The BITA Initiative: An Alternative Approach of Development
Executive Director, Bangladesh Institute of Theatre Arts, Chittagong, Bangladesh
Director, Policy & Collaboration, Bangladesh Institute of Theatre Arts, Chittagong, Bangladesh
The Bangladesh Institute of Theatre Arts (BITA) is one of the non-governmental organizations, which has initiated its development activities through various modes of cultural interventions. Most of the non-government organizations are working for material development by focusing on such areas micro-credit and savings, income generation, health and family planning, and awareness building activities. BITA has started its activities from a new perspective. It has realized that empowerment is the precondition to fulfill human desire and potential, which is based on a recognition and faith in people’s own power and resources. The power, aspirations and resources of the communities can be nurtured, utilized and developed through systematic cultural interventions. With this realization and vision, BITA has established itself as a community focused organization by performing different activities for cultural development since 1994. Here in BITA, we believe that ultimate target of development concerns people and culture is correlated with development.
Culture as a Tool of Development
Development entwines economic, political and social processes. People should take lead in the process of development. Culture as a tool can be used to sharpen people’s thinking and power, and thereby enabling them to take lead and participate in the process of development. BITA’s role comes in here. BITA is working for personal skills development, confidence building, awareness raising and community capacity building with the ultimate aim of facilitating the disadvantaged sections of the community to play their desired role in the development. Put differently, BITA is working towards community development through conscientisation and cultural activities.
Material development or mental development, in isolation, cannot bring fruitful results to the society. These two development tools are complementary for the development process; these two are in fact the two sides of a coin. From this perspective, the following may be noted: i. the ultimate target of development is people; ii. Development can check alienation from the society; iii. it creates self-confidence about creative power and personality.
The Conditions of Development
• Self-dependence means to think, explore and have faith on one’s own resources and power to do development.
• Participation of all levels people in project design through evaluation.
• Development process will progress and become relevant when leadership comes from the people.
And these conditions are the power of development. Culture and development represent inter-linked and continuous processes, and if these processes can be put together, then empowerment will be achieved. Development is a continuous flow and culture is its container.
i. Foreign Donation Registration NGO Affairs Bureau, Registration no DSS/ FDO/R- 873.
ii. Society Act (Registration no S 1592 (07)/94).
iii. Ministry of Social Welfare (Ministry of Social Welfare: Chatta: 2993/11)
Why BITA, Mandate, Organization Accountability
Rationale for existence (Why BITA?)
Rationale for existence (Why BITA?)
o BITA‟s experience, achievements and the existing development context suggest its raison d‟Etre also in future. The communication gap continues to exist as the poor and disadvantaged people yet to have scope to communicate their concerns or receive information of their importance. They do not sufficiently know their rights (human rights, women rights, minority rights, etc.) and the mechanism to seek their materialization and enforcement.
o The conventional means of communication is one-way, requires much time to reach, not systematic and are driven by interest of others than theirs. Since the duty bearers remain unreachable or unapproachable, the views and answers of the poor remain unattended resulting in extreme information poverty and poor access to socio-political decision-making at local and higher level.
o Culture as a mode of wide human communication is itself in disarray. Therefore, dissemination of values and human expressions remains blurred or limited. Culture and cultural event has become a target of groups apprehending its strengths to educate people in their own way. Protection of cultural values has gained momentum as an agenda.
o While the overall situation of culture based development is critical, the situation from religious, ethnic minorities and gender perspective is much more precarious.
o BITA, with all its experience and endowment with capacities and moral support by the civil society has the comparative advantage of human communication for the poor with special focus to gender and ethnicity. Therefore, BITA will continue to work for changes.
The Constitution of BITA allows
a. improvement of „performing arts‟ in Bangladesh and take steps to arrange exchange of views and practical training at national and international arena.
b. Identification, preservation, documentation and initiation of research programs on the traditional cultural elements, cultural heritage and history of Bangladesh.
c. Search for traditional and customary practice of arts and taking effective steps for their complete revival.
d. Undertake projects to create awareness on cultural heritage, values and history and also projects related to environment, gender, education, health, poverty alleviation and human rights for the overall socio-economic development of under privileged population.
e. Take steps to create awareness among the women and children of under-privileged population about their rights and responsibilities through proper utilization of different disciplines of „performing arts‟.
f. Take initiative to establish a channel of communication between the cultural heritage of Bangladesh and that of other nations in the world.
Constituency according to constitution
Bangladesh Institute of Theatre Arts (BITA) is a NGO committed to the national development through the improvement of cultural heritage of disadvantaged population. The premier aim of BITA is to integrate the general lifestyle of the people of Bangladesh, their cultural development and various social traditions with the ongoing democratic process through different applications of performing arts. Highlighting the important issues like, women and child right, environmental crisis, human rights, social discrimination and poverty alleviation etc. comes under the purview of the wide range of activities undertaken by the organization. BITA prefers using influential media like „performing arts‟ to achieve desired success in the various programs undertaken by the organization. (BITA Constitution; Introduction; paragraph 1, Page-1)
BITA has a 29 member General Committee (GC) drawn from all sections of enlightened population- the cultural activists, development workers, theatre activists, singers, teachers, writers, journalists, businessmen, physicians etc. The GC elects a 9 member Executive Committee (EC) from its own members for smooth functioning of the organization. The Executive Committee is the highest policy making body of the organization. Executive Director and full time workers implement the programs, who are assisted by a group of efficient and professional field workers.
The Core Programmes: An Analysis
Figure 2: The Core Programme Conceptual Framework
The Goals of Core Programmes
- To enable the grass root community people through cultural education in establishing their rights.
Information & Knowledge Management
- To enrich training and communication process by integrating BITA’s approaches and resources.
Rights and Governance
- To conscientise the deprived people about their rights and assist them in achieving their rights.
- To institutionalize the culture and development approach of BITA by establishing network and collaboration with relevant development agencies and activists.
Right based approach: BITA’s view in poverty reduction
Since last three decades, material and economic development have been emphasized in development stream, which only protected institutional development, but did not make a sense in reducing poverty of poor people. Therefore, in present development trend, material development is not the core considering point rather human development is considered as fundamental point. BITA has been working in development since 1993 to bring to light the importance and effectiveness of human development in materializing the overall development in a sustainable approach.
BITA involves marginalized and deprived community with its initiatives and considers the process as rights education through culture based approach, which has strong local contents and formed by local version. BITA experienced that this approach has an effective response for raising people’s awareness and sensitizing them towards elements and condition of poverty and educate them to come out from the curse of poverty by capacity building. The message which poor people get through different innovative initiatives not only aware them but also organize them to take collective efforts towards changing their attitude and behavior and a leadership quality develops among them which leads them improve their living condition. The approach includes equal participation of men, women and children and their collective efforts would create a better understanding in their own communities.
BITA is implementing human rights programmes at grass root level through its cultural approach emphasizing the rights of marginalized people especially women, children and minority rights aiming at fostering social harmony with respect of human rights through cultural initiatives for promoting the trend of development in the society. BITA considered women and children as major group to be addressed because these groups are vulnerable to abuse and violence. Considering all these issues it’s very important that mass awareness creates among the marginalized population about the causes and consequences of such violence in the society and their role to promote and protect rights. This belief tends BITA to create broad based understanding among the marginalized community and other influential person and institutes through rights education where these groups would be capacitated to protect their rights as well as contribute to uphold the rights of disadvantaged groups of the society.
BITA Approach: Moving Towards Community
BITA has been working on culture-based approach where marginalized and deprived communities are program participants. BITA believes that the most effective entry point of any community depends on communication. This communication goes both way, BITA interacts with marginalized people about the issues that effects their life especially rights violation. BITA always emphasizes gathering message and information from communities in addressing or promoting any issue and it is also known that each community has its distinct cultural forms, which can be used as effective means of communication for the same community.
An effective communication raises a level of awareness among the communities to determine the problems and prioritizes the issues that need to be addressed in improving their lives. Sequentially, a trust develops among the people to work collectively within the community with the facilitation of BITA. This trust also makes them feel the importance of BITA’s culture based approach in upholding the community initiatives. Following trust, there grows an internalization capacity within these people, which help them in changing their behavior towards family and community. This process explores creativity and installs confidence to these people in playing his desired role as social actor. It also helps them imagining their self- development, thus a way he/ she actively participate in implementation. Along with this, when these people raise their voice on different social issues including rights based issues their views are recognized by local authorities and other communities and they become a part of change maker towards better lives, this is the way the community does local level advocacy for improving their condition.
BITA wishes to denote the total process as human development. The steps, which have been illustrated above if, can be practiced within human being, the capacity of decision making would be then possible for him followed by family and society. If they can make right decision, they can move towards community development. BITA believes that through this process BITA works for changes.