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Monday, February 28, 2011

Prevention of Early Marriage

Md. Aktaruzzman is a young Active Citizen who is working to prevent early marriages in Bangladesh. He and his group members have saved 3 early marriages so far, and they are struggling to save more. Read what Md. Aktaruzzman has to say about his Social Action Project:

Early marriages are a big problem in our community. It affects the maternal health severely and hampers the normal physical, mental and emotional health of the females. They become pregnant at a very young age which is why the death rate of mother and infant is higher in early marriages. And so for this reason we, the young Active Citizens, chose the prevention of early marriages as our Social Action Project (SAP).

We surveyed 100 families in our local area and began discussing the tabooed topic of early marriages with them. We raised awareness about the harmful side-effects of early marriages and advised the parents to send their daughter to school instead. We started campaigning against child marriage and staged dramas to convince elders that early marriage are not advisable.

My group members and I left no stone unturned in striving to stop early marriages. As a result, we were successful in stopping 3 childhood marriages. The girls are acquiring education these days.

This Social Action Project has polished our leadership skills and has increased our knowledge about different community issues. It has enabled us to take responsibility. The community people have begun to trust us and they have requested us to try to solve other prevailing community issues too.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Establishing debate clubs in Jheneidah

Following is the Social Action Project story narrated by Sazzad Hossain from Bangladesh. Read to find how the "Debate Clubs" are helping the young people in improving their minds.

We have initiated four Social Action Projects after the Active Citizens workshop in Jheneidah and one of them is the establishment of “Debate Clubs” in all the institutes of the city. We wanted to establish “Debate Clubs” because we felt this helps students become more creative and rational. This would also keep the young people updated with various important local and national issues.

We began this project by getting in touch with all the institutes and gained their support in favor of our movement. Then, we held workshops with the institutes’ teachers and students in which we discussed the purpose of “Debate Clubs” and showed them a clear picture of what we really wanted to do. We also developed a special module to conduct this workshop, but before running it, we took their feedback on the module from the elders of the community on improving it.

After we had run workshops, we encouraged the institutes to form “Debate Clubs” and helped them execute different activities. We are also doing regular follow ups with these “Debate Clubs” and are constantly motivating more students and teachers to join in.

The impact of the “Debate Clubs” is very apparent amongst the students. They are keener to read and discuss important local and national issues. They’ve begun thinking about these issues and are coming up with solutions of various community problems. I am hoping the students will enhance their critical thinking skills, will become rational in their approaches of solving problems and will unleash their creative juices which will certainly improve their lives.

Today, there are 7 debate clubs in 6 educational institutes in Jheneidah with altogether 275 club members.

On the other hand, we (the ones involved in SAP) have benefited tremendously after initiating the “Debate Clubs” project. We can plan a project now and collectively implement it. Our communication skills have improved and we can work as a team now. We have also developed personal skills as well.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Miracle of being active!

This story has been contributed by one of our Active Citizens Mr. M. Moosa Rind. He tells us of the time when his village was hit by the floods (the disastrous last Summer's floods in Pakistan) and how he and his fellow Active Citizens struggled to save their village instead of simply deserting it. Read the story as he tells us:

The Irrigation Department Sindh breached the Johi Canal at Kali Mori to drain the floodwater, gushing from Tori Bund breaches, in the Manchar Lake. Due to the breach, floodwater was rapidly advancing towards Johi town and adjoining villages. Instead of making arrangements for transport to shift the people to safer places and strengthen protective embankment (ring bund/levee) of Johi City where people of surrounding areas had taken refuge after being inundated, District Coordinator Officer and Federal Minister MNA Rafiq Jamali announced that the city should be evacuated right away. This situation created a huge panic among citizens as they didn’t know what to do at such a short notice.

The Johi is about 320 kilometres north of main southern port city Karachi.

With help of local water experts and irrigation officials, I assessed the situation and based on that decided to remain in the city and to strengthen the ring bund. I formed a group of friends - Qurban Khokhar, Ghulam Qadir Lighari and Dr. Ibrahim Rind - and started making announcements from the loud speakers in the mosques and on rickshaws. We mobilized citizens to come out of their homes and support us in making the bund strong.

Luckily, people responded to our appeal very positively and all kinds of help started pouring in from everyone; people donated materials, labourers, money, food, etc, and they all volunteered and gathered at different points of the bund. The ring levee spanned over 10-11 km square feet, and there were mainly 12 points where citizens were monitoring the water level 24 hours and were raising the bund accordingly. This situation continued for a month and we kept strong vigilance over the water; we ate, slept and even offered Eid prayer at the bund!!

Of course, there were moments of desperation but people’s trust and encouragement helped us in overcoming it. When local government threatened us and moved away all heavy machinery and left us to fend for ourselves, we were a bit nervous and anxious, but when a blacksmith who deals with iron tools for farmers donated 60 spades available in his shop and asked us to continue working, we really felt our spirit uplifted!!

Thus, our long and strenuous struggle paid off and we successfully saved the city from floodwater just by being active, and we now believe that we can change the fate our citizens if we continue to remain active!

Now, more than dozens national and international news papers like English, Urdu and Sindhi wrote detail stories about our struggle with details about my leadership role too.