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Nasima Akhter, a project group member tells her 'Most Significant Change' story, resulting from access to vocational skills training that she has been attending...

Nasima's Story

I am Nasima Akhter. I am 18 years old, from Dokhin Balia village. I dropped out of high school in 2010 after completing SSC exams (Secondary School Certificate) because my family was too poor to pay the fees. After that I passed my time in the village, helping my family. My future did not look bright - being poor, low education, and untrained for any good job.

About 2 years ago I joined the Chandpur TCDC project and learnt many things. One day the project village staff shared in our group meeting, that training would be offered in plastic cane weaving and bag making. I was really interested, so took the training. Now I make beautiful plastic cane ladies bags using different designs, selling them in local markets. My Uncle brings the raw materials from Dhaka (plastic cane, cotton lining, zip) costing about Tk 100 ($NZ 2). After my labour, they sell for Tk 200~250 ($NZ 4~5). Also I earned some money by training others in making the bags.

The amazing thing is that through this profit, I have now returned to high school, studying in Year 11. I am also contributing to my family's income. I am so grateful, as the TCDC project village staff supported and encouraged me to be trained, earn some income and return to school. Plastic cane changed my story...

The Background Story
Julian Doorey - Banzaid Development Facilitator based in Bangladesh

The Chandpur Total Community Development Centres (TCDC) project operates in 12 villages in Bangladesh with a multi-dimensional in approach to poverty alleviation. One objective is 'Economic Development & Livelihoods', which includes savings and loans groups and livelihood and vocational skills training. Access to savings and 'affordable' credit, good saving habits and loans, along with livelihood knowledge and skills (development awareness; agriculture, livestock, fisheries training) and vocation training - enable livelihood improvement and asset expansion, providing a 'safety net' for indebtedness and seasonal shocks; and enable business expansion providing increased income generating activities and employment.

A major objective of the Chandpur TCDC project is 'Economic Development & Livelihood Skills'.This includes vocational training, with an emphasis on opportunities for increased income for families. Fatema Begum, an adult project development group member from Kodalpur village tells her ‘Most Significant Change' story, resulting from access to ‘saving & loans' and ‘vocational training'...

Fatema's Story
My name is Fatema Begum. I am about 40 years old, and married with 4 boys and 3 girls. I have been with the project for the last 3 years (from the start). I was doing nothing in my house except house work. When the opportunity came I applied for the TCDC project sewing training. After training completion, I bought a sewing machine. Now I make all my family member's clothes.

I also take orders from other village people and it is helping to increase the income of my family. I have already made the TCDC pre-school uniforms. My husband is happy with my sewing business, as it is making money to support our large family.

Next, we are planning to start a tailor shop here.

Background to the Story
by Julian Doorey - Banzaid Development Facilitator based in Bangladesh

Economic Development and Livelihoods as a project objective includes microfinance in the form of savings and loans groups, along with a wide range of livelihood and vocational training. Access to savings and ‘affordable’ credit, good saving habits and loans, along with livelihood knowledge and skills (development awareness; agriculture, livestock, fisheries training) and vocation training - enable livelihood improvement and asset expansion, providing a ‘safety net’ for indebtedness and seasonal shocks; and enable business expansion providing increased income generating activities and employment.

Evaluation of the project after 3 years indicates the savings and loans program has created opportunity for the poor and marginalized group members to create small savings, and to borrow from the wider groups savings for group approved activities, saving them from high interest local money-lenders. Almost 100% of the 1372 group members are saving regularly. Until March 2012, approx 1870 loans have been taken with an average amount of Tk 3000 (@50 = $NZ 60). Many of these loans have been ‘productive’ (resulting in an increase in cash income, or other asset expansion).

Livelihood training has included: vegetable and fruit gardening, chicken and duck farming, goat and cow farming and fish farming. Vocational training has included: small business development, accounting and record keeping, sewing, block batik, shopping bag making and plastic cane weaving.

Fatema's story is a very good example of ‘savings & loans’ working together with ‘vocational training’, resulting in an income generating activity.

The Total Community Development Centres project is the development vision of Baptist Aid-BBCF, the aid and development arm of the Bangladesh Baptist Church Fellowship. Their vision is for ‘a Bangladeshi society based on moral and ethical values, free from poverty, injustice and oppression with equal opportunity and sustainable livelihoods for all people’ - ‘giving life in all its fullness’. They estimate that each TCDC couple directly and positively impacts 200 local poor people, with indirect impact through friends, relatives and community relations estimated at 500 to 1000 people.

New Zealand Baptist churches have partnered with the BBCF since its inception. Churches started and nurtured by NZBMS/tranzsend were the foundation churches of the Fellowship. A new phase in this partnership has begun as we resource the Bangladesh church’s own development projects where they set out to help poor communities around them.

Baptist Aid-BBCF already had several TCDC programmes in other parts of Bangladesh. This project focuses on 12 villages around the town of Chandpur. The Chandpur district is an area of Bangladesh that has seen New Zealand Baptists involvement for over 100 years. We no longer have Kiwi families living in Chandpur, but the TCDC project will bring a new level of partnership with the local community.

Chandpur TCDC is a project of Baptist Aid-BBCF. They set the project up, and are responsible for running it. Our aim is to equip them to do the work themselves.

Photo: BBCF General Secretary Leor Sarkar makes a presentation to Lloyd Ashworth at the conclusion of a training seminar for TCDC staff run by BANZAid in 2008.

Fatema has learnt to vaccinate poultry A core objective of the Chandpur TCDC project is that the very poor can improve their material wellbeing. Activities include savings and loans; development awareness; agriculture, livestock and fisheries training; and vocation training. To help evaluate this objective, one of the project group members tells her 'Most Significant Change' story. Fatema has a divorced daughter and a 4 year old granddaughter who live with her. She also has a son who works as a labourer in a Middle Eastern country. While venturing her first steps and thinking of investing more in fish farming, the news of her son’s work termination came. She and her husband had borrowed a huge amount of money to send their son to the Middle East hoping that he could earn a lot there and their days of hardship would be over. The news struck her life as a snakes’ venom and left her hopeless.

Fatema had limited resources but she was learning and trying everything possible. She gained confidence and took steps to keep her family whole and repay all the loans. There are many out there who are facing the same kind of problems but they should not lose heart but be confident and try and come forward to bring changes in their own lives.

Here is Fatema's story in her own words...

I am Fatema Begum. I live in Pakkhidia village with my husband, daughter and granddaughter. I learnt about the activities of Chandpur TCDC from my neighbours and joined in one of the Uttar Balia village groups in 2009. Since the formation of this group, the staff of the centre have constantly talked about development, self-reliance, participation and such things. These words were new to me but I found them very intriguing. I have seen many difficulties in my life and was looking for some opportunity to start afresh.

After joining the group, I first took a loan of Tk 2,000 ($NZ 40) to invest in fish farming which I and my husband did with other family members. Though I got some profit from my share of selling those fish and was able to repay my loan, still I started to dream of owning my own fish farm someday. Then a couple of months ago, I received training on poultry farming through the project. In that training, I learnt how to vaccinate poultry and I was very excited. I bought a few syringes and medicine to vaccinate my own chickens and some of my neighbours chickens. This cost me only Taka 100 ($NZ 2). Within the next 5 days, I vaccinated 100 chickens in my area and made a profit of Tk 250 ($NZ 5). Now people from villages further away also ask me to go and vaccinate their poultry but as a woman I can't really go to all their villages. I do feel very encouraged when people appreciate my initiative. I have also learnt to produce bamboo-made craft products and in future I want to take another loan from the group to invest in this and see if I can make a profit from it.

Truly, I have learnt a lot from this project. In ignorance I married off my daughter at the age of only nine. Now she is divorced and lives with me with her daughter. We were very depressed but this project has taught us to be confident and have initiative. My daughter is now also a member ofone of the groupsand currently I am serving as the President of my own group. My 4 year old granddaughter studies in the pre-school of Uttar Balia TCDC centre. I have a dream of educating my granddaughter and other children of this village. None of this would have been possible if the project was not working here in this village. I have gained in confidence through being a part of Chandpur TCDC and intend to help others to also gain new confidence.

Julian Doorey, working with the TCDC project as Development Facilitator comments: This is a very interesting development story, with many development issues to explore, including: rural poverty, gender inequality, early girl marriage, constraints on mobility for Muslim women, family members forced to work overseas (sometimes exploited) and others. Positive development changes have been facilitated through: personal empowerment (literacy, motivation, confidence), training in livelihood and vocation knowledge and skills, and the practice of micro-finance in terms of personal savings and access to loans for income generating activities (in this case very small loans have made a big life difference).

My parents were very poor. They never went to school and knew nothing about the benefit of education. They never sent me or my other brothers and sisters to school. I was married off at a very young age and experienced the same situation at my in-laws. People take advantage of our weakness and often cheat us in monetary transactions. My situation made me wonder whether there is any way to get out of this curse of poverty!!!

One day I heard from my neighbours that some people have come to our village to know our situation to help us in the future. That day I went there and found a group of people talking about our problems and how we can get rid of them. They collected our information and then went away.

A long time later another group of people came from the same organization. This time they wanted to take care of our children and they want to help us to improve our lives by their development activities.

I came to know about the project and its activities from Shushanto Tripura and his wife Haroti Tripura. They told me that I can still learn how to read and write and can join their activities. I was inspired. It touched me very much and I immediately decided to join the adult literacy program.

I believe it will bring me honour and dignity and will help me to be able to deal with the cheats. I also decided then that when my daughter is old enough I will send her to the pre-school program also so that she can have a better life than I do. Thanks to the project I now have a way to see things get better.

Bithi Mazumder

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