Sima is a chairperson of Ghoryan Women Saffron Association. Her association was formed by the Danish Committee for Aid to Afghan Refugees (DACAAR) and received a small grant to help improve their post-harvest processing. The women purchased a saffron drier and learned post-harvest processing, including hygiene, grading, sorting, and packaging. They identified two women trainers to ensure quality control. In 2010, the association doubled saffron production, and the sales price increased by almost 110 percent. From the user fee, the women saved Af 108,700 (approximately US$ 2,100) and plan to buy another drier. “Men now make tea for their wives, when we are busy during the saffron season,” Sima says.
At least 46 people were killed and more than 200 injured in 31 road accidents across the country in the last four days including the three-day Eid holiday --- The Daily Star, November 10th 2011.
There has been an alarming rise in road accidents, significantly highway accidents, in Bangladesh over the past few years. According to a study conducted by the Accident Research Centre (ARC) of BUET, road accidents claim on average 12,000 lives annually and lead to about 35,000 injuries. According to World Bank statistics, annual fatality rate from road accidents is found to be 85.6 fatalities per 10,000 vehicles. Hence, the roads in Bangladesh have become deadly!
But these statistics, numerically shocking as they may be, fail to reflect the social tragedy related to each life lost to road accidents. One accident that remains afresh in my memory is the death of 44 school children last July, after the truck they were travelling in skid and fell into a pond. 44 young dreams and hopes lost due to reckless driving. Only a month after this tragedy, Bangladesh lost two brilliant citizens, filmmaker Tareq Masud and journalist Mishuk Munier, to yet another road accident in August.
Did you know that the World Bank Group actually wants to listen to the men and women of Sri Lanka and their views on Sri Lanka’s development and ensure that their voices are taken into account whenever development activities are carried out? Most of you like me (some months ago), would probably answer in the negative. Having joined the World Bank this year and having being tasked with assisting with the preparation of Sri Lanka's next Country Partnership Strategy for Sri Lanka, I have come to realize that some of my own perceptions about public involvement in World Bank activities have not been entirely accurate.
My current role in the Bank has enabled me to understand firsthand the efforts undertaken by bank staff to ensure that development activities remain sustainable. One of the ways in which this is achieved is through active engagement with as wide a group of stakeholders as possible prior to the commencement of any new project. All of us who are a part of the Bank Group strongly believe that it’s only by invoking the ownership of development among citizens that long term sustainability is achieved.
It was a special day on Sunday, December 11, 2011 at the Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center (BYLC) as Special Advisor to the State for Global Youth Issues, Mr. Ronan Farrow and Ms. Lauren Lovelace, Director of the American Center, visited the institute in Baridhara. Mr. Farrow gave a lecture and engaged in discussions on global youth leadership issues with a classroom packed with enthusiastic BYLC graduates. In his address to the graduates, he expressed his strong belief that they are to play a key role in confronting challenges of the world. He shared that one of the greatest lessons in life that he received is “the realization that how powerful youth can be when given voice and equipped with tools.”
It took almost two hours to drive the seven kilometers between the World Bank offices to reach Kabul University. The streets were clogged with frustrated drivers performing adroit maneuvers to steer through the stop-and-go traffic.
The tree-lined paths of the university are a still and silent oasis from the raucous, dusty streets of the city center just outside. Young people walk in pairs, stop to chat or read in the winter sunshine.
I am here to meet with a group of 18 students who use a dedicated corner of the student library funded by the World Bank. Here, students can use five computers and a printer for free. But demand is high so the wait for a computer can be two to three hours at a stretch.
The girls tell me there are few other options for them. They cannot go to an internet café on their own to do their research without a male relative accompanying them. When asked how many have computers almost all hands go up. But internet access is prohibitively expensive for them and the service very slow. The World Bank corner offers them a lifeline to do their research and access materials not available in the library.
Farmers in Bangladesh adapting to increased soil salinity and climate change.
Barguna is at the very southern end of Bangladesh and looks nothing like the rest of the country.
Bangladesh is very green – driving through you can see the luxuriant green rice fields stretching out endlessly, the spread interrupted only by clusters of dark trees surrounding a small village, and sometimes by the yellow patches of mustard fields. But Barguna is not green and vibrant - it has now become drab brown.
Stepping onto the soil of Barguna, one is reminded of a parched desert. The ground is rock-hard, cracked and mostly barren. I was careful, threading lightly - afraid of stepping too hard in case the ground suddenly gave away.
The district wasn’t always this desolate. But devastated by repeated cyclones, erratic weather patterns and saline intrusion along the coast, farmers in these coastal communities have seen their lands yield less and less with the passing years.
“Out of twenty four to twenty six working days a month, we have reliable full days of uninterrupted power for only ten to thirteen days”, is what Mr. Poornachandran, President of the Yarlpanam Chamber of Commerce lamented at a public-private stakeholder consultation hosted by an SME-focused Ministry in Colombo recently. He repeated this gripe at a post-budget discussion held in Colombo this week. Mr. Poornachandran heads the leading business chamber in Sri Lanka’s Jaffna district, which was caught up in the conflict that ravaged the country for thirty years. Building the small and medium enterprise sector in conflict-affected areas is challenging as it is, and many new opportunities are opening up, but the issue of electricity continues to blight the recovery of the region. But it’s not just in war-recovering districts like Jaffna. Mr. Poornachandran shares this frustration with his fellow businessmen in other parts of the country.
I work with street and slum girls and their mothers in India. Each day, as I walk through those dark lanes embroidered with brick and mortar, dungeons languish in abject obscurity and poverty, I cross many a road on which stand half naked women who stare at me with sad eyes. Most of them are mothers of the children I teach. I ask myself, 'Without the holistic development of the entire community, will just educating these children ever be enough to bring sustainable change?'
The issue of more and better jobs will stand ill addressed if this illiterate, non skilled, yet potential workforce is not tapped. I call this group the 'potential workforce' because I have seen the resilience of even the mediocre ones among them come out victorious in their struggle for survival. It is this group that needs to be effectively trained. For two years at Protsahan, we have trained some of these women how to make candles, sanitary napkins and hand bags. Just one skill was enough to increase their personal incomes by more than 400%. Although still at a very nascent stage, the economics of the entire community have shifted favorably. Better incomes resulted in better healthcare for their children and, more importantly, it created a sense of dignity that was essential to complete their womanhood. This sense of dignity might be an immeasurable metric, but it sure could be a direct index of the economy's well being, although on a micro-level.
Recently, I read a blog post by a young Nepalese delegate that attended the World Bank’s Annual Meetings in Washington and thought (at the time) that he summarized an issue which was at the heart of a majority (if not all) youth in South Asia. In his own words, he says “Let’s be honest. As a youth growing up in Nepal, it is sometimes very hard to get people – and by people I mean seniors in decision-making positions - to take you seriously. It is even more difficult to get them to listen to your ideas or acknowledge you as an important demographic, capable of more than burning tires and picketing politicians”. It made me wonder if this was indeed the case with youth in Sri Lanka.
As far as I know, youth in this country are by no means a ‘push over’. For example, since the defeat of terrorism in May 2009, the youth of this country has stepped up in a noticeable way to try and make a ‘new beginning’. A ‘youth open house’ held at the World Bank premises on 01 September saw the dynamism of a handful of such youth groups engaged in activities that ranged from peace and reconciliation to the promotion of ICT development to urban planning. The fact remains that the youth of this nation are taking matters to their own hands and it’s high time that the Government as well as the development partners ‘STOP’ and ‘LISTEN’ to what the youth of Sri Lanka has to offer!!
I admit when I started the whole idea of setting up a course on resettlement at a local Bangladeshi university I thought it was going to be a long shot in the dark. I had a gigantic portfolio to look after in terms of safeguards support, and that left little time to do anything else. I also it would be difficult to show results quickly and make a convincing argument that this was worth the effort. But stubbornness at times is a key ingredient to achievement, i.e. persistence and resilience.
The course (now known as MLARR – Management of Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation) started out as an effort to train of a cadre of professionals to better manage the social risks associated with land acquisition and resettlement in Bangladesh. Given the population density and land scarcity, resettlement in Bangladesh continues to be a huge challenge for its development, as virtually all infrastructure requires moving people. Supported by AusAID and DFID, The first course was designed and delivered in 2009. That was the beginning, and what I’d like to focus is how far we’ve come from that first shot in the dark: