Written by: Mahanambrota Das and Mustafa Bakuluzzaman (Shushilan)
“I must participate in the earth cutting of the Hafamari canal along with men. I also need fresh water for my agriculture field.” said a woman during inauguration
It was in the midday sun on the 28th February, 2018. The sun was on top of the head and was burning the host community with wrath. But, ignoring the fire of the sun, about 200 men and women of the Sekendarkhali village were excitedly waiting at the middle of the village for their chief guest and the invitees. It was a decorated place with colourful cloth by the side of the dried canal to celebrate the launching ceremony of the long desired canal re-excavation.
This was the first time for this community that men and women were seated together at the equal level during the meeting, breaking the barriers of conservativism and the social norms of the village. 71 women attended, most of them wore veils and their faces were covered with the black long garments. They were smilingly discussing with each other family matters, fresh water and canal re-excavation issues.
Finally, with the great enthusiasm from the community, the Assistant District Commissioner (ADC)-Revenue of Barguna District inaugurated the canal re-excavation activities by cutting red ribbon.
The successful programme launching was made possible due to the great enthusiasm of the community and with the worthy collaboration of the local government, local administration, private sector, Universities and NGOs. The community not only had organized such this great event, but also they had also contributed greatly to the scheme with finances and in-kind. The lion portion about 48% of the scheme’s expenses were contributed by the community followed by Australian Research Institutes 44% and the Union Parishad (local government) about 8%.
The local SIAGI team with the support of Australian Research Institutes helped the community to bring the canal into fruition. Using ethical community engagement the local SIAGI team motivated and created the cohesiveness of the community through in-kind support, empathy, information and collaboration, instead of financial and material support. The local SIAGI team has built trust and confidence of the village people so that they are empowered to undertake this kind of initiative through community level aspiration and vision creation around village priorities, formal and informal interactions and inter-relationship building between the community, private sector and the government.
The inauguration is merely the start of journey for the community in implement their vision and creating the changes they wish to see. Shushilan and the SIAGI team will continue to support and empower the village members to achieve their goals.