An Authentic Sample Assignment for university students
NGO Intervention in Women Development: Bangladesh Perspective
Dr. Hafiz Uddin Bhuiyan
Institute of Social Welfare and Research
University of Dhaka
Mohammad Shahadat Hossen
Exam Roll: 2229
Course No: 2004
MSS in Social Welfare (Final)
Course Name: Gender and Women Development
Date of Submission: May 10, 2017
Institute of Social Welfare and Research
University of Dhaka
Bangladesh has made striking progress on a range of social indicators over the last 15 years, an achievement widely credited to the country’s pluralist service provision regime. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have significantly expanded their services during this period and have shown that it is possible to scale up innovative anti-poverty experiments into nationwide programmers. Notable innovations that were expanded include delivering credit to the previously “unban able” poor, developing a non-formal education programmed to cater to poor children, particularly girls, and using thousands of village-based community health workers to provide doorstep services. The fact that poor women constitute a large proportion of NGO beneficiaries, despite the persistence of strong patriarchal norms, also testifies to the institutionalization of a large segment of NGO beneficiaries.
The unique role of the NGOs is not confined to the delivery of social services and pro-poor advocacy. They have developed commercial ventures in order to link poor producers with input and output markets, as well as to develop a source of internally generated revenue for the organizations. As we look forward, the 2005 Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) views the NGOs’ role as an integral part of efforts to achieve national poverty reduction targets, particularly by delivering and facilitating pro-poor services.
However, the rapid growth and diversification of the NGO sector has also given rise to questions and concerns. These include the viability of a regulatory framework developed when the size and scope of NGOs was far more limited, the appropriate political and commercial spaces for NGO activities, trade-offs between NGO sustainability and pro-poor orientation, and the implications of different government-NGO partnerships. There has been little systematic review of the public policy implications of the changing character of NGOs in Bangladesh.
NGO (non-governmental organization):
A non-governmental organization (NGO) is a not-for-profit organization that is independent from states and international governmental organizations. They are usually funded by donations but some avoid formal funding altogether and are run primarily by volunteers.
A non-governmental organization (NGO) is a not-for-profit organization that is independent from states and international governmental organizations. They are usually funded by donations but some avoid formal funding altogether and are run primarily by volunteers. NGOs are highly diverse groups of organizations engaged in a wide range of activities, and take different forms in different parts of the world. Some may have charitable status, while others may be registered for tax exemption based on recognition of social purposes. Others may be fronts for political, religious, or other interests.
The number of NGOs worldwide is estimated to be 3.7 million. Russia has 277,000 NGOs. India is estimated to have had around 2 million NGOs in 2009, just over one NGO per 600 Indians, and many times the number of primary schools and primary health centers in Bangladesh is estimated to have approximately 100,800 officially registered NGOs.
NGOs are difficult to define, and the term ‘NGO’ is not always used consistently. In some countries the term NGO is applied to an organization that in another country would be called an NPO (nonprofit organization), and vice versa. There are many different classifications of NGO in use. The most common focus is on “orientation” and “level of operation”. An NGO’s orientation refers to the type of activities it takes on. These activities might include human rights, environmental, improving health, or development work. An NGO’s level of operation indicates the scale at which an organization works, such as local, regional, national, or international.
The term “non-governmental organization” was first coined in 1945, when the United Nations (UN) was created. The UN, itself an intergovernmental organization, made it possible for certain approved specialized international non-state agencies — i.e., non-governmental organizations — to be awarded observer status at its assemblies and some of its meetings. Later the term became used more widely. Today, according to the UN, any kind of private organization that is independent from government control can be termed an “NGO”, provided it is not-for-profit, non prevention, but not simply an opposition political party.
One characteristic these diverse organizations share is that their non-profit status means they are not hindered by short-term financial objectives. Accordingly, they are able to devote themselves to issues which occur across longer time horizons, such as climate change, malaria prevention, or a global ban on landmines. Public surveys reveal that NGOs often enjoy a high degree of public trust, which can make them a useful – but not always sufficient – proxy for the concerns of society and stakeholders.
History of Women Empowerment
Women empowerment, in concept and practice, is complex due to various dimensions involved in it. There are myriad explanations and interpretations on what constitute the process of women empowerment. However, it is commonly accepted that women empowerment incorporates a few key elements including awareness, autonomy, self-reliance, rights, and engagement in decision-making process, capacity building, and certain level of power (Panda, 2000).
Governments’ failure to address gender inequalities and inequities in modern India gave the impetus for movements for the advancement of women. Pioneered by women leaders and NGOs, beginning in the 1960s and continuing in 1970s, women’s rights movement began to take shape.Women’s rights movement, in addition to condemning the social and economic structures that result in gender bias, also took the constitutional and other rights-based approaches to promote its reform agenda. Another stream, women’s welfare movement, focused on the welfare and rehabilitation of women who were victims of domestic and other violence against them. The push for economic independence became the key theme of another women’s movement. All these three movements (rights, welfare and economic independence) coalesced together and became the overall women empowerment movement to fight all injustices against women.
Women’s disenfranchisement mostly begins with the lack of access to wealth, income generation opportunities, and managing household finances. Since the mid-1970s several NGOs have emerged to address this and promote economic self-sufficiency for women through micro-loans and other schemes. Off shoots of these schemes are women self-help groups that take over the financing schemes and become NGOs themselves. They continue to impact the lives of millions of women, both in rural and urban areas by providing income generation opportunities.
The second approach of women empowerment NGOs was through education. They increased awareness on the importance of knowledge as a way to achieve professional careers and participate in political process. Another form of women empowerment emerged from the feminist movement which began to shun all social, cultural or religious barriers to the advancement of women. Feminist leaders, through their writings generated a cadre of new generation of women who became followers of women’s liberation.
All the hard work by women’s group and NGOs have achieved considerable successes in various fronts. Currently, reports and information released by medium and large size women development NGOs through their websites and other printed material indicate the impacts of their projects on their overall women empowerment agendas. In addition to these self-reported measures and indicators on varying levels of advancements, studies done by researchers on local and regional level NGOs have proved that women achieve considerable level of knowledge, economic and political empowerment by being members or beneficiaries of them (Kilby 2011; Margaret & Kala, 2013; Brahmbhatt & Sheth, 2013
Roles and Strategies of Women Empowerment NGOs:
Because gender discrimination and women’s rights abuse are systemic, deep-rooted problems with various dimensions (religious, cultural, economic, etc.) across the country, solutions to address them also need to be multi-dimensional and holistic involving various sectors of the society. Women empowerment NGOs, due to their mission-focused nature, are in an unique position to play pivotal roles to link various players including the general public, communities, religious groups, governments, and businesses. They also highlight various issues of gender inequality and inequity in order to stimulate responses from them.
Although the typology and scopes of NGOs with overall missions of women empowerment vary, four types of them have high impacts and are more visible than the others. They are: grassroots women self-help NGOs, women’s rights advocacy NGOs, women’s economic development NGOs, and international women empowerment NGOs.
Grassroots Women’s Self-Help NGOs grow from within communities, initiated by women leaders or groups to promote the welfare and economic opportunities of women who are community residents. They focus on short- term income generation projects, such as cottage industries for women in communities, so that long term empowerment can be achieved. Grassroots women’s self-help group NGOs need little or no intervention from outsiders, although information and technical advice from other established women NGOs can help them greatly in their efforts and impacts. During the past few years, there is a tremendous growth of this type of grassroots NGOs around the country both in urban and rural areas.
Women Rights Advocacy NGOs are typically established by leaders with strong feminist ideology or group of people who desire to address one or more aspects of women’s rights abuse. Strategies of advocacy environmental NGOs focus on raising public awareness on women rights abuse, their impacts, and other issues in order to prevent them. They advocate for gender equality through various measures including activism. They support women activists and organise public protests that are often the most effective methods to mobilise the public and get the attention of law-makers. They link people with the political processes, so that they can demand responses from governments based on their constitutional and other rights. They partner with local media to get the word out in order to increase awareness among the public about women’s rights issues and the needs to address them. They act as watch dog groups to protect the rights of women from abuse by social groups, caste groups and religious groups that methodically subjugate women to multiple forms of oppressions in the name of tradition, culture and religion
Women Economic Development NGOs strive to promote financial self- sufficiency of women through economic development. They provide direct social service, with missions to address specific needs of women such as education, health care, and income generation within the broad development framework. Based on the needs, they design and implement projects that benefit women from underserved or unserved communities. Access to micro loans and other opportunities offered by development NGOs have truly transformed the status of women in communities across the nation, especially in rural areas where women have long been excluded in income generation and family financial management. They have also been instrumental in the impressive growth of women in the national workforce.
The Landscape of Women’s Rights NGOs:
Women empowerment NGOs range widely in their size, scope, and impacts. The good news is that there is a growing number of women advancement related NGO initiatives at local, state-level, regional, national and transnational levels that provide educational, economic and other resources needed to address various aspects of women empowerment. Brief profiles of a few such NGOs that are in the forefront of actions for women empowerment are given in the next section. These organisations, in addition to their specific missions to promote the status of women through awareness, education, and economic development, have embarked on major initiatives to push their agenda for overall women empowerment.
Education and Public Speaking
As is well known, the average educational level of women in Bangladesh is lower than that of man; and this is also the case in the study area. Poverty is the principal reason of families for either not to enroll their girls in school or to withdraw them prematurely. Prevailing cultural values and norms appear to be key determinants for the low level of female education. Many parents in rural areas lack the interest or are openly hostile to the formal education of their daughters due to social and religious norms in general and to lower marriage prospects of educated girls in particular. The focus group discussion also found that most of the rural women are ashamed to talk with other persons outside the family, due to conservative attitudes of their family and society.
Impact of NGO Programs
Based on a questionnaire, we are able to provide some quantitative assessment on what women themselves think about how their involvement with these NGOs has contributed to their empowerment. The questionnaire asked the women specifically on (1) if they see a change in their status due to their interaction with NGOs, (2) if awareness building has increased due to NGO programs, (3) how the amount of capital they own has changed from before and after becoming NGO members, (4) how their employment status has changed from before and after becoming NGO members, and (5) how their involvement in business activities changed.
Changes of Women’s Status Due to Interaction with NGOs
As shown in Table 1, the study found that 60 percent of the women replied that their status has improved due to their interaction with NGO programs, 10 percent said that NGOs had no role to their increased status, while 30 percent of the women did not provide an answer. This is consistent with the result of the focus group discussion, which found that women engaged in any NGO activity improve their public speaking.
Table 1: Changes of Women’s Status
|Role of NGOs||Number of women||Percentage (%)|
Awareness Building in the Society Due to NGOs
It is difficult for women to go forward if they do not know about their rights. As Table 2 details, when the women were asked about awareness building, 36 percent answered that awareness building has increased in the society due to NGOs programs, 30 percent of the women are unconscious about awareness building, and 34 percent are conscious about their rights, but see no need to build awareness in the society.
Table 2: Awareness Building
Level of awareness building
Number of women
Increased awareness building
Unconscious about awareness building
Conscious about their rights but see no need to build awareness in the society
Changes in Amount of Capital Owned by Women
The economic empowerment concept attributes women’s subordination to a lack of economic power. It focuses on improving women’s control over material resources and strengthening women’s economic security. Table 3 shows that the capital owned by women before and after getting microcredit has increased. Before getting microcredit, 70 percent of the women owned less than Taka 1000 (i.e., less than US$15); after getting microcredit, 60 percent of the women owned between Taka 2001-4000, and 20 percent owned between Taka 4001-5000.
Changes in Employment Status of Women
As Table 4 shows, the employment status of women before and after receiving NGO membership had changed considerably. While there was only one woman (2 percent) formally employed before becoming a membership in a microcredit institution, the number increased to
38 (76 percent) after getting membership in a microcredit program. The number of unemployed decreased from 31 (62 percent) to 9 (18 percent), and the number of workless decreased from 18 (36 percent) to 3 (6 percent). Hence, we find that NGO assistance brings a strong positive change for women’s employment status by allowing them to carry out income generating activities.
Changes in the Involvement of Business Activities by Women
As Table 5 details, the percentage of women being involved in business activities has increase from only 2 percent before getting NGO membership to 50 percent after getting NGO membership. Similarly, before getting NGO membership, 62 percent of the women said that they had no business idea; while only 20 percent said that they had no business idea after getting NGO membership. On the other hand, the percentage of women not involved in business activities has only marginally decreased from 34 percent before getting NGO membership to 30 percent after getting NGO membership.
Development of a nation lies not just on its GDP growth, but through a series of progressive reforms that resolve and eradicate social injustices faced by various sub-population of the nation. The growing list of government initiated reformative acts, legal framework, regulatory mechanisms, and judicial actions are not solutions to the major issues of gender injustice by themselves. Unless they change the mindsets, attitudes and behaviors of people in Indian society, especially among men, none of them is worth anything. NGOs have paved the way for awareness, advocacy, and outright demands for gender justice. They need to continue to push the boundaries of social justice, laws, and judiciary in pursuit of women’s rights, equality and equity.
In addition to their programmes and projects, in order to stay true to their missions, women empowerment NGOs need to have organizational capacity to operate effectively and efficiently. They need to have good governance that promotes transparency and accountability. They should have active strategic planning processes that will expand their scope on empowering women. They also need to mobilize steady revenues from diversified sources in order to continue their work. NGOs operating on all aspects of the advancement of women should constantly explore opportunities to network with other NGOs with similar missions for collaborative partnership. Given the extent of gender inequality and inequity in the society, networking among women welfare NGOs is the key to increase awareness on issues, address various causes and consequences of women’s rights abuse, and promote overall women empowerment throughout the nation.
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