ABAK project helps empower women
AKM Kamal Uddin Chowdhury :
Smriti Biswas has changed her fate by setting up a tailoring shop. Five years back she took loan of Taka 9,000 from the Village Development Association (VDA) in her village under the Ekti Bari Ekti Khamar (EBEK) project, which has been renamed as Amar Bari Amar Khamar (ABAK) project recently.
She had been fighting with poverty since her childhood. After getting married, her life did not change as her husband's income was not enough for meeting the expenses of a three-member family. Her suffering further increased when her husband left her with a son few years after she got married.
'I became burden for my father. At that time, I faced severe financial crisis. I knew sewing work, but lack of a sewing machine; I used to work in another shop and earned a little money, but the income was not enough to bear my family, including my son's education, that finally I was forced to stop my son's education, 'said Smriti with grief living in a remote village named Doba under Rupsha Upzila in Khulna District'.
EBEK, now ABAK, project started its activities at Doba village in 2011 and Smriti became a member of EBEK then. She raised her own fund by depositing Taka 200 per month. After one and a half years of her membership, she bought a sewing machine by taking loan of Taka 9,000 at first phase. Through setting up the machine, she started tailoring and the wheel of her fortune life started to move.
At first, she used to make clothes staying at her house. Gradually after getting reputation, she started earning more money and paid off all her loans. Later she took loan again of Taka 15,000 and rented a shop in her village market. Now, she is earning enough money and is capable of helping others. Meanwhile, her son passed HSC and got a job in the army. The goal of the project is poverty alleviation through income generation and beneficiary are the underprivileged and poor people of the country.
Through the project the government the poor farm families, sharpening their skills through training and motivation, allowing them to sit together at the courtyard meetings, enabling them to take decisions independently and develop need based small family farms and ensuring marketing facilities for their products.
The project EBEK started in 2009 with Taka 1,492 crore and finally the project was revised as ABAK in 2016 with Taka 8,010.27 crore. The government has set a target to form 1.01 lakh Village Development Association across the country and the number of the beneficiary families will be 54.60 lakh.
Under the project, over 2.15 crore poor and extreme-poor people across the country are getting benefits. Around 97 thousand VDAs have been formed across the country from which about 43.16 lakh families are getting benefits. The beneficiaries have deposited over Taka 1,580.39 crore till April 21, 2019 and the government has provided Taka 1,380.14 crore as grant under the project.
Currently the government is giving maximum Taka 50,000 as loans among the rural people to initiate small livestock farms that the government has a plan to double the amount from the next year aimed at increasing the participation of the poor women in income generating activities. Ekti Bari Ekti Khamar (EBEK) one of the ten priority initiatives of the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was designed to bring the country's poverty rate zero. The project has got momentum after having it a new name Amar Bari Amar Khamar (ABAK) which has aimed to attaining SDGs by 2030. The project has also aimed to make the rural people, particularly poor self-dependent in order to bring them to the mainstream of development.
The government is giving special focus on women in the project as a VDA is formed with 60 members out of which 40 are women. Under the project, each member of VDA saves Taka 200 per month and the government gives each of them an equal amount as bonus. All the money has been deposited at the bank account of VDA.
After getting fund from the respective VDA, a member of each poor family can develop small businesses like fishery, livestock, poultry, nursery and vegetable gardening farms or shops.
After earning money from their businesses, members of each VDA make repayment of their loans through installment at the account of the VDA. Thus the fund gets revolved and utilized for poverty alleviation.
(PID Project Feature)