Duty Station:


Global Handwashing Day, 15 October 2019

According to a baseline survey conducted by UNICEF in 2019, in Bangladesh 1 in every 5 people do not wash their hands after using toilets and 96.2% households perceive that disease can be transmitted through dirty hands. Moreover, globally it is estimated that inadequate hand hygiene results in nearly 300,000 deaths annually, claimed by the annual research summary on the state of handwashing by Global Handwashing Partnership in 2017.

This Global Handwashing Day 2019, the theme evolves around the basic approach to achieving clean hands for all – washing with soap. Handwashing is an important part of keeping food safe, preventing diseases, and helping children grow strong. It has been proven time and again that handwashing with soap is the most cost effective way to prevent diarrhea and pneumonia. These two diseases account for almost 3.5 million children’s deaths annually, according to the publication of UNICEF on ‘The State of the World’s Children, 2008’.


CARE Bangladesh’s Strengthening Household Ability to Respond to Development Opportunities (SHOUHARDO) III funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) targets eight vulnerable districts in northern Bangladesh where access to proper sanitation and hygiene is rampant. Primarily, it promotes handwashing in critical times among the ultra-poor participants from 168,521 households. A huge component of the program is dedicated to improve health, hygiene and nutrition, including Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) status of its participants especially the pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, children under five years of age and adolescent girls. SHOUHARDO III approaches WASH holistically – from massive awareness raising on key health messages to achieve optimal behavior to engaging more participants such as male counterparts of mothers and their in-laws, to coordinating efforts with the government to ensure access to public health services. The participant base sample survey (PaBSS) 2019 in SHOUHARDO III revealed that the percentage of mothers who feel it is important to wash hands at five critical times increased from 1.14 in baseline in 2016 to 15.7 in 2019 . SHOUHARDO III continues its effort to increase the practice of handwashing with soap during the five critical times including handwashing demonstration at the courtyard sessions, household visits, and Growth Monitoring and Promotion.


This year SHOUHARDO III observed the global handwashing day on October 15 with an aim to motivate and mobilize people in the community including children to improve their handwashing habits. From community to school level the celebration was so full of energy and completely interactive. Along with the GoB and DPHE, the program coordinated the observation in more than 200 government primary and high schools involving 220 students per school on average. SHOUHARDO III’s community-based groups in 947 villages also observed the day in different ways. Besides the demonstration, the observation included rally, discussion, quiz completion etc.


This year SHOUHARDO III observed the global handwashing day on October 15 with an aim to motivate and mobilize people in the community including children to improve their handwashing habits. From community to school level the celebration was so full of energy and completely interactive. Along with the GoB and DPHE, the program coordinated the observation in more than 200 government primary and high schools involving 220 students per school on average. SHOUHARDO III’s community-based groups in 947 villages also observed the day in different ways. Besides the demonstration, the observation included rally, discussion, quiz completion etc.

“Now I understand why every other month I had to visit the community clinic for my stomach pain and diarrhea. I shared what I learned about the handwashing with soap in five critical times in my school with my parents. They now make the soap always available in latrine areas so that we never miss to wash hands after using the toilet. It may seem basic, but this is crucial and should be made a habit by all.”

-Choa, Class 4, Khalapara Govt. Primary School, Mithamoine upazila, Kishoreganj district

There are five critical times during the day where washing hands with soap is important to reduce fecal-oral transmission of disease: after defecation, after cleaning a child’s bottom, before feeding a child, before eating and before preparing food or handling raw meat, fish, or poultry.


Duty Station:

A conversation on Failing Forward between Walter Mwasaa, Chief of Party, SHOUHARDO III, CARE Bangladesh and Colleen Farrell, Technical Advisor, Knowledge Management & Communications, Food and Water Systems, CARE USA

About the conversation: Failure without learning is final. Otherwise, it’s just part of the process. Walter Mwasaa from CARE’s SHOUHARDO III talks about how cutting-edge work with youth highlighted gaps in our success metrics and how we hear feedback. Cultivating the art of listening, building acceptance of failure into our culture, and understanding that failure is everywhere are his key takeaways. It’s in the smallest details–embrace when people are late, and see how that translates to new ideas.

Colleen: Hi everyone. This is Colleen with Food and Nutrition Security team. It’s CARE USA and I have joining me today Walter who is Chief of Party for SHOUHARDO program in Dhaka Bangladesh. Hi Walter.

Walter: Hi Colleen.

Colleen: Let’s get started. Would you be able to provide a little bit of context for the failure that we’re going to be talking about today?

Walter: SHOUHARDO kind of brand which has been largely a very successful program for both CARE and USAID Food for Peace since 2004. We as a programmer been able to become a testing ground, but an opportunity to showcase some of the really compelling ideas that work for not just anybody but especially for CARE women who through the work we’ve done with each other in the past. We’ve been able to bring out compelling evidence about how women empowerment is a big determinant of stunting outcomes for children and also being able to look for evidence or knowledge around how to deal resilience for women in the face of shocks like we have in Bangladesh.
So that’s SHOUHARDO. In this start deterioration there’s quite a number of exciting things that we are doing. And one of those would be the youth work. that was introduced right after the program kicked off. It wasn’t in the original proposal but we were able to do a quick analysis and acknowledge how much we do not have a clear way to reach that youth and especially the rural poor youth, both boys and girls just because the program initially did not that set of activities. So we negotiated with USAID and they allowed us to bring on a component for youth programming.
And that’s what we’re going to be talking about. Our journey with that. So the youth component came on and we were able to develop through two activities. One way able to market assessment and look at our opportunities there were. And look at how the youth specifically that rural poor will connect with those specific opportunities. So kind of equal to the demand and the supply side of both employments but also self and wage employment. Why would you develop a strategy which the team was quite clear and I think we were all excited that we’ve got a consultant to come in and do this and then had a CARE U.S. education team support us with developing the strategy.
And so we rolled it out: hire staff, put in resources, budgets, activities for it and we all excited about doing all this youth work. It’s cutting edge development and you end all currently.
We are right on our good journey. Until I would say probably two or three months down the implementation. We kind of began hearing concerns by our partners in our field based teams that there is not enough youth, we can’t find the youth to do the… to join the program. And that was a little confusing because with a population of about 45 percent youth to use 0 to 24 years of age being young people in this country. Why would you not find youth in their households like the villages that you are working on. Through all persuasion we kept the team engaged and would ask you know what approaches are we using in how we try to reach to these people. And so sounded like it was more of an understanding. And every time we would resolve an issue and we’d hope that fixes it. So we would get into conversations with a field based staff. Often times the conversations would end up with. Okay fine why don’t you try this approach. So we knew that you are lagging behind in terms of percentages. We were looking at teaching about 10,000 youth but two years in we only had sum 1,400. And so it wasn’t making sense. We are offering training opportunities for employment. When I go to the villages and other staff don’t come back. Yes, youth are very excited. People want to do this with us. It wasn’t until the midterm that we began to fully understand what exactly was going on.
It was very clear from the findings by consultants and but enough of what we were seeing that this strategy was one of the great tests that they had seen. What was also clear that it wasn’t being done. And the reason it wasn’t being done is because we had four components in the strategy so we had a vocational training component where youth would go to the training centers from the Department of Youth Development in Bangladesh and in those departments all kinds of institutions they would be receiving training on areas like electric wiring, mason bee and all that. very well clear and set out.
And this was I would say the most expensive part of the training. The other component was apprenticeships and internships that was being done in villages and the youth would identify trained that I would be interested in so they’d go and we would support them to find a potential employer work with them an agreement they’ll spend time learning on how to do that.
The other component was supporting the youth either from the trainings or those who had some skills to develop their own businesses. Really supporting people to become self-employed. The last component was developing training modules for youth are able to travel to different locations and mostly this would be for the younger girls because mobility is an issue in Bangladesh. Often women don’t get to go so far away from their villages and so the activities we did with this particular group was to define local service training modules that they would learn skills like what they really got men for their own self-employment but things like tailoring and really add value to them being competitive in whatever they pick up on.
To no surprise the most expensive got the most attention. The reason you are not able to find 10,000 views is our partners are very much focused on identifying young men and women that are willing to go to district training centers. Women would struggle to leave their homes. Young man who was setting up families or just of schools maybe not qualified for colleges were unable to see where they would leave their villages and go and spend six months. You know learning something but there was no job guarantee. How they looked at it was I’m living my farm or my parents farm or I’m leaving my family, my girl and I’m not sure where I’m going. And it’s a difficult place. The reality was that target for these vocational training was more or less about 25 percent. So 2,500 would be their like over activity target. But that’s where all the efforts allowed. So all efforts were being put into generating that particular number to get everyone going into colleges. People didn’t go to the colleges neither was in apprenticeships and neither was any localized training is being developed. Because we couldn’t find the two thousand five hundred. So everything was focused on that 2,500.

Colleen: How would you say you and the team moved past this implementation failure that was identified in this midterm evaluation report?

Walter: Obviously midterm evaluation that tells you that you have a great strategy but does it mean that wasn’t implemented is not one of the best things in my position and if you’re in development work that you know what you need to do you have it and you’re not doing it.
So it was really a wakeup call for us that we in principle had to go back to the communities fast to figure out is there really absence of youth and then saw quickly no. Of course these enough youths in the villages. And so why are there in these… It turned out that the biggest issue for our partners was they kind of focused on their heavy budget items because that would more the expenditures faster. And also because it was they had that thing to do. That’s where all the efforts went. And so what we decided to do is go back and kind of retraining the partners and our own staff and reorient the communities again on this particular component was just part of it and why it had broken we believe was two things one obviously the focus of the heavy budget items but we also realized soon that we did not necessarily have the manpower or womanpower human resource to be able to push through with this kind of activity which was new to the program.
It may have been great and you know cutting edge but it’s new. It was kind of a little difficult for people to leave their traditional roles and give this the same effort and focus so we did have to recruit a Senior Technical Coordinator to lead the risk and have point specific staff within the partners who would to take that responsibility. And I mean I will say we picked up a hundred percent but there’s definitely a lot going on in different shapes in the localized training and some of the other work that had totally due it’s not taken off at all.

Colleen: If you can do this differently? what is one or two clear actions that you would change?

Walter: One of the big things for me and it’s alarming that we’ve had as we reflect on the many failures we have in SHOUHARDO. I have to say we have many failures. I’m sure people are excited about this program but we do fail and we do fail a lot. We do acknowledge two things that sometimes just because of the pressure to do work it’s easy to not listen to what’s coming up that change. So the whole feedback conversation right from the top down to the lowest level of implementation.
So a Project Manager who would receive my phone call would be asked what’s going on in the numbers is conversation with a lower level and this is partner staff would likely be pushing them to achieve their target. But that phone call has not had what that guy has done so in principle everyone was struggling but we didn’t realize we were struggling on just one strength and nobody was focusing on the other three. And so it just because the communication was one way without the reflections on what’s missing we definitely ended up not getting clear feedback, yes you are struggling but you are struggling with 25 percent of what you could be doing is to a whole 75 percent that’s ready and waiting but nobody’s given their attention. It took that process of figuring out how to hear more from the ground forwards and bring that into the conversations. Because in that we will figure out okay, yes it’s broken but it’s broken in this area and is what you need to fix as opposed to seeing well as a broken system.

Colleen: that’s a really great example. Expanding on that a little more if you can recommend one action to other CARE colleagues projects even partner organizations or government based on this experience. What would you have to say to them?

Walter: When you have communication that seems to be more directive even though it’s a question. It’s very likely that the responses come to seek a certain desired goal or result. The one thing that we are really learning and working on is figuring out what’s a culture that we create that enables people to speak to even things that are not necessarily being requested and be able to identify those gaps. So at a program level we increasingly definitely have been repeated conversations on failing forward. Every big significant stuff conversation includes a session where we identify a gap and ask stuff to reflect on why they feel that we don’t speak a lot about way or areas that we have not have been optimal success or progress in the things that we do. And those conversations open as up to a number of things that I think just highlight a few that come off the top of my head. I mean we have reports that we can share. But one of the things that I think has really come up is just the culture that we are so cultured to not admit that we failed. So if for example I didn’t make it to the office on time it’s very easy to talk about traffic which I know traffic is in the streets every single day. And so I’ll blame traffic but traffic is always there. So how about I didn’t wake up one time? So at the end of the day we’re kind of trying to create an ownership where something doesn’t work and as opposed to seeing the other side of the problem we kind of like to push it outside ourselves. It’s not because we don’t meet these affiliates because it’s almost like a cutthroat competition away. I need to perform because there’s thousands of other people that are almost waiting in line for this job. So there’s a pressure to perform and that pressure creates a sense of failure weakens that position. Doesn’t give me the space to grow and to be maybe promoted or get an opportunity. And so we’ve kind of won to find ways to tuck away failure. We use this processes to really say okay fine so this is what why we cannot talk about it. What would be some of the ways within teens as an individual we can support each other to acknowledge failure. And one of the most interesting moments has been to find that way of rewarded failure and failure not because somebody failed but because somebody was brave enough to define a sudden failure. That helps mold a certain concept or process forward a little more precisely and that involves admitting the part that they felt and so using that as a method where we create that opportunity for sharing those and not feeling that this is a bad thing for me to talk about because the cost of not doing it means that we just keep repeating the same thing. We know it’s not optimal. Chances are I have an idea how I can do it better but if I’m going to say that it would have worked better if I did then maybe another person would also fill in another piece and sooner than later we can begin to see again going back to my youth exam. Well that partners felt that pressure to spend and burn their budgets their field stuff felt that pressure to do what their managers wanted them to achieve which is burn budgets, burn rates. Well we did in CARE what you are looking for is numbers percentages of targets reaching as many youths so you can already see a disconnect and so we had the conversation about well we not burn in money because they’re kind of training we can do now are not the ones that are burn in the money. That would change that dynamic quickly from the other side we are seeing a lack of progress. So the two are not necessarily the same thing but just because we are not bringing the gaps or the failures or the issues together then we just have the situation we don’t want. It sounds to us like it’s more of a jigsaw that has different players who are to acknowledge where they are weaknesses and putting that together would really help move us forward.

Colleen: Absolutely I couldn’t agree more. You spoke to embracing these failures to really enhance our culture and the success of our programs. And I’m wondering if you have any comments or words of wisdom on how we can really use the lessons from this failure in particular generally how we can use that to improve our impact?

Walter: I gave an example which is about of project output. I think one of the things that we also embracing in our work is accepting that there is just not one alternative and so one of the things that’s not embracing failure or most of the times you know that people have achieved more. And you know that we could have talked about this. Maybe it was how a work was scheduled maybe it was that location could have been done better. So you can have those conversations what it creates for us is a momentum of exploring alternatives and acknowledging that some of them may be risky. But if you know what you’re trying to achieve and there is certain culture that accepts that. Then it’s obviously very likely that we will begin to see more ideas without the challenge of any new idea is likely to be faced with opposition not even because it failed but people are so concerned about the failure points that, they will not even see their opportunity points within the same idea. And so we don’t take risks. We do not calculate those risks and say well I may lose two thousand dollars. Yeah but if it works that’s going to be in terms of return on investment potentially to hundred thousand for the community or something. I would say it’s always that tension. And as a manager or as anybody doing any investments. You kind of want to figure out what’s a logical way of doing this that doesn’t jeopardize your donor relations or with governmental, with community and create that space because it’s in everything it’s in how we do things it’s how we structure our workplaces it’s how we write proposals it’s how we even hold a community meeting. So I think we need to create a sense of appetite for risk.

Colleen: Final comments are thoughts that you wanted to share.

Walter: I’ve been following the whole failing forward conversations on the workplace and some of the things that kind of get generated in the industry. And I would say it’s really time that people have… I feel that we are all in the momentum where it’s been acknowledged. What I feel that we don’t necessarily do and we’ve been trying to figure out how do you make this actual in the workplace because these always that risk of talking about it like I just have. But I would imagine staff full potential that came up and said You know I failed in this area because of the senses are the first reaction is entry lead to say well great job thank you for failing. You know it’s likely to be pushing back and say you know we needed to see you be a bit more proactive. So creating that space which really starts right from the top of the unit or an organization or a project is a real challenge for us and to be meaningful in these conversations. It’ll start with somebody being late and we say that’s failing without landing is fine. But if you’ll fail in bringing anything out of it figuring out tomorrow you need to do these or I need to leave earlier I need to avoid this kind of busses because they always get stuck.
You know that’s a process. And so if someone comes and says Well I’m late but I’m late for this reason I tried this. I mean that’s something that we should have embraced and it’s only then that that would translate to ideas in the workplace in the field with our participants on the projects as opposed to seeing this as somebody who is perpetually late and we generate that kind of appetite for failure who learn our thousand attempts to get that light bulb glow in and I think that’s what we really need to ask ourselves.

Colleen: You know I think that’s a really great call and thank you for that.

Duty Station:

After almost a year of not traveling in the villages to meet with the participants, I finally got the chance to tie up a field visit after the program conducted a team meeting in one of the districts where we work.

And it felt great to see them again, especially that SHOUHARDO III is going through changes in its implementation, with the group reformation as one of the main activities. The participants never cease to amaze with their energy, and despite the language barrier you can see it in their eyes how much passion they have to share their stories.

I sat with Shwapna, 26 years old from Ujan village in Tahirpur sub-district, Sunamganj. She has three children, the youngest one she just dropped in school on her way to meet with SHOUHARDO III staff. Too tiny for her height, but always smiling, and were firm with the way she answered my questions. The aim was to get a sense from the community members like her on how they were getting by with the changes that the program started implementing since April this year

A year after the Midterm Evaluation that steered the direction that the program is taking, the former groups that included Empowerment Knowledge and Transformative Action (EKATA), Farmers’ Field Business School (FFBS), Mother Leaders and Youth Groups – were reformed into five main groups to include: (1) male adult groups (with members 18 years old and above), (2) female adult groups (with members 18 years old and above), (3) adolescent girls and (4) adolescent boys who are neither married nor in school, and (5) young mothers and new brides (aged up to 25). This was done to ensure that the needs of all program participants are met, particularly in improving their lives and livelihoods, regardless of age.

To get these new groups and way of working underway, there were three meetings to facilitate the reformation of the groups. Shwapna attended all the meetings set by the program thus far. Before ‘transitioning’ as she is now a member of an adult female group, she acknowledged the key changes in her life since being engaged with the program. Confidently, she referred to knowing how to better take care of her children, how to choose food that would meet her family’s nutritional needs,

and why providing colostrum is important. She earns her own income too from rearing goats and chicken, and raising vegetables mostly for her family’s consumption. None of these independent initiatives existed before, as she relied only on her husband who is a contractual farmer earning BDT3,500 (USD $40) per month.

“Our lives changed even with the previous program approaches, how much more now when it is more convenient for us to meet as a group due to our proximity with one another”, was Shwapna’s straight answer when asked about how she views the changes in the program shared with her and other participants during the first meeting. “The good effects of this transition would apply in the savings groups that we established too, making it easier for us to decide on matters affecting us and immediately provide support to those who have concerns”, she added.

Shwapna and the other females in the group were all supportive of the process and active more than ever in attending the sessions in their village. Collectively, they want to continue earning their own money to better support their children in providing them education. “We discovered the things in life that improved the way we live, I am sure it can only get better as we move forward in the program”, Shwapna concluded.

Duty Station:

“The human capacity for burden is like bamboo – far more flexible than you’d ever believe at first glance” (Jodi Picoult, My Sister’s Keeper, 2004) seems true when I met and talked to Ms. Rabeya and Mr. Sekul in Chinni village under Itna Upazila of Kishoreganj district in Bangladesh.

Ms. Rabeya, a participant of CARE’s Strengthening Household Ability to Respond to Development Opportunities (SHOUHARDO) III program funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Government of Bangladesh (GoB), knows almost everyone living in her and adjacent villages. The villagers known her well too. Anyone visiting the village can find Rabeya without any hassle since everyone and even, a child can guide to Rabeya’s place. If anyone looks for an address or person s/he first meets Rabeya so that the destination can be found easily. Undoubtedly, Rabeya leads them to their desired location. She involves almost, with all the development activities being implemented by the Government and Non-governmental organizations in her locality. Day by day she has been increased her leadership quality, succeed to secure membership in Union Parishad through competitive election. She fights for Poor and Extremely Poor (PEP) people to get government social safety nets (including VGD, VGF, elderly allowance etc.). When, things come for providing assistances, she never steps back, she never thinks whether it is night or day, she comes out from home and walks aside the vulnerable and distressed people. She shoulders every plight of her locality and love to work for their well-being.

Another good soul I met is Mr. Shekul, a poor and differently-able person lives in the same village. He himself continues the fight for better future of his family members. Anyone can finds many people like him are begging in towns/cities. However, he doesn’t waste time in vain, rather, he overcome the adversities and utilizes all scopes and works hard around the year for better future. He runs a small shop in front of his house, does fishing in Haor during the rainy season and sells labor in other’s land. He bears all the expenses of his family of six members and tries to save regularly. He does not regret for the things he doesn’t have, rather, he works like other physically fit persons living around him.

There are many people living around us who dare to ignore all adversity and overcome challenges in life. All together are making history and prosperity. However, Rabeya and Sekul are those two of them who exceed the imagination and prove that “The human capacity for burden is like bamboo – far more flexible than you’d ever believe at first glance”.

Duty Station:

At his interview, Walter Mwasaa, Chief of Party for SHOUHARDO III with CARE Bangladesh, shares his insights on the conference theme that is food security resilience at the intersection of development and emergency, as well as key takeaways for the 3-day event. The TOPS/FSN Network Asia Regional Knowledge Sharing Meeting was held on October 2-4, 2018 in Bangkok, Thailand.

Interviewer: What are your thoughts on the theme that is food security resilience at the intersection of development and emergency?

Walter: So Resilience has been something that I have been personally very passionate about and looking at having a workshop of this kind with all the development people and emergency for coming together to discuss the thing, I think it actually brings the two sectors of work if you like together is very exciting. I’ve spent the last two days and the remaining day talking about how those things come together and really steering the customer resilience, I think is a great thing and not only we are going to be potentially bringing on people into you know not really crossing the divide if you like but pretty much bring them closer because really it’s a continuum. You start from an emergency, you move into I would call it a grey area and I think that’s where you have a conversation about you know how to ensure that we don’t fall back into some emergency or we get people into stronger capacities today with that emergency that’s not enough. You need to move them a little further that’s what the development kind of cure, development activities like that. So my reflection is that’s some appropriate topic for while we live in earthquakes, floods, any diseases all that stuff is really what we are looking at and so just being able to converge that at resilience is the best thing we’ll be doing in our programing in this image.

Interviewer: Any thoughts that is relevant to you the Rohingya planning that you just finished presenting?

Walter: (Suddenly I mean) We’re talking about an emergency that’s going to be around for a bit, we don’t know for how long and so until we move people and start intervening in that takes away the kind of emergency, it’s like running in a race, you’re running and you’re tired, at some point your heart comes back to normal. So your life is treated as if you on the track running that you just being confused with loopholes, then you stop living. I think we need to moving refugees and the people that we work with in the Rohingya camps to get more back to their, back to a normal life. We have to move away from that first place and hand out you know approach to a programming, so how that it goes. We’ve heard about the challenges, it’s going to get a lot of work, different actors and I think eventually we’ll just come together so what we are building it’s the capacities, cooperatives, restoring capacities which is what resilience is all about. So whether they stay in Bangladesh or go back to Myanmar, we need to have them ready for what tomorrow looks like in an uncertain world as we live in.

Interviewer: What do you think is the value out of having these regional conferences right like learning meetings that invite lot of different stakeholders and even maybe partners in the same country?

Walter: So today for the partners in the same country it’s probably, I would say probably criminal that we don’t do this a lot, we should be pretty together in what we do, should be looking at our own activities and making those connections. But when you begin to think about a regional area, someone seated in, say in New Delhi may not be as aware about their Rohingya issues and now they are evolved, but who knows when the next one comes. So how will people say in Northern Pakistan prepare for a potential influx from Afghanistan as we had the other day, so for me it’s the connections that we are making but also the real learnings and the practical actions that people are taking that I think are the key thing about this as I listen to conversations, I’m thinking how does it apply to what I do, how will they implement that, what are the realities people went through and then ultimately I have a connection right so I can walk over to that individual and talk to them about it, so it’s awareness, it’s a knowledge but also that resource, if we are practicing for the whole system becomes for each other, we do our work.

Duty Station:

Strengthening Household Ability to Respond to Development Opportunities (SHOUHARDO) III program, funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Government of Bangladesh (GoB), held its very first Community of Practice session on April 4, 2019. Though it was planned to conduct CoP session at Sirajganj Field Office (SFO) of CARE Bangladesh, but at last moment we had to make a change in the plan. Because of M&E workshop at NDP office, partner non-government organization of CARE, all the staffs were engaged there and we took the opportunity to get a huge gathering and reach all staffs (Program Managers (PMS), Upazila Coordinators (UCs), M&E Officers and Technical Officers (TOs)) at a time. So, we decided to conduct two sessions, one in NDP office and other in CARE SFO We have received a great response from the participants. On an average we had 25 to 30 persons in the sessions.

CoP Session at NDP Office:
Firstly, we briefed what CoP is. Then, we asked to pick a topic that they thought to be discussed and most of them face at the time of implementing program activities. One of the UCs raised a topic that they face challenges to engage youths in training. Their challenge is that most of the youth participants show interest to get trained at the very first approach but they become reluctant to continue the training when it is for a month long. Some said that there is a challenge to make the participant realize the importance of getting trained and cost benefit of that. Many of them added reasons of the same challenge and at the same time some of them shared how they dealt with the challenge and made the participants feel interested and realize the importance and cost benefit of getting trained. Thus the session was going on and all the staffs shared their experiences and learnings. Most importantly they actively continued the dialogues. They were talking about other various issues of the program.
Though it was a very first session with the PNGO staffs, they felt that this can be a platform where they can share the issues specially failure cases and causes of failure which they do not share usually as there is no such platform.

CoP Session at CARE SFO:
There was also enthusiastic participation from the employees of CARE Sirajganj Field Office. Four of the technical managers were busy with their previously occupied schedule. Nevertheless, the participation was satisfactory. Initially, the session started with some random discussions but gradually they started discussing over various program activities. One of them said that it is very challenging to facilitate community consultation, Annual General Meeting and village grading in a working day. Then the discussion was accelerated when others joined and some of them recommended how to mitigate the challenge. The Regional Coordinator took the issue in consideration and suggested some initiatives to handle the challenge with more efficiency. Thus they continued the session over an hour.
All the participants in the session appreciated such initiative of CoP and they have been found interested to take part in the session like this.
One of the participants urged that this session should take place in every week. The participant also suggested that participation of all relevant employees of the program should be ensured (mandatorily) as she thinks that one can get enriched gathering the program knowledge and experiences and thus one can perform his responsibilities more efficiently.

My Observations:
1. As we found most of the participants interested, I think we should flourish CoP and give it a shape which can be modified or rectified on the basis of the opinions of the participants. Before that we have to give it a meaningful and attractive name.
2. From some informal discussions with some seniors here, I learnt that there were some forums previously but those did not sustain because those were very much formal and traditional. So, I think from the very beginning we should approach very strategically and innovatively so that CoP must add value to the participants as well as the program activities.
3. There may have informal modality of sharing but I think formal session should be conducted in regional office and/or PNGOs’ offices.

Duty Station:

When I started as a Development Trainee (the very 1st batch of CARE Bangladesh), I met questions repeatedly, for instance, “Why have you chosen the M&E capacity?” “Did you choose willingly to work at M&E?” and I could discern the surprise and confusion in their faces which sometimes perplexed me too. Eventually, I came to learn there’s hardly someone who’s by choice an M&E professional instead it is by chance. Here are no undergraduate or postgraduate degrees specialized in the “Monitoring and Evaluation” offering in Bangladesh. Surprisingly, M&E experts like Ann-Murray Brown majored in Sociology, Psychology and International Development. Throughout her professional life, she has been ‘de-mystifying’ M&E, making complex concepts understandable to all. Likewise, the FFP M&E Advisor Arif Rashid who started his career as Program Coordinator now leading the whole M&E Team at USAID, brought substantial M&E policy improvement. In other words, many roads lead to Rome.
Keeping the nature of M&E in mind – whether we are Doing the Right Things – Strategy, whether we are Doing it Right – Operation, whether there are Better Ways of Doing it – Learning, you’ll be required to keep the tracks of your work and continuous comparisons between your desired and the actual outcome. Whether programs are achieving aims in line with community needs and desires, M&E is a robust accountability mechanism to scrutinize project efficiency, effectiveness and relevance.

In most of the book stores there exist a “self-help” section, but what we’re missing there a “help-others” section. I found the M&E team as the “help-others” window not for a single person (a fresher like me) as well as for SHOUHARDO III. The voice of the vulnerable can be heard and their lives can be transformed only when the studies with the findings are presented engagingly. This window will help you to answer questions similar to “Are you on right track to achieve your mission?”

Duty Station:

“I cannot explain my feeling when I heard that the piece of land where we have been living for the last 15 years, will now be registered in my name. I will never forget those days when I used to hear that, we the displaced and landless are like cows and dogs” Shared by Kamal Hossain, a participant of SHOUHARDO III Program of CARE Bangladesh.

Landlessness is one of the major challenges for ensuring food security among the Poor and Extreme Poor (PEP) in Bangladesh, especially for those living in the geographically vulnerable areas like Char and Haor. it not only leads to food insecurity but also perpetuates powerlessness among the landless households. According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistic (BBS) 2016, in Bangladesh, approximately 23.2% of the population live below the poverty line and more than 12% are still considered as extremely poor. Among them, at least 4.5 million people are landless which poses a huge challenge to address food security in the country. Therefore, the Government of Bangladesh has enacted Khas land settlement policy back in 1997 to distribute Government-owned agricultural land among the landless families. According to the survey of Land Ministry, about 8352 acres of Khas land has already been distributed across the country among 9283 landless households in the Fiscal Year of 2015-2016. However, currently, there are more than 0.8 million acres of distributable Khas land and is potentially available to be claimed for the landless poor and extremely poor families.

However, due to the ineffective implementation of the Khas land settlement policy, most of these lands are forcefully occupied by the powerful illegal occupants. Besides, the process of obtaining Khas land itself is lengthy as well as complicated for the PEP. Taking these realities into account SHOUHARDO III program has been advocating with government for creating accessibility for PEP landless households to Khas land. At the initial stage, the program developed strategy for advocating on Khas land. As a part of it, a two day training was organized in Kishoreganj on October 2018 with the aim to build capacity of the frontier staff for better facilitation of the applications and lobbying with the government officials who are engaged with Khas land settlement process. The training was organized with two folded objectives. Firstly, to provide theoretical information and secondly, to have a practical exposure visit at Union land office and Upazila Land office which finally, ended with comprehensive action plans by the Partner NGOs.

According to the action plan, Dhaka Ahsania Mission-DAM oriented the Village Development Committee (VDC) in Pathabuka village of Dakshin Shireepur Union, Tahirpur, Sunamganj on the application process of Khas land. With the support from the program the VDC identified that, a major part of the village is occupied by landless households of the program who had migrated to this place about 15 years ago. Program started assisting these people by helping them fill up the application for Khas land and collecting Nationality and landless certificates from the Chairman of the Union Parishad. Then 56 applications of the landless households were submitted to the Upazila Land Office of Tahirpur. Accordingly, the Upazila Land Office sent the applications to the Union Land Office for verification.

Finally, the Upazila Khas land Settlement Committee sent the final list of the eligible applicants to District Khas land settlement Committee for approval. By this time, the program continued forwarding this land agenda to the government officials through individual lobby meetings and Program Advisory Coordination Committee (PACC) meetings at the respective Upazila, District and Division levels so that, the government officials engaged with Khas land settlement process can prioritize the eligible households. The program also continued rigorous follow up and tracking to know the current status of the applications to speed up the application process. The government officials appreciated SHOUHARDO III for accelerating the Khas land issues and assured to prioritize the distribution of these lands to eligible households. Finally, 42 households of SHOUHARDO III and 10 of the neighboring households of the Pathabuka Village have been allocated with 2.595 acres Khas land. Currently, the Upazila Land Office, Taherpur is settling the registration of these land after which the deeds of land transfer will be handed over to these landless families.

The transformation among these landless PEP families is remarkable. These lands are not just an economic resource for them, but also a means for social and political empowerment. These families now have a permanent settlement which upholds dignity for them and their future generation besides granting economic and nutritional benefit. Moreover, the ownership of the land is helping them in creating diversified sources of income as well as reducing the risks associated to landlessness. Nure Ja, one of the Khas land receiver said, “I know this land will be mine and nobody will be able to force us to leave this place anymore. I can now plan for the future. I will have my own homestead garden, where I will grow vegetables. I have a dream to establish a poultry business which I understand is very much possible now”. Besides, the policy obliges joint ownership for husband and wife and confers the ownership to both of them which enables a potential transformational platform for the female headed households especially in a country like Bangladesh where women’s names rarely appear on land deeds and contracts due to the unequal treatment and discriminatory customary practices regarding the ownership of land. Anguri Bibi shared how a piece of Khas land helps the women headed households. She said “I lost my husband seven years back. I have experienced all sorts of sufferings since then. We did not have any place to settle. I had to work day and night to survive along with my three children. I used to live with a constant fear of being driven away. I believe, now my life will be changed. I felt proud seeing my name on that blue paper as the owner of this land. It is now a source of strength for me to work more and move forward”.

There is no doubt about the potentiality of Khas land as a sustainable means to ensure food security among the landless especially while looking through resilience and gender lens. Khas land settlement policy is one of the progressive policies of the government however, the initiative has fallen short on its effective implementation. Therefore, SHOUHARDO III aims for rigorous lobbying to address this implementation gap and assist the local government as well as communities to bring a long lasting change in the life of landless poor and extreme poor people by facilitating the distribution of Khas lands.

Photo © Apel Pavel/CARE

Duty Station:

As a knowledge manager, I always have struggled to find out ways to capture learning. Now, ‘learning’ seems to become one of the most popular ‘buzzwords’ in what we call the ‘development-world’! What’s learning actually? According Argrys and Schon’s (1996) organizational learning theory, ‘learning’ can be of three types – single loop learning, double loop learning and deuterolearning.

Single loop learning often entails a response to an unexpected result. For example, I can recall a development project that aimed to ensure better hygiene and sanitation for women and girls in communities. The project intervention included building demo latrines with bright bulbs in common areas so that more women and girls can access these. Few weeks later, the bulbs were found broken and toilets were barely used. The final evaluation marked the project as a ‘failure’. An interesting finding was revealed in the evaluation process which suggested that in ‘conservative’ communities like these women and girls preferred using latrines mostly after dark and in isolation. Now, the frontline staff in this project did not do a good job in learning about the context and the people who designed it never really engaged themselves into deeper conversations with the community.

A single loop learning in this case would be for the people who directly implemented the project to identify the reasons behind so many broken bulbs or unused latrines. The next step for them would be to set up new toilets in areas that are ‘private’ and therefore preferred by the targeted group.

Double loop learning on the other hand involves some significant adjustment in the theory-in-use. If some people sitting in a well-furnished room in a big city have been deciding that better hygiene and sanitation can only be ensured by building more toilets with lights in common areas, it’s high time to change this! Double loop learning here would require the implementers to communicate to the design/strategic team to correct the course of implementation or change the project design if requires in a way in which the intention will be fulfilled and the community will be benefitted. Finally, deuterolearning refers to the improvement of the learning system itself. The people in the design or strategic team were taught to think in a particular way. There are structural flaws that generated a utopian understanding or just the attitude of creating a ‘magic bullet’ that will solve every problem. Questioning the structure and the learning system continuously will lead to ways of improving deuterolearning. It is not merely about – ‘what to learn’ rather the focus is exclusively on ‘how to learn’.

My suggestion? Let us keep our minds open to new knowledge, changes and realities. In a competitive world like ours, we cannot risk getting lost in adamant beliefs and attitudes.