Reflections of BITA Initiatives towards Poverty Reduction and Sustainable Development
The organization has initiated development journey since 1994 with alternative culture-based approach introducing culture as a mode of wide and effective human communication where marginalized and deprived communities are program participants. It is obvious that information-constraints create major obstacles for poor and disadvantaged people in enjoyment of rights and getting the benefit of overall development. The conventional means of communication has inadequate space to meet the extreme information poverty and access to socio-political decision making process at local and higher level. In this backdrop, the organization has distinct model of human development- moving towards community in order to expedite comprehensive national development.
BITA has introduced diverse alternative and innovative initiatives aiming to bring desired change fostering the rights of the people living in poverty, injustice & exclusion. The innovations including children space, TfD (Theatre for Development), Campaign Theatre, TIE (Theatre In Education), Puppet, Women Circle, etc have been utilized in the arena of community mobilization, campaign and advocacy, human rights, good governance along with local governance, capacity building and institutionalization of grassroots initiatives. Population covering children, adolescents, youth, women, men, older people living in plain land, island, coastal area, hilly areas have been addressed though these multiple initiatives. The organization has expanded programmatic horizon adopting newer domain, approaches & techniques like job-based education, livelihood development, and social audit. BITA has made good progress in realizing changes as enshrined expected impacts in different spheres of the reference people. Few areas of intervention where significant changes have impacted community life and interests:
- Grassroots mobilization
- Culture and Development
- Revitalization of Cultural Heritage
- Connecting Cultural Heritage and Market Promotion
- Human Rights and Good Governance
- Social Accountability
- Access to public services and socio- economic opportunities
- Local Governance and Citizen Engagement
- Child Rights
- Ageing and Development
- Human Trafficking
- Women Empowerment and Gender Equality
Grassroots people have been capacitated and undertaking diversified initiatives to practice promote and develop distinctive culture, tradition and their initiatives are being institutionalized. Human Rights Activists have developed in the grassroots level. The activists have involved themselves in practicing human rights in the greater sphere through organized way. It is worthwhile that human rights activist including cultural performers carried out through combined action against the rights violation by concerned authority to a valiant grassroots performer Rasheda, a madrasha student, in Lakshmipur and become able to influence the administration to take punitive action against the wrongdoers and happy return of the girl to education. There are instances of successes like extend government health services through set up community clinic for underprivileged slum people, stopping of early marriage, etc. BITA covered about 800,000 grass root people under the program by using no of 8 different cultural modalities where 401 resources directly involved.
BITA has successfully mobilized the grassroots cultural resources and modalities in development mode. Grassroots cultural resources have been effectively involved in cultural activities especially theater to speak about their rights & demands in their own version. The grassroots cultural artists brought significant progress to draw attention of service providers & policy makers and also created volunteerism among the common people towards social action. They have realized their demands & rights in considerable extent like safe sanitation facilities for cleanliness workers, safe water for poor communities, ensure cremation land for blacksmiths, set up dustbin, stopping irregularities in school stipend, stopping of early marriage, etc. The culture-based approach to development has gained impressive credibility among the common people and development partners in home and abroad. Now the organization has created demands to other development agencies to undertake cultural campaign on in order to boost public awareness and draw attention of service providers in their respective issues.
The organization has made remarkable progress to revive and flourish folk-culture and tradition through exposure in national and international. Organizational efforts made possible to expose Dhol playing in the UK and USA as a part of cultural exchange among the nations. A good number of grassroots artists have been capacitated and effectively engaged in cultural motivational activities highlighting diversified agenda. The organization has formulated and shared constructive and useful recommendation on the necessity of patronization of grass artists for the sake of national culture and heritage with relevant quarters.
The organization has effectively developed connection between nurture cultural heritage and alternative youth engagement in decent employment fostering the concept “One Village, One Product.” In practical area, adolescents and youth of ethnic communities trained and involved in production especially arts & crafts materials retaining their identities and heritage. Here modern techniques are being integrated to catch market and attract people to enliven age-old traditions of hilly people towards flourishing cultural diversity. In progress, BITA has set up an Outlet “ Eengmak” in Bandarban town as a harbor to promote market value chain and opportunities of selling products from cultural industries.
Through BITA initiatives, poor and disadvantaged people have improved access to information regarding public services and social opportunities, and accordingly they mobilized to claim the entitlements. It is observed that there are remarkable progress in getting services from social safety-net programs, health centre and nation-building departments like departments of Youth, Livestock , Agriculture, Fisheries, etc. In some cases, marginalized people develop safety mechanisms like Food Storage System for food security. In doing so, they have been empowered through institution building, local development plan, constructive dialogue and functional relationship with service providers.
BITA has been played effective role on strengthening local governance through popularizing the local government issues among common people, building capacity of local government units and making effective citizen participation. Capacitated in the area of revenue generation & financial management, participatory strategic planning and service delivery & monitoring, the local government institutions are being performing in better ways to address citizen‟s concerns and priorities. Since both local elected representatives and citizen side jointly devoted themselves to put the knowledge and skill into practice in significant extent. Consequently it is observed tax collection on holding has significantly increased in most LGUs where BITA works and introduced the practices of citizen participation in planning and budgeting of union parishads. It‟s a bold step to make the UPs strong on financial aspects and responsive to meet the demands of people.
Rights to Education: BITA has succeeded to increase rate of school-going children and reduce child labor, drop out & early marriage in the working area. Underprivileged children have been gained foundation to get as well as continuing education overcoming fear of humiliation in schools. There are continued efforts to make linkage with formal school for mainstreaming education. School children are getting information about different rights issues through Theatre in Education. Creative exercises have observed effective to enhance ability of children resulted in non-discrimination and delivering opinions & performing productive role in the family as well as society. They have adequate information and skills on how to perform as active citizen and to protect themselves from abuse, trafficking, exploitation and seek help from others in case of necessity. Simultaneously the organization has sensitized and effectively engaged the parents, care-givers and duty-bearers to extend support and cooperation towards materializing the rights to education for all children. BITA covered about 55,000 Children & youth. What are the gains in the long run 100%Children of the area now either go to school or attend children space. The rates of drop out from both the places have reduced. Those who cannot continue regular schooling attend the Children Space. Among the parents and local leaders a positive feeling for Children Space and well as the children in general has grown. Parents now send their children to school or space. Child Protection Children living in vulnerable situation have knowledge and skill to save from the acts that violate their safety and security. In this connection, the organization has innovated and conducted children spaces. The children space gained credibility as safe place for children by parents and have played role in transmitting competency among children on techniques of protection from all forms violence including abuse, exploitation, trafficking. The parents and care-givers have been capacitated as well as involved in systematic manner to protect the child from violence at home, school, and community. The organization has effective linkage and communication with the duty-bears protect the rights of children.
Adolescent leadership :The adolescent who are participated in the BITA activities their leadership quality, creativity, self confidence have been developed. A working relation has been developed with comnity people, local leaders, law enforcing authority, local power structure. BITA has developed a resource group from the grass roots adolescents‟‟ theatre group who are now playing a role to produce new theatre with children. Besides that a resource group on participatory video have been developed who are directly involve with participatory video activity and already made interaction with community people. The team also can facilitate in participatory video training. Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET):BITA has provided as well as supported to avail alternative livelihood education for youth so that that becomes involved with decent employment opportunities. The ethnic youth of have gained capacity to avail employment opportunity in the area of ICT, Arts & Fashion and Crafts. Some already availed decent employment opportunities in the formal and informal sectors whereas some are engaged in self-employed enterprises. Simultaneously youth of plain land got training through linkage building with Youth Directorate & local resources and facilitated them to become involved with income generating activities. BITA has established the outlet “Eengmak” – a display and sale centre -in Bandarban to promote and sustain the livelihood initiatives of capacitated adolescents and youth where they supply product and get involved into market value chain. This hub serves as supporting centre for drop out children to get education again as well as continuation of study of poor families‟ children involving in employment generating initiatives.
Youth Empowerment Young people could be key force for social change. In happening so, BITA effectively involved the youth in development initiatives making equipped them with knowledge & skills, and facilitated to explore their creative energies so that they could play positive role in the family, community and country. So a considerable the youth devoted themselves in awareness raising on social issues through cultural modalities especially theatre, support children to get education, stopping early marriage & drug addiction, dissolve local problems, participating in local level development activities and raise voice in favor of their rights. On the other hand, youth got opportunity to involve into employment. Now young people got opportunity to plan and work together for the betterment of themselves and community.
Decent Employment Opportunities and Sustainable Livelihoods :The organization has succeeded to involve extreme poor and underprivileged people including ethnic communities into better livelihood options. It‟s note-worthy that older people of coastal area included into income generating activities effectively as their choices and opportunities and making remarkable progress towards acceleration of livelihoods. Youth, women and adolescents capacitated on different trades, and involved themselves into income generation and supports family expenses. Some employed program participants are continuing their education using the money earned by engagement in income generating activities.
BITA has intervened with older population as another potential resource for the society as they possess natural leadership with traditional knowledge along with productive force. And the organization focused on building inter-generation linkage and is working to establish rights and entitlements of aged people as well as responsibilities towards the aged people by the young people. The organization has created income and employment opportunities of older people and their families through capacity building, asset transfer & developing linkage.
Since inception BITA considers human trafficking as core violation of human rights. Human trafficking happens due to loopholes in protecting rights that pulls the victims to indescribable condition. Stressing on the fatal impacts, BITA has been undertaken initiatives including awareness raising, capacity building of relevant stakeholders, community empowerment, youth mobilization, policy sensitization, psychosocial support to victims and alternative livelihood generation for vulnerable communities. For this BITA had conducted both regional and national level campaigns and engage mind minded organization with the movement. A total of 175 women of Chittagong and Cox‟s Bazar has been supported with income generation training and seed grant which is accepted as significant intervention to prevent trafficking. BITA has got considerable support from the IOM (International Organization for Migration) to prevent and protect the victims of Human Trafficking in Bangladesh. In recognition of significant efforts to combat human trafficking, BITA has attained the membership of Counter-trafficking Committees of Chittagong & Cox‟s Bazar districts. As a mark of BITA initiatives, The US Department of States awarded BITA Federal Assistant Award to Combat Human Trafficking in 2003.
Domestic Violence BITA has played effective role as campaign partner to criminalize domestic violence resulting in enactment of Domestic Violence Suppression (Prevention & Protection) Act 2010. A considerable number of young people including students and civil society members sensitized and engaged to prevent domestic violence as change makers. Alliances formed and activated to influence the policy makers and duty bearers in order to end domestic violence. Expanding human rights education through diverse means contributed much to build mass awareness and public mobilization to foster women right and combat domestic violence. BITA covered about 120,000 women under it‟s‟ program.
Institutionalize BITA’s development approach
In the mean-time, BCCT (BITA Culture & Development Trust), associate concern of BITA, has gained affiliation as alternative learning centre that contributing to the sustainability of BITA. The infrastructure is furnished with adequate training facilities in eco-friendly environment. A number of innovative training courses have been developed focusing human rights & sustainable development. The mention-worthy courses are: Human Rights Education Course, Child Rights Education Course, Training on Culture and Development, ToT on Theatre Practice and Presentation, Training on Theatre for Development, Enterprise Development Training, ToT on Social Audit Methodology, ToT on Theatre in Education. In the mean-time, BITA has accomplished various capacities building training to the national level NGOs, CSOs like NGO Forum, Solidarity, Nari Moitree, INCIDIN Bangladesh, Rights Jessore, DSK, ESDO, TMSS, UDDIPAN, etc. BITA interventions have succeeded in developing local level resources including human, knowledge and social capital. Modules, guidelines and resource books already developed in order to undertake various initiatives under the umbrella of human rights, poverty reduction and sustainable development. The organization has guiding force for doing these consisting of human resources capable to perform on capacity building, awareness raising, networking & linkage building, campaign and advocacy initiatives.