Being a non-government human rights-based development organisation, we, ActionAid always prefers to play the role of facilitator in bringing change and supplement and complement the government’s initiative. Our conviction to work with the government was further strengthened while I was in Tala (sub-district) in Satkhira on 18th April, 2012 along with our Country Director, Farah Kabir. She was there to visit the activities of our ECHO-funded project Emergency Assistance Support to Water Logging Affected Populations in Tala of Satkhira.
Satkhira, one of the Southwestern districts of the country, continues to suffer by a number of human induced factors, i.e. unplanned infrastructures, lack of proper maintenance of the embankments, etc. Yet, the district is deprived of the policymakers’ attention. Their sufferings deepened further when flood in August 2011 caused huge loss to the livelihoods, assets and infrastructure across the area. It was estimated that water supply, sanitation, shelter and food security of as many as 184000 households or 900,000 individuals were affected, while poor people were the worst sufferer. Water took long time to recede owing to the congested drainage system as found in a Joint Needs Assessment of development agencies that are working in the area.
On this backdrop, the consortium of National Alliance for Risk Reduction Initiative (NARRI), along with its members and local NGOs, came forward with relief support to reduce sufferings of the people. But, it took substantial time to offset the damage caused by the flood and water logging.
I had to take refuge on an elevated land when water submerged my homestead. I lost everything I possessed. There is no one to help me to get rid of the suffering. I need time to get back on my feet,’ said Hazarati, a 55-year old widow from Khalishkhali Union of Tala.
People were in need of livelihood support but not as handout. They wanted it with dignity. Members of NARRI consortium intervened with the support of Cash for Work (CFW) and Cash for Training (CFT). ActionAid, along with its partners Bhumija Foundation and Dalit, is working in Tala where 3100 women are engaged in different schemes that includes raising community places, excavation and re-excavation of canals and construction of link roads. Under CFW, each woman gets BDT 175 (GBP 1.45) as daily wage for 40 days.
We reached Bichaoyan village in Magura Union during mid day and saw united action of people under scorching sun. A total of 300 women were engaged in re-excavating a canal and repairing the adjacent road. They were repairing the road with the soil exhumed from the canal. The women appeared to be in full enthusiasm as it would reduce their vulnerability, apart from fetching them some wages. They unanimously shared how this intervention helped them in the months of food insecurity.
Not only that, they shared they would spend their hard earned money to meet the education cost of their children and repay loans. The women also raised concern that their effort to excavate the canal could go in vain if the illegal barrier constructed in middle of the canal continued to exist. They tried to remove it but some influential people, who are engaged in shrimp cultivation, put hindrance to their success. Farah assured that she would definitely consult the matter with the local administration.
Leaving the location, we proceeded to Union Executive Office of Tala to meet the designated Officer Mahbubur Rahman. As we shared the issue of illegal barrier with him, he instantly took initiative to remove the barrier by engaging local land official Kantilal Sarkar. It was removed the following morning. The local administration also expressed that they would provide all kinds of support to make this project a success. I was impressed to see the commitment level of the government officials in Tala which is indeed not usual in our socio-cultural context. I believe that I will meet more young and energetic government officials like them in the field again who have made efforts to bring in change and provide service to the citizens.