As a policy target, there is little doubt that it is desirable that government should ensure services for all. Breaking this down to a simple target of 100% access to a service, some local governments are showing that ensuring services for all is achievable, when they deploy their social and legal authority to leverage existing service providers to ensure a basic service for all and then increase the quality of the service (i.e. 100% by 100%).
In the remote North West Corner of Bangladesh in the poor and monga (hunger) prone District of Kurrigram there is a remote yet remarkable upazila called Rajarhat. Rajarhat was the first upazila (subdistrict) in the country to be declared Open Defecation Free (i.e. 100% sanitation) in 2004. In the light of the Government’s target of education for all, the Rajarhat upazila (subdistrict) is now seeking to be the first upazila in the country to achieve universal enrollment (i.e. 100% of children turning 6 are enrolled in school).
To understand this phenomena we visited one of the Union Parishads (UP) (Council) called Omar Majid and spent some time with the UP Chairman Khanbaker Abdul Hakim. This Union Parishad claims to have achieved:
• 100% sanitation (achieved in 2004) sustained through ward task forces, hygiene education and public latrines with MGSK and WaterAid.
• 100% registration at birth (achieved in 2007) and subsequently introduced as a pre-requisite for the enrollment of children in school.
• 100% screening of tubewells for arsenic with 4506 tubewells screened in 2008 as learnt from Chowgacha and replicated with DPHE and MGSK.
• 100% tubewells protected with concrete platforms (>2500 tubewells in 2008) with support and funds of households, DPHE, UP, MGSK.
• 100% of the people can sign their name (with thumb prints no longer accepted as a receipt for any UP service).
• 100% holding tax collection target for 2009/10 (learnt from Tarash) with passbooks issued to all households and linked to all UP services.
• 100% of households in eight eco-villages have a safe tubewell and a latrine, a home garden and a composting system.
• 100% enrollment of children in school (Public, NGO, Madrassa) with the support of all line departments in the upazila, all schools and CBOs.
Under the Horizontal Learning program these achievements will be shared with other Union Parishads in a spirit of appreciative inquiry. Through the Horizontal Learning process they will visit, learn and attempt to replicate any good practices in their own jurisdiction. Not only does this enable other Union Parishad's (Councils) to learn but it also strengthens the accountability of the Union Parishads of Rajarhat to practically justify such claims to their peers. The beauty of the claim to 100% success is that it simplifies the verification process ... because a simple exception disproves such a claim.
Over the coming months, the verifiability and applicability of these claims will be measured in the extent to which other Union Parishads can replicate these practices.