DESH: A commitment of new horizon to poverty reduction
In a country like Bangladesh, where informal economy covers a major income generation, there are a number of ways to engage people in some income generation. But it cannot be imposed. Instead, the individual donor will have to consult with the receiver and then decide what type of work the breadwinner of the poor family can do, after considering the local socio-economic context, writes M. Mizanur Rahman
When in 1971, we won Bangladesh as our own nation, something to nurture our very own identity with, naturally there was an adjective put beside our name - ‘poor’. This new born baby is poor by birth, although historically its forefathers were not so; they were rich and affluent. After 41 years of independence, we have achieved so much but with the huge population, we still have so many challenges to address where poverty remains as the core issue. ‘DESH’ is an initiative that is working to address poverty, which has become the most pressing challenge for the country.
Let us start with the story of where ‘DESH’ originated and gave birth to the idea of ‘One to One Approach’. It was June, 2011 and I was visiting Gaibandha for data collection for my research. Suddenly, I saw a young woman in the rain, piling sacks of sand on the river bank, where her heart was. The Jamuna had taken a ferocious look as it was the rainy season and she seemed exhausted. I learned that the woman, Bilkis, has two daughters and a sick husband who cannot do heavy work due to his physical handicap. He works in a tea stall and earns 50 taka a day, an amount which is in no way sufficient to secure two meals for the family in this burning market.
I assigned one of my colleagues to learn from her what sort of work she could do in order to earn some money to manage her family. Since then, two of my colleagues and I have invested around twelve thousand taka for setting up a small grocery shop. It was done in a very careful and systematic way to minimize the risk. Few months earlier when I last visited her, she informed me that her daily profit was Tk. 150 to 250. This means that her average monthly income was Tk. 6000. Both of her daughters have started going to school while she, with her ill husband, maintained the shop at the Fulchori Ghat of Gaibandha.
Her success became an inspiration for me to spread the idea and motivate others; if one individual selects one poor man or woman who cannot maintain his/her family, and engages in this ‘One to One’ investment, the country could soon see a decreasing number of families in poverty.
Dearth Alleviation through Self Help (DESH) is the social movement which seeks to inspire each affluent family to stand beside a single ultra-poor family. Bangladesh has almost 3 million ultra-poor families while on the other hand, it has 1.9 million affluent families. If only 10-20 thousand taka is enough to engage one person in an economic activity, through which a poor family of 4-5 members will find its daily food, have its children go to school, and will be able to find some basic medical treatment, then I believe, in our country we have enough good people who would gladly come forward to secure the means of livelihood for the poor families.
Under the ‘One to One Approach’, one individual invests for one poor family in such areas through which that poor person can daily earn something to buy food for their family. In a country like Bangladesh, where informal economy covers a major income generation, there are a number of ways to engage people in some income generation. But it cannot be imposed. Instead, the individual donor will have to consult with the receiver and then decide what type of work the breadwinner of the poor family can do, after considering the local socio-economic context.
DESH will be working with four types of funding opportunities
A purely ‘One to One Approach’ where DESH as a network does not necessarily need to be involved. DESH will promote the concept through media, basically communicate the idea to the mass of Bangladesh, so that interested affluent families can do it on their own. While doing so, if anyone seeks any technical support, a team from DESH can always provide that.
An opportunity for the Bangladeshis living abroad. DESH is targeting to have 3 fund raising hubs internationally, one in the USA, another in the Middle East and the other one in the UK. These fund raising hubs will try to coordinate with the Bangladeshis to invest for one poor family in his/her mother land with only 200-250 USD. I have already discussed this with some migrant workers who were very much willing to pay 200 USD once they came to know that with that money, a family would be able to survive.
The third option is the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) fund of the corporate houses in Bangladesh. We have a number of growing industries in our country. These business houses can come forward to invest under the ‘One to One Approach’. Besides this, Zakat funds can also be used here. So many people of our country distribute sharees, lungees and other goods to the poor people with good amount of money. So if that money could be spent for even at least 1 or 2 people under this approach, at least those two families could permanently come out of poverty and experience a change in their lives.
The least important funding approach for DESH will be attracting foreign grants and donations. DESH will undertake small projects as per its limited capacity, and try to set up some good examples and models to be replicated so that the greater benefit can go to the country as a whole.
By principle, DESH will always work to promote the ‘One to One Approach’. With its regular development activities, the organization will further continue research to fine-tune the model itself. Currently DESH is seeking some cooperation and collaboration from different levels of people such as people in the government, academicians, social scientists, media, and most importantly, from every citizen of the country who will help give it a shape of social movement.
DESH wants to see a day when solvent people of this country will feel it a moral obligation and social responsibility to help an ultra-poor family to survive. If there is sufficient support, DESH plans to create a comprehensive national database of ultra-poor families where people from anywhere of the world will be able to see the profile of each individual, and from that point one can also directly choose to fund for that particular person. This model is not concerned only with the economy; in fact, it has to do with a lot more than the economy. It is fully based on fellow-feelings and kindheartedness and hence with its establishment, I see a harmonious and a more balanced society.
The author is a development researcher and introducer of ‘One to One Approach’.
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