Programming Approach

Household Livelihood Security
Application of a "livelihoods" approach enables the programs within each region to identify the inter-relationships between one another, and break down the artificial, pectoral boundaries between the different interventions. In this data-driven approach, monitoring and evaluation systems pay particular attention to programmer results at the household level, as well as to unintended impact and the dimension of changes happening.

Rights Based Approaches
CARE's work focuses deliberately and explicitly on people's efforts to achieve the minimum conditions for living with dignity. We work for building internal capacity to empower people to claim and exercise their rights and fulfill their responsibilities. We recognize the poor, the displaced and victims of violence as having inherent rights essential to livelihood security - rights that are validated by international law.

CARE-Bangladesh is working to develop competency and build the capacity of others in the deliberate process of influencing those who make policy decisions. Our advocacy efforts will focus on policy makers and policy implementers at levels above that of the household, with the aims of addressing the root causes of poverty and discrimination and of improving the livelihoods of significant numbers of people.

CARE believe that true partnerships are based on a shared vision regarding the objectives and purpose of the work undertaken together, along with shared contributions of resources, shared risks and shared control of program and financial information.

Capacity Building
Capacity building - the process whereby a person's, an organization's or a society's ability to achieve its purposes is enhanced - will go hand-in-hand with partnership in much of CARE's work. Although CARE often plays the role of capacity-builder, it can also be the beneficiary of capacity building provided by partners and other organizations.

Direct/Indirect Service Delivery
CARE Bangladesh will continue to implement direct delivery of services on a limited scale. This will enable us to stay rooted in field experience and avoid getting out of touch with the practical difficulties of bringing new project designs to fruition.

Gender Equity
We will work through advocacy, partnership and direct project implementation to increase awareness of gender inequities, and to change the conditions that create and maintain them in the communities we serve. Gender analysis will be integrated with all phases of the project cycle, ensuring women's participation in identifying and prioritizing problems, in project design and in project implementation

Areas of Comparative Advantage

Enabling disadvantaged families to grow food products that are wanted by buyers and have a good market price, thus ensuring sustainable incomes.

Health and Nutrition
Improving health through nutrition, health education, greater access to family planning, and prevention of sexually transmitted infections and HIV and AIDS.

Increasing school attendance, introducing more active participation in the learning process and raising students' achievement levels, with a special focus on girls, ethnic minorities and the rural poor of the under-served areas.

Water, Sanitation and Environment
Helping communities build and maintain safer water systems and toilets; enhancing capacity to protect water resources; and educating people about good hygiene to reduce the risk of disease.

Building Infrastructure, Relief and Rehabilitation
Supporting the construction of essential infrastructure including roads and shelters, and raising the floor levels of homesteads above flood levels. Community based flood mitigation and disaster preparedness, risk management and building the mitigation skills of vulnerable households.

Early Childhood Care and Education – giving whole communities a new lease on life
Rekha Begum thinks she's 40 but is not really sure. Anyway, her age is the least of her worries – she is more concerned about where her next meal will come from, whether her home will survive the coming floods or how she and her community will save the local pre-school and bring about lasting and beneficial change.

SHOUHARDO aims to sustainably reduce the chronic and transitory food insecurity of 400,000 of Bangladesh's most vulnerable and impoverished households across four regions. SHOUHARDO addresses not only the availability, access and utilisation issues which lead to food insecurity, but also the underlying social problems, including lack of participation, injustice, and discrimination. The Program helps poor and extreme poor people to realise their full potential in leading healthy and productive lives and focuses on building the capacity of participants and communities to effectively solve their own problems with the assistance of responsive local support structures. Due for exit in 2010, the focus of SHOUHARDO is now turning to ensure the sustainability and durability of interventions beyond the life of the Program.

The SHOUHARDO ECCD component believes that giving an early start to children aged three to six provides them with the tools they require to make informed choices throughout life. Key skills in social and emotional development such as playing, singing and interacting with classmates are encouraged in ECCD classes as much as learning to read, write and count. Children attend Shishu Bikash Kendra (SBK) – Learning Through Playing - and preschool classes, taught by a volunteer recruited from the community. ECCD also works in collaboration with other empowerment focused initiatives such School Management Committees (SMC) and Empowerment, Knowledge and Transformative Action (EKATA) groups where women and adolescent girls are members, leading to a whole of community change process, of which Rekha Begum is a good example.

Rekha really feels the difference the ECCD is making in the community and knows positive change and improvement will continue as long as children are able to stay at school. 25 out of last year's 30 preschool students have enrolled in the local primary school which is just a few metres down the road from the ECCD. Five of the students were considered too young to start at the primary school and will stay at the ECCD until they are old enough. Children are happy to sit calmly and practice their reading and writing, with support from their parents."  Rekha is really happy with the impact ECCD is having and the way it works.

Solana’s Fight for Her Rights:
In the business of changing lives, one life touched is a spark of hope ignited in a hundred others. On February 22nd 2009, at a typical CARE Day in the Kishoregang Regional Office came 18 year old Sohana Islam from Baniachang Upazila under the Habiganj District. A beneficiary of the SHOUHARDO EDU collaboration program, she took time to narrate how CARE's interventions proved instrumental in changing her life from one of struggle and strife to one of freedom and socioeconomic prowess. The following, is her story.
In a family of six, her mother was a housewife, her elder sister was married, her younger brothers and she were in school. But fate struck a severe blow when flood waters destroyed her father's business assets one year (which year). With the only source of income now lost, Sohana and her brothers were forcibly dropped out of school. Her father tried to revive his business through a Taka 70,000 loan taken from BRAC, but the ensuing returns were poor- interest was compounding, and the family was losing sight of financial sufficiency. Eventually, to cut down on mounting living costs, Sohana's father decided to arrange for her marriage at the tender age of 16.
Fortunately, her prayers were answered when she sought help from the Economic Development Unit at CARE. She was immediately enrolled into a Karchupi group for a one and a half month long IGA training. She found herself deeply engaged in the art of Karchupi and clothing design. This part of her life, she calls, "the uprising".

The trainer happened to be a private sector buyer of Karchupi goods, who provided for all amenities pertaining to training- such as raw materials, venue rent, etc. After the training was complete, Sohana put her newly acquired skills to practice, and began earning 1500 to 2000 Taka per month under the patronage of the same buyer. During this time, she came in contact with a number of distant buyers, especially from Dhaka. Two to three months after her first income, she decided to travel to Dhaka- where she visited the Mirpur Benarasi Palli, a coveted place for designer clothing. There she met with frontline buyers, talked to them about her enterprising ability and brought in a number of designs alongside production orders. EDU was there to facilitate this linkage.

Sohana is a girl of strong character and irrepressible spirit. Like millions of other ill-fated girls in this country, she too dreamt of a better life. CARE believed in her, stood by her dreams, and provided her with the space to grow. She had the power to change her life. CARE helped her do it.

Learning through playing at ECCD
ECCD monthly parenting sessions have also contributed to these changes. Parents learn about the developmental stages of children and the importance of being involved in their kid's education. Many mothers have also gained literacy skills through SHOUHARDO's EKATA intervention, and so feel more motivated themselves to be involved in and understand the education process. Rekha also says that since SHOUHARDO, issues such as violence against women, early marriage and polygamy are spoken about openly in the community and are no longer accepted. Having married as a very young age herself, Rekha knows the importance of these shifts in attitude. "You can feel the change" Rekha explains, "mothers communicate better now – with their husbands, their children and each other".

As a leader, Rekha believes strongly in the power of participation. "Listening to and involving all the SMC members and parents at meetings is very important. People want to be heard and to be able to voice their opinions." Before SHOUHARDO, this was not always the case – the community was not united and only 'powerful' people had a say in things. Rekha says she is always sure to approach other community members when looking to solve problems as she recognises power in unity. She also listens for advice outside in the wider community and likes to know what is going on in other committees to see how these decisions might affect her. Rekha uses a holistic approach in her leadership.

Beyond ECCD, Rekha is also on the Project Implementation Committee (PIC), helps with food distribution to pregnant women and is a member of the Union Disaster Management Committee (UDMC). As a UDMC member she must attend the Union Parishad(UP) meetings once a month. This gives her the opportunity to interact with other people, exchange ideas, voice opinions and raise issues in a different forum. Before SHOUHARDO she knew about the UP and the services it offered "but I didn't give it much importance." Having new, first hand experience with the UP has allowed her to appreciate how it can be useful to the community. "SHOUHARDO and BSG have taught us who and where to go to get the right answers." The community  now has a close working relationship with the UP Chairman through initial connections made through SHOUHARDO. Rekha also feels she has gained greater mobility since SHOUHARDO – she gets around and knows more people and places than ever before. She is also known to others. But this is not enough – "I still want to play a broader role. I know where I can make more contributions and want to be involved in improving my community." She feels that people know her and are coming to rely on her for help and assistance. She wants to be able to offer this to them.

Although Rekha considers herself empowered and sees that in her community, levels of awareness and understanding about important social issues are improving - and that more children then ever before are attending primary school - she, her family and many in her community, still face the daily struggle to survive. Access to food and regular employment are still the biggest issues affecting most poor and extreme poor people in Bangladesh's char regions. This is why sustainable and long term change needs to be encouraged - and why interventions such as the ECCD – offering hope to the younger generations – are so important. "After SHOUHARDO, we will run the school on our own. We cannot let it go now – it is too important and has made too much of a difference in our lives for it to fail." The ECCD SMC is currently thinking of ways in which they can do this. All households with children currently attending the school say they will be able to contribute something, no matter how small, to keep the centre running. They are working on a savings plan and a way in which they can continue to pay the teacher her full wage. "We will take control," says Rekha.

But hopefully, just for now, Rekha and the Dalilkandi ECCD SMC won't have to go it totally alone. Once SHOUHARDO exits in late 2009, Partner Organisation GBS has made a commitment to continue their support of ECCD with the help of BRAC. GBS, who have been working in the area since 1991 supporting poor and destitute women, children, elderly and disabled people, helped establish ECCD centres in 24 SHOUHARDO target villages across the region. They admit that although 100 per cent of these schools may not survive post-SHOUHARDO, the majority will. The far reaching and positive impact that ECCD is having on whole communities means that people are willing to work hard to secure the future of their centres. Some communities have even applied for access to khas land for their schools, ensuring their children will have secure and permanent places to continue ECCD. 

Rekha's story is not just about the success of one SHOUHARDO intervention – the ECCD and the continuing success of the education of children in Dalilkandi village – it is about how such interventions lead to wider change, motivation and empowerment within whole communities. Rekha is a shining example of how CARE SHOUHARDO interventions have a wider impact on community – on all people, however old they may be. Rekha may not know how old she is exactly, but she certainly knows that she still has a lot to give. "Now we are learning by doing" she says, as the people of  Dalilkandi village work together, taking control of their own lives in the hope of a more positive future.