Rural empowerment and SDF

M I Chowdhury | Friday, 9 December 2016

With a view to contributing to the government's poverty alleviation programme, Social Development Foundation (SDF) was established as an autonomous non-profit organisation in 2000 by the government with support from the World Bank. It was registered under the Companies Act-1994 on July 28, 2001. In the wake of the persistent poverty in the hard-to-reach poorest areas of the country, GoB introduced SDF under the Bank and Financial Institution Division of the Ministry of Finance as a home-grown development institution. 
On October 18, 2016, President of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim visited Dakkhin  Rakudia village under the Babuganj upazilla of Barisal district to see the  ongoing poverty reduction project of the WB implemented by SDF. He appreciated the enthusiasm of the poor women and addressed them as hardworking and diligent. He also pointed out that the project beneficiaries deem to be quite self-reliant by availing the training on aqua culture, cattle rearing, poultry farming etc. Shewly Begum and Kohinur Begum of Rakudia village, who are beneficiaries of the project, said that they have improved their livelihood through dairy farming, pisciculture and kitchen gardening.  
Shewly Begum admitted that she couldn't send her older son to school because of poverty but now she dreams of making her only daughter a doctor and the youngest son an army officer. She also admitted that she could not finish her studies and was married off against her will due to poverty, but she won't let it happen to her daughter. 
SDF has been taking initiatives to empower the disadvantaged people in real terms putting the target communities at the driving seat following Community Driven Development (CDD) approach. People of the village societies are now able to manage their accounts and make decisions on loan sanction. The uniqueness of SDF's project is that while all non-governmental organisations (NGO) of Bangladesh lend money to the poor at high interest rate, SDF grants money as absolutely unconditional cash transfer. SDF prepares the poor communities of the poorest regions of Bangladesh to work collectively by forming village societies and equip the members with adequate training so that they can manage and disburse the fund to the poor. 
The Projects of SDF are assisting the government to provide service at the household level and train people to form their own cooperative societies. 94 per cent of the project beneficiaries are women and 92 per cent of them are managing the key functions of different executive committees of the village societies. Village housewives under the project have also attained competency to keep records of accounts and administer village societies like professional NGO workers.
The writer is a former secretary of the GoB and Chairman of Social Development Foundation