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Millennium Village

Harguzirpar is 8km out of Mymensingh on the road to Azmotpur. There are about 300 households in the village, 70% of the poor or extremely poor. The village should become a good practice example to illustrate how self-defined development could be a way to get closer to achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals.

Our aim is to show how on the basis of one village with exemplary “from the bottom up“ decision making and inclusion, could show what self defined development in the frame of the UN-Millenium Goals (MDGs) could look like.

At the beginning of our work in 2009, the villagers have set their priorities for improvement in the village: Improving the sanitation, education for the children, and income generation possibilities for the women were top of their list. Within the last years, many things have started to change in Harguzirpar.

MATI Cooperative & Bridge Foundation: Millennium Village Harguzipara

In 2015 it will probably become apparent that the Millennium Development Goals agreed at UN level in 2000 to halve global poverty have fallen far short of the targets.

We suspect that this is not necessarily due to lack of money, but to the wrong interventions. In order to keep the effort low, investments are being made in projects that are too large and have a questionable impact. Those affected, i.e. the poor, are not sufficiently involved, do not really participate, and often corrupt political elites stand in the way of real development.

In November 2009, together with Peter Haas and Bettina Mühlen-Haas from the Brücke Foundation, we laid the foundation stone, or rather the basic talks, for a new joint project: The Millennium Village.

The aim is to use a village with exemplary measures adopted “from below” to show what truly self-defined development within the framework of the UN Millennium Goals (MDGs) could look like.

We have chosen Harguzipara, because no NGO is working directly in this village yet, and of the approximately 300 households almost 70% are poor or extremely poor. In initial talks with the entire village population, we explained our project, dashed hopes for a large financial blessing, and expressed our expectation of the active help of the people and the equal participation of men and women. When we were still welcome afterwards, the real work could begin.

The villagers set as priorities the improvement of sanitation, access to education for the children, and the creation of income opportunities for the women. Up to now, the children have been attending school until the 5th grade at the most. While the men are mainly employed as day labourers on construction sites in Mymensingh or Dhaka, there are hardly any job opportunities for women. Since almost no one owns their own land and the living conditions are very cramped, the typical female employment opportunities such as keeping animals or planting a vegetable garden are also no longer available.

As a first step, a community centre has now been built, which will serve as a room for meetings, as a classroom for a pre-school, evening school and after-school care, and as a training room for a sewing class. The land for the center was donated by a villager, and many families helped with the construction. The teacher for the preschool and the instructor for the sewing course are also women from the village. The women who complete the course are allowed to take the sewing machine home afterwards and also receive a loan as starting capital for their own tailor shop. The interest in the training is very high. Five savings groups for women have been founded. Initially, Mati is still in charge of them, but with the aim of operating independently within the next 5 years. The women save together in a pot from which they give credits to the group members. Here the scepticism of the women is still great, and only time will tell if the concept will work. In the next few months, 25 simple toilets and three community water pumps will be installed. There is also a health fund for the villagers to fight treatable diseases and especially to improve the health of young mothers, pregnant women and newborns. Right at the beginning we analysed the situation of the village by means of a detailed household survey. This provided us with a broad data base, which gave us insights into the structure of poverty, the level of education and health, the working and income conditions. This enables us to document the progress and possibly also the regression of the village in a good and transparent way. So far, all measures have been financed by the Bridge Foundation.