HAMEED | PUNJAB (PK)
The rural society of Pakistan is comparatively poor and illiterate, with illiteracy being the main cause of poverty. This has been the situation since the origin of the country. It is particularly unfortunate that the country is deprived of true leadership; feudal and rich people, regardless that they are in the minority, take the leading role, and the majority of people follow them. There is no option to select competent leadership; if any good person contests the election, he/she will never be elected owing to the ignorance of the voters. It is a pity that even though people are always criticizing their elected representatives regarding their poor performance, when it comes to the election they forget all their weakness and give them another chance - consequently, poverty is increasing day by day. There is need for a catalyst, for work with the people to bring about change and pull them out of the trap of this deceptive leadership model. There are some good people volunteering to work in this field but, lacking a proper forum, their efforts aren't successful and ultimately the situation is deteriorating.
Luckily, at the beginning of 2013, Bamboo activities were initiated and since then people are availing themselves of Bamboo's forum to make change in the rural society, eventually leading towards poverty alleviation. There are two type of communities using the Bamboo forum: i) the educated community, built around young teachers; ii) the rural community, affiliated with farming and labor activities.
These Bamboo activities are located in central and southern Punjab respectively. The first community is a bit ahead, as it initiated Bamboo activities earlier than the second community. Moreover, the first community comprises educated, young and energetic people and delivers services and activities swiftly and consistently irrespective of how these are received and responded to. The other community is built around an older age group and strives to be responsive to their responsibilities regarding their families, with a focus on livelihood activities. The good thing is that both groups want a change in society in the form of socio-economic development of their areas.
In the first place, the first group has been applying Bamboo both by engaging students in the class room plus working with the general public, creating awareness about electing true leaders in the general election and the importance of these leaders working for poor people in ways that will reduce poverty. The average person is engaging and listening, showing willingness to apply the Bamboo approach in the general election. The area where this is occurring is quite large but the Bamboo team spends time on Bamboo related activities in addition to doing their regular jobs. They have also launched an awareness campaign with the parents to promote literacy in the area and they have managed to get a concession in the fees for poor parents.
The second team got started in different way. The Bamboo team engaged volunteers in the process and launched a campaign for cleanliness of their village - especially to remove the heaps of rubbish lying in the street and to drain the sewerage water that was forming pools on the street and causing various water born diseases. The village comprised two hundred households. In addition, the community set up an informal organizational forum to coordinate interactions with different non governmental organizations In order to initiate development projects in specific communities. These activities are at the initial stage and the community needs capacity building about organizational development and how to interact with the various organizations.
Constraints faced by Bamboo
In the first group the following constraints are being confronted:
- Not easy to launch a campaign against the traditional and powerful leadership, so it's necessary to engage with them and gain their confidence too.
- People are not free to devote all/enough of their time to this exercise, as they have to continue their jobs as well.
- Bamboo team needs proper training to effectively launch activities in the area.
- Lack of funds to initiate activities.
- Difficult to work with closed or lethargic communities to bring change at the level that is appropriate for them.
The constraints facing the second group are:
- The communities are poor and local people have to take care of their family as well.
- Lack of capacity building/skill to launch the organizational and development activities in the area..
- Passive behavior of government officials.
- Lack of funds to promote activities.
- Lethargic behavior of the community in relation to making change in society.
Achievements of Bamboo
Despite all the constraints, Bamboo has already had achievements in its first months, even though at a small scale.
Achievements of the first group:
- A campaign about good leadership was launched despite the presence of powerful, influential, oppositional leadership.
- The Bamboo team is increasing gradually.
- Many people cast votes to elect good and competent leaders but the geographic area of the general election was very large and it was difficult to see the impact on a larger scale.
- The Bamboo team is enthusiastic to apply the approach in the local body election, to be held in January, 2014.
- The Bamboo team managed to get concessions in tuition fees for poor people; a principal of one of the schools joined the Bamboo team, committing to give relief to children of poor people in an ongoing way.
Achievements of the second group:
- An organizational forum was set up despite the lack of an appropriately skilled facilitator/catalyst.
- Activities to clean up the village are ongoing.
- Regular meetings to discuss issues and promote Bamboo activities have been organized.
- At a minimum, despite limited means, activities have been initiated in communities that are closed and rigid;
- The Bamboo team is lacking appropriate level skills and training to mobilize the community for Bamboo activities;
- The team involved in Bamboo activities isn't able to give the desired time to these, as they are busy focusing on the livelihood of their families.
Hameed is a sociologist and researcher with extensive experience in community development and capacity building across numerous fields including natural resource management, livelihood development, resettlement, empowerment of women, adult literacy, health and social impact assessment. Hameed lives in Pakistan with his family.