Habitat for Humanity Bangladesh among 18 members of 'Safe Back to School' campaign pledging full support for reopening of schools

8 September 2021, Dhaka: Eighteen national and international nongovernmental organizations part of the ‘Safe Back to School’ campaign or SB2S have pledged their full support for the Bangladesh government’s decision of reopening schools after an 18-month closure.

This decision of the government has added a different dimension to the celebration of International Literacy Day this year. Giving the highest priority to children's education, members of the ‘Safe Back to School’ campaign are working in line with government guidelines for the children’s safe return to school. The organizations allied with the campaign hope to further this collaboration and appreciate the detailed guidelines that the government has provided for schools’ reopening.

Due to long-term school closure, children have missed out on the opportunity to receive proper learning and interact with their peers, which has affected their educational experience. The associated consequences of school closures – learning loss, mental distress, heightened risk of dropout, child labour, and child marriage – have been felt by many children. In addition, many young students could not access the online or remote learning opportunities due to the lack of support in using the technology and the poor learning environment. Considering this context, the campaign is urging the government to develop and implement an effective plan in the coming days for addressing these issues. At the same time the 18 organizations reaffirm their willingness to work in close collaboration with government to ensure the safe return of the children in these challenging times.

In early February 2021, Honorable Education Minister Dr. Dipu Moni, MP inaugurated ‘Safe Back to School'. The campaign aims to support the government in preparing children, parents and educational institutions to restart schools under the safest set-up.

The organizations that have joined hands for the campaign are: BRAC, CAMPE, Dhaka Ahsania Mission (DAM), Educo Bangladesh, FIVDB, Friendship, Habitat for Humanity Bangladesh, Handicap International- Humanity and Inclusion, Jagorany Chakra Foundation (JCF), Plan International Bangladesh, Room to Read, Save the Children in Bangladesh, Sesame Workshop Bangladesh, Stromme Foundation, Teach for Bangladesh, VSO, World Vision Bangladesh and Young Power in Social Action (YPSA).

Habitat YLB 2019: volunteers build resilient communities in Bangladesh

aAccording to the UNFPA’s state of world population report 2018, the young population across the globe has reached an astonishing figure of 1.8 billion out of 7.6 billion, and most of them live in developing countries like Bangladesh. This remarkable magnitude of young population surely can play a significant role in ensuring sustainable development of their communities and countries, consequently can bring sustainability and contentment in the Asia Pacific region. Thus to empower young people with the right mindset and effective leadership skills, global housing non-profit organization Habitat for Humanity undertakes a righteous youth leadership initiative called Habitat Young Leaders Build.

Habitat Young Leaders Build (HabitatYLB) is a multi-month campaign conducted every year that engages young people to volunteer, fundraise and raise awareness and their voices in favor of a decent and affordable home for everyone. The movement encourages youth to take the lead and motivate their peers to build homes and communities, on a Habitat build site and advocate through their social networks.

DSC 7605Now on its eighth year, the 2019 Habitat Young Leaders Build campaign began on 5 December 2018, on World Volunteer Day and continued until culmination on 13 April 2019. In the first phase, the awareness-raising campaign focused on sharing about Habitat’s work and the need for young people to get involved in the vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live. Since 2016 Habitat for Humanity International provides Advocacy Grants to youth to motivate them to participate in advocating for housing during the HabitatYLB season, where applicants are encouraged to submit projects focused on decent housing, slum upgrading, gender and property rights, disaster resilience or security of tenure. This year there were three winners from Bangladesh who received USD 1000 each as grants for funding their proposed housing advocacy projects. The winners are, Badabon Sangho, CAMET Park, and Swapner Alo Kishori Club.

During this HYLB season, Habitat Bangladesh hosted 11 build events at Berua, Tumulia, and Uttar Rajnagar village of Kaliganj Upazila under Gazipur district on different days over the weeks starting from 01 March to 05 April 2019. A Total of 240 people have volunteered with us to construct six new houses funded by the MetLife Foundation and Heidelberg Cement Bangladesh. These wonderful groups of Volunteers were from Australian International School Dhaka, Playpen School Dhaka, American International University-Bangladesh (AIUB), University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB), MetLife Foundation, Heidelberg Cement Bangladesh, the US Embassy Dhaka, Human Aid and Individuals from Dhaka. The experience of volunteering with Habitat Bangladesh has been one of kind for many of the volunteers.

DSC 8305“Volunteering with Habitat for Humanity for a number of times has been a wonderful experience to cherish. It is really great to come closer to the community in need and contribute to their betterment. I encourage every youth to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity and feel the happiness of doing community service” said Faria Mahbub, a staff member from MetLife Foundation.

As a part of the regional campaign, Habitat Bangladesh also organized a special build #Women Build celebrating the International Women's Day on March 8, 2019, which has been a great success. Around 60 volunteers from the US Embassy Dhaka, MetLife Foundation, Human Aid, Local Community Based Organizations and other individual volunteers made this event meaningful by participating in the build activities of 3 women headed houses followed by a discussion on empowerment and health issues of women at Berua village, Kaliganj, Gazipur. Habitat for Humanity works through a positive bias and prioritizes women in the work they do as they are the most often among the most marginalized of the population.

We built a house for Mrs. Firoza, who lived in a poorly constructed house with her 17-year-old son. Daylight never entered into their house, the darkness symbolized the difficulties and insecurity they faced every day. She is the only earning member of her family working as a helping hand (maidservant) in the neighborhood. Her earning is never enough for two people. She was in a very unstable situation of her life before Habitat could reach out and provide her with a newly constructed house that gave her the strength, stability, and Independence. “I never could dare to dream that someday I will live in an entirely new house. The home has brought happiness and security to our family. I feel blessed and forever grateful to Habitat for their support” Said Firoza.

The HYLB campaign allows volunteers to join in with countless others in the region in building, campaigning, and advocating for decent households and living conditions for the poor. Throughout the campaign, volunteers from various countries in the Asia Pacific gets to participate in builds, campaigns, various volunteer activities relating to housing and hygiene, advocacy grant competitions, etc. This is a unique opportunity for youth around the world to engage in empowering the communities through shelter.HYLB Combined

Engaging volunteers to build a better tomorrow

1.4Every year, Habitat for Humanity International launches a multi-month campaign with the aim to encourage youth to take lead and motivate them into action to build homes and communities, on Habitat build sites or online through social networks. Habitat Young Leaders Build (HabitatYLB) is one of the largest youth movements in the Asia Pacific region and it is a chance for the young people to get together to volunteer, fundraise, raise awareness, and voice out their support for the need for decent and affordable housing.

The HabitatYLB campaign focuses on motivating the youth into action and joining the cause of advocating for the need for decent and affordable shelter. The campaign this year began on 5 December, 2017 on World Volunteer Day and it will continue until culmination on 21 April, 2018. The goal of this campaign is to get as many of the youth possible to support Habitat’s cause and speak up about the need for decent, affordable housing. To motivate the youth to participate in advocating for housing, Habitat for Humanity International introduced the advocacy grants in the 2016 HYLB campaign. Since then the application for advocacy grants opens every year during the HabitatYLB season, where applicants are encouraged to submit projects focused on decent housing, slum upgrading, gender and property rights, disaster resilience, or security of tenure. Grants of US$500 to US$1,000 each will be awarded for creativity, innovation and inclusiveness to effect change. There have been close to a dozen applications for the grants this season from Bangladesh.

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The HabitatYLB campaigns focus on various aspects of Habitat’s work, and while the main events are usually centred on new house constructions, other activities such as fundraising, advocacy, social media activities are also highly encouraged. We do not want to limit the youth’s creativity and neither do we want them to be left out of this opportunity. The youth can engage themselves by speaking about the need for housing, using their creativity to inform more people about the prevalence of homelessness and how we can ensure an end to such vices by empowering people in need.

This year, Habitat Bangladesh hosted a series build at Kaliganj, Gazipur engaging volunteers from various schools and organizations in the HabitatYLB campaign on houses donated by the Abinta Kabir Foundation. Volunteer teams visited the build sites in Brahmongaon village in Kaliganj on different days over the weeks starting from 25 January to 17 February, 2018. There were a number of schools and organizations that volunteered for the very first time with Habitat Bangladesh, and it was an exciting experience for both the parties. We had a total of 158 volunteers who participated in new house constructions over three weeks. We had individual volunteers, and volunteers from International School Dhaka (ISD), Playpen School, Delhi Public School (DPS), Sir John Wilson School, GraphicPeople, and Pathao.

Habitat Bangladesh will promote the work of our volunteers with those of others in the region and showcase the efforts put in by the community in Bangladesh to help out. HabitatYLB culminates on 26 April, 2016 when all Habitat affiliates in the Asia Pacific region host special events to commemorate the efforts of the volunteers over the months.COMBINED PHOTO2

 

 

The fifth Urban Dialogue 2017

DSC 3820The United Nations predicts that by 2050 about 64% of the developing world and 86% of the developed world will be urbanized. Bangladesh, predominantly a rural country, is in the process of going through rapid urbanization. However, this fast-paced growth in urban population is vastly unplanned and extremely imbalanced. According to website worldometers, 35.7% of the population lives in the urban areas. According to a study conducted by Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) in 2015, about 2.23 million people live in slums across the country. The rapid, unplanned urbanization is considered to be one of the major reasons for the high levels of urban poverty, where around 40% live in low-income communities. It has also caused a spike in the vulnerability of the country and its people to natural disasters and climate change. The major vulnerabilities include Urban disasters, infrastructure vulnerabilities, lack of housing facilities, severe crisis for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) especially for low income communities (LICs), urban flooding, exposed to waterlogging, health hazards due to unplanned and inappropriate waste management, lack of child protection and lack of good governance among many others. Over the past years, many local and international organizations have taken up the agenda of improving conditions for the urban poor, but a lack of coordination among the stakeholders results in major gaps in policy implementation and reduces the effectiveness of the programs.

DSC 4754The Urban INGO Forum Bangladesh was established in 2013 through the initiatives of Habitat for Humanity Bangladesh, with the support of Islamic Relief and World Vision Bangladesh. It is a consortium of 14 INGOs working on different issues in urban areas in Bangladesh. The initial objective of the forum was to ensure collective effort through better coordination, smooth communication between organizations working towards similar end goals, and networking among the urban stakeholders. The Urban INGO Forum Bangladesh became active with the INGOs working in urban areas with the aim of supporting low-income communities in an effective and broader way where organizing Urban Dialogue would be one of the initiatives among them.

This year the forum organized the 5th Urban Dialogue on November 01-02, 2017 on “Inclusive and Resilient Cities”. A total of 24 organizations partnered and 14 organizations funded for the urban dialogue where more than 750 people participated. The dialogue focused on to allow participants to highlight the unaddressed urban issues and to create an opportunity to collaborate with stakeholders at different tiers to complement government initiatives. Urban issues were addressed at the policy level, and evidence-based solutions were used in formulating development policies for sustainable urban services. The 5th Urban Dialogue was conducted through five parallel sessions over the two days.   The following demands came from the parallel sessions during the 5th Urban Dialogue 2017:

Session-1: Urban Development Policy Framework: Reflection from the Lens of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Climate Change Adaptation (CCA)

  • DSC 4011The government will integrate DRR and CCA in urban sector plan ensuring people, public and private partnership, the establishment of a decentralized fire safety system, promote the culture of volunteerism and also ensure inclusive policies and enforcement of existing laws.

Session-2: Sustainable Water and Waste Management System for a Healthy and Resilient City

  • The government will take appropriate measures to ensure safe water supply (aligned with SDG 6*) for low-income communities at an affordable cost in partnership with the private sector, NGOs, and the civil society. All urban reform efforts should be built around accelerating water connections to poorer households and communities - including subsidizing household connections and removing the requirement of land tenure as a condition for service provision. The government will also finalize and approve the draft Waste Management Rules (2010)/ Reduce, Reuse and Recycle (3R) Strategy and take necessary steps to implement it.

Session-3: Resilient Settlement for Green Cities: Our Way Forward

  • The government will take appropriate measures to promote and adopt alternative and green construction materials in housing and infrastructure, through ensuring affordable housing for slum-dwellers and urban poor.

DSC 4704Session-4: Basic Rights and Services for Urban Poor

  • The government will ensure basic services for the urban poor including primary health care for the slum, squatter and pavement dwellers through inter-ministerial coordination, and bring them under social safety net coverage through urban specific policies and programs. The government will recognize urban extreme poor as equal citizens of the country through the unhindered provision of National Identification Cards and Birth Certificates.

Session-5: Cities for All: Make Cities Safe and Resilient for Women, Youth, and Children

  • City authorities will have pilot initiatives youth in planning, execution and monitoring social accountability of key stakeholders.
  • Ministry of Local Government, rural development and cooperatives will institutionalize youth engagement in governance at the local level (City Corporation, municipalities, Wards).
  • The Government will acknowledge youth, women, and children as driving force and implement relevant policies to ensure their participation in planning and protection issues for resilient cities.

The Urban Dialogues ended with a Plenary Session, through an interactive discussion among the government body, donors, private sector, civil society organizations, multi-level stakeholders and audiences about issues on urban crisis, gaps and future initiatives hosted by Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC). In the plenary session, the core points of all the sessions conducted over the two-day event are summarized, and the future action points are drafted through discussion. These action points, known as the declaration, are going to be published as a roadmap for the Urban INGO forum. The 6th Urban Dialogue will follow-up and measure the successes and shortcomings based on these declaration points.

Following are the issues identified from two days long urban dialogue:

  1. DSC 4727We recognize and find the importance of urban context and the urbanization process for development of Bangladesh. At existing growth rates of 2.8%, the country’s urban population will reach 79 million or 42% of the population by 2035.  Today’s rural issues will become tomorrow’s urban problems, thus the time to act is now.
  2. 28% of the population is living in urban areas which will become 50% in three decades. Rapid urbanization has increased unplanned population growth and settlement, migration, and pressure on administrative boundaries. This trend towards urbanization cannot be halted as the economy evolves from a low to a middle-income country. We also recognize that climate-induced disasters and associated risks will only accelerate the trend of rapid urbanization and increased rate of migration.
  3. Higher population density and poorly planned cities in Bangladesh creates negative externalities. Urban expansion taking place in slums exacerbate socio-economic disparities. In absence of pro-poor urban governance, protecting rights and dignity of poor urban dwellers is not possible. Over-centralization and inadequate popular participation have been identified as the main causal factors.
  4. People, poverty and disaster risks are increasingly concentrated in the cities. The vulnerable groups, children, women, youth and the aged encounter severe problems in their daily lives in terms of having basic services, safety, and security, protection and livelihood. In Bangladesh, gaps in institutionalization and capacity of disaster management committees and volunteers at all levels were also identified as one of the challenges for managing urban risks at the city level.
  5. Hazardous and labor intensive job affects the health condition of the poor community; therefore, the urban poor find themselves in a difficult situation to escape poverty.
  6. Housing crisis for the migrated people is recognized as one of the major concerns for the urban citizens. Also, it is important to switch towards eco-friendly building materials to ensure support for a green city movement.
  7. Double diseases burden, fragmented health system and unclear role of different ministries, departments and stakeholders is causing unaffordable and inequitable access to health service by an urban low-income population which has a significant impact on urban poverty.
  8. Housing crisis for the migrated people is also recognized as one of the major concerns for the urban citizens.
  9. Unskilled labor, limited employment opportunities, degraded environment, poor housing, road safety and hazards for the urban communities, lack of access to safe water and sanitation services, causes poverty in urban areas. Gaps in including urban nutrition in National Social Security Strategy paper and link up with other urban social safety net programs also considered as one of the major problems for the city. DSC 4862
  10. Private-public partnership is not widely addressed in case of urban development
  11. We recognize that the City Wide Approach through inter-agency coordination and collaboration both in government and non-government agencies in order to ensure effective utilization of shared resources is a gap for comprehensive, inclusive and future urban development.

The two day long 5th Urban Dialogue came to a conclusion with Fred Witteven, National Director of World Vision Bangladesh, Summarizing the last two days session. Zia Choudhury, Country Director of CARE Bangladesh read out declaration points. The session was closed with concluding remarks and vote of thanks to Dr. Maksud Kamal, Chairperson, Dept. of Disaster Science and Management, University of Dhaka. The event was a huge success and culminated in a number of fruitful ideas and way forward in building more inclusive and resilient cities. The Urban INGO Forum Bangladesh will continue aligning their work to the declarations and try to achieve desired results. 

Habitat for Humanity Bangladesh

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