Published:  10:41 PM, 10 October 2019

Sarkerpara villagers transformed from extreme poverty

Sarkerpara villagers transformed from extreme poverty
The poor families of Sarkerpara village
under Ramnagar union in Nilphamari have sustainably transformed from extreme
poverty through collective efforts, social, economic and women empowerment.

Some 116 extremely poor households of the village earlier remained
encircled in vicious cycle of generational poverty every year during seasonal
lean periods.

Under the leadership of community leader of Sarkerpara village Anufa
Begum, the villagers began their voyage in 2009 with community-led action
plans based on participatory analysis of extreme poverty to overcome the
curse collectively.

They have become self-reliant with assistance of the 12-year term (2004-
2016) social and economic transformation of the ultra poor (SETU) project of
CARE Bangladesh and the government’s massive social safety-net programmes.

Talking to BSS, Anufa Begum said they identified their problems first and
collectively took decision to address those.

“The villagers have not only used the project’s grants, but also have
mobilised and utilised local resources, potentials and taken collective
actions to overcome poverty,” she said.

“The villagers soon achieved solvency overcoming poverty through
community-led collective actions, engagement in income generating activities
and with assistance like VGF, VGD and other facilities from local union
parishad,” she said.

The transformation started in the village with forming ‘Para Unnayan
Committee (PUC)’, community-based savings groups, 25-member women’s group-
‘EKATA’ and natural leaders’ (community leader) organisation with the SETU
project assistance.

President Sufia Begum of the Para Unnayan Committee of Sarkerpara village
said they first identified open defecation practice as it’s a major reason
for frequent diarrhea and dysentery in their community.

“We went for Community-led Total Sanitation approach to stop open
defecation,” she said, adding that they ensured 100 percent sanitation for
all households within a month under the leadership of Anufa Begum.

“After bringing all 116 households under sanitation facilities, the
villagers took collective actions to diversify livelihoods, built their own
organisations and enhancing relations with local Ramnagar union parishad
authorities,” Sufia said.

With efforts of the EKATA group members, the village has become clean,
free from water-borne diseases, child marriage, malnutrition, illiteracy,
women repression and able couples, pregnant women and adolescents have
knowledge about health and hygiene.

The villagers formed community based ‘Sarkerpara Women Savings Group’ with
32 members with Anufa Begum as its Secretary to cope with the lean season
crisis when they had to sale labour in advance and household goods earlier.

They started with saving fistful rice. With increase in earning for
engagement in various types of income generating activities, they turned
their collected fistful rice into cash group raising capital to Taka 18,000
in 2015.

“The SETU project then added Taka 20,000 as grant to the savings group to
raise its capital when it started providing loans up to Taka 8,000 among its
members for starting different ventures for the income generating
activities,” Sufia added.

Beneficiaries Aklima, Monwara, Tahuza, Sufia, Kakoli and many others said
they took Taka 7,500 to 8,000 each as interest free loans from the group and
invested in off-farm businesses to earn well and lead better life.

Talking to BSS, Chairman of Ramnagar union Md Mizanur Rahman lauded
Sarkerpara villagers for winning over poverty with assistance of the SETU
project and social safety-net programmes setting up a unique example of women

“For her fabulous contribution to transformational change and women
empowerment in Sarkerpara village, local people elected Anufa Begum twice as
the female union parishad member from reserved wards of Ramnagar union,”
Rahman added.

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