Tackling Structural Issues

Empowerment with the aim of sustainably ending extreme poverty is a complex and lengthy process that, in the experience of NETZ, must reach beyond the participants’ door steps and villages. Extreme poverty derives to a large extend from structural problems which need to be addressed and tackled. In this context, the formed groups on village and municipal level play an important role. With the support of the project staff they gradually increase their capacities as institutional social force that claims access to relevant governmental extension services (e.g. agricultural-, veterinary- and health services) and asserts their rights on different levels.

In organized meetings with local authorities (see picture above), they learn how to collectively hold political decision makers and service providers accountable, which not only enhances their access to measures of vital importance to which they are entitled to (e.g. social safety net measures), but also ultimately contributes to good governance in the area. In this process, the project participants learn in several trainings step-by-step how to independently identify and tackle barriers to their own development which are often adverse socio-political structures rooted at the very core of the local power structure. Examples of these adverse structures and problems to be tackled include:

  • Corruption and nepotism within the local government institutions resulting in the discrimination and exclusion of eligible people from social safety net measures and other governmental services such as health care, education and agricultural support.
  • Illegal land grabbing often supported or organized by local individuals of influence depriving marginalized and extremely poor people from resources which in many cases constitute their entire livelihood. Opportunities to take legal action are often systematically limited for the affected people.
  • Feudalistic and exploitative relationships in the agricultural sector of rural Bangladesh, which are often supported by the local power structure. Un-remunerative jobs that are not recognized or protected by law, inadequate social protection and the lack of representation severely prevent poor and unskilled people to develop their economic and human potentials.

In these and other cases the self-help groups and federations come together, develop according strategies based on a participatory methodology and take concerted actions. 

However, extreme poverty also derives from factors which are outside of the sphere of influence of the self-help groups and federations. Thus, the efforts to tackle structural problems on village and municipal level are flanked by advocacy measures on the macro level. In cooperation with the German-based Bangladesh Forum, NETZ regularly organizes lobby talks with political decision makers in Bangladesh, Germany and on EU-level to bring the perspectives of the most marginalized into relevant policy-making processes.