Moimuna Nursing Institute Ushers Hope for Vulnerable Rural Girls in Bangladesh

Aid, Asia-Pacific, Civil Society, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Featured, Gender, Headlines, Health, Human Rights, Inequality, Sustainable Development Goals, TerraViva United Nations, Youth

Active Citizens

Dr MA Sayed conducts a practical with his students at the Moimuna Nursing Institute. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

Dr MA Sayed conducts a practical class with his students at the
Moimuna Nursing Institute. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

THAKURGAON, Bangladesh, Feb 6 2024 (IPS) – After passing her secondary school certificate (SCC) in 2019, Sweety Akter went door-to-door to collect money to enroll in a college, but she wasn’t successful.

Born to an extremely poor family in Fultala village under Baliadangi upazila in Thakurgaon district, Akter saw her dream of studying fading as she was unable to enroll in a college because of a lack of funding, despite her good results at school.


“I went to many places but did not get the opportunity for admission. I did not have the financial support to study at a private college or an educational institute.”

Then Sweety’s fortune changed.

“I luckily got a chance to study for a nursing diploma free of charge at Moimuna Nursing Institute (MNI),” she told IPS.

Two sisters, Sweety Akter (left) and Shikha Akter (right) enrolled in Moimuna Nursing Institute, Sweety has already completed a nursing diploma with financial support from the institute and Shikha is now a second-year student. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

Two sisters, Sweety Akter (left) and Shikha Akter (right), are enrolled in Moimuna Nursing Institute. Sweety has already completed a nursing diploma with financial support from the institute, and Shikha is now a second-year student. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

Explaining her financial hardships, the 22-year-old Akter said her father is a gambler who had sold all the family’s assets to gamble, and he had even sold their lone homestead, where they are currently living.

“My father does not give me and my younger sister any money for education. My mother works as domestic help at the houses of people and is bearing the costs for our four-member family,” she said.

Sweety said that if she had not had the opportunity to enroll at MNI, it would have been impossible for her to pursue tertiary education, and she would have been forced to marry.

Overcoming all the odds and passing the nursing diploma, she is now pursuing an internship at Rangpur Medical College and Hospital (RMCH) with financial support from the institute, which paves the way for former students to get jobs at hospitals.

Shikha Akhter (19) enrolled in Moimuna Nursing Institute in Thakurgaon, northwest Bangladesh, to pursue a diploma in nursing science and midwifery with the encouragement of her sister, Sweety.

Shikha said she enrolled in the institute at a minimum fee, and now she is enjoying more facilities than other students as her elder sister also studied there.

“I am studying the nursing diploma and staying at the MNI’s hostel, which makes my life easy. I want to be a good nurse and serve people,” she added.

Joya Rani, a 20-year-old girl from poverty-stricken Kaliganj village under Deviganj upazila, also studied the nursing diploma with financial support from the institute.

“My father is physically challenged, so he cannot work. My mother is the only breadwinner for our family, and she supports the family by rearing cattle. That’s why she cannot give me any money (for study),” she told IPS.

Joya, who is currently doing an internship at RMCH, said she received a stipend of Taka 2,000 (USD 19) from the institute over the past two years, and if she had not received the stipend, it would not have been possible for her to continue studying.

Moimuna Nursing Institute, located 460 kilometers away from the capital Dhaka, is a non-profit approved by the Bangladesh Council of Nursing and Midwifery and offers a three-year diploma in nursing for about USD 1,500, which includes tuition fees, accommodation, uniforms, and books.

Thakurgaon is a poor district in Bangladesh, with a poverty rate of 36.7 percent against 18.7 percent at the national level. Of them, about 19.7 percent of people in the district live in extreme poverty, which prevents many from continuing their education, particularly the girls.

Since the start of its journey in 2019–20, the MNI has been providing financial support, including stipends and need-based scholarships, for students coming from underprivileged families.

MNI’s managing director, Dr. MA Sayed, said the institute authorities are providing a handful of scholarships, with three poor students receiving stipends in each batch so that they can continue their nursing education.

In distributing scholarships and stipends, a committee of the institute inspects the houses of their students. If the committee finds evidence of acute financial hardship, the MNI provides support.

Even after completing the nursing diploma, the institute’s support continues, and it facilitates sending the former students to public hospitals to do internships.

“During their internship, we are providing financial support for some selected poor students so that they can accomplish their goals,” Sayed said.

He said the MNI provides a residential facility for its students to ensure a smooth environment for education, resulting in a 100 percent pass rate, which makes it the first in Thakurgaon district.

“We also carry out career counseling for students to encourage them to consider a higher education in nursing,” he added.

Teachers, students and staff of Moimuna Nursing Institute pose for a photo in front of its main building on the campus. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

Teachers, students, and staff of Moimuna Nursing Institute pose for a photo in front of its main building on the campus. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

Nirmola Toppa, mother of Nila Kispotta, who recently completed a nursing diploma from the MNI, said after her daughter passed the SSC examination, she tried to marry her off because she could not afford to pay for her daughter’s educational expenses.

But a scholarship meant Nila could complete her diploma, and she is now getting a stipend of Taka 2,000 (USD19) per month from MNI to complete her six-month internship at RMCH.

Nirmala said Nila received Taka 6,000 (USD 57) to enroll in the internship too.

Founder of Moimuna Nursing Institute, Dr. Saifullah Syed, said in Thakurgaon, many rural underprivileged girls and those coming from minority and ethnic communities pass the entrance exam (SSC) to enroll in nursing institutes but do not enroll due to financial constraints.

Also, there are many who could qualify but do not take the entrance exam, thinking that they may not be able to afford the educational expenses to become nurses and midwives, he said.

“That’s why I founded Moimuna Nursing Institute to ensure that qualified poor rural girls, particularly those coming from minority and ethnic communities, get the opportunity to become nurses and midwives,” Syed told IPS.

He asserted that his institute has established an endowment fund under the control of a Board of Trustees, provides need-based scholarships, and arranges sponsors.

The MNI welcomes donations as it means more students may be assisted.

IPS UN Bureau Report

  Source

Smallholder Farmers Gain Least from International Climate Funding

Africa, Aid, Civil Society, Climate Action, Climate Change, Climate Change Finance, COP28, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Food and Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition, Food Sustainability, Global, Headlines, Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies, Sustainable Development Goals, TerraViva United Nations

Climate Change Finance

David Obwona at his seed rice farm in Katukatib village, Amoro district, northern Uganda. The farmer is part of a group that is now engaged in seed rice farming to climate-proof agriculture courtesy of the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building Agriculture. Credit: Maina Waruru/IPS

David Obwona at his seed rice farm in Katukatib village, Amoro district, northern Uganda. The farmer is part of a group that is now engaged in seed rice farming to climate-proof agriculture courtesy of the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building Agriculture. Credit: Maina Waruru/IPS

NAIROBI, Nov 14 2023 (IPS) – Smallholder farmers from the Global South benefit from a grossly disproportionate 0.3% of international climate finance despite producing a third of the world’s food and despite holding the key to climate-proofing food systems.


The family farmers and rural communities received around USD 2 billion from both public and private international climate funds out of the USD 8.4 billion that went to the agriculture sector in 2021, even as over 2.5 billion people globally depended on the farms for their livelihoods.

The USD 8.4 billion was almost half of the USD 16 billion that was availed for the energy sector and is only a fraction of the estimated USD 300-350 billion needed annually to “create more sustainable and resilient food systems,” a new report has found.

The amount was also quite different from the USD 170 billion that smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa alone would require per year, the study on global public finance for climate mitigation and adaptation conducted by Dutch climate advisory company Climate Focus has found.

The low level of climate finance for agriculture, forestry, and fishing is of concern, given the impact of climate change on food production and the extent to which food and agriculture are fueling the climate and biodiversity crisis.

Agricultural productivity has declined by 21 percent due to climate change, while the food and agriculture sector as a whole is responsible for 29 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and 80 percent of global deforestation, the study explains.

The farmers have been sidelined by global climate funders and locked out of decision-making processes on food and climate despite being the engines of rural economic growth. This is especially so in Sub-Saharan Africa, where up to 80 percent of agriculture is by smallholder farmers and where 23 percent of regional GDP is attributable to the sector.

It reveals that 80 percent of international public climate finance spent on the agri-food sector is channeled through governments and donor country NGOs, making it hard for smallholder farmers’ organizations to access it. This is because of complex eligibility rules and application processes and a lack of information on how and where to apply.

Many family farmers also lack the infrastructure, technology, and resources to adapt to climate impacts, with serious implications for global food security and rural economies as well, it notes.

The study ‘Untapped Potential: An analysis of international public climate finance flows to sustainable agriculture and family farmers,’ published on 14 November, laments that only a fifth of international public climate finance for food and agriculture supports sustainable practice. The money mainly goes to the Global North, even as agriculture becomes the third biggest source of global emissions. and the main driver of biodiversity loss.

“Climate change is hitting harvests and driving up food prices across the globe. It has helped push 122 million people into hunger since 2019. We need to create more sustainable and resilient food systems that can feed people in a changing climate, but we can’t do this without family farmers,” the report compiled on behalf of ten farmer organizations in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Pacific says.

“Family farmers are also key to climate adaptation. They are at the forefront of the shift to more diverse, nature-friendly food systems, which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says is needed to safeguard food security in a changing climate,” it further notes.

The groups are led by the World Rural Forum and include African groups—the Eastern Africa Farmers Federation, Eastern and Southern Africa small-scale Farmers Forum, the Regional Platform of Farmers’ Organisations in Central Africa, and the Network of West African Farmers’ and Producers’ Organisations. Also part of the group is Northern Africa’s Maghreb and North African Farmers Union.

The Asian Farmers Association for Sustainable Rural Development, the Pacific Island Farmers Organization Network, the Confederation of Family Producers’ Organizations of Greater Mercosur, and the Regional Rural Dialogue Programme are also represented in the study.

Many of the farmers are already practicing climate-resilient agriculture, including approaches such as agroecology, which implies a wider variety of crops, including traditional ones, mixing crops, livestock, forestry, and fisheries, while reducing agrochemical use, and building strong connections to local markets.

The study by the new alliance of farmer networks representing over 35 million smallholder producers ahead of COP28, which is set to agree on a Global Goal for Adaptation, is concerned that since 2012, overall, only 11% of international public climate finance has been targeted at agriculture, forestry, and fishing, which amounts to an average of USD 7 billion a year.

In 2021, the World Bank, Germany, the Green Climate Fund, and European Union institutions contributed around half—54 percent, amounting to USD 4 billion collectively, while Nigeria, India, and Ethiopia were the top recipients, receiving a combined USD 1.8 billion. Notably, some of the world’s most food insecure countries, including Sudan, Sierra Leone, and Zambia, each received less than USD 20 million, it discloses.

“As the climate crisis pushes the global food system ever closer to collapse, it is vital that governments recognize family farmers as powerful partners in the fight against climate change,” it warns.

Hakim Baliriane, Chair of the Eastern and Southern Africa small-scale Farmers Forum, observed: “Climate change has helped push 122 million people into hunger since 2019. Reversing this trend will not be possible if governments continue to tie the hands of millions of family farmers.”

The study defines small-scale family farms as those of less than two hectares, mainly in developing countries.

On the other hand, international climate finance broadly refers to finance channeled to “activities that have a stated objective to mitigate climate change or support adaptation. These include multilateral flows in and outside the (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement, as well as bilateral flows at national and regional levels, including the Global Environment Facility, Adaptation Fund, and Green Climate Fund, and are usually disbursed as grants and concessional loans

The study finds that family farms are also the backbone of rural economies, supporting over 2.5 billion people globally who depend on family farms for their livelihoods. It says that in Sub-Saharan Africa, where up to 80 percent of farming is done by smallholder farmers, agriculture contributes 23 percent to regional Gross Domestic Product.

Family farmers are also key to climate adaptation in that they are at the forefront of the shift to more “diverse, nature-friendly food systems,” which, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), are critical in safeguarding food security in a changing climate.

It finds that millions of smallholder farmers are already practicing climate-resilient agriculture, including approaches such as agroecology—growing a wider variety of crops, including traditional crops, mixing crops, livestock, forestry, and fisheries, reducing agrochemicals use while building “strong connections to local markets.”

It concludes that governments must ensure that available climate finance for sustainable climate-resilient practices is increased, including that of agroecological approaches.

It explains: “This means funds to support diverse, nature-friendly approaches and to create community-based solutions that build on traditional expertise and experience.

It recommends that small-scale family farmers ought to have direct access to more climate finance and that financing mechanisms and funds should be developed with the participation of farmers’ organizations to meet their needs.

In addition, efforts should be made to ensure longer-term, flexible funding so that communities can determine their own priorities.

The role of the farmers as powerful catalysts for climate action, food system transformation, and the protection of biodiversity should be acknowledged and given a “real say” in decision-making on food and climate at the local, national, regional, and international levels. This should include decisions on land reform and agricultural subsidies.

The COP28 in Dubai later this month has food systems as a big part of the agenda.

An August report by the UK’s ActionAid has found that climate adaptation and green transition initiatives in the Global South received 20 times less financing when compared to main global emitters, fossil fuels, and intensive agriculture sectors in the last seven years.

It found that leading banking multinationals funded the emitters’ activities in the southern hemisphere to the tune of USD 3.2 trillion since 2015 when the Paris Agreement on Climate was adopted. German agrochemical giant Bayer was the biggest recipient of the financing, receiving an estimated USD 20.6 billion since 2016.

IPS UN Bureau Report

  Source

Alleviating Urban Poverty Through Livelihood Generation

Aid, Asia-Pacific, Civil Society, Development & Aid, Featured, Headlines, Humanitarian Emergencies, Poverty & SDGs, Sustainable Development Goals, TerraViva United Nations

Poverty & SDGs

BRAC International recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Bihar Government’s Rural Livelihoods Promotion Society to launch Satat Jeevikoparjan Yojana Shahari, the first government-led urban Graduation programme in Asia. Credit: BRAC

BRAC International recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Bihar Government’s Rural Livelihoods Promotion Society to launch Satat Jeevikoparjan Yojana Shahari, the first government-led urban Graduation programme in Asia. Credit: BRAC

PUNE, INDIA, Aug 30 2023 (IPS) – In a bid to tackle the complexities of urban poverty, the Government of Bihar’s Rural Livelihoods Promotion Society (BRLPS) has launched Satat Jeevikoparjan Yojana Shahari (SJY Urban). The program will include a time-bound series of multifaceted interventions addressing food security, social inclusion, and sustainable economic livelihoods to enable participating households to achieve a better standard of living.


As part of this program, BRLPS has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with BRAC International, which will serve as a thought partner to the Government of Bihar for the project development and also is building a consortium of partners to support the government in its implementation. Project Concern International (PCI), for example, is taking on management responsibilities and will also host thematic workshops across departments and with civil society experts to support inclusive learning and dialogue.

Mobile Creches will create a community cadre of childcare providers who will support maternal and child health. They have a 50-year-old history of providing childcare support, maternal and nutritional health, and WASH training to urban women in the slums of Delhi, Mumbai, and Pune. Quicksand will support the learning process to consolidate the design through ethnographic methods, prototyping, and other design elements. These learnings will help inform the project about the fabric of each respective urban community and provide a feedback loop once the rollout starts.

SJY Urban was inspired by the existing rural programme, Satat Jeevikoparjan Yojana (SJY), locally known as JEEVIKA, the largest government-led Graduation programme in the world, which has reached over 150,000 households as of early 2023 and is still expanding. SJY Urban is modelled on the rural programme’s six basic modules: 1) Building up the aspirations and confidence of households; 2) Financial Inclusion; 3) Improvement of Health, Nutrition, and Sanitation; 4) Social Development; 5) Livelihood generation; and 6) Government Convergence.

While taking inspiration from JEEVIKA, the Urban Programme will be adapted to respond to the unique challenges people in poverty face within the urban context.

“Urban poverty is complex and inadequately addressed,” said Shweta S Banerjee, Country Lead – India, BRAC International. “SJY Shahari is a unique project in the many challenges it has accepted, including supporting project participants during extreme heat waves. BRAC is excited and committed to serving as a thought partner to the Government of Bihar as we take the time to test, learn, relearn, and deploy the project design.”

Applying Learnings from the Rural Programme to the Urban

The 36-month SJY Urban Programme will be launched in five wards in Patna and five wards in Gaya for now and will be scaled up in a year’s time. Given the unique challenges in urban settings, where research and solutions are more limited in comparison to rural settings, the programme will incorporate learnings from the SJY programme.

“In keeping with the requirements in an urban setting, we intend to provide improved skill sets in carpentry, plumbing, welding, and the like that can help workers access better employment opportunities both within and outside Bihar. For instance, there are around 50,000 to 100,000 Bihar workers in the Tiruppur hosiery industry. We intend to provide them with the necessary skill certification through the National Skill Development Council,” Jeevika CEO Rahul Kumar told IPS.

Designed with a focus on women’s empowerment, SJY has made a pronounced difference for people living in extreme poverty in Bihar, particularly through inclusive livelihood development and access to financial security through self-help groups (SHGs). The urban programme will also utilise SHGs to improve financial opportunities along with sustainable livelihood options.

While the livelihood options are different, there is still a great opportunity for skill development for people living in urban poverty. JEEVIKA plans to pursue livelihoods for participants through conventional entrepreneurship, building up specific skills for trades, and partnerships with public utilities. The existing bank sakhi programme, a program that has trained rural women to assist customers in opening accounts and other administrative bank-related services, as part of JEEVIKA, saw 2,500 bank sakhis leverage Rs 10,000 crore in business for various banks.

According to Rahul Kumar, the bank sakhi programme could be introduced in across Bihar and offer additional financial products such as insurance and mutual funds.

There are also climate-responsive livelihoods that have been utilised in the rural programme that can work for an urban setting as well, such as waste management, recycling of waste, and the use of e-rickshaws. With climate change contributing to rapid urbanisation across Asia and driving millions more into poverty, affecting those furthest behind first, sustainable, resilient livelihood development will be a critical component of SJY Urban. The programme will work to further enhance resilience among participants by providing them with resources and training to develop food security and social inclusion.

Creating a Stronger Ecosystem Through Convergence

Similar to the rural programme, SJY Urban will bring together different existing government schemes and agencies to best serve those living in extreme poverty. The programme will also leverage the existing enterprises within the rural programme and promote them in the urban programme as well, such as market poultry and dairy products.

There are existing livelihood initiatives that rural participants are driving forward, such as running nurseries across the state, which have provided saplings to the Environment, Forest, and Climate Change Department for planting. These saplings can be used by urban plantations and gardens that are also under the department. Similarly, there are kiosk carts that sell Neera or palm nectar that are processed and made by JEEVIKA participants. There is an opportunity to expand this enterprise to the urban setting as well.

JEEVIKA will also engage other government agencies to support the design and implementation of the urban programme. Most recently, JEEVIKA and BRAC convened an inaugural workshop in preparation for launching the Urban Poor Graduation Project, in collaboration with the Departments of Urban Development and Housing, Labour Resources, Social Welfare, Women and Child Development Corporation. The workshop brought together government representatives and experts with diverse sectoral expertise to reflect on existing solutions for urban poverty and share key insights that could help inform the design and delivery of the Urban Poor Graduation Project. The workshop also brought together practitioners and leveraged knowledge from Graduation-based programmes outside Bihar and India.

The shared expertise and convergence in existing government schemes and partnerships will allow the programme to address unique challenges facing the urban environment and enhance coordination, which will ultimately improve overall impact.

Challenges and Learning Opportunities in an Urban Environment

This will be one of the first urban Graduation programmes at scale that combine skills development and livelihood support to alleviate urban poverty.

The unique constraints presented by the urban environment in Bihar, such as limited land availability, the migratory nature of the population in urban poor neighbourhoods, and heatwaves impacting the ability to work, present an opportunity to learn and adapt programming further to test what works.

“The kind of social cohesion prevalent in rural areas is lacking in urban centres. This makes social mobilisation, on which the programme rests, a difficult task,” Kumar said.

The first phase in designing the programme, along with the learnings from the first cohort of participants, will offer valuable insights on how to combat the challenges of those living in urban poverty face. Such learnings can then be shared across the Global South to support broader efforts to respond to rapid urbanisation and an increase in urban poverty.

SJY Urban is poised to move head-on, with its consultants scheduled to hammer out a clear strategy in the coming months. In a year’s time, Kumar says the programme aims to cover all 240 urban local bodies in the state.
IPS UN Bureau Report

  Source

Moving From Trauma to Healing: Practicing Self-Care in Refugee Camps

Aid, Armed Conflicts, Asia-Pacific, Children on the Frontline, Civil Society, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Education, Featured, Headlines, Human Rights, Migration & Refugees, Sustainable Development Goals, TerraViva United Nations

Migration & Refugees

A young child in Cox’s Bazar engages with her peers at one of BRAC’s Humanitarian Play Labs. CREDIT: BRAC

A young child in Cox’s Bazar engages with her peers at one of BRAC’s Humanitarian Play Labs. CREDIT: BRAC

NEW YORK, Aug 21 2023 (IPS) – A Rohingya woman tells a forum of peer counselors the story of her divorce. A survivor of domestic abuse, she has started a new life alone with her daughter. She has weathered a storm of neighbors telling her she was the problem. Now, she provides the support she didn’t have to other women like her.


Similar scenes occur across refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar. Here, BRAC, an international NGO based in Bangladesh, has developed a program to train counselors who can provide mental health services to Rohingya refugees. This includes 200 community members who have begun to practice the psychosocial skills they’ve learned in their own lives.

A Growing Need for Support

Over 900,000 Rohingya have fled to Cox’s Bazar since massive-scale violence against Rohingya in Myanmar’s Rakhine State began in 2017, the UN Refugee Agency reports. The prolonged exposure of the ethnic minority group to persecution and displacement has likely increased the refugees’ vulnerability to an array of mental health issues, a 2019 systematic review found. Their struggles include post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and gender-based violence.

Around the world, there is growing attention to the importance of socio-emotional learning as a skill to help people in areas of crisis cope with challenges. Educators are often tasked not only with providing traditional academic instruction but with building resilience in children. They are asked to create a sense of normalcy in environments that are anything but normal.

The teaching the children need is much more than about reading, writing, and math; but about giving young children a safe space to practice socio-emotional skills. CREDIT: BRAC

“It’s about not only teaching [kids] how to read and how to do mathematics … in these settings, kids and teachers themselves have the need for psychosocial support,” Ramya Vivekanandan, the senior education specialist at the Global Partnership for Education, said.

Teachers, caregivers, and frontline mental health providers are overburdened, Vivekanandan explains. They lack adequate pay, working conditions, and professional development. As they try to support the growing number of people in crisis, who will support them?

For some counselors in Cox’s Bazar, the answer is each other.

Community Care

Even when resources are available, stigmas around mental health can prevent support from being received. Taifur Islam, a Bangladeshi psychologist responsible for mental health training and supervision at BRAC, says people in the communities he works with are rarely taught to identify their feelings. When you are struggling to access basic needs, Islam explains, it is easy to forget that emotional well-being can improve productivity. If a person seeks help, they may be labeled ‘crazy.’

Training people to take care of their own communities can be a powerful way to overcome stigma in a culturally relevant way.

BRAC’s Humanitarian Play Labs were established in 2017 to give Rohingya children a safe space to practice socio-emotional skills through play. Erum Mariam, the executive director of the BRAC Institute of Educational Development, explains that each play lab is tailored to fit the community it serves. Rohingya children now rhyme, chant, and dance in 304 Humanitarian Play Labs across the camps in Cox’s Bazar.

“We discovered the Rohingya culture through the children. And the whole model is based on knowing the culture,” Mariam said.

‘Play leaders’ are recruited from the camps and trained in play pedagogy. Mariam watched Rohingya women who had never worked before embracing their new roles. As they covered the ceilings of their play spaces with rainbows of flowers – the kind of tapestry that would hang from their homes in Myanmar – Mariam realized that a new kind of social capital could be earned by nurturing joy. Traditional play didn’t just help uprooted children shape their sense of identity – it was also healing for the community.

If a play leader notices a child is withdrawn or restless, they can refer the child to a ‘para counselor’ who has been trained by BRAC’s psychologists to address the mental health needs of children and their family members. Almost half of the 469 para counselors in Cox’s Bazar are recruited from the Rohingya community, while the rest come from around Bangladesh. Most para counselors are women.

Many para counselors are uniquely positioned to empathize with the people they serve as they go door to door, building awareness. This is crucial because it creates a bottom-up system of care without prescribing what well-being should look like, Chris Henderson, a specialist on education in emergencies, says.

At the same time, by supporting others, mental health providers are learning to take care of themselves.

Learning by Doing

A play leader engages the children in the session. Humanitarian professionals encourage frontline teachers, caretakers, and counselors to actualize their own ideas for improvement. CREDIT: BRAC

A play leader engages the children in the session. Humanitarian professionals encourage frontline teachers, caregivers, and counselors to actualize their own ideas for improvement. CREDIT: BRAC

For months, Suchitra Rani watched violence against Rohingya people every time she turned on the news. When she was recruited by BRAC to become a para counselor in Cox’s Bazar, she saw an opportunity to make a difference. Alongside fellow trainees, Rani, a social worker originally from Magura, poured over new words she learned in the foreign Rohingya dialect and worked to find her place in the community.

Rani tested what she had learned about the value of psychosocial support and cultural sensitivity when she met a 15-year-old Rohingya girl too scared to tell her single mother she was pregnant. Terrified of bringing shame to the family, the girl had an abortion at home. As the young woman spiraled into depression, Rani felt herself slipping into her own fears of inadequacy.

It took time for Rani to convince the girl to open up to her mother. Talking through feelings of guilt slowly led to acceptance. As they worked to heal fractured family bonds, Rani began to feel surer of herself, too.

Now, the Rohingya community calls Rani a “sister of peace.” Rani says she has become confident in her ability to use the socio-emotional skills she’s learned to both help others and resolve problems in her personal life.

Throughout the program, para counselors have changed the way they communicate their feelings and felt empowered to create more empathetic environments.

Islam recounts a 26-year-old Rohingya refugee’s perilous journey to Cox’s Bazar: In Myanmar, the woman’s husband was killed in front of her. One of her two young children drowned during a river crossing as they fled the country. She arrived at the camp as a single mother without a support network. Only once she had the support of others willing to listen could she speak openly.

Islam remembers counselors telling the woman about the importance of self-care: “If you actually take care of yourself, then you can take care of your child also.”

Toward Empowerment 

According to Henderson, evidence shows that one of the best ways to support someone is to give them a role to help others. In places where there may be a stigma against prioritizing ‘self-care,’ people with their own post-crisis trauma are willing to learn well-being skills to help children.

A collection of teacher stories collected by the Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies reveals a similar pattern. Teachers in crisis areas around the world say the socio-emotional skills they learned to help students helped them reduce stress in their own lives, too.

Henderson suggests that the best way international agencies can promote trauma support is by holding up a mirror to the strength already shown by refugee communities like the Rohingya.

Instead of seeing what they lack, Henderson encourages humanitarian professionals to help give frontline teachers, caregivers, and counselors the agency to actualize their own ideas for improvement. Empowered community leaders empower the young people they work with, who, in turn, learn to empower each other. This creates “systems where everyone sees their position of leadership as supporting the next person’s leadership and resilience.”

At the end of her para counselor training, the Rohingya domestic abuse survivor said she wasn’t sure what she would do with the skills she’d learned for working through trauma, Islam remembers. But she did say she wished they were skills she had known before. According to Islam, she is now one of their best para counselors.

“The training is not only to serve the community; that training is something that can actually change your life,” Islam says. It’s why he became a psychologist.

IPS UN Bureau Report

  Source

Empowering Women in Assam: Livestock Farming Brings Economic Relief Post-COVID

Aid, Asia-Pacific, Civil Society, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Featured, Food and Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition, Food Sustainability, Headlines, Humanitarian Emergencies, Poverty & SDGs, Sustainable Development Goals, TerraViva United Nations

Food and Agriculture

Goat rearing is contributing to economic independence and improved livelihoods of women thanks to a post-COVID-19 empowerment project. CREDIT: Umar Manzoor Shah/IPS

Goat rearing is contributing to economic independence and improved livelihoods of women thanks to a post-COVID-19 empowerment project. CREDIT: Umar Manzoor Shah/IPS

MILONPUR, INDIA, Aug 8 2023 (IPS) – Seema Devi is a 39-year-old woman hailing from India’s northeastern state of Assam. She lives in a village called Milonpur, a small hamlet with no more than 1 000 inhabitants. While most men from the village, including Devi’s husband, move to cities and towns in search of work, women are left behind to take care of the house and kids.


Devi says that after the COVID-19 lockdown in India in the year 2020, the family income drastically plummeted. As most of the factories were shut for months, the workers, including Devi’s husband, were jobless. Even after the lockdown ended and workers were called back to the factories, the wages dipped.

“Earlier my husband would earn no less than Rs 10 000 a month (125 USD), and after the lockdown, it wasn’t more than a mere 6 000 rupees (70 USD). My children and I would suffer for the want of basic needs like medicine and clothing, but at the same time, I was considerate of the situation and helplessness of my husband,” Devi told IPS.

However, there were few alternatives available at home that could have mitigated Devi’s predicament. With the small area of ancestral land used for cultivation, the change in weather patterns caused her family and several households in the village to reap losses.

However, in 2021, a non-government organization visited the hamlet to assess the situation in the post-COVID scenario. The villagers told the team about how most of the men in the village go out to cities and towns in search of livelihood and work as labourers in factories and that their wages have come down due to economic distress in the country.

After hectic deliberations, about ten self-help groups of women were created. They trained in livestock farming and how this venture could be turned into a profitable business.

The women were initially reluctant because they were unaware of how to make livestock farming profitable. They would ask the members of the charitable organisation questions like, “What if it fails to yield desired results? What if some terrible disease affects the animals, and what if the livestock wouldn’t generate any income for them?”

Wilson Kandulna, who was the senior member of the team, told IPS that experts were called in to train the women about cattle rearing and how timely vaccinations, proper feed, and care could make livestock farming profitable and mitigate their basic living costs. “At first, we provided ten goat kids to each women’s group and made them aware of the dos and don’ts of this kind of farming. They were quick to learn and grasped easily whatever was taught to them,” Wilson said.

He added that these women were living in economic distress due to the limited income of their husbands and were desperately anxious about the scarcity of proper education for children and other daily needs.

Devi says that as soon as she got the goat kids, she acquired basic training in feeding them properly and taking them for vaccinations to the nearby government veterinary hospital.

“Two years have passed, and now we have hundreds of goats as they reproduce quickly, and we are now able to earn a good income. During the first few months, there were issues like feeding problems, proper shelter during monsoons and summers, and how and when we should take them out for grazing. As time passed and we learned the skills, we have become very trained goat rearers,” Devi said.

Renuka, another woman in the self-help group, told IPS that for the past year, they have been continuously getting demands for goat milk from the main towns. “People know about the health benefits of goat milk. They know it is organic without any preservatives, and that is the reason we have a very high demand for it. We sell it at a good price, and at times, demand surpasses the supply,” Renuka said.

For Devi, livestock farming has been no less than a blessing. She says she earns more than five thousand rupees a month (about 60 USD) and has been able to cover daily household expenses all by herself. “I no longer rely on my husband for household expenses. I take care of it all by myself. My husband, too, is relieved, and things are getting back on track,” Devi said, smiling.

Kalpana, a 32-year-old member of the group, says the goats have increased in number, and last year, several of them were sold in the market at a good price.

“The profits were shared by the group members. Earlier, women in this village were entirely dependent on their husbands for covering their basic expenses. Now, they are economically self-reliant. They take good care of the house and of themselves,” Kalpana told IPS News.

Note: Names of some of the women have been changed on their request.

IPS UN Bureau Report

  Source

Myanmar: Military Junta Gets a Free Pass

Cover photo by Reuters/Stringer via Gallo Images

By Andrew Firmin
LONDON, Jun 23 2023 (IPS)

The violence keeps coming in Myanmar, under military rule since February 2021. The junta stands accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity, with evidence of systematic use of killings, rape, torture and other gross human rights violations in its attempt to suppress forces demanding a return to democracy.


Even humanitarian aid is restricted. Recently the junta refused to allow in aid organisations trying to provide food, water and medicines to people left in desperate need by a devastating cyclone. It’s far from the first time it’s blocked aid.

Crises like this demand an international response. But largely standing on the sidelines while this happens is the regional intergovernmental body, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Its recent summit, held in Indonesia in May, failed to produce any progress.

ASEAN’s inaction

ASEAN’s response to the coup was to issue a text, the Five-Point Consensus (5PC), in April 2021. This called for the immediate cessation of violence and constructive dialogue between all parties. ASEAN agreed to provide humanitarian help, appoint a special envoy and visit Myanmar to meet with all parties.

Civil society criticised this agreement because it recognised the role of the junta and failed to make any mention of the need to restore democracy. And the unmitigated violence and human rights violations are the clearest possible sign that the 5PC isn’t working – but ASEAN sticks to it. At its May summit, ASEAN states reiterated their support for the plan.

A major challenge is that most ASEAN states have no interest in democracy. All 10 have heavily restricted civic space. As well as Myanmar, civic space is closed in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

It wouldn’t suit such states to have a thriving democracy on their doorstep, which could only bring greater domestic and international pressure to follow suit. States that repress human rights at home typically carry the same approach into international organisations, working to limit their ability to uphold human rights commitments and scrutinise violations.

Continuing emphasis on the 5PC hasn’t masked divisions among ASEAN states. Some appear to think they can engage with the junta and at least persuade it to moderate its violence – although reality makes this increasingly untenable. But others, particularly Cambodia – a one-party state led by the same prime minister since 1998 – seem intent on legitimising the junta.

Variable pressure has come from ASEAN’s chair, which rotates annually and appoints the special envoy. Under the last two, Brunei Darussalam – a sultanate that last held an election in 1965 – and Cambodia, little happened. Brunei never visited the country after being refused permission to meet with democratic leaders, while Cambodia’s prime minister, Hun Sen, visited Myanmar last year. The first post-coup visit to Myanmar by a head of government, this could only be construed as conferring legitimacy.

Indonesia, the current chair, hasn’t appointed a special envoy, instead setting up an office headed by the foreign minister. So far it appears to be taking a soft approach of quiet diplomacy rather than public action.

Thailand, currently led by a pro-military government, is also evidently happy to engage with the junta. While junta representatives remain banned from ASEAN summits, Thailand has broken ranks and invited ASEAN foreign ministers, including from Myanmar, to hold talks about reintegrating the junta’s leaders. A government that itself came to power through a coup but should now step aside after an election where it was thoroughly defeated looks to be attempting to bolster the legitimacy of military rule.

ASEAN states seem unable to move beyond the 5PC even as they undermine it. But the fact that they’re formally sticking with it enables the wider international community to stand back, on the basis of respecting regional leadership and the 5PC.

The UN Security Council finally adopted a resolution on Myanmar in December 2022. This called for an immediate end to the violence, the release of all political prisoners and unhindered humanitarian access. But its language didn’t go far enough in condemning systematic human rights violations and continued to emphasise the 5PC. It failed to impose sanctions such as an arms embargo or to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Civil society in Myanmar and the region is urging ASEAN to go further. Many have joined together to develop a five-point agenda that goes beyond the 5PC. It calls for a strategy to end military violence through sanctions, an arms embargo and a referral of Myanmar to the ICC. It demands ASEAN engages beyond the junta, and particularly with democratic forces including the National Unity Government – the democratic government in exile. It urges a strengthening of the special envoy role and a pivoting of humanitarian aid to local responders rather than the junta. ASEAN needs to take this on board.

A fork in the road

ASEAN’s current plan is a recipe for continuing military violence, increasingly legitimised by its neighbours’ acceptance. Ceremonial elections could offer further fuel for this.

The junta once promised to hold elections by August, but in February, on the coup’s second anniversary, it extended the state of emergency for another six months. If and when those elections finally happen, there’s no hope of them being free or fair. In March, the junta dissolved some 40 political parties, including the ousted ruling party, the National League for Democracy.

The only purpose of any eventual fake election will be to give the junta a legitimising veneer to present as a sign of progress – and some ASEAN states may be prepared to buy this. This shouldn’t be allowed. ASEAN needs to listen to the voices of civil society calling for it to get its act together – and stick together – in holding the junta to account. If it doesn’t, it will keep failing not only Myanmar’s people, but all in the region who reasonably expect that fundamental human rights should be respected and those who kill, rape and torture should face justice.

Andrew Firmin is CIVICUS Editor-in-Chief, co-director and writer for CIVICUS Lens and co-author of the State of Civil Society Report.

 


!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?’http’:’https’;if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+’://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js’;fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, ‘script’, ‘twitter-wjs’);  

Source