Goal of the project: To build up the income earning capacities of VGD women and the socially empowering them through training and awareness.
Objective of the project: To ensure sustainability of development result and provide women with opportunities to further improve their livelihoods.
Duration of the project: 20 February 2017 – 31 December 2018
Donor: Directorate of Women’s Affairs (DWA), MoWCA, Government of Bangladesh
Background information of the project: The vulnerable group development programme is the largest social safety net programme of the Government of Bangladesh that exclusive target ultra poor household. About 10,00,000 direct ultra poor participants across the country receive monthly food ration for the house hold and development support service inclusive of life skill and income generating skill training saving and access to credit for this cycle (20 February 2017 – 31 December 2018) in the entire country. To ensure sustainability of development result and to provide women with opportunities to further improve their livelihoods, VGD participants are mainstreamed into regular NGO development programme, and part of that package, SHAREE is under contract with the Ministry of Women and Children Affair (MoWCA), in particular, with the Directorate of Women’s Affairs (DWA) to deliver services to 2,362 cardholders in Sirajdikhan and Tongibari upazila of Munshiganj district.
Results: Through the partnership with SHAREE, VGD participants have been enabled to become involved in income-generating activities that they lacked the opportunity to enter before, and would not have been able to do under the original VGF-relief programme model. Though the project is still under implementation, SHAREE’s experience of running the project for nearly a year saw some modest positive impact on income of the cardholders, as well as on nutrition and some social indicators. The most important impact was, however, that incomes had been diversified, suggesting reduced vulnerability of the poor women. The women had also acquired some assets and goods, and considerably better awareness of rights and social issues, as well as noticeably more capacity to participate in SHAREE programmes, particularly among married women. SHAREE’s outcome assessment found the following positive changes in beneficiaries’ lives and livelihoods:
- A decline in landlessness and increase in homestead land ownership
- A decline in begging
- A rise in dignity and social status within the community
- Some savings had been made
- Increased ownership of basic household goods
- Slight rise in income
It was not all good news, however:
- Around one-quarter could not cope even the food aid part of the programme wasn’t over, and reaped little gains from the development part of the programme; they were hoping to re-enter the programme to receive food aid again.
- Many participants neither take up all parts of the package nor intend to participate in all parts of the programme.
Conclusion: The programme is first and foremost about feeding the very poor: it is the free nature of the grain resources which gives the programme its high value and political importance in the community. The free ration however was used in large part successfully to provide a safety net, making involvement in development activities possible. SHAREE finds the creative linking of savings and credit to a safety net is the most innovative thing about the VGD programme that 2,362 destitute women accessed savings and credit, the microfinance services that would probably not otherwise have been possible for them to access. VGD programme has no longer been the sole source of official support to poor women, as the Government of Bangladesh has introduced a number of cash pension schemes targeted towards these and similar poor vulnerable groups. Many of these schemes follow a process of identifying and reaching beneficiaries similar to that used in the VGD programme, despite having emerged from under a very different context. This significant development adds confirmation that decentralised targeted poverty reduction programmes can simultaneously serve poverty reduction ends in the Bangladesh context.