Strengthening of the Panchayet of Dalit Community by making them gender sensitive and gender balanced for empowering women’s legal and fundamental rights

Goal of the Project: ‘The goal of the project is to improve the socio-economic condition of untouchable (Dalit) Communities.’

Objective of the project: ‘Power structure among the cobbler and sweeper (Dalit) communities under Dhaka and Narayangonj city areas strengthened, towards enabling the Panchayet system more effective, efficient and gender- sensitive in responding to present needs and constraints of the community, particularly women and children.’

Duration of the project: 2009-2012

Donor: Bread for the World

Background information of the project: The project aimed to achieve empowerment of the cobbler and the sweeper communities by understanding the rights and entitlements provided to them constitutionally and through the declaration of human rights. It was also aimed at enabling the target group to be able to demand their access to rights. For the aims to be achieved, Dalit Panchayets of these communities was planned to be brought together through networking to establish an effective and vibrant platform for acting as bargaining agent to ensure their access to public and private services. The working locations of the project were 20 cobbler Panchayet and 2 sweeper communities under Dhaka and Narayangonj District.

Results: Traditional views and attitudes of the Panchayet leaders changed under a gradual process through training and discussion. Dalit women were able to resisted early marriage and discuss on women rights. Women are also included in the Panchayet gradually and communication of Panchayet to Panchayet was developed and they were able to inform each other how to solve their problems. By the end of the project period, 40 percent Panchayet included women member in the Panchayet Committees and all the Panchayets agreed to resist early child marriage; 20 percent Panchayet communicated with GoB officials and petitioned for grants to observe festivals, and most of them received the grants. Another important result was that 20 Panchayet formed a platform named “Bangladesh Dalit Panchayet Forum” and successfully prepared a draft constitution to run the Panchayet activities.

Conclusion: Women’s rights as a human right was well-understood by the Panchayets which were reflected by the representation of the women in the Panchayet. Women groups and youth groups in the Panchayets became active for community development and support to Panchayet for establish human rights. One of the best outcomes of this project was community concern developed for children’s education. Pre- primary schools established by the project were running well and Panchayet Committees directly follow them up regularly.