A women's cooperative providing sanitation loans for sustained WASH improvements
Manob Bondhon Multipurpose Cooperative Society is a community based organisation (CBO) established in 2009 in Mymensingh District in Northern Bangladesh. The group was set up by 25 women as a way to save money and then access those savings as micro-loans when needed. However, the women realised that they needed to do more to build up their communities so that women were in a better position to repay the loans. They started doing social work in their community such as setting up income generating activities and running a pre-school for disadvantaged children. Over time the membership grew to 1200 women.
In 2014, the Habitat for Humanity CS WASH Fund project, Supporting the Enabling Environment for better WASH services in Northern Bangladesh, provided an opportunity for Manob Bondhon to increase the scale of their social impact and develop a new source of income for the group. They became one of nine CBOs who are providing sanitation loans to support families to build improved hygienic latrines under the project. A total of 55 latrines have been constructed to date under Manob Bondhon’s loan program. The CBO first conducts need assessments to select families, and then monitors construction and collect repayments. Repaid loans are then re-invested in additional latrine loans.
The CBO has played a vital role in achieving open defecation free (ODF) villages, by collecting information on the sanitation status of the villagers and targeting awareness raising and latrines where needed. They also arrange and conduct courtyard meetings to raise awareness on WASH and use their regular savings group meetings to disseminate hygiene messages to the community.
Sahera Begum, the president of Manob Bondhon said, “In the beginning, we, some women, formed a savings group to generate some funds through daily savings, so that we might be able to help our families. Later, we organised ourselves and formed this organisation. We did not think the organisation would be as big as it is today. It is not an easy task in Bangladesh to run an organisation totally by women, but we tried through all our efforts to move the CBO forward. In the beginning we were only 25 women but now we have more than 1200 members, and we also have government registration. We are not only working for the financial improvement of the poor people but also for positive social change in the community. Beside micro credit, we work for mass awareness regarding positive change of the WASH situation and women’s empowerment.”