Improving Social & Economic Assets: The Social Development Project
The Chars Livelihoods Programme (CLP) recognises that poverty and vulnerability have a social dimension that may not be addressed by improvements in assets or income. In response, the CLP implements the social development project to address social issues. The focus is on empowering women within core participant households (CPHH), but components for the wider community are also included.
The social development project contributes to outcomes across the CLP. For example, group meeting modules on hygiene complements latrines and tube wells in reducing vulnerability to water and excretaborne diseases.
Progress during CLP-1
During the first phase of the CLP (CLP-1) 2,691 social development groups were formed, comprising 55,000 core participants and facilitated by 438 CLP-trained Community Development Officers (CDOs). Expectation of dowry dropped to 15% (from 95% baseline), while men’s knowledge of the legal age of marriage rose to 80% (from 30%). Participants consistently reported feeling more confident and better respected within the community1.
Objectives under CLP-2
CLP-2 began in April 2010 and aims to ensure that by 2016: all of the 67,000 CPHHs know how to access basic services, as do 75% of the wider community, and 70% of women and girls report significantly enhanced self-confidence. Reported violence against women will decline by 50%, and awareness of laws relating to early marriage, dowry and procedures for filing suits about these will increase by 50%.
Social Development Group Meetings
Group meetings are the core of the social development project. CLP participants form groups of 18-25 women, and meet weekly for 18 months to learn about topics such as: health and hygiene; family planning; civil rights and responsibilities; disaster preparedness and savings and loans. These meetings give women the opportunity to discuss sensitive issues such as domestic violence, early marriage and dowry. Social safety nets are also established within the groups, where women give money or food to more vulnerable community members. The CLP facilitates the meetings and uses a variety of communication methods to improve engagement and overcome high levels of illiteracy on the chars.
Village Development Committees
A CDO facilitating a group meeting on health & hygiene
committee is formed of 11 members (CPHH & non-CPHH), selected by the community and including at least two women. An initial three-day residential course covers topics such as leadership and conflict resolution. Thereafter, the committee meets monthly to set an agenda.
The aim of these groups is to provide advice to adolescents on sensitive topics such as puberty, personal health & hygiene, reproductive health and marriage, as well as building leadership capacity and awareness of the rights and responsibilities of citizens. These groups are comprised of adolescents aged 13-19 (CPHH and non-CPHH), and begin with a two-day residential course. Thereafter, groups meet every three months.
This day-long course aims to build awareness within CPHH couples of issues such as gender division of labour and family planning. Key aims are to generate support amongst men for the empowerment of women and encourage joint decision making within the household.
In order to build awareness of gender discrimination and increase participation of men in social change, the CLP offers a one-day course on these topics, open to all male adults in the community.
The project also engages people in influential positions (such as local religious leaders) that can act as change agents in the community. A two-day residential course is offered covering topics such as conflict resolution, dealing with discrimination, stopping early marriage and dowry.
Melas, or community fairs, are used as a tool to engage wider sections of the community. Melas are often organised by the CLP to raise awareness of important issues such as dowry or domestic violence. A variety of methods are used to engage and involve the community, such as issue-based drama, folk songs and storytelling.