An Evaluation of Netherlands Funded NGOs Working on Poverty Alleviation Prepared by Rumana Afroz Roll# 01 Syed Shahnawaz Mohsin Roll# 09 Ahmed Jenan Mostofa Roll# 26 Mir Safat Newaz Roll# 32 Mostofa Ali Roll# 4 Prepared for Professor GM Chowdhury Course Instructor Marketing Management (M501) Institute of Business Administration(IBA) University of Dhaka(DU) CHAPTER – 1: INTRODUCTION BACKGROUND Though substantial efforts are being made by the NGOs for the purpose of poverty alleviation, many a times these efforts are not adequately effective.
The reasons for this ineffectiveness are many namely, lack of information, guideline and trust. To put it another way, there is a lack of proper information dissemination on the part of the NGOs in this sector. The message is not properly formulated neither is it properly distributed to the target segment. Then again, not only the NGOs but the target segment is not putting in the required endeavors to gain the assistance of the NGOs operating in this sector. In fine, we notice an acute need to fill this gap of information distribution and collection, which we believe can be alleviated by proper marketing initiatives.
In order to complete this term paper, we will choose 10 NGOs which are operating in this sector. We will demonstrate how they are operating in this sector and try to chalk out their strengths and weaknesses. OBJECTIVE This study has some specific objectives to make it effective. Broad objective of the study is to evaluate the activities of Netherlands funded NGOs working in Bangladesh. More specifically, objectives are – 1. To have an insight of the activities NGOs performing in Bangladesh; major sectors they are working on. . To have knowledge about prevailed poverty level in Bangladesh; its extent and effect. 3. To evaluate the poverty alleviation programs of some of the major NGOs in Bangladesh. SCOPE The position of NGOs in Bangladeshi society is quite unique. Bangladesh is home to the largest national NGOs in the world, as well as to a multitude of middle- and small-sized NGOs that operate on a national, regional or local level. The Bangladeshi NGOs literally reach out to millions of people in both rural and urban areas.
This study comprises extensive case studies of a cross section of NGOs in Bangladesh. The Bangladeshi NGOs that were subject of study and their partners in the Netherlands both, Bilance (formerly Cebemo), ICCO and Novib, have been closely involved in the various stages of the study. It is important to emphasize that the role of the case studies to be undertaken of the NGOs is to provide insights into the achievements of NGOs in Poverty Alleviation in Bangladesh as a whole. Most NGOs, and particularly the larger ones, have several donors and a range of activities.
Fieldwork in any individual organization is concentrated only on a program conducted by one particular donor assistance, namely donor agencies of Netherlands, and will not attempt to assess the NGO’s overall range of activities. METHODOLOGY Research Approach and Data Analysis The research approach followed for this report is mainly observation and analysis of the information accumulated through observation. For the evaluation of the information a number of intellectuals, peers and experts were consulted so that the researchers could get a better insight of the information gathered.
Sampling The samples used in this report were mainly selected on the merit of their donor agencies. As mentioned in the scope section, the samples were chosen from those NGOs only which are getting assistance from donor agencies of Netherlands and The Royal Netherlands Embassy. Data Collection, Contact Methods and Instruments used Various printed materials of the NGOs were used for data collection. However, majority of the information was gathered from The Royal Netherlands Embassy and Association of Development Agencies of Bangladesh (ADAB).
Personal contacts were mainly used to gather the information, the details of which are provided in the annexure of the report. The following tools are used in conducting the report: – Interview – Observation – Secondary data LIMITATIONS In terms of methodological limitations, the main constraint was the relatively limited amount of fieldwork which could be undertaken in comparison with the enormous scale of NGO operations in Bangladesh. Some other limitations in conducting the above mentioned tasks are as follows: – Lack of access to all the NGOs chosen Reluctance on the part of the NGOs to share information – Lack of financial support to go and observe the NGOs operations in rural areas CHAPTER – 2: PREAMBLE The Netherlands support to Bangladeshi NGOs is mainly geared to the pursuance of poverty alleviation, first in rural but of late also in urban areas. However, in consideration of the target groups of Bangladeshi NGOs, rural and urban poor and particularly women among them, the common denominator of the Netherlands-funded NGO activities has been poverty alleviation.
The evaluation concentrates on credit, training and related services of Bangladeshi NGOs, conducted with support from the Co-Financing Agencies (CFAs) Novib, ICCO and Cebemo (now Bilance), or from the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Dhaka. It does not cover some other major activities of NGOs, notably emergency relief, health and education. Poverty alleviation is an important objective of the overall Netherlands’ development cooperation program with Bangladesh. In recent years, the Embassy in Dhaka has also substantially assisted NGO programs, particularly in the fields of education, health, women’s activities and income generation.
The study expanded from its original exclusive concentration on CFA-assisted programs to take account of this development. NGOs receiving assistance have implemented programs mainly targeting the following issues: – Poverty alleviation – Concretization and mobilization of local groups; – Development of local and regional organizations of the poor to defend their rights and interests. THE SECTOR Bangladesh, along with other countries in the region of South Asia, is among one of the most densely populated countries and has an extremely high rate of poverty.
According to the United Nationals Human Development Report, 86% of Bangladeshis live below the poverty line. Both domestic and world agencies, such as the Government of Bangladesh (GOB), international donors, and non-governmental organizations, have been trying to become more involved with Bangladesh to assist the government in improving the economy and alleviating poverty. For example, during the last few decades, the country has been subject to experimentation in the form of different rural development approaches. However, despite the help of such groups and programs, poverty persists in Bangladesh.
The structure of rural poverty A fundamental aspect of rural poverty is unemployment and under-employment. In almost all rural areas the supply of labour is much higher than available agricultural work. Opportunities outside this sector are extremely limited and increasing at a much slower pace than demand. The oversupply of labour results from two factors: a high concentration of landownership and rapid population growth. The structure of urban poverty One response to the lack of basic opportunities in the rural areas is migration to urban areas.
The rate of urbanization by far exceeds the rise in employment opportunities, despite the steady growth of the predominant garments sector. Urbanization has therefore promoted a rapidly expanding category of the urban poor, estimated in 2007 at 15 million people, of who 9 million were considered extremely poor. Since the rural situation is unlikely to substantially improve, it can be anticipated that migration to towns and cities will increase, exacerbating the problems already experienced. Assessment by NGOs of the situation of the poor
The NGO sector in Bangladesh began at the time of mass relief and rehabilitation efforts, during and after the Independence struggle. This stage was replaced by early efforts at rural development, during which NGOs gave much attention to increasing overall rural productivity. The results of this were disappointing, since it became clear that the rural elite had managed to appropriate the greatest share of the benefits of growth. Thereafter, NGOs began to make their analyses of poverty in terms of the prevalence and dominance of national and local power structures.
Poverty was therefore seen as a multi-dimensional problem, which requires changes in the social structure for its alleviation. This type of analysis is illustrated by the ‘Problem Tree’ provided below. Year Plan of Proshika, one of the major Bangladeshi NGOs. Most NGOs would broadly support this approach to analyzing poverty. Over the years, however, substantial variations have entered the sector concerning how NGOs can contribute towards the alleviation of poverty. MAJOR SECTORS OF NGO OPERATION
NGOs currently operate in a comprehensive range of sectors including: integrated rural development, savings and credit, family planning, income generation and training, women’s development, health, education, adult education, relief and rehabilitation, social awareness and motivation, agriculture, fisheries, legal aid, human and civil rights, rehabilitation of blind and/or disabled, child development, children’s homes and orphanages, environment and forestry, and public health.
These operational sectors are combined in various ways to meet local needs, NGO capacities and donor and/or Government of Bangladesh interests. Major sectors in which NGOs are currently operating are as follows: – integrated rural development – Savings and credit – Family planning – Income generation and training – Women’s development – Health – Education – Adult education – Relief and rehabilitation – Social awareness and motivation – Agriculture – Fisheries – Legal aid – Human and civil rights – Rehabilitation of blind and/or disabled Child development – Children’s homes and orphanages – Environment and forestry – Public health. These operational sectors are combined in various ways to meet local needs, NGO capacities and donor and/or Bangladeshi government requirements. In addition to these specific activities, most NGOs have an underlying concern to raise the capacity of the poor to participate in national social and democratic processes. This is undertaken through raising the organizational strength of the poor by group formation and development.
Some major activities of NGO operation are outlined below. Poverty alleviation Since poverty is so pervasive in Bangladesh (see Chapter 2), the great majority of the poor are functionally landless, and there are relatively few formal sector employment opportunities in rural areas, poverty alleviation strategies of NGOs have focused particularly on possibilities for income generation through self-employment. Education Most NGOs see education in one form or another as essential to long-term poverty reduction and empowerment.
Many see literacy as a vital component in raising the capacity of poor households to operate in their social environment. Adult literacy programs have been favored by some NGOs, while others claim that experience has shown that the poor cannot afford the time commitment required for the attainment of full literacy. Their concentration has therefore shifted towards functional literacy. The interpretation of this concept varies widely and in many cases means little more than introducing the ability to write a signature, which is, however, in itself a socially valued skill. Health and family planning
Few development NGOs are concentrating on specialized health and family planning programs, although many include elements of these sectors in broader activities. Even organizations which began in this area have tended to broaden out to include income generation elements to enable the poor to access health care services and products. Environmental activities Poverty and landlessness have forced people to live in areas unsuitable or dangerous for habitation. This exacerbates the tendency for frequent disasters which are often a combination of natural events with inappropriate settlement patterns.
Population pressure also often leads to excessive pressure on limited land and associated natural resources. Many NGOs in the years after Independence placed considerable emphasis on the necessity for land redistribution to reduce the pressure on environmentally vulnerable areas. Focus on women Ideologically, many NGOs have focused much of their attention on women, on the grounds that they suffer from multiple forms of deprivation and exploitation. This concentration has been reinforced by the experience of Grameen Bank and many NGOs that women are more likely than men to repay credit received.
At a later stage, donors also placed heightened attention on the importance of women’s participation in programs which they supported. THE MAJOR SERVICES The NGO programs are expected to promote progress towards: structural poverty alleviation, promotion of women in development, strengthening the rights of the individual and environmentally sustainable development. Structural poverty alleviation implies a sustainable improvement in the position of poor individuals and groups. The activities undertaken by all NGOs studied are targeting structural poverty alleviation and are therefore relevant to this goal.
All of the NGOs studied are also promoting the interests of women through their programs. In the NGOs studied, between 50 per cent and 100 per cent of direct beneficiaries are women. The NGOs studied also tackle the policy goal of strengthening the rights of the individual, through such activities as legal rights training, improving awareness of and access to Government services, literacy and non-formal education and emphasizing the need for the poor to participate in democratic processes. Credit (and savings) These programs are the major activity targeting poverty alleviation.
Two streams of activity have emerged. On the one hand, there are programs which supply regular and reasonably high amounts of credit to the ‘moderately poor’ on a semi-commercial basis. These achieve high repayment efficiency and help move these beneficiaries out of poverty. On the other hand, there are NGOs which supply small, or large but irregular, amounts of credit. These achieve varying repayment rates and are not sustainable alleviating poverty in a sustainable way, but are rather providing a ‘safety net’. Training Training has had a mixed impact on poverty among its clients.
Skills-based training associated with credit is seen by most of the poor as the combination necessary to offer the potential for economic improvement. Training in the broad fields of empowerment and health and nutrition can play a positive role, but are less valued by the clients than skills training. An area into which few NGOs have ventured, but which is commonly cited as the real need of many of the poor, is the creation of non-farm employment opportunities. Tribal communities in particular cited this as having far more potential value than credit.
Social Empowerment Social Empowerment achieved by the programs is not as dramatic as originally hoped for by the NGOs. Even though NGOs provide a wide range of services and activities covering much of the country and with millions of participants, these have not led to any major change in the social order. Fundamental factors of rural society, notably the unequal distribution of power and the prevalence of landlessness have not changed. Other services Many other services of NGOs relate to the credit and training components.
They include provision of resources for income-generation projects, such as livestock, tree saplings and improved seed varieties, environmental health inputs such as pit latrines and boreholes, often at subsidized prices, and legal aid. Some of these services are provided by NGOs involved in integrated development projects, whilst others are supplied by specialist NGOs, usually operating on a small scale. MAJOR DONORS NGO fund flows contain both inputs for regular programs and projects and one-off amounts to alleviate the impacts of the natural calamities which regularly strike various areas of the country.
In 2006, for example, some $150 million of funding from external donors was received by Bangladeshi NGOs, supporting over 1,000 projects. At this time, there were about 20 major bilateral and multilateral donors, 13 of which were each providing over $1 million per annum. Western CFAs and NGOs were another major source of incoming funds. CEBEMO (NOW BILANCE)Drawing on its contacts within the international network of Catholic institutions, Cebemo was able to commence cooperation with Bangladeshi partners shortly after Independence.
Cebemo has gradually developed partnerships with some 30 organisations in Bangladesh. Specific objectives and intervention areas of these organisations cover a broad range, including basic education and occupational training, advocacy for human and legal rights, health care, promotion of women’s interests, savings and credits, and income-generating activities. Within the context of its South Asian program, Cebemo’s presence is very substantial in Bangladesh. Two of the biggest NGOs in the subcontinent have close links with Cebemo, namely ASA and Caritas Bangladesh.
OXFAM NOVIBNovib began developing its network of partners in Bangladesh shortly after the country gained independence from Pakistan in 1971. In the early years, a small number of large projects in the health sector (notably a pharmaceuticals factory) caused high disbursements. Of the three Dutch CFAs active in Bangladesh, Novib makes the largest financial allocations. Currently, around 80 per cent of its disbursements in Bangladesh go to the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) and Proshika Kendra. Novib is the leading partner in the donor consortium for BRAC and currently chairs a similar platform for Proshika Kendra.
It currently supports 16 partners in Bangladesh and will add one more by the year 2012. ICCOIn its program in Bangladesh, ICCO has worked closely with church-related partners in the Netherlands, England and Germany. At present only about half of ICCO’s partners are Christian-based, although they receive the bulk of its funding (at least 70 per cent). ICCO’s policy is to maintain the number of its counterparts at around 20. Traditionally, the relationship between ICCO and its partners in Bangladesh encompasses more than strictly development issues.
The historical church-institutional linkages are still an important element in the evolution of cooperation programs, although this has not kept ICCO from establishing substantial cooperation programs with secular development organizations. Activities related to lobbying, advocacy for human rights, promoting institutions of civil society, communication and information on North–South issues are considered important components of the relationship with the partners. A recent example is the support given to documenting and facilitating the international dialogue on the Flood Action Plan.
FUND CHART POLICIES AND LEGAL REQUIREMENTS The enormous growth of NGOs since Independence is evidence of a degree of tolerance on behalf of the Bangladeshi Government. However, the relationship between the two sectors has not been smooth or consistent. For many years Government insisted that NGO funding from outside the country should be separate from and in addition to amounts negotiated between it and international donors. Regulation of the sector was extensive and the associated bureaucracy slow moving, causing delays and frustrations to NGOs and their donors.
Locally based NGOs which are not receiving foreign funding must be registered under the pre-Independence (1961) Voluntary Social Welfare Agencies (Registration and Control) Ordinance. This was supplemented in 1978 by an instrument designed to control the flow of foreign funds, the Foreign Donation (Voluntary Activities) Regulations Ordinance of 1978. This Ordinance resulted in an almost unworkable set of procedures under which all relevant Government Departments were invited to comment on each project for which foreign funds were planned.
The law was amended by the Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Ordinance in 1982, but with no great effect. NGOs and donors worked as best possible under the Ordinance until 1988, when disaster relief was rendered ineffective by its bureaucratic requirements and Government felt it necessary to act. An NGO cell was established within Cabinet Division of the President’s Secretariat and each Ministry dealing with NGOs had to form a high-level Steering Committee to cover this area.
In 1989, in the face of considerable donor and NGO pressure, Government decided to establish an NGO Affairs Bureau to streamline procedures and improve coordination among Government Ministries. The Bureau is attached to the Prime Ministers’ Secretariat. SOME PERCEIVED WEAKNESSES OF NGOs The NGO sector is perceived by some donors to have a number of important deficiencies. These include the following: – Limited size, scope and impact – Loose structure, often with limited accountability to beneficiaries – Inadequate attention to the ‘very poor’ – Unduly influenced by donors’ interests, this may not reflect the priorities of the poor. Ineffective strategy and implementation of measures to build institutional capacity and self-reliance among the poor – Insufficient attention to monitoring and evaluation – Weak planning and management capacity – Lack of broad social and economic perspective – Inadequate technical, professional and managerial skills. The few very large NGOs are often seen as free from most of the above limitations, but as prone to bureaucratization at the operational level and to excessive reliance on charismatic founders at policy level. CHAPTER – 3: CASE STUDIES
As a major component of the evaluation of the Netherlands assistance for poverty alleviation, a fieldwork assessment, based on case studies, was made of the activities of 10 NGOs participating in it, as partners of CFAs or of the RNE. Case studies of the Netherlands assisted organizations have been described in the following chronology: Cebemo Assisted: – Association for Social Advancement (ASA) – The Baitul Aman Trust – Caritas Bangladesh – Shaw Unnayan Novib Assisted: – Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) – Proshika Manobik Unnayan Kendra Royal Netherlands Embassy Assisted – Shakti Foundation – Sheba – UBINIG
ICCO Assisted – Nijera Kori ASSOCIATION FOR SOCIAL ADVANCEMENT (ASA) Background ASA was founded later than the first wave of NGOs which operated during and immediately after the Independence struggle. It was set up in 1978 by a group of development workers formerly with BRAC, CCDB and Government. It aimed to mobilize the poor to form grass-roots organizations which could become involved in the development process and eventually challenge the unequal rural social order. Management structure ASA has a central office located in Dhaka, accommodating the Chief Executive, four coordinators, seven associate coordinators and 40 staff.
Below this are unit offices, which manage field-level activities such as group formation, development education, training, savings, loan disbursement and repayments. A unit office coordinates (in principle) 60 groups containing 1,200 members. Each unit office has six staff, comprising the Unit Officer (UO) four 4 COs (Community Organizers) and 1 ‘peon’ (general worker). COs are responsible for all field-level activities, supervised by the UO. Bank accounts are operated by any two of the COs, UO or RC (Regional Coordinator). For ten to fifteen units there is a Regional Coordinator.
He has no separate office or staff and is located in a convenient office to travel his region. For each two RCs one member of central-level staff is assigned to supervise and assist. The central internal audit section regularly audits unit office and group accounts. Donors ASA has a variety of funding sources for its Savings and Credit Program. According to its 1994 Annual Report, its activities were funded by its Partners Group of donors in 27 thanas, by DANIDA in 11 thanas, by a loan from PKSF (Palli Karma Sahayek Foundation, a Government facility offering loans to NGOs) in 14 thanas, and from its own resources in 35 thanas.
The ASA Partners’ Forum consists of Cebemo, DIA Netherlands, HEKS Switzerland and Misereor, Germany. The Forum meets together with ASA on an approximately annual basis and discusses progress, makes financial commitments or proposals, and gives feedback to ASA on the partners’ views of its achievements. KEY FINDINGS FOR EVALUATION OF POVERTY ALLEVIATION OF ASA – ASA has over 400,000 group members, 99 per cent of them female. – It was set up in 1978 and began its work by strengthening people’s organizations through concretization and training.
Organizations became strong and took social actions, but the poor economic status of members made the achievements unsustainable. – The intended apex organizations of members’ groups could also not be sustained, because poor people lost interest when no tangible benefits came from them. Furthermore, the apexes aroused suspicion and hostility among the rural elite. – The second phase of activities focused on development education, income generation, credit and women’s development. This also achieved much, but the integrated development concepts took long to realize, while members placed higher priority on access to credit. The third and current phase is centered on savings and credit through groups. At the same time, participation in the groups contributes to raise awareness of development issues and helps create a new category of people with leadership skill in rural society. – The ASA program is focused almost entirely on women. About one third of its own field staffs are women, but this is not reflected in management positions. – Management procedures are decentralized, well-documented and effective. – The credit program is standardized and highly disciplined.
It provides regular loans of between Tk 2000 and Tk 6000 to all members. – Many members of the ‘hard core poor’ do not wish to participate in savings and credit schemes, but prefer to concentrate on daily laboring, which gives an immediate return. – Although ASA provides no formal training on such issues as how its members can best access services available from government or other providers, its members are well informed on these topics. They state that through meeting regularly and sharing information, such knowledge is disseminated. ASA credit has improved the standard of living of members and their households. – Although women receive the loans, most of the money is directly used by men. Women note that their role as the channel to credit has raised their status in the household. – As well as access to credit, many women indicated that skills training would be useful to them and possibly enable them to utilize more of the credit received. – Group members in the area studied compare NGOs on the basis of their perceived characteristics and choose between them. ASA is seen as having a lower interest rate than other NGOs. At district level, there is relatively formal coordination between NGOs or between NGOs and government. – ASA has adopted the concept of economic empowerment as the key for the solution of a broad range of problems of the poor. – ASA is striving to attain its own self-reliance, but does not aim to make its groups self-reliant. – As its income has increased, ASA has reduced service charges to members. – ASA intends to continue operating primarily as a ‘bank-like’ NGO. THE BAITUL AMAN TRUST Background Baitul Aman Trust is an Islamic welfare organization in the coastal district of Patuakhali. It was founded in 1981.
Until the early 1990s its major emphasis was on running an orphanage, mosque and charitable dispensary and providing Islamic education to the residents of the orphanage. Its project area was Patuakhali sadar thana. With the help of local and sometimes international funds Baitul Aman has also organized various social programs and income-generating activities for poor people. During the 1980s it organized vocational training on operating sawing, welding and sewing machines. Occasionally it distributed income-generating equipment to destitute, both male and female. KEY FINDINGS FOR EVALUATION OF POVERTY ALLEVIATION OF BAITUL AMAN TRUST Baitul Aman Trust is a small local Islamic welfare organization, which has been working in the coastal district of Patuakhali since 1981, mainly on social development, welfare and skills training activities. – Its groups have 941 members, 53 per cent of whom are female. – In 1994, it registered with the NGO Affairs Bureau and began a community development project in a remote area, in which no other NGOs are working. – The project aims to organize 60 groups with a total of 1200 members, impart literacy, functional education and preventive health care training, develop savings habits and disburse credit. Because of its limited financial resources, the organization has been able to give its staff little training and few formal guidelines on work practice. – For the same reason, Baitul Aman has only been able to provide credit to about one quarter of its members. Many of those not served have begun to lose interest in group activities. – The credit program is not supported by training in technical skills. – In the absence of large NGOs, Baitul Aman is playing an important role in a remote area. – It lacks access to the technical assistance it needs to upgrade its largely untrained staff. Its resources are inadequate for the credit needs of the area. – The Executive Director is a local politician who has blended his political role with directly providing a service to poor people. CARITAS BANGLADESH Background Organizations within the Caritas network are present in 142 different countries, including Bangladesh and Netherlands. Caritas began operating in the country before Independence, in 1967. At that time, it focused its work in the country’s small Catholic community. The 1970 cyclone proved a turning point, as Caritas immediately set up a relief program in the Noakhali area.
Caritas proposed a US$ 30 million relief and rehabilitation package, at that time the biggest in Catholic Church history. Donor response was massive and within 15 months, US$ 45 million was raised to finance the program. In order to avoid creating dependency, the operation moved to a 5 year plan to create work opportunities for the destitute. After the immediate relief phase, early efforts at development concentrated on raising agricultural productivity, with an emphasis on new technology such as power tillers.
Government as well as many NGOs cooperated in this effort, which led to enormous increases in food production. However, Caritas began to realize that only those who had connections to the rural power structure were really benefiting from the progress made, whilst the poor stayed the same, or even declined as the rich bought up their land. Since land is the major asset in Bangladesh, those with power will struggle to maintain it and have always managed to successfully withstand attempts at redistribution.
Caritas was the innovator of the Rower Pump, of which nearly one million are in use to supply irrigation and drinking water. This had a major impact on health and productivity. KEY FINDINGS FOR EVALUATION OF POVERTY ALLEVIATION OF CARITAS – Caritas has about 275,000 members, 52 per cent of whom are female. – It began in East Pakistan in 1967. – After early relief and rehabilitation programs, it concentrated on helping raise rural productivity through technological innovations, disseminated through cooperatives. – Although productivity was raised, the benefits were not mainly reaching the poor.
Caritas then became a pioneer in the field of consciousness-raising and empowerment programs, coupled with savings, credit and training. – In principle, Caritas now has one program with 43 elements, which can be made available to members groups on request. – One of the core programs, which receive substantial Netherlands assistance, is Development Extension and Education Services (DEEDS), which has been running since 1979 and now has about 100,000 members. – There is a three tier institutional structure in the DEEDS program.
At the base are village level groups, whose chairpersons are members of the next level, the union committee. These committees are in turn represented on a than level committee, which is known as the apex body. – Apex bodies receive five years of direct assistance from Caritas, after which they take control of their own assets and management, with Caritas phasing itself out into a support role. – The field study found that several groups operating under ‘phased out’ apexes were found to suffer from a lack of confidence among members concerning their financial management.
Loans were said to be unevenly distributed among members with a tendency to favor group leaders. Allegations of financial irregularities were also sometimes made. – Group members, particularly those in leadership positions, receive substantial training, with an emphasis on institutional development. – Skills centered training is also available, but not on a scale to meet the demands of all members who would like to receive it. – Apex bodies have substantial financial responsibilities, which they find it difficult to fulfill. Furthermore, members have high expectations regarding credit and the apexes have insufficient funds to meet these. – Members have received much training concerning the strength of their collective power. This had led to increased participation in political processes. – Female members feel that they have gained social mobility and respect through participation in group activities. – Women members are not optimistic about changing deep-rooted social customs and practices which discriminate against them. Caritas is seen by its members as adopting a humane approach to credit repayment, as well as charging a low interest rate. – However, its procedures are seen as slow as to result in unequal distribution of the limited funds available. Caritas’ intention to transfer responsibility to apex bodies is an ambitious one, and the majority of group members exhibit little direct concern in the sustainability of these bodies. – The program does not appear to reach the ‘core poor’. – Although Caritas has a high proportion of female staff, many of these are volunteers.
The further up the management structure one goes, the smaller the proportion of female staff. – Caritas targets for coverage of the poor in particular areas have not been met, largely because of increasing competition from other NGOs for the same target groups and because of the lower than expected capacity of existing group leaders to stimulate formation of new groups. – Since Caritas has far less credit funds available than its members demand, there is an in-built pressure among existing members against new group development. Within existing groups, the average number of members declines over time, due to drop out without replacement. – All new groups are intended to complete a weekly training program over a one year period, but for many this takes substantially longer. – Group leaders must maintain many types of record and many of them lack the training or the time to do so. – The work load for an Associate Field Officer in new DEEDS areas varies from 35 to 90 primary groups, with an average of 42 groups. – Caritas collects much data, but this is often not systematic or appropriate for management purposes. Caritas ‘project management is therefore based more on general and individual perceptions than on systematic feedback from the field which should be the primary goal of a monitoring system’ SHAW UNNAYAN Background Shaw Unnayan is a local NGO which has been operating in Rajshahi and neighboring areas since 1979. During the late 1970s, a disease (lathyrism) spread throughout Rajshahi and surrounding areas. This disease was said to be related to consumption of a certain type of lentil, known locally as Khesari.
Shaw Unnayan was the initiative of some local people and initially had the aim of reintegrating the disease-affected people into local society, through improving their physical and economic well-being. Shaw Unnayan started its program in 23 thanas of Rajshahi, Chapai, Nawabganj, Natore and Kushtia, with support from a Swedish NGO. This project ended in 1982. Since then, Shaw Unnayan has been involved in many types of welfare and development activities and in 1989 it registered with the NGO Affairs Bureau. It is an active member of ADAB and a number of networks.
Federation structure SU follows the Caritas policy of federating groups into higher-level structures. It has already formed union level and thana level peoples’ forums by selecting members from village groups. The union level committee has monthly meetings. However, so far group members do not have any clear idea about the value and purpose of these federating committees. According to one field supervisor these committees are particularly helpful in putting pressure on defaulters to repay loans. He cited two cases.
In one case, the thana committee extended the time limit for a defaulter to pay off his loan as his crop was affected by natural disaster and in the other, the committee is pressurizing the families of two group members who have left for India without clearing their debts, to do so. KEY FINDINGS FOR EVALUATION OF POVERTY ALLEVIATION OF SHAW UNNAYAN – SU is a small local NGO which operates in and around Rajshahi district and aims to improve the socio-economic well-being of its target groups among the poor. – It began operating in 1979 and now has 7,500 group members, two thirds of whom are female. It is running an integrated development project in the Bagha area of Rajshahi district, with assistance from Cebemo. – The approach begins with motivation training, group formation and adult literacy. – Savings and credit are introduced in the next stage. – SU aims to federate its groups into apex organizations at union and thana levels. – Group discipline is good and savings regular. – Fieldworkers are locally recruited, which helps them establish good relations with their clients. – SU has insufficient funds to offer credit to all members at once, and the amount loaned is small, at Tk 1000 per member. Members were broadly positive about SU, but were dissatisfied with the small amounts of credit available. – About half the women invested the credit in activities on their own behalf. – Access to skills training, in addition to programs currently available, was another desire of some members. – SU holds an annual seminar, at which their clients are able to discuss their activities with a range of other community members. This innovation has proved popular with both the group members and the broader community. Women report improved confidence and a better position in the household as a result of participating in group activities and receiving credit. – SU has taken active steps to relate to the local community and to government officers and elected members. – SU is an example of the contribution which a well-managed and innovative local NGO can make to its beneficiaries and the community. BANGLADESH RURAL ADVANCEMENT COMMITTEE (BRAC) Background BRAC first began operating as the Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee in the Sulla area of Sylhet in February 1972.
Its initial work (see The Research and Evaluation Division Annual Report, 1994) was a relief and rehabilitation project for refugees of the Liberation War. Within a year, BRAC had renamed itself and began to develop a broader concept of sustainable development through building the capacity of the rural poor. Initially, it operated multi-sectored village development programs, but based on early experiences it moved to a target group approach designed to avoid appropriation of benefits by the rural elite. The primary target group served by BRAC is the landless (less than 0. 5 acres) poor, who sell their manual labor for survival.
This includes comparable groups such as fishermen, artisans and manual transport workers. Women have become a major area of concentration for BRAC programs. BRAC describes its twin objectives as poverty alleviation and empowerment, since it has found through experience that poverty is the outcome of powerlessness. Its interventions aim to assist the rural poor to develop their own institutions, through which local leadership and organizational skills should be developed with the intention of enabling groups to function independently and on a sustainable basis. KEY FINDINGS FOR EVALUATION OF POVERTY ALLEVIATION OF BRAC BRAC began its operations in 1972 with relief and rehabilitation work. – It then tried to promote sustainable development, through building the capacity of the rural poor by multi-sectored village development programs. – To avoid appropriation of benefits by the rural elite, it then adopted a target group approach, with a concentration on women. – Its interventions aim to assist the poor to build their own institutions, through which local leadership and organizational skills can be developed, with the intention of enabling them to function on an independent and sustainable basis.
BRAC is a big NGO, with 1. 6 million members, 92 per cent of whom are female. – BRAC operates a broad variety of programs, including the Rural Development program (RDP), the rural credit program (RCP), the Non-Formal Primary Education Program and human rights and legal education activities. – The biggest program is the RDP, which provides credit and savings support, education and technological services, and institution building. – The credit program operates as a revolving loan fund and has the support of a range of technical training programs. It is intended that after four years participation in RDP, groups will move into RCP, which is able to sustain itself without BRAC subsidies and effectively operates as a rural bank. – Most of the groups studied function smoothly and meet regularly, although there were exceptions. – Members of all groups have regular access to credit. – BRAC has three types of loan: general, housing and project loans and a member can take all three types, but with a maximum total amount. – The credit recovery rate is high. – All group members have attended the Functional Education Program and most also have received para legal training.
Retention of information is high. – Members do not feel able to change fundamental social practices such as dowry and polygamy, but more marriages are now registered. – BRAC clients generally feel that the services provided are good and directly help raise income and employment possibilities. The regular supply of substantial amounts of credit is highly valued, as are the technical support services. Members report economic gains in participating. – About half the credit extended to women is used by male household members. – Health and hygiene practices have improved as a result of group discussions and training. Few examples of collective social empowerment initiatives have been taken by members, but participation in elections is high. – Many women directly take part in economic activities with BRAC assistance and others report improved status as a result of participating in group and credit activities. – Although many NGOs operate in the area studied, there is no formal coordination between them. Overlapping membership of NGOs is prevalent. – BRAC participates in bi-monthly meetings organized by the Deputy Commissioner’s office, but the DC feels that more information sharing and cooperation between NGOs and government is needed. An Impact Assessment Study of BRAC has shown that improvements to material well being of households occur after a minimum length of membership of 2. 5 years, with a cumulative credit of at least Tk 7500. – The proportion of households in the sever food deficit category declines substantially with access to regular loans. – The impact study found little evidence of progress towards self-sustaining village organizations and that members prefer to leave leadership roles to BRAC staff. PROSHIKA MANOBIK UNNAYAN KENDRA Background
Proshika Manobik Unnayan Kendra (Proshika: A Centre for Human Development), referred to as Proshika in this report, is one of the largest NGOs in Bangladesh. It was established in 1976 and from its inception concentrated on organizing and mobilizing the poor for their empowerment. Since then it has established a distinctive approach to assisting the poor to develop their opportunities and achievements, which retains a strong ideological component. Its objectives are (IOV study questionnaire): – To achieve structural poverty alleviation; – Environmental protection and regeneration; Improvement in women’s status; – Increasing people’s participation in public institutions; – Increasing people’s capacity to gain and exercise democratic and human rights. The ideological basis of Proshika’s efforts is that ‘poverty reduction and promotion of sustainable development is dependent upon the human and material capacity building of the poor and their socio-economic and cultural empowerment through a process of generating human, social, economic and cultural capital among them’. Proshika is working in over 6,200 villages and 19 urban slums in 36 districts of the country.
It has 773,400 members, organized into over 44,000 groups. Translated into total population of households reached, this is estimated at some 4 million people. KEY FINDINGS FOR THE EVALUATION OF POVERTY ALLEVIATION OF PROSHIKA – Proshika: a Centre for Human Development was established in 1976. Since its inception, it has concentrated on organizing and mobilizing the poor for their empowerment. It has retained a distinctive approach, with a strong ideological component. – Proshika is a big NGO, with some 773,400 members, of who half are female. Proshika has one umbrella program, ‘Participatory Sustainable Development for Poverty Alleviation, Environmental Protection and Regeneration’, which includes activities in the fields of: organization building of people’s groups, development education, employment and income-generating activities, environmental protection and regeneration, universal education,. Health education and related infrastructure buildings. Integrated multi-sectored women’s development, urban poor development, housing for the homeless, disaster preparedness and management, and an Institute for Development Policy Analysis and Advocacy. The program is now in its fifth phase of five years and has a consortium of donors, which is currently chaired by Novib. – A major aim of the Proshika development process is to create self-reliant organizations of the poor, which can manage themselves after Proshika workers withdraw from a direct role and become advisers and facilitators. – Groups are federated at village, union and thana level, each of which has a coordinating committee. – Proshika offers many types of training, including awareness building, institutional and skills for income generation or improved household nutrition. Of the primary groups studied, only one out of six meets regularly and meetings which are held concentrate mainly on savings and credit, rather than on broader social issues. – These groups also do not save regularly. This relates to the fact that the groups manage their own savings, and members expressed a lack of confidence in this system, with reported cases of financial mismanagement. Proshika is aware of this problem, but regards the more widespread system of financial management by NGO field staff as disempowering. – All groups have received credit in reasonably high amounts, but infrequently.
The repayment schedule is geared to the projected income flow from the activity undertaken with the loan. Proshika sees this system as more accessible to the hard core poor than weekly or monthly repayments. Despite this favorable system, half the groups studied were in loan default, although the overall recovery rate of Proshika loans is over 90 per cent. – Generally, members reported some improvement in their economic position from their association with Proshika and dependence on money lenders has substantially reduced. Both institutional and skills training are provided. – Group members show increased awareness of practices likely to promote health and there have been gains from attending the adult literacy program. – Proshika has been innovative in its use of popular theatre to disseminate messages on social issues and promote empowerment. Awareness has been raised, but most members show little expectation of changing such deep-rooted practices as payment of dowry. – Women in Proshika groups have become more involved in income-generating activities and in household decision making. Proshika has emphasized to its members the importance of voting in elections and some members have also stood for local elected offices. – Village coordination committees play an important role in managing primary groups, particularly in processing credit applications and making recommendations on them to the union coordinating committee (UCC). – UCCs take initiatives on social issues, as well as processing credit applications. – Although several other NGOs work in the area studied, there has not yet been a major problem with overlapping membership. Relations between NGOs and government in the area are good, but the Thana Nirbahi Officer feels that NGOs are reluctant to share information on their work with government and that this reduces the opportunities for their members to benefit from government services. SHAKTI FOUNDATION Background Shakti Foundation (SF) is a Dhaka-based NGO, which began operating in 1992. Despite this recent start, it has already emerged as one of the pioneer NGOs which has been able to help organize urban slum and squatter women for their socio-economic development.
Most mainstream NGOs in Bangladesh have concentrated their development efforts on helping to tackle the problems of rural poverty. Over the years due to the migration of many asset less and landless rural poor to urban areas in search of work, urban poverty has also become a major development issue. Migrants often end up in slum areas with poor housing facilities, insufficient water supply, unhygienic sanitation and many other disadvantages. It has been estimated that in 1995 at least 40 per cent of the capital’s population were slum dwellers. Their work opportunities are also poor, especially for women.
Management structure Shakti Foundation is governed by an Executive Committee which is composed of the President, Vice President, three Members and a Member-Secretary. The Executive Director (ED) of the Foundation is the Member Secretary of the Executive Committee. The ED, Coordinator of Training, Research, Investment, Education and Monitoring Unit (TRIEMU), Deputy Director (Program) and Finance Manager form the senior management team of the Foundation. This team is responsible for policy formulation and implementation of the urban credit program.
The ED’s responsibilities include fund raising, advocacy, and liaison with Government, donors and national and international NGOs. Currently, there are six branch offices, with a total staff of 72. Senior management meet weekly and there is a joint meeting between this team and branch managers monthly. There are guidelines for program support activities and a unit wise division of responsibilities, but as yet no individual job descriptions for staff. KEY FINDINGS FOR THE EVALUATION OF POVERTY ALLEVIATION OF SHAKTI Shakti Foundation is a Dhaka based NGO which began operating in 1992. It is one of the organizations which have pioneered projects for the socio-economic development or urban slum and squatter women. – Shakti offers a credit program run on a Grameen bank model. After its initial period of operation, RNE Dhaka offered funding to extend the program for another five years, under the name of the Urban Credit Program. A pre-project support mission provided detailed models for project and financial management. – The organization works in and around Dhaka.
It is a medium-sized NGO with 11,755 members, all women. – The main objective of Shakti Foundation is the economic and social empowerment of poor urban women, through organizing them into groups, providing them with social awareness training, encouraging the savings habit, offering skills training and credit for self-employment. – Groups studied meet and save regularly and Shakti project officers have emphasized the need for productive utilization of loans and the importance of group cohesion and discipline. – Within one month of membership, clients qualify for a loan.
All members have received a loan and some have already benefited three or four times since 1993. Recovery rate is 100 per cent to date. – Although Shakti emphasizes the need for technical training, few members were found who had actually received any. However, those who had, found it directly useful for income generation, particularly in the filed of tailoring. – Members do not greatly value discussions on problems facing urban women, but emphasize the importance of improved economic status, which promotes their position in the household and/or their independence from men. Shakti centers were found to be well-managed and disciplined and members were well-informed concerning their savings and credit status. – So far, Shakti has experienced little problem with overlapping membership with other NGOs. SHEBA Background Sheba Nari O Shishu Kalyan Kendra (Sheba Women and Children’s Centre) is one of three NGOs receiving funds from the Royal Netherlands Embassy which were selected for this study. The organization was founded by a number of urban professional women. The Chairperson is an architect and the Chief Executive has long experience in the private sector.
Sheba’s emergence as a development NGO is fairly recent. It began an urban slum development program in 1994 and registered with the NGO Affairs Bureau in 1995. KEY FINDINGS FOR THE EVALUATION OF POVERTY ALLEVIATION OF SHEBA – Sheba is a Dhaka-based NGO, which began working with middle class urban women in 1991 and commenced a program in urban slum areas in 1994. – It is a small NGO with 1040 members, all female. – In February 1994, Sheba received a one-off grant from the RNE for its program. The program aims to effect socio-economic development of under-privileged slum dwelling women, through group organization, developing their capabilities through motivation and training, and bringing them into income-generating activities with the assistance of savings and credit schemes. – The program is based on the Grameen Bank model. After formation, groups receive training on organizational discipline, leadership, savings and the proper utilization of credit. – Groups which have made satisfactory progress are eligible for credit after three months. Groups meet regularly, but attendance is reduced by the need of women to pursue their self-employment activities. – Groups save regularly and have already received credit once or twice. To date, loan recovery is 100 per cent. In at least half the cases, women have used the loan directly, since they find many opportunities for trading and small-scale production in the slum areas. – Credit has been provided in sufficiently large amounts to enable income-generating activities and members report rapid profits and reinvestment though use of their loans. – Sheba offers both human resource development and skills training.
Training on organizational matters is provided directly to groups and has been effective. Skills training is held at a project office and few group members have been able to travel to attend course there. – Relatively few NGOs are working in Sheba’s operational areas, but some are beginning to do so, with a resultant rise in issues of overlapping. – Based on its successful experience to date, Sheba has designed a pilot program for community housing in slum areas. UBINIG Background Historically Tangail region has been famous for its quality handloom products.
The sector was neglected by development planners and policy makers in terms of ensuring basic requirements of yarn supply, working capital and marketing facilities. In the face of such difficulties, the weaving community of Tangail was gradually disintegrating. The situation forced a number of weavers to quit their generation-old profession. The pit loom (manual) weavers were especially affected. Several local factors contributed to the decay of the weaving industry; irregular supply and poor quality of yarn, lack of access to markets and the dominance of middlemen.
In the absence of any meaningful work opportunity the weavers were taking such work as day labouring and rickshaw pulling. Against this backdrop, in the early nineties, UBINIG took an initiative to revive the handloom industry. UBINIG (Policy Research for Development Alternatives) is a non-profit Private Limited Company which undertakes research, consultancy and development projects. In the late 1980s it began acquiring experience and identifying the constraints and opportunities of the weaving sector, particularly in the Tangail area. It began to plan a evelopmental project which could help to revitalize the weaving industry and in particular find ways of supporting marginal or disadvantaged weavers. It appeared that a limited number of highly skilled weavers could make a good living from practicing their trade, while the much larger numbers of less-skilled craftsmen endured a difficult lifestyle with marginal income. KEY FINDINGS FOR THE EVALUATION OF POVERTY ALLEVIATION OF UBINIG – UBINIG (Policy Research for Development Alternatives) is not an NGO, but a nonprofit Private Limited Company, which undertakes research, consultancy and development projects. It does not organize member groups in the same way as the NGOs studied, but it is a small-scale organization. – Since the late 1980s, UBINIG has been acquiring experience and identifying the constraints and opportunities of the weaving sector, particularly in the Tangail region. It designed a development project which aims to revitalize the weaving industry and particular to support marginal and disadvantaged weavers. UBINIG believes that the regular supply of quality inputs, access to markets and improved designs can help save the industry and rehabilitate the weavers in their own craft. Another aim of its activities is to more equally integrate women into a modernized, semi-automatic production system and to improve upon their traditional status as pre-weaving stage workers for little or no pay. – UBINIG drew up an Integrated Pilot Scheme for Small Weavers Development Project, which was granted about Dfl. 250,000 by DGIS for the period 1991–3. – As well as activities directly related to the improvement of weaving, this project comprised social support services, including an informal literacy program, a day care centre for children and health care provision. In June 1994, at the end of the funding support period an evaluation was undertaken and presented to RNE in Dhaka. The study concluded that the project had not met its quantitative targets, but had enabled much new ground to be broken, notably with regard to improvements in the inclusion of women in technological processes, but that inadequate institutional arrangements had hindered attainment of quantitative targets. – The evaluation recommended extension of the project time frame so that original targets could be met and in order to define strategies for expansion and replication under an anticipated second phase. UBINIG broadly accepted the evaluation and was granted a project extension until March 1995, with additional funding form RNE. During this period most of the original numerical targets were met. – In June 1995, UBINIG submitted a proposal for a second phase. This was not regarded as sufficiently explicit by RNE and six months of negotiations and discussions followed. UBINIG felt that RNE was trying to move the project too quickly towards commercial viability, whilst the Embassy felt that UBINIG had made too little provision to ensure the sustainability of the weaving enterprises receiving support. Finally, RNE offered the option of an independent assessment of the most effective approach, to blend the two viewpoints, but UBINIG felt that this was an attempt to impose unacceptable conditionality on the project. – No agreement could be reached and the option of a second phase of funding through – RNE was accepted as impossible by both parties. – The IOB evaluation studied the current situation of eight groups. It found that only two groups remain active, but UBINIG management has indicated that four are still operational.
Much of the investment in factories, machinery and equipment had been unproductive, since these facilities have in many cases already deteriorated. NIJERA KORI Background Nijera Kori (NK) is a well-known activist NGO in Bangladesh. After the famine of 1974 many destitute rural women made their way to the cities in search of food and work. Some urban professional women took the initiative of training some of these women in food processing activities, from which they were able to generate income. The process gradually resulted in the development of an organization, Nijera Kori.
Nijera Kori means ‘we do it ourselves’. At its inception, therefore, famine-affected urban destitute women constituted the target group of Nijera Kori and the aim of the organization was to rehabilitate these women. Management structure The highest decision-making body of Nijera Kori is its General Committee. This elects a Management Committee and appoints a Coordinator. The Coordinator is the ex officio chairperson of the Central Executive Committee. Apart from the positions of administrator and senior accountant, all other key positions are elected.
At the operational level, primary, village, ward, union and thana committees are elected for one year periods by group conventions. KEY FINDINGS FOR EVALUATION OF POVERTY ALLEVIATION OF NIJERA KORI – Nijera Kori is an activist NGO which aims to address the circumstances which cause the poverty and destination of rural people, by making people conscious of their rights and assisting them to develop the collective strength necessary to establish those rights. – It is a medium-sized NGO with 102,469 members, of whom about half are female. Its main current activity is a rural development program which operates in 17 districts and is supported by ICCO. – This program concentrates on organizational development, empowerment, awareness building and socio-economic development through a savings program. Funds generated through members’ savings are utilized by individuals or groups for income generating activities. There is no credit component using external funding. – The scope of the self-generated credit scheme is limited, since funds are small. NK provides legal aid to members, particularly in such areas as land acquisition and retention by the poor and challenging the oppression of women. – One or two members of each group receive training, which focuses on raising consciousness and passes through several distinct levels. – Trained members make serious efforts to disseminate what they have learned. – NK encourages its groups to form networks among themselves. – Groups are also federated through village and union level committees. – Members meet and save regularly. At meetings, members discuss pressing social issues and what measures they can take to tackle them. NK groups have taken combined action on social issues and established a reputation as a powerful force in the area. – Women members have gained confidence through participating in group activities. – Other members have taken joint actions which have led to tangible gains such as improved payment for manual labor on government pr