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17 February, 2019 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 16 February, 2019 08:08:32 PM

Social safety net schemes get a boost

Md Habibulla, back from Joypurhat
Social safety net schemes get a boost

A huge chunk of the country's vulnerable population is still in the dark about their rights, especially at places where proper information is hard to come by. But the situation is changing rapidly thanks to the initiatives taken by some non-government organisations (NGOs).

Meet Shanti Karmakar, a 71-year-old widow, who lives in Jamalpur union of Joypurhat district. She did not know for a long time that she could get the old age allowance offered by the government. “But now I know all about the allowance. I have been getting this allowance since the last one year,” the septuagenarian could not hide the joy in her voice.

Shanti owes much of her new-found joy to World Vision Bangladesh, an international NGO, which has taken steps to disseminate information to people through the “Establishing Vulnerable Peoples Rights and Access to Social Safety Net Programmes (EVPRA)” project.

Since 2016, poor and ultra-poor people, who earlier were quite unaware of their rights and access to social safety net schemes, have become self-dependent thanks to this project.

Now, this NGO has started involving vulnerable people in the decision-making process so that they can voice their own concerns. Working as social safety net programmes (SSNP) selection committee members and standing committee members, these people are now speaking at interface and advocacy meetings. Besides, they are receiving adequate support from different government and non-government development agencies.

According to INGO statistics, 13,601 people have so far got access to SSNP services through the intervention of the project. Among them, 436 are receiving the old age allowance, while 169 are receiving the allowance for the financially insolvent disabled. Besides, 310 people are getting the allowance for the widowed, deserted and destitute women and 394 more have been included in the maternal allowance programme for poor lactating mothers. Also, 1,265 such people have been brought under Vulnerable Group Development (VGD); 5,496 under Vulnerable Group Feeding (VGF); 1,055 under Food for Works (FFW); 1,310 under the Secondary Education Stipend Project (SESP); and 3,166 under the Primary Education Stipend Project (PESP).

To implement the project in five upazilas of Dinajpur and Joypurhat districts with the financial support of the European Union (EU) and the help of the local government, World Vision Bangladesh has been working for 39,953 targeted beneficiaries from different ethnic minority groups like the Santal, Uraon, Mahali, Malo, Mahato, Pahan, Borman, Sing, Kurin, Munda, Robidas, Kormokar, and Horijan. It is also working for 238,715 beneficiaries from different non-ethnic vulnerable groups including elderly people, disabled people, widows, deserted and destitute women, poor lactating mothers, school children, landless labourers, and seasonally unemployed farmers.

Talking to The independent, another beneficiary, Shri Mati Maloti Rani, said: "Earlier, I didn't know how to access the facilities at the local government level. Nobody cared for me."

“After implementation of the EVPRA project, we've become aware of our own rights. We can now access the social safety net programmes. Now, we know what we should do to establish our rights and where to go,” she added.

Khursheda Begum, mother of a a 36-year-old disabled woman, told The Independent: "My daughter is disabled since birth. She could not move and talk like other people. We tried our best, but did not get the desired results. We were in a deep financial crisis."

“We did not know that the local government provides allowances for disable people. When members of the project told us about his facility, we immediately contacted the local union parishad chairman. Thankfully, my daughter has been receoving the disabled allowance for the last couple of years,” she said.

Md Sardar Anwar Hossain Dipu, president of the CVA working group of the project, said: "We're trying to bring the poor and ultra-poor under social safety net programmes (SSNP)."

"We work in groups in our targeted communities that are not aware of the local government services," he explained.

“We display a list of facilities provided by the local government. We've set up a complaint box outside the union parishad gate. If anyone complains about anything, we take immediate steps. We sit for several meetings in a month to establish the rights of ethnic minorities,” Md Hasanuzzaman Mithu, chairmen of Jamalpur union parishad in Joypurhat district, told The Independent.

Md Selim Shah, deputy director of the Department of Social Welfare in Joypurhat district, said that World Vision Bangladesh has adopted different awareness programmes to inform vulnerable people how different government organisations can help them. “We have also corrected our previous mistakes by learning from the NGO's programme,” he added.

He also said that the government should increase the reach of the programme across the country.

“It's an appreciable initiative taken by the government for the vulnerable people, especially women, in the two districts. Most of them did not know anything about their rights,” said Sabina Sultana, deputy director of the Department of Women Affairs in Joypurhat district.

Md Yusuf Al, manager of the EVPRA project, said: "With the help of the government, we're trying to inform the vulnerable section about their rights and how they could access different social safety net schemes. So far, at least 13,601 community people have got access to SSNP services."  

The EVPRA basically focuses on nine SSNPs—allowances for the elderly; allowances for the financially insolvent disabled; allowances for the widowed, deserted and destitute women; maternal allowance programme for poor lactating mothers; Vulnerable Group Development (VGD); Vulnerable Group Feeding (VGF); Food for Works (FFW); Secondary Education Stipend Project (SESP); and Primary Education Stipend Project (PESP).

In 2016, the project was launched under World Vision Bangladesh, Pollisree and PUMDO to bring the poor and ultra-poor under the social safety net programmes (SSNP).

About 100 targeted CSOs are exhibiting improved organisational and management capacities. Among them, there are 664 executive committee members. Being made aware of their human rights, the community people, specially ethnic minorities, are getting more attention from the duty-bearers.

The government has increased the budgetary allocation for SSNPs  and relevant policy is being amended to reduce leakage. Also, it has decided to involve municipality-level primary schools in the Primary Education Stipend Programme (PESP).

In fact, the government has already increased the inclusion of boys from 10 per cent to 20 per cent in the Secondary Education Stipend Programme, the time duration of the maternity allowance from two years to three years, the number of beneficiaries receiving the old age allowance from 3.5 million to 4 million, and the allowance for widows, deserted and destitute women from 0.82 million to 1 million for this financial year.

Progress comparison between baseline and midline evaluation

• 93 per cent of the targeted people (beneficiaries) were satisfied with the delivery of SSNP services. The baseline was 79 per cent.

• The targeted households that availed of at least one of the nine SSNPs increased from 5.3 per cent (baseline) to 50.6 per cent at the time of the mid-term evaluation.

• 78.3 per cent of the targeted people are aware of the SSNP beneficiary selection eligibility criteria. The baseline was 74.2 per cent.  

• 55 per cent of the targeted people were aware of the public complain/grievance redress mechanisms. The baseline was 12 per cent.

• 50 per cent of the targeted CSOs (50 out of 100) have exhibited improved organisational and management capacity. The baseline was 8 per cent.




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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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