Reaching the Unreached 

CMES has been working with disadvantaged adolescents since 1978 with a vision to empower them both socially and economically through technical skills development in 12 different rural areas of Bangladesh covering 10 districts, 15 Upzillas, 24 Union and166 villages. Awareness and skills practices that help to bring useful technologies within the grip of disadvantaged rural people for their empowerment is the major concern of CMES. The adolescent girls and women who are doubly disadvantaged and exploited in the traditional society are still subject to discriminations and repressions, thus having to strive hard for equal opportunities.

The context
The unequal power relations between genders are one of the most important causes of social and economic instability. CMES has experienced and analyzed the problems of adolescents directly while conducting its livelihood skills based alternative education & training program for adolescents since 1981. So in the year of 1991 CMES took up the Adolescent Girls Program (AGP) with an innovative approach. The aim of the program is to empower the girls by giving back to them their adolescence and by letting them develop themselves on an equal footing with the boys. The program gives emphasis as much on actions implemented by themselves as on creating the awareness of the problems.

CMES has established partnership with Commonwealth of Learning (COL), (Vancouver, Canada) through a project on Reaching the Unreached (RtU) from  18 February 2019 to 18 February 2021. COL is an intergovernmental organization created by Commonwealth Heads of Government to promote the development and sharing of open learning and distance education knowledge, resources and technologies.

The objectives of the project

  • Technical & Vocational Education and Training for economic empowerment through either jobs or self-employment
  • Entrepreneurship development of women and girls
  • Establishment of online business
  • To empower women & girls to start their own mobile application development business / enterprise.
  • Capacity development of W&G regarding decision making, family planning, leadership and other strategic life choices.
  • Training for the boys and men on gender equality
  • Community and family engagement to derive support for the women’s empowerment.
  • Integration of RtU project in the government’s relevant policy and annual development plan.

 Project Target Groups:

  • Direct target groups
    Total 12,000 direct target groups Disadvantaged, marginalized rural women, girls and boys are the direct target groups. Among them 7200 girls (age 12-18), 4,800 women (age 19-35), and 1200 boys & Men (age 19-30).

They will be organized into gender associations of 60 members around 40 of whom will be girls, 20 women. Men & boys groups 72 such association in 12 units. All associations in one area will work together in a unit and will be managed together by the project.

  • Indirect Target Groups

Total 1,40,840 indirect target groups
The indirect target groups will be brought into the project not only to be the receiving and of the advocacies and campaigns but also will take part in the program as an active partner and get gender empowered themselves.

Technical Skills Training for Income Generation
Participants receive skills training on Fashion Garments, Computer, Solar LED, Mobile servicing and Vermicompost, in 12 units for empowerment. These skills provide them opportunity to earn and become economically self-reliant; to develop self-esteem, self-confidence and leadership quality. They are enabled to continue their education & training to be considered as an asset not liabilities. They become empowered enough to delay their marriage and become the role model in the society. 

Online Business Communications training:
Participants will acquire business communication knowledge and skills, which will emphasize the participants’ participation in the work place.

W&Gs will be trained on the following issues:

  • Communication skills consist of verbal, non-verbal and visual skills.
  • Business communication which involves constant flow of information about their market, business.
  • Feedback is integral of their everyday business.
  • Communication in their work place is a fundamental element.
  • Managing external and customers relations or learning to communicate.
  • Participants will acquire business communication knowledge and skills, which will emphasize the participants’ participation in the work place.

Promoting Employment for the Girls
CMES focuses very keenly on the employability and employment of the girls after they finish their training. Under RtU,COL project CMES has adopted a very comprehensive and holistic mechanism and strategy to facilitate their employment both self- employment and job. During Skills & Awareness training girls are motivated to be economically empowered through engaging themselves in employment & self-employment.

Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between CMES and Enterprises/ Industries:
MoUs have been signed between CMES and enterprises on different sectors like, fashion garments, computer, Solar LED, Mobile servicing, vermi-compost etc. Local job/employment fairs are held in each unit where local employers and the girls & women participate, so that immediately after the training is finished the girls are employed in those enterprises as per the contract of MoU. 120 MoUs have already been signed between CMES and enterprises. The training provided by RtU, COL project through CMES has a high market demand as the training trade and module have been designed in line of the National Skills Development Policy and TVET policy standard.

The girls, who are interested to be self-employed and want to start their own business, get linked with CMES’s Microfinance institutions. The girls get loan as start -up capital (minimum BDT 5,000) so that they can start their own business.

Post-training Up-skilling
CMES also provides from time to time up-gradation and business training to the girls who are already in the job or business and feel that they need added training to fill up the skills gap, for up-gradation training, to own business for microfinance support, and Industrial enterprise.

Social Actions
Girls & Women implement various social actions. They have the commitment to protest against all unjust practices like child early and forced marriages, dowry; marriage without registration, eve teasing, HiV/Aids, human rights, reproductive health and rights, etc. They also undertake actions against gender discrimination, all kinds of exploitation, violation of rights, and repression in the community.

Community Support
The Local Support Group (LSG) is the committee of local community who support the program objectives and strategies of CMES-COL’s RtU & Gender Empowerment Program. The influential and enthusiastic members of the community who appreciate and support the aims and activity of Girls Inspire and RtU program  are the members of LSG. Members of local government, Chairman, Imam, Kazi, businessmen, teachers and others like them are welcome, and so are the motivated social workers- young and old. The Change Makers (CM) are the more active members of the group to ensure the support of the local community.  

Men and boys group
Men and boys are empowered to raise their voices for ending social norms which disadvantage women and girls

  • Develop a training program for men and boys on gender equality. They engage as complement to empowering Women & Girls. In the course critical concept –masculinity, patriarchy and inter sectionalitly include to analyses.
  • Course discusses the relationship between gender capacity, sustainability development and human rights.
  • Through case studies the participants will look at how they can use these key concepts to transfer gender relations and overcome gender inequalities faced by women & men.

Participants will think critically about how men and boys act as change agents and target groups in realising gender equality and gender justice for all. 

Family working group
A total of 72 groups have been formed with 6 groups in each unit, taking parents and guardians of the girls and young women who participate in the implementation of the program. 144 meetings have been organized with parents and guardians taking each group in 2 months. 

The LSG / CM are the link with the local people in order to make them aware about the ideal and aim of the program. There are LSG/CM in each unit which comprises of enthusiastic individuals from the community to ensure local support for the Girls Inspire & RtU program.   

In the surrounding working area of every unit the LSG and CWC members participate regularly for the activation and implementation of the program. Besides supporting the program LSG and CWC play an important role in providing space, instruments, materials, security and other support to the program. The LSG and CWC members meet once in every month to review their activities and to sketch out their future plan of action. They also support to form an important advocacy group in the community in implementing the program.

Awareness Training Session and Social Action Campaign
Both awareness and actions are the part and parcel of Girls Inspire, RtU program. Attaining competency from the awareness training session, girls & women fight against all kinds of discriminations, abuses, violence, child early & forced marriage. They develop leadership skills, personality development, gender equality, human rights etc. Real life Social Actions (SA) with a changed mindset as well as awareness raising activities on socio economic empowerment are the essence of this program. Trained Girls & Women thus get empowered and take up advocacies and social actions. They organize Court-Yard meeting, Girls Travelling Troupe (GTT) performance, Interactive Popular Theatre (IPT), Mobile van exhibition, rallies etc. to promote & implement awareness training & social action. They become capable to assert their rights and opinions. Through social actions girls & women resist early & forced marriage, dowry etc.

The program arranges seminars, workshops, meetings, dissemination, advocacy and social mobilization, Local Support Groups (LSG), Girls Travelling Troupes (GTT), including ODL facility, rally, massive campaign through mobile van, and exhibitions. Community, local elites, influential people, local govt. law enforcement agencies, employers, Kazi, Imams, match makers also support to disseminate the message of RTU program, child rights, human rights reproductive health rights, HIV/AIDS etc. The program provides life skill education, decision making power, problem solving social skills, communication, proper use of resources, leadership, team work, self-esteem, self-confidence, diseases prevention etc.

Open and Distance Learning (ODL) as a Tool for the Empowerment of the Girls
To promote skills and awareness training for the girls through the use and adoption of ODL approach, CMES is taking the technology to the remote areas of Bangladesh where people, mainly the girls, are deprived of the facility, to be both socially and economically empowered.

ODL is ensuring gender empowerment through skills and awareness training by promoting open access of the girls to the training by providing freedom of time, pace, place so that training remains open to everybody.

ODL activities under COL project in grass-root level

Providing skills training on fashion garments, computer and vermi-compost for income generation.
Providing cellphones and laptops and other accessories doing fluid survey and baseline survey.
Providing internet service (Modem) for promoting online learning about skills and awareness training

Communication: a Pre-requisite for Successful Project Implementation
An implementing RtU project CMES and COL maintains a very strongly connected communication through the use of modern ICT based communication tools. The use of such tools has conquered the spatial gap between COL and CMES in a very significant way. They have made the distance sharing and learning of ideas a very effective and efficient tool in implementing the project.