Empowerment of the Poor through Federations” (EPF) project, RDRS: Impacts and processes. Final report

Om publikasjonen

  • Utgitt: 2011
  • Serie: --
  • Type: Gjennomganger fra organisasjoner
  • Utført av: Ferdous Jahan, Abu Ahasan, Md. Mamun-Ur-Rashid, Omar Faruque Siddike
  • Bestilt av: Norwegian Church Aid
  • Land: Bangladesh
  • Tema: Sivilt samfunn
  • Antall sider: --
  • Serienummer: --
  • ISBN: --
  • ISSN: --
  • Organisasjon: Norwegian Church Aid
  • Lokal partner: Rangpur Dinajpur Rural Service (RDRS)
  • Prosjektnummer: QZA-10/0953-248
NB! Publikasjonen er KUN tilgjengelig elektronisk og kan ikke bestilles på papir

Rangpur Dinajpur Rural Service (RDRS) – a longterm partner of NCA in North Western Bangladesh – started to link smaller CBOs together into Federatios in the early 90`s. The Federations provide effective representation for the poor in the local communities.  A consortium of RDRS, DanChurchAid(lead agency), Church of Sweden, FinnChurchAid and Norwegian Church Aid supported the Federation Capacity Building Program (phase 1) from 2002 – 2006, whereas the second phase – Empowerment of the Poor – emphasized a rights-based approach through 2007 – 2011.  The program was funded by EU along with funds mobilized by the consortium members.   By 2011, approximately 350  federations were included in the program.

Purpose/ Objective:
“To empower the rural poor to claim their rights by way of critical engagement with local government, through representative, effective and well-governed community based organisations.”

Based on performances and activities, the Federations are divided into three categories (Grade A, B and C). The research team chose 27 Union Federations of all three grades from eight project districts as their research area. Twenty-seven case studies were conducted spanning 27 Federations. A series of key informant interviews and in-depth interviews were held with the government officers, Union Parishad chairs and members, civil society members and the local elites. In each union, Focus Group Discussions (FGD) were conducted with the Federation leaders and members. A quantitative survey on 825 households in 27 villages within the catchment areas of 27 Federations was carried on for triangulation. The qualitative data was analyzed thematically in line with the principles of grounded theory. Pseudo names were used for people and places while writing the report. 

Key Findings:
The increasing institutional and organizational development of the Federations should be considered as a big impact of the EPF project. The Federations have emerged as important local actors through using their number of memberships, solidarity and networking in the local electoral politics. The research identifies two major areas, the local government and justice, where the Federations pose as a serious threat to the system of brokerage of traditional intermediaries (elites, politicians, goons etc).  

The Federations learned how to make use of the number of their memberships in the local electoral bodies as “vote banks” and thus influence the institutions.  Besides playing this strategic but indirect role as a group, scores of individual Federations members stood in the 2011 UP elections (lowest government elected body) as candidates.  To everybody`s surprise, as many as 532 Federation members were elected in the Union Parishad election as UP members, while 27 were elected as UP chairmen.  It was a silent revolution which did not enjoy much attention from the mainstream media, but significantly changed the classbased demographic character of the Union Parishad committees across the eight districts in North Western Bangladesh.

A number of case studies show that the growing influence of the Federations was critical in the gaining of more access to government safety net programs by the poor.  However, the Federations could do very little in establishing the rights of the landless on  lands that had been occupied by the influential local elites.

Case studies show that the Federation members, especially the women who have been elected in the Union Parishad election, often have developed to  informed and outspoken individuals in claiming the rights and provisions of the poor.  In a number of key informant interviews with the UP Chairs, it has been revealed that these trained women sometimes pose a serious challenge to the prevailing unfriendly policies directed towards the poor by the local government.

The introduction of the Youth Forum as a wing of the Federations incorporated the children of the poor into the Federations framework.  The activities of the Youth forum in preventing child marriage and dowry are very visible in the community. They also run a series of campaigns on human rights provisions, participate in celebrating major days (Women`s Rights day etc.). The impact of these awareness building activities are not always assessable, but through these activities the Federations raise their profiles in the community.

At present most of the Federations have in their possession solid infrastructural bases comprising of office buildings, training centres and warehouses.  These infrastructural establishments were critical for the Federations to get registered by the Ministry of Social Welfare, and have helped the Federations in earning an important recognition in the community.

The Federations run a number of income generating programs (e.g. fish pond, computer centre, renting out of training centre and warehouse etc.).  However, the resource and the financial capacity of the Federations can hardly match the huge need of employment of the rural poor.

The majority of Federation leadership is not mentally prepared for the post-project reality on a long-term basis, and  exhibit limited  “capacity to aspire” for self-reliance when the project terminates.  

One of their main concerns is how to pay the agreed salary of the volunteer without the aid money.  These volunteers are vital for the Federations, as they have already acquired necessary technical expertise such as skills of projects proposal writing, arbitration, information technology etc.

The Federations also fear that the termination of aid will make it difficult to replicate the Federation executive committee election process which has been identified as “democratic model,”  because it requires high expenditure.

The current Empowerment of the Poor through Federation  process is built on a Rights Based Approach.  The previous phase (2002-2006) was based on a Capacity building approach.

The review team proposes a future program design which incorporates certain  elements of both these projects, but is fundamentally based on a new “Linkage Approach.”   The proposed Linkage approach is intended to expand the potential of linkage generation both vertically and horizontally with other NGOs, the Social Welfare Ministry, the local government institution, the local elites and civil society members etc.

Within the linkage approach, the Federations will enhance intra-group networking and exchange of information.  The process will expose the  organizations of the poor with different resources.  As a result, the team suggests, they will have more freedom to choose from, more negotiating power and more control over their actions.

Comments from Norwegian Church Aid (if any):
NCA will encourage RDRS to follow-up key recommendations in the review. NCA in 2011 decided to phase out cooperation in Bangladesh as part of policy  to become more geographically focused.  2012 thus is the last year of funding relationship with RDRS.  


Publisert 23.08.2012
Sist oppdatert 16.02.2015