Rapid urbanisation has been a key driver in the growth of Bangladesh’s Pavement Dweller communities. With a total population of 162 million, the country’s urban centres are growing at twice the national average. In tandem with this growth has been the rise in urban poverty, with the government recently estimating that one third of the urban population live in slums. To address the issue of extreme poverty and vulnerability among the poorest section of Bangladesh’s urban population, namely those people who live and sleep on the streets of the country’s urban centres. This group of people, referred to herein as “Pavement Dwellers”, live in the least secure shelters of all urban dwellers, and typically sleep on pavements and in public spaces such as markets, bus stands, parks, and railway stations as they cannot afford accommodation in slums or in squatter settlements. As a socioeconomic group, pavement dwellers receive the least attention in the policies and programmes of Government, donors and other development actors. With almost no social capital and little social cohesion, pavement dweller suffer from an extremely low social status and negative perceptions among the general population which excludes them from civic and community life.
To address such multifaceted issues faced by Pavement Dwellers in their daily lives, SAJIDA Foundation, in partnership with Irish Aid and Concern Worldwide, executes two projects under the program title of Improving the Lives of Urban Extreme Poor (ILUEP) and Amrao Manush Pavement Dweller Centres (PDCs). The program was formerly referred to as “Amrao Manush”. The inception of ILUEP aims to expand the program and improve the livelihood security and increase resilience to shocks of the targeted urban extreme poor households living in undeveloped slums, squatter settlements and on pavements in Dhaka and Chittagong. Currently, there are seven PDCs under the ILEUP and PDCs programs in different locations in Dhaka and Chittagong.
Pavement Dweller Centres
The program currently provides services to 14,000 individual pavement dwellers through 7 Pavement Dwellers’ Centres (PDCs), with 5 in Dhaka and 2 in Chittagong. Four of the seven PDCS provide night shelter/sleeping facilities for 314 women in 4 night shelters (average number on a night shelter basis), increasing from the 210 who receive shelter facility at night currently from 3 centres equipped with this facilities.
Essential services such as cooking and bathing facilities, safe drinking water, and secure storage are provided to over 2,000 centre-users during the life of the program. In addition to these services, WASH facilities will be improved in locations close to high concentrations of pavement dwellings through advocacy with Water Supply & Sewerage Authority (WASA), city corporations, municipalities and other stakeholders. As part of this, a public bathroom funded by WASH has also been newly constructed alongside the Maniknagar PDC.
Currently, pavement dwellers suffer from a lack of recognition as urban citizens in urban related policies such as the City Corporation Ordinance 2009. The frequent turnover of city corporation officials, together with a lengthy bureaucratic process, make change very slow when it comes to official policy. The project also aims to advocate for the inclusion of pavement dwellers among the vulnerable in the City Corporation Ordinance by engaging the City Corporation, Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives (MoLGRD&C), and the National Parliament. The amendment which we are seeking to current policy is designed to ensure the formal recognition of the pavement dwellers as urban citizens, and the removal of policy barriers in their access to government service. Additionally, we will seek to include the recognition of the rights of pavement dwellers in relevant future urban and city corporation policy documents, including the upcoming City Corporation Citizen Charter. Inclusion in the charter, drafted once every five years, will serve as official recognition of the change is not possible, build project sustainability beyond 2019. Such activities include, for example, securing citizen identification documents and citizen rights for Pavement Dwellers, building the local fundraising capacity of local partner organisations in the Pavement Dweller Centres, and advocating for Government involvement in their ongoing operation. A fuller description of these and other activities designed to achieve both systemic and sustainable change for the benefit of the Pavement Dwellers is provided in the section on “Results and Sustainability” below.
Day Care Centres
The purpose of the day care is to enable working beneﬁciary mothers to keep their children (2-6 years) in a safe place while they work and contribute to the household income. Children at the day care centers are divided into two age groups (2-4 yrs and 4-6 yrs) for focused education and appropriate curriculum. At each centre, 2 trained instructors teach children in diﬀerent subjects, including the alphabet, popular songs, attitude, behavior, sports, etc. Children are provided nutritious food at the Center to promote good health and their growth is monitored. Activities are also carried out to promote improved hygiene practices especially hand washing. Day Care teachers are trained on child protection and appropriate behavior with children. All the food, clothing, books, bedding, toiletries and medication needed by the children are provided free of cost.
The Early Childhood Development program incorporates the holistic development of children, focusing on mitigating abuse and extortion as well as developing their freedom of articulation. It supports the children through a number of activities including group formation, social activities and education alongside extracurricular activities like singing, drawing, dancing, etc. Positive parenting orientation is also a major component where the family members especially the parents are counseled in positive behaviour towards children in order to protect children from any kind of violence, torture and abuse. Our new stage has ambitious targets to improve the early childhood development outcomes for children in 4 supported PDCs, and builds on some of the work that has been done over the last year. On a broader level, the project will seek to improve the economic, financial, and human asset base outcomes for all supported pavement dweller households, increasing the social mobilisation and empowerment of pavement dwellers, and sustaining services by mobilising local resources including the local community, local government institutions and private sector actors. It will also extend the number of beneficiaries reached (by 4 PDCs) from 5,000 to 6,000. According to our Irish Aid evaluation in 2015, the graduation rate of the programme is 48%. Hence, we can expect a considerable number of new pavement dwellers (3,000 new entrants approximately) to be accommodated along with existing ones in the new phase of the project.
Children in Formal Schooling
A child who has completed the education program of the day care center is considered a day care graduate. As per the project regulation, children over the age of 6 are either linked with a school or provided education free of cost. All the food, clothing, books, bedding, toiletries and medication needed by the children are provided free of cost. As of April 2017 a total of 170 children have been admitted to formal schools.
Psychosocial counseling is provided to diﬀerent groups of the project including parents, children and adolescents. The counseling is provided in three modes and focuses on the moral development of the participants and development of societal norms towards inclusion into mainstream society. Individual Counseling seeks to mitigate problems faced by the participant and serve the psychosocial need; in Family Counseling, members of each family sit together and share their problems to be counseled to mitigate current and potential risks; ﬁnally, mixed groups are counseled on special issues targeting the group on drugs, abuse, traﬃcking, family planning, etc.
The new stage of the program will work both women and men through groups to increase awareness of gender based violence and its consequences. In addition, counseling services will be provided to those affected by gender based violence.
Pavement dwellers are prone to illnesses particularly due to lack of safe drinking water and sanitation and unhygienic living. Since they cannot aﬀord proper treatment, they often rely on herbal remedies which results in incorrect diagnosis and treatment. Health corners have been established in every PDC to address this gap, open from 9 am to 5.30 pm every day except Friday. Five centers have paramedics who perform consultations, basic treatments and make referrals to health centers and hospitals in the area when more treatment is necessary. SAJIDA also imparts basic health to raise awareness on health through group meetings at diﬀerent clusters in each area. SAJIDA has also developed an inventory on other public health services available in the location as well as a directory of services and programs of other NGOs that can be accessed by pavement dwellers. The provision of special funds has been arranged for the management of medical emergencies and severe health problems.
Most pavement dwellers do not have access to a safe place to keep their savings. A few of them deposit their savings with shopkeepers or moneylenders, putting themselves at risk of extortion and other forms of exploitation. SAJIDA has introduced a savings scheme that allows beneﬁciaries to deposit and withdraw any amount they desire whenever they require. Since the inception of the project, SAJIDA has conducted focus group and individual discussions with the beneﬁciaries to understand their needs and desires and has developed a savings policy accordingly. As a result, beneﬁciaries are now depositing their savings in PDCs with enthusiasm.
Vocational Training and Apprenticeship
Vocational Training and Apprenticeship support is provided by the project to help engage people in income generating activities or a regular job through linkages with garments, workshops and other small industries. As part of this, 250 grants will be provided and 250 apprenticeship opportunities for micro-business and job placements, IGA training will be provided to 300 women, and saving scheme access for 3000 women and men.
ILUEP-PDC Achievements, as of April 2018
|Pavement Dweller Centers established||7|
|Beneficiaries who received health services||116,768|
|Children at day care facilities||275|
|Locker facility user||899|
|Bathing, toilet & cooking facilities||2,117,423|
|Total number of income generating||4,235|
|Total member received savings interest (BDT)||424,112|
Asma’s journey to self reliance
Asma Begum (24) came to Dhaka with her husband and two children from the district of Lalmonirhat due to an economic crisis. With nowhere to go, the family started living on the streets of Kawran Bazar. Life on the street was extremely difficult and hazardous. She would go door to door and beg for money and was able to buy one or two meals a day for her family. When they fell sick they couldn’t afford any treatment. Asma continuously sought ways to protect her family. From the community people she came to know of SAJIDA’s Amrao Manush program and became a member.
Through counseling and training Asma became more cognizant of earning and saving money. Leaving her children at the project’s day care center she started selling vegetables alongside working as a housemaid. After receiving a grant of Taka 5,000 from the project, Asma set up a tea stall and within five months she had managed to save Taka 15,000 through the project’s savings program. She also received training on life skills, business entrepreneurship and HIV Aids. At the moment she earns Taka 10,000 per month. Her husband works as a day laborer and also helps her with the business. She lives in a rented house in Rajabazar with her family. “Life is beautiful,” reflects Shathi as she moves ahead with new aspirations.