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APARAJITA – Political Empowerment of Women
Women empowerment in Bangladesh has achieved commendable success over the past two decades, positively affecting women’s participation in the key sectors: education, employment and income, and political representation. The rights of the women are enshrined in the national constitution. The National Policy for Women’s Advancement, revised in 2011, stipulates equal partnership of women in development. Nevertheless, gender discrimination still continues within the society. Numeric representation of women in the national Parliament (19%) and Local Government Councils (25-30%) has increased, but overall women’s participation in the political spectrum still remains low. Once elected, many women do not automatically find themselves as equal decision makers in the political milieu. Within this context, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) is supporting the project titled ‘APARAJITA (Bengali word means unbeatable women) – Political Empowerment of Women’, with an aim to develop capcity of the elected women represenatives in the country.

Who does the project work with

The project is being implemented by a consortium of four NGOs – Democracy Watch (DW), Prip Trust (Prip), Steps towards Development (Steps) and Khan Foundation (KF). The NGOs are well established within Bangladesh’s social and political context and already active in capacity development and advocacy works. The project maintains close collaboration with government agencies such as Local Government Division (LGD), National Institute of Local Government (NILG) and Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MoWCA).

The direct beneficiaries of the project are Elected Women Representatives (EWR) and potential elected representatives (P-EWR). EWR comprise women MPs (65), Upazila Vice- Chairs (507), Mayors, Councillors of municipalities and city corporations (around 1500) and Union Parishad members (around 14000). Male Elected Representatives, as secondary target group, will also be directly or indirectly involved in the project.

What does the project do

The project endeavours to build confidence, knowledge and capcity of the elected women represenatives, encourage and facilitate networks of mutual support so that the elected women represenatives can fulfil their obligations made to their electorate and contribute to making local government system more responsive, especially to the needs of women. The project is implemented by a consortium of four NGOs, each organisation has its own pool of partner organisations and volunteer networks, with emphasis on different geographic areas of Bangladesh.

Although the project essentially focuses on women’s political empowerment, particularly on the role played by elected women representatives, the overall goal of this project is to contribute to increased access to information and enhanced, responsive and prompt local services for rural and urban poor (especially women).

The interventions under this project includes technical training, widening and deepening of EWR networks to build the skills and confidence of EWRs and reinforce the principles of represenation and accoutability. It advocates in favour of some strucutural changes in order to promote gender sensitive service provision at local level. The project works to establish a continuing mechanisms to provide information, technical and advisory support to the elected representatives.

How does the project work

In order to avoid duplication and substitution, the capacity building approach under this project focuses on adding value to what already exists in terms of EWR capacity. The project develops innovative tools and materials to assist EWRs, particularly seeks to enable wider use of computer, internet and mobile phone technologies. The project pursues a transformative capacity building approach focusing on the need of EWRs and women activists/ NGOs in order to put their knowledge into practice and on changing attitudes and behaviour of elected representatives at local government level.

The partner NGOs intend to jointly establish a KCE (Knowledge, Communication and Education) Hub, a Help-line and a Mentor Network to be responsive to the needs of EWRs. The programme will work in 40 of the 64 districts of Bangladesh in the first phase and each NGO will coordinate activities in 10 districts.

Expected outcomes

The project is expected to achieve the following three outcomes:

· Elected women represenatives (EWR) will be confident and capable to assume their leadership role which includes aspects such as ensuring accoutnability to their constituencies.

· Provisions (legal framework including ordinances and directives), political commitment and public opinion will be more conducive for inclusion and participation of EWR (and potential EWR) and for promoting gender sensitive service provision at community level.

· Information, technical and advisory support for Elected Women Representatives (EWR) will be used and valued.

Budget and duration

SDC’s contribution to the project stands at around CHF 3’500’000 for the 4 year duration (12/2011- 11/2015).


Aroma Dutta, Executive Director, PRIP Trust,

Taleya Rehman, Founder Executive Director, Democracy Watch,

Ranjan Karmaker, Executive Director, Steps towards Development,

Advocate Roksana Khandoker, Executive Director, Khan Foundation,

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