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Why This Project?

Urbanization has undoubtedly created opportunities for many, especially for women to work and attain certain freedoms. However, the distribution of wealth and welfare continues to be extremely disproportionate. In middle-income countries like Bangladesh, poverty is increasing in urban areas as populations in slums are expanding daily. This low-income faction of society have difficulty accessing even the minimum requirements of living, and women in particular carry an extra burden, struggling to get health services, clean water, safe housing, nutritious food and social security. Though there are in numerable laws, policies and institutions in place to work towards women’s rights in Bangladesh, women and girls still continue to be deprived of basic civil rights. Violence against women, discriminatory family law and gender discrimination at every level of the society creates further obstacles in their path to achieve these rights.

Against such a backdrop, the Shokhi project, which aims to ensure health and well-being services for women, protect their rights and empower them, has commenced its operation, with the assistance of the Dutch government. The project is being implemented under the leadership of BLAST, with contributions from the We Can Alliance and BWHC at slums in Mirpur, Mohammadpur and Mohakhali in Dhaka city. The project is operating in nine slums in the first year and will begin work at six more slums in the second year, tallying the total number of slums to 15.

Objectives and Goals of the Project

  • The project will work in the slums of Mohammadpur, Mohakhali and Mirpur to socially and economically empower women to help them achieve security, maintain good health and elevate their status in the family, workplace, and community.

  • It will help women build their capacity to make decisions, express their opinions, solve problems through discussions and enhance their freedom of movement so that they can face and overcome social, economic and legal barriers. In turn, they will attain skills to work as an agent to improve the environment within their family, workplace and society.

  • The project will create an example of local social development, which will play an effective role in overall development, creating social bondage among local people who in turn, are all able to identify their rights.

Where it is Working:

Mohammadpur area: Sunibir Housing, Dhaka Udyan and Beribandh Slum.

Mohakhali area: Begunbari, Tejturi Bazaar Railway Slum (from Tejturi Bazaar to Railway Supermarket) and Nakhalpara Railway Slum (from Railway Supermarket to Nakhalpara)

Mirpur area: Baunia Bandh, Bhashantek and Beguntila.

Working with Whom:

The men and women who inhabit the fifteen slums, especially female garments workers, domestic help and their families, will be directly involved in the project. About 500,000 men and women of different age groups, from varying service providing agencies and organizations, will take part in different activities of the project.

Period of the project:

From December 2013 to November 2017

What Will It Do

The project will:

  • Work in fifteen slums in Dhaka city through ‘Change Makers’ to create a firm bond amongst women and to empower them.

  • Offer important information on different issues including reproductive health care and legal aid. Each of the fifteen slums will have a ‘One-Stop’ crisis centre.

  • Conduct different activities to raise awareness among both adult and adolescent males and females about labour rights, family rights, prevention of violence against women, reproductive and sexual health, gender equality, and existing laws and policies for protection of women rights.

  • Analyse existing laws and policies pertaining to the protection of women’s rights through research, build opinions for necessary amendments to them and formulate new laws and regulations. This will catalyse amendment and formulation of reproductive and sexual health rights.

  • Help locals run day-care centres.

  • Help locals take necessary measures for ensuring accountability of the government and other agencies in implementation of civil rightslaws.

  • Build relations with local service-providing agencies and ensure smooth delivery of services through the federal system.

  • Create market-oriented employment by imparting job-oriented training to women and organizing employment fairs for them.

  • Work with relevant institutions to bring women under banking service networks and help them open bank accounts with low initial deposits.

  • Conduct advocacy programmes in coordination with local, national and international agencies. This includes trade unions and network organizations to protect the rights of women, especially those working as domestic help, in the garment industry, and other formal sectors.