CITIZENS’ RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS
We ensure that people in remote communities are aware of their civic rights and obligations.
Helping the poor understand their rights
The people of the char communities often do not know their rights (such as the right to a primary school education, to medical care, to police protection, to legal support….). Frequently people in these remote areas cannot read and write making it hard for them to access accurate information. Friendship helps the marginalised overcome such obstacles by offering them support and guidance to ensure they benefit from their basic rights. At the same time, we emphasise the obligations which accompany these rights (such as the obligation to comply with the law).
Examples of topics we address
We hold open discussions with community groups to help pinpoint any questions members might have as well as help increase awareness of their rights and moral responsibilities. These discussions also enable us to challenge and change certain deeply rooted social attitudes and practices within these remote communities.
Role and responsibility of government
We inform the marginalised of the various governmental bodies, the government’s role and responsibility towards its citizens.
Elections and elected representatives
We ensure char dwellers are aware of the various political parties, civil groups, elected representatives (such as Friendship’s Civil Society Groups) and the electoral processes both on a national and local level.
We work with our trained paralegals and local lawyers to inform and protect the women of the chars against discrimination and domestic violence.
Dowry (the practice of demanding property or money from a bride’s family) is still deeply-rooted in char society, despite being forbidden by law. We ensure members of the community are aware of dowry laws to prevent its occurrence.
We create awareness amongst char dwellers of the negative effects of child marriage. We counsel families, hold group meetings and inform citizens of the legal consequences.
When a divorce takes place, we help ensure that the woman and the man are treated equally. We provide assistance and legal information and help mediate in cases which can be resolved through mutual understanding.
Certain moral values (such as freedom, justice, honesty, respect and dignity) form the core of Friendship’s ethos. We explore these topics during gatherings with community members. This familiarises citizens with these common positive values and helps emphasize that they have responsibilities to the community as well as rights.
Subsidies for farmers
We organize training sessions to ensure farmers are aware of the government resources available to them, such as subsidies for seeds, animal vaccine and fertilizer. We also ensure they know which relevant government department personnel to contact to make these subsidies more easily accessible.
Social safety net services
Bangladesh’s government implements a number of “public social safety net” programs to help the poorest (particularly women), such as the allocation of specific resources. We inform the ultra-poor of these resources and help them register with the appropriate authorities so they obtain the help and subsidies they are entitled to.
How we get the message across
We strive towards raising awareness of people’s rights. We distribute information to as many people as possible and answer questions from the community. Below are examples of how we achieve this.
Friendship Community Paralegals and Governance Aides
We have been able to offer remote communities access to paralegals to whom community members can address their questions. Our paralegals explain the basic rights, and describe the means for protecting and obtaining these rights. They also help resolve common justice problems that community members face on a day to day basis.
Friendship Civil Society Groups (FCSG)
We have created Friendship Civil Society Groups, each individual group comprising 20 members, in each char in which we operate. They are responsible for disseminating information within their community, identifying issues faced by the community and assisting them in finding the best means of resolving them. They can be proactive on issues, for example by intervening to help prevent cases of child marriages, dowry or domestic violence.
Adult Learner Groups
We organize learning groups for adults. These open group discussions help increase awareness of char dwellers rights as well as identify any questions they might have. In addition, these discussions also enable us to challenge and change certain deeply rooted social attitudes and practices within these remote communities.
Inclusive Citizenship in school curricula
We teach our students from a young age about social rights, the legal system and access to legal support. We chose to insert it early on in our curriculum as children within these poor communities are unlikely to attend secondary school. We feel it is essential to equip them at an early age with at least a basic understanding of their rights and the judicial system.
Often the poor don’t have access to schooling and can’t read or write. It is therefore challenging to inform them of their rights. One successful means of raising awareness is via theatre shows. The enactment of taboo topics (child marriage, dowry, child labour, domestic violence…) conveys information and guidance in an entertaining manner. These shows are a highly engaging and are a powerful tool that help create an immediate and lasting positive impact.
Posters and billboards
Informative posters and billboards set up in prominent public places provide a powerful means of emphasizing key messages.
Think big, start small, begin now
Your donations will have a huge impact on the lives of those who need it most