with basic analytic tools they can use to identify and solve common problems, it is very much the participants themselves, who decide what goes on in each Gono Kendra. This is in congruence with Bandhab’s belief that ensuring the Gono Kendra members feel ownership of their organisations is of paramount importance; a principal concern which has guided the project since its inception.
The Partnership Intervention
As the Gono Kendras have become sustainable structures, Bandhab is now turning its main focus on advocacy campaigns that can ensure the long-term stability of the Gono Kendras and can help to facilitate broader societal improvements and changes. For this purpose, Bandhab has been invoved in a Partnership Project with BACE since September 2015.
The key focus point of the Partnership Project is four community based organisations (CBOs), which provide the Gono Kendra members with a common voice and give them the ability to act in concert. Each CBO is run by volunteers from the Gono Kendras, who have been democratically elected
Advocacy Campaigns: A Vehicle for Change
The CBOs are committed to advocacy campaigns, which provide a vehicle for influencing the decision-making and priorities of the local government. The CBOsʼ campaigns promote the rights of the rural poor, and they seek to open the door for a more inclusive access to public welfare services and counter threats and abuse by corrupt officials.
Seminars: a Prerequisite for Advocacy Campaigns
Bandhab is holding seminars for the CBO members in order to facilitate the advocacy campaigns. The sessions address the tenets of the rights-based approach as well as the more practical aspects of campaign planning. BACE staff are also participating in these seminars, and additional workshops and seminars are being held within this organisation as preparation for campaigns at the national level which champion the rights of the rural poor.