ALO has grown progressively over the last fifteen years and now has approximately 83 full time staff. For effectiveness and efficiency in its service delivery to its constituency, the organization recently moved from a project based approach to development a program based approach to development. This means that ALO will be more focused and able to develop specialized skills and expertise. ALO has decided to focus its efforts in five main program areas: a) Building sustainable Livelihood, b) Promotion of Inclusive Governance, c) Access to Entitlement Rights, Health, Education and other Services, d) Protection and Promotion of Culture and Identity, e) Ensure Gender Justice
Whereas there may be more than one project in a particular program area, all projects will work towards achieving the same aims and strategic objectives. This holistic integrated program approach has greater benefits than the traditional scattered approach adapted in the past.
Our work is currently focused in the following key strategic areas:
- Building Sustainable Livelihood
Building ‘Sustainable Livelihood’ is a long term goal and involves various types and different level of activities. This is about the protection, use and generation of mainly four types of resources: (a) Natural Resources; (b) Physical Resources; (c) Financial Resources and (c) Social resources.
Natural Resource includes, land, forests, water bodies, rivers, springs, wild and domestic animals and natural energy sources like sun and wind. There is a need to identify all the available resources within the reach of the community and in the area. There are good practices, such as Jum cultivation and community based forest protection program. To enhance the natural resource base, there should be a detailed plan on natural resource management and sustainable use of the natural resources. There are technological, social, political and legal challenges regarding the ownership, use and management of natural resources. Communities have to be empowered to use and manage the natural resources by choosing appropriate technology, legal rights and sustainable production and consumption system.
ALO has already been working on agriculture technologies and practices that protect the soil and water resources, reduce farming costs, and increase farm income through the introduction of low external input agricultural production, integrated farming systems, and crop diversification. However, there should be a comprehensive plan for natural resource development.
Physical Resource includes all types of physical infrastructure made either by state or community and belongs to public or private. These are houses, roads, schools, community centers and other infrastructures crucial for communication and healthy living. Protection, use and development of physical resources needs detail planning and in cases policy support. For instance, improvement of rural housing needs government policy for soft and long term loan for village dwellers.
Financial Resource includes cash income from job/work and another is from sale of products from agriculture and cottage industries. Financial resource is an important livelihood building block, namely the availability of cash or equivalent, which enables people to adopt different livelihood strategies. ALO has already been working on micro/social enterprise development and alternative livelihood schemes (off-farm economic activities) that are suitable to the local culture, skills and resources available in the CHT. ALO also facilitates savings promotion, credit delivery for group projects, micro-finance schemes and development of credit groups, as economic empowerment process for financial resource management.
It is crucial to identify the Indigenous people’s productive knowledge and skills as a kind of financial resource, ignored in many cases. Building knowledge centers and organizing skills training is a part of working towards improved financial resources.
Social Resource includes the solidarity, linkage and networks within and outside of the community. Access to state resources which is constitutionally entitled is easily possible if the social resources are maintained and promoted. There is a need to device program to enhance the social capital.
Building sustainable livelihood involves a wide range of program activities, needs to be designed by considering the available resources, legal options and capacity of the community.
- ii) Promotion of Inclusive Governance
The issue of ‘Governance’ of CHT is different compare to the other parts of Bangladesh. There are state administrative system and customary self-governance system. There are several governance structures: at the village level the customary ‘Headman – Karbari’, at the union level Union-Parishad, at the Upazila level Upazila parishad, at district level there is Hill District Council and Deputy Commissioners office, and there is Regional Council. There are three Circle Chiefs at the region and also CHT ministry at national level.
Promotion of Inclusive Governance involves various levels of interventions with different objectives and program design. However, defining expected outcome from various levels needs a separate exercise.
Strengthening the customary self-governing system (Headman-Karbari) is crucial to intervene all the other level. Strengthen customary self-governance system involves reforming the governance structure, especially to make it congruent with IP values (consensus, direct democratic, participation of all members of the community) and incorporation of women leaders. There is a need to capacity building of both the existing leaders as well as the capacity of community members so that they can participate with equal capability.
Strengthening Local Democracy is to assist peoples representative at Union Parishadand Upazila level for development planning and accountability of the duty bearers. The PSP process at community level could ensure the participatory and sustainable development plans the local government representatives should peruse. At present the local development plan and budget is decided by individuals or groups have different vested interests (construction business etc.), therefore, peoples level planning is crucial task for development of local democracy.
Conflict Transformation and Building Peace and Harmony is a concern of governance. Given the legal framework within which the NGOs are functioning and considering the political clout due to size and social influence of a particular development organization, working on communal and politically motivated violence is very challenging.
However, there are non-violent options and theories such as ‘Conflict Transformation’ should be considered for building awareness on the important of peace and the economic and social cost of using violent means to solve conflict which is possible to address without violence.
iii) Access to Entitlement Rights: Health, Education and other Services
Access to education, health and clean environment is entitled to all citizens of Bangladesh, as fundamental principles of the constitution.
Various networks and campaigns at national level are working in favor of achieving different rights. There are civil society organizations focusing on these rights and mechanisms like ‘School Management Committees’ at the grass roots level. However, there are context specific problems to get access to entitled services. In some context the delivery system itself is ineffective and in some cases there are problems with available resources. Besides of entitled rights it is only the designed services people may get access but may not relevant to their needs. For instance, the education designed for Bengali children may not appropriate for Indigenous children. Therefore, there is a need to define rights as well as improved and relevant services.
Capacity enhancement and Institutional strengthening of the community people is vital for advocacy and access to rights. The community organization has to be capable to plan and design the advocacy agenda and strategy to raise demands for their rights.
Innovation and model building is required based on societal vision. Concerning, education and health, it is not only to demand the existing available services but needs to be develop appropriate policies and seeking new types of services based on peoples aspirations. There could be development of models for education and health services at village level and demanding financial and policy support from the duty bearers. For example protection and promotion of indigenous knowledge for treatment with herbal plants and disease prevention should be raised and not only asking for modern medicine.
- Protection and Promotion of Culture and Identity
Protection and promotion of cultural identity, diversity and pluralism is an internationally recognized right in line with universal declaration of Human Rights. 2 November 2001, UNESCO adopted the “Declaration on Cultural Diversity” and Bangladesh is one of the signatories’ member-states among 117 (since 2005), therefore legally binding for protecting and promotion of cultural diversity and pluralism. It is also a recognized instrument “as a factor in development” (Article 3).
The protection and promotion of Indigenous culture involves both grass roots level as well as policy level interventions.
Defining Indigenous culture is a primary challenge, needs clarity among the Indigenous and non-indigenous people. It is typical about Indigenous culture that only dress and dance are considered main features and co- modification of that part of cultural forms. There is a need to define and redefine the content (values) of the culture and various forms or expressions. Clarity on culture is crucial.
Protection of Cultural diversity is not only to resistance against all types of cultural aggression in a non-violent way but also by taking proactive initiatives, for instance, collection, documentation and awareness raising on cultural values and practices.
Innovation and exchange of own culture with other is for both protection and promotion of cultural diversity and pluralism. To be relevant with the changed time and space there is a need to innovate new forms and process of sharing with other community. It is easy with dress, food, literature, music etc. nevertheless sharing certain cultural values which has universal implications, for example, in case of environmental protection the indigenous culture of community forestry or labor sharing (maleya).
Integration of culture with development activities is at present a known strategy for the protection and promotion of cultural diversity. There should be well defined concept of cultural integration with ongoing development activities, design for action, specific plan and budget.
- Ensure Gender Justice
Ensure gender justice is to achieve a vision of society where women and men are living in a mutually respectful and caring condition. Achieving the long term goal of ‘ensure gender justice’ involves various types and various levels of activities. It needs policy change (National Women Policy), removing patriarchal values and practices within the society among both women and men, create awareness and ensure positions for women in decision making bodies. There are urgent tasks to provide legal, economic and psychological support to the victims or survivors of the gender based violence and at the same time transforming the patriarchal structures of masculine hegemony and promoting women participation in all spheres of social and political life.
Stop Gender Based Violence, especially intervening violence against women should be a priority. The survivor needs various supports such as legal, psychological and in cases economic. The rescue and medical service is another urgent support they need. It is crucial to work on ‘preventions‘ so that violence is not occurs. It may be relevant to mention that gender based violence is not only against women or girl children but also against boys. In our culture sexual violence against boys are not yet openly recognized as gender based violence.
Raise Gender Awareness on gender role and stereotype, hegemonic masculinity and the discrimination and deprivation of women from social and legal rights are important. There should be awareness raising sessions for both women and men. Without engaging men against patriarchal oppression and discrimination it would be impossible to achieve gender justice.
Ensure participation of women in decisions that effects their life is a long term goal could be achieved after a level of awareness among the community. There are several factors to ensure participation; one is the capacity of excluded to be able to participate and another is opportunity and space for participation created by the power elite, primarily men. Systematic work is needed to ensure the conscious and meaningful participation in decision making structures, such as committees and elected local government bodies.
Campaign for Women Rights is an ongoing activity in Bangladesh which includes reproductive rights, right to property, education and work etc. Bangladesh has significant constitutional provision and statutory laws guaranteeing human and fundamental rights and women’s equal rights. However, poor quality of governance and non-implementation of these national policies have undermined the constitutional pledges.
However, it is crucial to conceptualize the rights of Indigenous Women, not isolated but in relation to Bangladesh constitution as well as considering the customary rights of indigenous women as an Indigenous person. One of the issues is indigenous property rights as there is community rights and individual rights.
Who We Work With
We work to improve the lives and livelihoods of those most in need of our support, regardless of ethnicity and religion. We work with disadvantaged and marginalized groups, including jhum cultivators, landless and marginal farmers, unemployed youth, women, and day laborers.
In implementing our activities, ALO believes in working together with individuals, networks and organizations that share our vision and values. We have experience of working with a range of local, national and international NGOs and donor organizations, as well as government bodies and officials.
Where We Work
We are based in Khagrachari District, and currently work in all Upazilas of Khagrachari Hill District. We have experiences working throughout Khagrachari, and the other two districts of the CHT.