Proshika , Qazi Faruque Ahmed
Profile of Proshika:
Meaning of Proshika:
A full name of proshika is Proshika Manobik Unnayan Kendra and in English: Proshika-A center for human development. The acronym Proshika is coined form first letters of three bangla words. Words Proshikhon(training),Shikha(education)and Kaj(action) . First letters of Proshikhon is ‘Pro’ , First letter of Shikha is ‘Shi’ and first letter Kaj is ‘Ka’ . The core meaning of Proshika is with training , education and organised action overall development or human development will follow. Thus from the name Proshika it’s values , principles and programs can be understood.
Who ,when and for what objective established Proshika:
Dr.Qazi Faruque Ahmed established Proshika in 1976 . While working in famine stricken north Bengal of Bangladesh observed that while there was no shortage of food in the market the poor people were unable to buy the food and starving to death in consequence. He also observed that people are not protesting against this gross injustice. From this experience and observation he realised that the cause of poverty and famine is the poor do not have purchasing power and power to protest against the violations of their rights. That is poor do not have economic power nor do they have social and political power. This realisation led him to believe genuine poverty alleviation will occur if poor are involved in a process of economic and social empowerment.Programs of Increasing income and employment will enhance their economic empowerment. Programs of training and education will increase their awareness and ability to organise, hence ensuring social empowerment, and enable the poor and marginalised to take initiative to attain their rights. For these objectives Dr.Qazi Faruque Ahmed established Proshika.
Who are the poor and vulnerable in Bangladesh:
The landless , daily wage earners, marginal and small farmers ,small traders , fisherfolk , Weaver, blacksmiths, potters , construction workers, domestic workers, industrial and garment workers , transport workers ,petie employees and extreme poor such as disabled, widow and victims of river erosion.These are the people Proshika works with for their economic,social and political empowerment for poverty alleviation and its eventual eradication.
What are the causes of disempowerment of the poor and vulnerable:
In order to develop programs of empowerment of the poor, Proshika from its inception made thorough going analysis of internal and external causes of poverty.This was done by engaging in open dialogue with the poor in the villages and urban areas.The poor lack awareness to be united and address their problems collectively. They individually try to solve the problem and fail . The poor also lack awareness regarding social , economic, political and health issues. These lack of awareness trap them into fatalism and superstition.
1. The poor, although having modicum of income and wealth engage in
wastefulexpenditure, marriage ceremonies and funeral ceremonies. Often selling their properties or borrowing money .
2. Significant percentage of the poor are trapped in addictions .
They smoke cigarettes, biri , and jorda with pan . Some of them also addicted to alcohol, phensedyl, heroine and yabba etc . These addictions brings economic and health disasters for them .
3. Poor are not aware of their need for functional literacy and often do not send their
children to school and make them work in the field or in the domestic chores .
4. The poor are not able to access bank loans as they cannot provide collateral
security. They also cannot provide bribes for the loans .
5. The poor are subject to social, economic and political pressure of the rich and
powerful in the society. The poor are dispossessed of their lands and or forced to sell
their land cheaply. On the other hand urban poor are subject to extortion by the
powerful. In the Shalish( community court ) dominated by the rich and powerful often
deliver unfair judgement to the poor .
6. The poor are forced to give dowry in their daughters marriage. For this reason they
often forced to sell whatever little land ,cattle and even their tin shed . Many a times
to save their daughter from physical torture, they are forced to give dowery
repeatedly. These barbaric oppression lead many women the commit suicide.
7. The environment- water ,land and air is polluted by use of chemical fertilizers and
pesticides .These poisoning degrades the fertility of the soil and leads to gradual
decrease of production. Poisonings of food causes cancer, kidney and stomach
problems . Liver and kidney problems are rising at an alarming rate. Massive
deforestation is also causing alarming degradation of environmental quality.
8. Natural disasters such as cyclones , floods , tornadoes , storm isurge , river and
hill erosion affect the poor in a disproportionate manner as their forced to live in
9. The poor are victim of distorted market. They are forced to sell cheaply their and
whatever production they do in their land or cottage industry . The middle man make
exorbitant profits selling the products , whereas the poor producers get very little of
the profit. Often the poor even cannot recover their investment.
10. Although by government policies , government kash land(government owned land)
,water bodies and medical service are to be received by the poor free of cost but
rarely the poor have any access to these resources. On the other hand the influential
people have illegal access to these resources which were meant for the poor and
Proshika programs for poverty alleviation and its eventual eradication:
Based on the analysis of poverty and the external and internal obstacles , Proshika has undertaken 15 programs of empowerment. These programs address removal of the obstacles faced by the poor. The programs being multi sectoral and holistic are effective and sustainable. Organizations addressing only one or two causes of poverty are not effective and achieve substantial poverty alleviation.
1. Programs for buildings grassroots people’s organisation: If the poor are not organised they cannot work unitedly and develop their capacity to solve problems collectively as well as become active claimants of their rights. These grassroots Organizations also enhance security, dignity and self reliance of the poor. From the very inception of Proshika in 1976 ,Proshika involved the poor in building their grassroot organisations, in villages and urban slums 15-25 members of poor families formed into Samities which are the primary organisation. Women and men are organised separately at these level. there are average 5 to 6 primary organisations in the village and urban to cover most of the poor in the community. Taking four representatives from each primary organisation of village and slums, villages and Slum federations are formed . Representatives from village and slum federation- Union and ward federations are formed. So far nearly 160 thousand primary groups have been formed of which nearly 98 thousand women groups and 52 thousand are male groups. There are 26500 village and slum federation 2300 union/ ward federation and 286 thana/ upazila(sub-district) federations. At the local level the grassroots people’s organisations launched mass movement for better wages , access to kash land ,water bodies , strip land beside road and denuded forest land .They also organised protests against physical and mental violence against women as well as against the system of dowery. GPOs(grassroots people’s organisations) also conducted mass awareness programs against child marriage. At the national level GPOs came together in hundreds of thousands in 1996 in Manik Mia Avenue a huge Boulevard in Dhaka for free and fair election, trial of war criminals , stopping of religious extremists attack on women , progressive people and NGOs . Again in 2001 nearly 500 thousand grassroot people came together in parade ground Dhaka to protest religious extremists attacks on Proshika in Brahmanbaria(Northeastern district of Bangladesh) demand again trial of the war criminals. The huge gathering also demanded the removal of corruption from government agencies and called for the establishment of independent anti corruption commission.
2. Human development training programs : The poor are not aware what are the economic social and political obstacles which keep them trapped in poverty over generations their awareness for getting united and taking collective action for overcoming the poverty is lacking . They are also enchained by fatalism and religious dogma. Human development training empowers the poor to become confident and aware of the problems facing them and that they can change their situation by working unitedly. Human development training also developed their leadership and communication skills. So far 1200 thousand human development courses have been organised where 20.5 million poor have participated in Proshika human development courses, on average one member of grassroots people received 7 different courses of human development training.
Another program for awareness building is through the use of traditional form of theatre but changing their content from historical and mythological stories to contemporary issues of social injustice, oppression of women , environmental pollution, distortion of the history of war of liberation and machinations of religious extremists. Proshika formed 1100 popular theatre groups who performed in villages and slums of Bangladesh.
3. Practical skill development training:Poor need to increase their income and employment by undertaking various economic projects , for this reason along with the need for capital they also need practical skills to be successful. For this reason Proshika organised training on organic agricultural, poultry, duck rearing , livestock rearing , goat rearing, Pc culture, seri culture, beekeeping irrigation machine operations , repair and maintenance, power tiller operation, forestry, plant nursery, sanitary latrin production, traditional birth attendant training, para vet and cattle and poultry vaccinations. So far Proshika organised more than 51000 skill development courses where over 1200 thousand members of GPOs participated.
4. Universal Education Program : Most of the poor are illiterate . Many of their children are not enrolled in the schools , even if they do more than half drop out in the first year of the school. For Poor of Children of age 8+ Proshika has established non formal primary school. From the schools children complete their primary education and get enrolled in secondary schools. Because of their learners centred curriculum and interactive teaching with little or no homework children’s retention in school and success in examinations is over 90% . So far over nearly 24,000 non formal primary education has been established from which nearly 800 thousand children of poor families have completed primary education. Proshika also established adult literacy centers for illiterate adults for functional education, they learn to read , write and solve simple arithmetic problems. So far 53000 adult literacy centers are established from which nearly 1200k adult men and women attained functional literacy.
5. MicroFinance(credit and savings) service program for income and employment growth of the poor: From the very inception of Proshika in 1976 , it undertook microfinance service program for enhancing income and employment of the poor. There was no such microfinance program in Bangladesh either in the NGO and government sector when Proshika initiated this service large scale in 1976. Grameen bank had pilot project in one village in Chittagong and Brac’s rural credit and training program (RCTP) was undertook in 1979 in few villages, whereas Proshika had the service in about 900 villages in 1976 providing microfinance service to nearly 8000 poor family. If one cares to look at this historical fact will no doubt understand that Proshika is the pioneer of Microfinance. Canadian international development agency(CIDA) along with training and education program funded microfinance program of Proshika since 1976. Proshika’s microfinance program is distinctly different from other microfinance practitioners, unlike them Proshika provides relevant practical skills and management training , where needed provide marketing support. To cover the risk due to death, disability and destruction of production due to natural calamities Proshika also provides insurance service .For increasing income and employment Proshika provides microfinance service to members of primary groups (Samities) for undertaking/enlarging their small trade , small industry, cottage industry, handicraft , weaving, organic agriculture, homestead vegetable and fruit production, poultry and duck rearing, cattle fattening , milch cow rearing, fish culture, fish harvesting in open water bodies ,bee keeping ,silk worm rearing, tree plant nursery, Social forestry, irrigation project, sanitary latrine production etc . For nearly 1.5 million income and employment generating projects of over 2.8 million Samity members were provided over Tk 50000million is equivalent of 600 million dollars.Microfinance program of Proshika compensated nearly 5000 members tk 210 million 2.6 million dollar for the death of their cattle or poultry . For death of 8600 samity members their nominees received total tk 50 million as compensation. Nearly 15000 members received tk 21 million as compensation due loss suffered of their crop or house to natural calamities.
6. Small entrepreneurs economic Development program (SEED): Like the poor,small entrepreneurs did not have access to credit from banks or any training for development of their entrepreneurship, they also face difficulties for marketing their products. To provide to solutions to this problems Proshika first time in Bangladesh established in 1994 the SEED program. So far over 33000 small entrepreneurs received TK 3090 million equivalent to $38.6 million dollars as credit.Over 13754 small entrepreneurs received training on business planning, marketing ,accounts and inventory management. Besides creating their own self employment the entrepreneurs created nearly 70000 employment.
7. Environmental protection and regeneration program:
A) Organic agriculture: From 1960 the use of chemical fertiliser and pesticides were introduced in Bangladesh, initially production increased, but water and land began to be polluted seriously degrading the soil fertility as a result production suffered incremental decline. Incidence of different forms of cancer, kidney,liver ,skin diseases increased significantly, because people having to eat poisonous food. Under the circumstance Proshika from its very inception in 1976 introduced organic agriculture practices by using organic fertiliser and pesticides , shunning use of harmful agro chemicals . Proshika, thus is the pioneer of organic agriculture in Bangladesh. Proshika has its own 6 organic agriculture farms in Manikganj(koitta) , Satkania(Chittagong) ,Fultola& Shiromoni (Khulna) , Sadar & mitha pukur(Rangpur) : area coverage of these farms is 300 acres. Besides these farms Proshika trained thousand of farmers and provided them micro finance to enable them to practice organic agriculture.As a result produced poison free food and increased soil fertility of their land.
So far Proshika assisted over 800 thousand farmers to practice organic agriculture in over 250 thousand acres of land .They received nearly Tk 750 million in loan for organic agricultural practices. For it’s pioneering work in Bangladesh Proshika received membership of international federation of organic agriculture (IFOAM) in 1978 and Proshika received Bangabondhu (Father of the Nation ) Gold medal in 2000.
B)Forestry and Forest protection : Bangladesh has 18% forest land . This forest land are in gazipur , tangail, maymansingh , sylhet , chottogram, Chittagong hill tracks and Khulna. But much of the forest has denuded by illegal loggers. While political influential people commit the crime but the poor in the forest areas are harassed by false cases against them . Proshika organised the poor and common people in forest areas into forest protection committee. They with agreement from forest department , protected nearly 40k acre as of forest land. Grassroots People’s organisation(GPO) formed by Proshika also took long term lease of strip land in both sides of the roads , railway tracks and embankment from local government, water development board and railway authorities.GPOs also under contract with forest department planted trees in denuded forest areas. In these strip and forest land GPOs planted nearly 100 million trees , from which 60% are to be received by the GPOs , 20% by the government departments and 20% to Proshika. This is the largest tree plantation program in the world, which significantly contributes to poverty alleviation efforts, as well as mass regeneration of environment. So far over Tk 120(1.5 million usd)million has been received by 15000 GPO members from sale of 225k tress. Total valuation of the trees planted is near to Tk 50k million which equivalent to about $6 billion.
8. Primary health care and nutrition education program: This program made the poor understand the causes and prevention of infectious disease such as typhoid, cholera, dihhoreah , skin diseases , dyptheria , tuberculosis , polio, malaria, measles and dengue etc. Poor also learn about balanced nutrition and how they can obtain nutritious vegetables and fruits in low cost manner . Smoking cigarettes, biri , chewing tobacco causes cancer and other serious ailments, this fact is also subject of the health education program. Statistics for far 1600 thousand men and women received primary healthcare and nutrition training from Proshika. Over 2000 traditional birth attendants (Dhai) are trained for safe delivery for reducing maternal mortality in Bangladesh. Proshika also organised health camps in thousand of villages and slums for medical checkups, prescription at very nominal cost . The eye-camp surgeons perform cataract operations free of cost . These medical camps benefitted over 168 thousand poor people.
9. Safe drinking water and sanitary latrine program: Most People in the villages and urban areas of Bangladesh had no alternative to open defecation in field ,canal, rivers etc only 18% households in Bangladesh had sanitary latrine. Availability of safe drinking water was similarly low. To solve this problems Proshika undertook safe drinking water and sanitary latrine program. Sanitary latrines were provided to poor families with interest free loans, at the same time for easy availability of sanitary latrines Proshika established more than 300 production units by Samity members who received microfinance assistance from Proshika. So far over 800 thousand poor families were provided interest free loan to install sanitary latrines. In the urban areas 8 community latrine were also established. These massive program initiated a mass movement which resulted in over 90% household having sanitary latrine rising from 18%.For provision of safe drinking water , Proshika provided 30000 tube wells for the poor house holds. In their late 90s around 45% of the tube well water had arsenic. To solve this problem Proshika established 23 arsenic removal plant and in a joint venture with a Canadian organisation produced over 50 thousand of household filter call “Bisuhudho” .
10. Disaster managements program: Bangladesh is a disaster prone country. Cataclysmic flood in 1988 ,1998 ; cyclone and disastrous cyclone and storm surge in 1991 and 2007; river erosion in thousand of villages victimising people who loose their house and property to the river . Hill erosion claims in Chittagong claims many lives. Cold wave in north Bengal make condition of the poor unbearable.
Disaster management program of Proshika swing into action . Firstly food ,medicine and safe water is provided to the victims and where need evacuate them to high grounds . This service is provided during and immediate aftermath of the natural calamity. In the second step Proshika provides interest free loan for agriculture and housing rehabilitation. Domestic animals and poultry birds are vaccinated and and for production of fodder seeds are provided. Tubewells and and traditional wells are drained of polluted water and subsequently sprayed with bleaching powder. Proshika also constructed 10 cyclone centers which in normal times used by schools and medical centers. For the disaster management program spent tk450 million.
11. Liberation War related program : Liberation war of Bangladesh was fought on the principle and value of democracy ,secularism , social and economic justice these values need to inculcated to young generation. For this Proshika organised events to recognise and honour freedom fighters who espoused these values . Proshika identified over 2000 freedom fighters and provided them finance and support for enhancing their income. Proshika honoured 65 women freedom fighters “Proshika freedom fighter award2003”, 45 of them were given monthly pension for three years. Proshika also established liberation war memorial library throughout Bangladesh. Memorial pillar and plaque were constructed in chuknagar of Khulna, golidanga and terosri of manikganj. Besides these Proshika was first to fund “Muktirgaan” a documentary on liberation war.
12. Information Technology Program: Proshika for its massive poverty alleviation and development programs needed to computerise all the program information data. For this Proshika installed computers in all its offices throughout the country. In 1984 Proshika developed software for MIS of Micro Finance revolving fund. This is probably the first computer program on micro finance in the world. This program software enabled Proshika to expand its micro finance program from Tk 50 million Tk 50000 million. One by one for all the programs Proshika developed computerised MIS system. Proshika felt the need to provide internet service in Bangladesh as there was no such service in Bangladesh. Education,business,government programs could not connect to information highway realising this need Proshika established ProshikaNet first Broadband ISP in Bangladesh. Proshika also developed ProshikaShabda (Bangla Font) , accounting software (AccPro)
13. Development support communication program(DHCP): from its very inception Proshika was conducting human development training, skill development training,popular theater program,awareness building and empowerment of the poor. Video materials were needed to be made for these programs. Development support communication program made documentaries ,dramas,advertisements clips, television serials ,development documentary serial (Diganta) ,television serial (Sharnojan) . Equipment facility of DHCP were used by cable channel television for training all their technical management personnel. Proshika also initiated participatory video program where Samity members were trained to use video camera for shooting and on camera editing . They trained Samity members to make video films of their problems and success achieved in solving the problems. One of the film “struggle of aliya “ won international award from BBC.
14. Proshika Legal Aid service : the poor men and women , development workers ,cultural workers , news reporters, are often subject to harassment oppression by the state and influential people. Through this legal Aid service program, Proshika provides legal aid to poor who are incursarated illegally or oppressed by illegal divorce, polygamy ,physical torture and fatua. Proshika freed 285 people from prison who imprisoned illegally. Proshika also helped 136 women to file case