Community Empowerment: Access to Information
Our Community Empowerment Programme recognises the power of information in addressing many of the social inequities existing in rural Bangladesh. We use innovative mediums such as Popular Theatre to create awareness and address the gap faced by the poor people in accessing information. We provide information in local dialects and through entertainment to maximise the effect of the messages. In addition, we focus on creating awareness at grassroots level on the Right to Information law of the Government of Bangladesh and enabling rural citizens to benefit from it.
Popular Theatre is an effective communication medium for disseminating information to the communities, particularly to the illiterate, through entertainment. Through Popular Theatre, CEP deals with a wide range of issues such as gender equality, dowry, child marriage, and violence against women, good governance, environment, health, migration, HIV-AIDS, road safety, agriculture and many other issues of local and national significance. Popular Theatre also promotes women’s voices, mobility and participation. The plays are usually staged in the evenings, drawing large audiences including many women and children. A play typically draws 250-500 people. Our Popular Theatre groups are formed of local folk artists, the stories are based on real life incidents and local context, and the messages are delivered in the local dialect. The plays stimulate the audience about their surroundings, create awareness and generate dialogue on issues that affect their lives. Our Popular Theatre activities are successfully being implemented by 362 local Popular Theatre teams in 61 districts in Bangladesh with the active involvement of 3,620 local performers (30 percent of whom are women).
Radio Pollikontho, Community Radio Project:
Radio Pollikontho, a Community Radio Station located in the north-eastern part of Bangladesh is a recent initiative of CEP. The radio station covers a radius of 17 kilometres reaching approximately 400,000 rural citizens in the Moulvobazar district. Radio Pollikontho programmes are designed to address socio-economic issues within the community. The programmes prioritise issues related to women and children. In addition, it promotes local folk tradition and culture. Radio Pollikontho - 99.2 FM is currently being broadcasted in Maulvibazar district, everyday between 9 – 11am and 3 – 7pm. The community radio currently has 769 ‘Listeners Clubs’ of four types: Women, Youth, Children, and Mixed-Adult.
Creating Awareness on Right to Information Act:
To strengthen our efforts to empower the rural poor through effective understanding and use of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, and improve local governance, we have initiated the Creating Awareness on RTI Law for Community Empowerment (CARE) project in Gazipur and Mymensingh districts in 2011 with support from The World Bank. Through this initiative, we have created a cadre of 145 community volunteers who are serving as Infomediaries and assisting the rural poor in accessing information using the RTI Act. Key activities of the initiative involve information and communication campaign through popular theatre, posters, and handbook, organising RTI clinics, community mobilisation and capacity development, and bottom up advocacy activities.