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.”
Labor and Social Protection
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:
"Several mothers’ life is in danger due to placenta previa at child birth however either the village is too far flung to receive medical assistance or the family refuses to let the mother seek a specialist’s help,” the lady health worker said in response to my query regarding the past month’s performance in-field.
Maternal Health Care remains a low priority concern not only amongst the rural and urban poor households in Punjab, Pakistan, but amidst the policy circles as well. In Pakistan, for every 100,000 babies born, some 260 women die during childbirth. The country is one of 11 countries that comprised 65% of global maternal deaths in 2008. Yet most maternal deaths could be prevented if a skilled practitioner attended the birth.
The solution to this problem is multi-pronged. The issue must be tackled individually at the following thresholds:
a) Quality of the Maternal Health Care Program
b) Receptivity by the public
c) Data, Research and Execution
It is evident the solution requires institutional, cultural and political changes, however is it possible to evade the long term institutional changes and usher in economic and social independence, thereby pardtially addressing the solution in the short run?
‘Equal to whom?’ seems to be my burning question when I see women in post conflict Sri Lanka battling it out all alone due to their present circumstances.
A three decade old war that ravaged north – east of Sri Lanka is now in the throes of reaping its peace dividends, slowly…
The war changed not just the landscape of the north-east Sri Lanka, but also the demographic profile, leaving many widows and women headed families destitute. While the official head count of this group is yet to be released by the government, it is apparent that the male to female ratio that was almost 50 -50 has now changed significantly in this part of the country.
“I am the mother, father and the entrepreneur of my family” sums up the plight of 26 year old Sutharshini. A widow who has lost her husband and brother to the war that forever changed the lives of many Sri Lankan Tamils. Sutharshini and her two children represent the typical Sri Lankan Tamil woman who has just been resettled after being an internally displaced person (IDP) in a refugee camp for almost a year.
2011 Flagship: More and Better Jobs in South Asia
Thursday, September 22, 2011 from 2:30PM to 4:30PM
- Agriculture and Rural Development
- Communities and Human Settlements
- Information and Communication Technologies
- Law and Regulation
- Macroeconomics and Economic Growth
- Private Sector Development
- Public Sector and Governance
- Science and Technology Development
- Social Development
- Labor and Social Protection
- More and Better Jobs
“My brother and I quarrel sometimes. One time, he wanted to listen to Telugu songs and I wanted to listen to Hindi songs on our new FM radio. We both grabbed and pulled the radio and it broke. We ran to the terrace to hide. We were frightened that our father would scold us so we went to sleep without eating. My brother left early morning. I heard my mother telling father what had happened. His only response was, ‘It’s OK. We can buy a new one.’ I jumped out of bed happy.”
Saroja told me this story about when describing her life in English. She is an 11th grade student in an Andhra Pradesh Social Welfare Educational Residential Institutions Society (APSWREIS) School which serves talented and meritorious poor children belonging to scheduled castes, so they can benefit from quality education. The program, APSWREIS which has many dalit children, was established by the Social Welfare Department of the Government of Andhra Pradesh is supported by the World Bank for infrastructure improvement through the Andhra Pradesh District Poverty Initiatives Project and Rural Poverty Reduction Project.
In 2010, under the nationwide Elementary Education Program called Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA), an education committee in Bhagwan Garhi in the Aligarh district of Uttar Pradesh, India completed the construction of an eight classroom school for the cost of $80 per square meter, whereas the cost incurred for a contractor lead construction of a comparable school structure in the nearby district of Lucknow was $124 per square meter.
According to review reports, the Community Beneficiary Committee in Bhagwan Garhi had completed the work drawing labor from the community and buying the required amount of materials at a lower rate with technical guidance from the district level engineer.
How does this happen?
The best part about working in a country office is the wide array of stakeholders one gets to work with. Development is never a solitary, insular process; indeed, it combines the expertise and inputs of a variety of people from diverse backgrounds: the government, civil society, the private sector, multilateral and bilateral financing institutions – the list is long! So you can imagine my excitement when my colleague, Tahira Syed, called me a few days ago to ask me to participate in a series of consultations with government and civil society representatives from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan. Tahira is the TTL for a Multi-Donor Trust Fund-financed project which will focus on providing sustainable livelihood opportunities and improvement in local-level infrastructure for FATA residents.
As the project is moving forward in the design and preparation phase, it was an opportune time to hold consultations with the two most important stakeholders of the project: local government and community organizations and representatives. Both groups have very different mandates and roles to play in the development of their areas, but hearing their perspective is crucial and informs the overall outcome of the project.
“My country finally owns me!" was the delighted reaction from a high level private sector official to the possibility of a national identity system in Bangladesh. A lot of brain-wracking thought went into the possible economic benefits of such a project.
The sleepless nights of complicated financial analyses and exasperatingly fruitless brainstorming sessions that reach a point when you are not willing to say anything until you find something that will make the rest of them jump on their chairs, make things very difficult sometimes! But, the answer was there, short and simple. Such a refreshing start to an interview for the purpose of identifying the probable benefits to service delivery agencies of having access to a near-immaculate database of citizens, was hardly anticipated.
Rolling out robust, digitized national ID (NID) cards to 100 million citizens over a period of five years is the daunting task ahead for Identification System for Enhancing Access to Services (IDEA) Project. One may argue about the novelty offered by this initiative when Bangladeshi citizens with voting eligibility actually have NIDs since late 2008. A solid counter argument would be the “digitized nature” of the sophisticated NIDs of ‘digital Bangladesh’, enabling machine readability of biometric citizen information embedded in the card, as a replacement of the paper based, easily faked cards with little printed information and near-alien photos that gave rise to popular groups like “I hate my NID photo” on Facebook!