JUL 16 - Saghata, a sub-district under Gaibandh district, is located 300 km away in the north-west from the capital of Bangladesh. There, a project called Rural Information Programme, has taken off with great success. Based on the belief that knowledge and awareness can change the lives of the rural poor for the better, the project trains locals to act as information resources for villages. When I visited the district in March, I was excited to find how effective this innovative concept for supporting the rural poor was.
The programme also provides local youths with valuable opportunities for work and education through their training. Implemented in 60 villages, youths are trained in information on general human health, agriculture, livestock, fishery, human rights, women rights, and rights to information. Though anyone can work for the programme, ladies are encouraged to do so more since it is harder for men to talk and work with women.
The trained ladies mainly address the problems of youth, children, farmers, women and women groups, with the information they received in training. The ladies are provided with bicycles, umbrellas, mini laptop computers, modem for internet connection, cameras, printers, scales, a machine to test blood sugar, mobile etc. And in case the ladies should have to leave the programme or are not around, they train family members so they can quickly respond to any problems that arise in their absence.
Everyday, after their campus time the ladies pack all their equipment in their bags and head over to the communities on their bicycles. They give audio and video demonstrations on their laptops on information relating to problems villagers are facing. They check villagers’ blood pressure and if needed, refer them to the nearby hospital. Sometimes they coordinate with the doctors from their mobile phones and even register the patients at the hospital.
With emerging information and communication technology, the info-ladies support thousands of poor people living in the remote villages of Bangladesh. “I find many people suffering from many diseases,” Sathi Aktar , an info-lady, says, “they are often suffering from high blood pressure or symptoms of excessive sugar, which are very treatable but most of the time they don’t know about these diseases and even if they do, there are no good treatment services in the village. I am happy that we can at least offer our services to them and maybe even save their lives.”
These ladies also supply communities with information on agriculture, livestock and fisheries. “We go from village to village and ask people about their problems on agriculture, livestock and fisheries and provide the information we have. If we find the problem cannot be solved with our information, we instantly refer them to the concerned authorities,” Aktar says.
Using the internet modem they received, the ladies even provide villagers with the opportunity to talk with relatives working abroad. They charge a minimum amount for the service but Sima Aktar, another info-lady, says they also offer many services without charge.
In the preliminary phase of the programme, no one believed that the ladies could support the communities but nowadays, the ladies are becoming leaders in the communities. The communities have come to greatly appreciate their support and skills and welcome their services. Everyone knows the info-ladies in the villages. Whenever the villagers face any problems they immediately dial the info-ladies’ mobile numbers, who then come to the community with any needed equipment.
I had the opportunity to meet with six info-ladies and I was greatly impressed by the courage, inspiration and dedication to supporting the communities that they displayed. I pictured communities in Nepal and how such an approach could really help them as well. If implemented in Nepal in communities of similar socio-economic background to those being serviced in Bangladesh, so many could benefit. There are many communities in Nepal where vegetable farming, livestock, and fisheries can be main sources of income however, due to lack of knowledge; they are languishing with traditional approaches. The knowledge and skills info-ladies provide could change lives in Nepal.
Posted on: 2011-07-17 07:43