UZGP Tackles Poverty at Upazila Level

Manjuara Khatun’s nightmare started last year when her husband lost his legs in a sudden traffic road accident. The injury rendered him unable to work thus throwing her world upside down.

Life was already tough for Manjuara, who had to drop out of school after the primary level due to the death of her father, as she had to scramble to find a work. Opportunities were so few and far between that local authorities could not provide any support for her, and finding a way to make a living became increasingly difficult.

But thanks to a training course, initiated by her local Upazila Parishad (UZP) and supported by Upazila Governance Project (UZGP), in sewing and tailoring at Maizbari Union Parishad complex in Kazipur Upazila under Sirajganj district, she now dreams of a new, better life.

“I don’t think I will be poor anymore. My kids do not go hungry and they can continue their school,” said a confident Manjuara.

She was one of the 50 poor women of from the locality who have received a new lease on life after completing an intensive 14-day training in sewing and tailoring.

The training was supported by the Upazila Governance Project (UZGP), Local Government Division (LGD), an initiative to help local poor women in Kazipur Upazila make a living.

Supported by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), European Union (EU) and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the Upazila Governance Project (UZGP) aims to strengthen institutional, managerial and technical capacities of the Upazila Parishads (UZPs) to ensure better public service delivery and thereby alleviate poverty.

The five-year project is being implemented by the Local Government Division (LGD), Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives (LGRD& C).

“I am not going back to unskilled work. Now I have the skills and tools to make a decent living,” said a proud Manjuara after completing the training successfully. She also received a sewing machine to pursue her dream.

The project, under the Upazila Fiscal Facility (UFF) support, has already provided Tk. 50 lakh (approximately 62,500 USD) to Kazipur Upazila Parishad in two phases in 2013. With the grants, the Upazila Parishad has taken a total of 16 schemes mainly targeted towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) at the Upazila level.

To help reduce dropouts at primary level, the Kazipur Upazila Parishad, with the fiscal facility support of UZGP, has initiated a stipend programme for 150 poor meritorious students while providing benches to all primary schools at Tekani Union Parishad under the UZP through which more than 500 students will directly benefit.

Under a separate scheme supported by UZGP, the UZP has provided eyeglasses and hearing aids to 200 students who suffer from short and long-sightedness as well as hearing problems. The project has also provided support to construct six sanitary latrines in six primary and secondary level schools aimed at improving hygiene in schools, a total of 2500 school students will be benefit from the initiative.

To help poor destitute women to create their livelihood and bring them out of poverty, the UZGP is providing support to Kazipur UZP in organizing a “Livelihood Training on Preparing Paper Packets and Bags” to 30 rural poor women.

The UZP is also going to launch a number of other schemes including introducing Mid-day Meals, setting up multi-media classrooms, driving training to unemployed women, building fish sanctuaries to help local fishermen to farm more fish, construct a foot overbridge which will connect a remote village to the nearby communities as well as massive awareness programme to stop child-marriage, eve-teasing and drug abuse.

Each of these important efforts supported by UZGP helps the UZP to address its most pressing needs and empower local governance and opportunities for citizens to participate in decisions on local development. "The training given by the UZGP helps us in preparing the plans and budget as well. We now know how to prepare the budget more meticulously and in a more participatory manner," said Mozammel Haque Bakul Sarkar, Chairman of Kazipur Upazila. "And all these were possible for the knowledge and skills we got from the trainings provided by the UZGP," he added. The project also supports elected women representatives to form Women Development Forum (WDFs) at Upazila and district levels to raise their voice and get them involved in development, through meetings, trainings and workshops.

“The UZGP has led to positive social change in Kazipur Upazila including greater gender equality. The trainings, orientations and financial and technical supports provided by the project represents a great step in right direction and leading the Kazipur Upazila Parishad and its citizen into next generation of good governance and responsible pro-poor and sustainable service delivery,” said, Shafiul Islam, UNO of Kazipur Upazila Parishad.