The Change Makers- Bringing New Hope

Australian Red Cross (ARC) | Jenni Lillingston from Australian Red Cross (ARC) Bangladesh, on 06/09/2017 15:38 AEST

Jannati is a community organizer for the Community Development Initiative (CDI) 2 WASH, which is being implemented by the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS), funded through CS-WASH.  She is working with families in the Paddmapukur, Rangur District; her role includes promoting and monitoring sanitation, hygiene behaviours and water quality, as well as facilitating the Community Disaster Response Team (CDRT), Community Development Committee (CDC) and WASH committee meetings.  Through the CDI WASH program women have played a vital role in bringing about good WASH behaviours to their families, and through seeing those changes; now male household members are respecting their advice and cooperating with them.

Jannati has been trained by BDRCS to facilitate the different participatory hygiene and sanitation transformation sessions. This has included topics on Women’s Empowerment and Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM).  She was also trained to facilitate Children Hygiene and Sanitation Training (CHAST) sessions held for children and parents at the 8 schools in her community.

“These trainings and my experiences working with community people has changed my perception of life. People here were living in sheer ignorance on issues like social coherence, leadership, health and hygiene, women empowerment and good WASH behaviours. But the trainings I have received, and sessions I have taught have brought the right changes among us,” said Jannati.  

What was once seen as an unstoppable bad habit of open defecation has now been removed and Jannati is confident that the Paddmapukur community will have a better future with dignity and equality. “This community soothes me more than anything now. The change has not come with a blink of an eye. As those long hours of convincing and negotiations as well as walking door to door during rainy days or winter freezing winds bore fruit, I can feel dark and light more evidently than ever,” said Jannati.

While women are happier as they enjoy a neat and clean environment and a healthy family and home, they are also increasingly being respected for their ideas and advice. Through her role Jannati feels empowered, and believes this program has allowed other women in her community to also become empowered.  Jannati believes that the community sessions and meetings have built social cohesion and increased the visibility of the women in the community. As has participation in the CDRT, CDC and WASH committees - where the gender representation is balanced.

Prepared by Mr Talha Tasnim, Mr Biplob Kanti Mondal and Ms Jenni Lillingston.