Good development is led by communities for communities. NGOs like Tearfund and our partners cannot stay forever, but we can help build on the skills, passions and opportunities that exist in communities to help people make their own good and lasting change.
I recently visited Tearfund’s partner Faith In Action. We are nearing the end of our time in Bangladesh, and Faith in Action is nearing the end of its time in the project that we support. But they have built, on the banks of the Madhumati River, a women’s development forum that represents over 200 women from 14 Self-Help Groups (SHGs) and three villages.
The women pictured below are members of Nari Unnouon Union Development Forum (UDF), one of four such forums that Faith in Action has helped to form. These rural women now have government registration and a bank account, and exude pride at what they have achieved.
The women have also experienced a lot of change in their own lives, as these quotes from some of the group members show:
“Our husbands who were initially angry about us coming now help out at home so we can attend.”
“I have a little education but didn’t know what to do with it. I collected women together to start an SHG and I ended up in leadership, and am now a UDF leader.”
“We have received training that helps us generate income, and we share what we have learnt with others.”
“I support people when they are sick and help them access clinic services. I am training others to do the same.”
“I was like a prisoner in my house, but now I am transformed. These people are now very much like family and I can go anywhere.”
Josta (pictured) is a member of the UDF. She had training to start a worm farm over five years ago, and has found that compost from the worm farm is good for growing vegetables, and also saves money that was used for chemical fertiliser.
Josta says her organic vegetables are high value, as they taste better and are better for you than vegetables grown with chemicals. As well as good sales, Josta and her family now have good quality vegetables which contribute to their own health, and enable them to share with neighbours.
The work of Josta and the UDF is not finished. There are challenges to face – life is still hard for women and girls, and climate change exacerbates frequent flooding. But for the communities on the banks of the river, this new women’s organisation is poised to continue working for good change long after Tearfund’s support has finished and we are just a memory.
In remote, rural provinces in Laos, communities are enjoying improved health and nutrition, better access to quality education and more secure livelihoods.