Development Initiative Group of Northeastern Indigenous Talents of Youth (DIGNITY) PROJECT

Health awareness session at community levelECDO is also implementing Development Initiative for the Group of Northeastern Indigenous Talents of Youth (DIGNITY) project with support from Action Aid Bangladesh since 2006. Under this project ECDO organized series of group discussions with women and adolescents in its project area.

The main objective of the project is to:

  • Organize workshops on Child and Reproductive Health,
  • Traditional Birth Attendance (TBA) Training
  • Organize group discussion on HIV/AIDS and Child nutrition.
  • Awareness building for Education and Birth registration

Civil Surgeon is providing TBA kitbox after training session as a chief guestIndigenous people of Northeast Bangladesh are not sensitized on the above issues and there is need to disseminate information on these topics. Without birth registration the indigenous people may be deprived from a total of 16 government facilities such as school enrollment and government service jobs. In the area of nutrition ECDO is helping the indigenous people to make them understand that there are cheaper vegetables that are available locally which are good for their health. Action Aid focal person talking with project participantsThe proper ways of hygiene are taught to the community people by ECDO, as well as this organization stressing the need for check-ups for pregnant mothers and offering suggestions on the government and visiting private health centers closer to their residence to increase their access to health facilities. ECDO has also given training on TBA to 25 women from different indigenous communities. These were women practicing child delivery, so the workshops were to add to their knowledge and skills. Information Education and Communication (IEC) materials like posters and leaflets on reproductive health and nutrition have also been disseminated to different indigenous communities in their own mother language.

ECDO Organized Training on Indigenous People’s Rights

ECDO organized two training sessions on indigenous people’s rights. RIGHTS training at Jaintapur Upozella, SylhetIndigenous peoples from different areas could get opportunity to receive this training in their respective villages. The trainings were two days long and had a total of 52 participants, 35 men and 17 women.

The aim of the training was to sensitize Indigenous Peoples about their rights recognized by the National Constitution of Bangladesh, the UN Convention on Human Rights and other UN treaties and conventions related to Indigenous Peoples rights. RIGHTS training at Goainghat Upozella, SylhetECDO organized these trainings so that as citizens of an independent country, indigenous peoples can enjoy all the rights recognized by national and international agencies. Furthermore, ECDO’s endeavor is to make the indigenous peoples understand the different duties and responsibilities of local government officers, so as to increase indigenous people’s access to local government institutions.  Resource persons from different organizations working on human rights and social activists were also present as facilitators of the training session. After getting this training, the participants became more conscious about their rights and the possible steps to be under taken once their rights are violated.

ECDO is implementing these activities under AGU Project at three indigenous people’s concentrated Upozellas under Sylhet district, Bangladesh.

ECDO Organizes Two Upozella Level Consultative Meetings in Sylhet District, Bangladesh

ECDO organized two consultative meetings on Indigenous Peoples Issues for Anagrasar Gana Unnayan Project (Backward Community Development Project) supported by OXFAM GB. The venue and date of the Upozella meetings were as follows;

  • Jaintapur Upozella Conference Hall, Jaintapur 16th June, 2008 &
  • Goainghat Upozella Conference Hall, Goainghat on the 29th Oct, 2008

Upozella consultative meeting at Goainghat Upozella, SylhetThe meetings were presided over by Mr. Zillur Rahaman Chowdhury, Upozella Nirbahi Officer of Jaintapur Upozella and Mr. A. K. M Tareq, Upozella Nirbahi Officer (UNO) of Goainghat Upazella. Mr. Lakshmikanta Singh Executive Director of ECDO was present as the moderator of both meetings. Sixty six leaders from different indigenous communities attended the meetings.

The aim of the meetings was to encourage indigenous peoples to share their problems with local government officials and to introduce them with local government offices and their duties and responsibilities.

The rationale behind organizing these consultative meetings was to bridge the gap between the indigenous people and the local government. ECDO realized that the local government plays a major role in the lives of the indigenous people and the indigenous people though have the right to address their issues to the Upozella administration, they are not in the habit of doing so. The meetings are therefore a platform where they can raise their issues and the local government gets the chance to understand their problems. Discussions of the meeting help to make suggestions for their solution.

Among the problems highlighted for Jaintapur area were the issue of  land grabbing, lack of proper water and sanitation system, seizure of their traditional graveyard land by a group of  people belonging majority community due to their lack of proper registration, lack of intervention by the local government in their quest for betel production forcing them to use middlemen who buy the product at very low prices from their village, false accusation of criminal activities by some majority people leading to indigenous people to sell their land forcefully at very low prices, loss of indigenous peoples identity, culture and language as they don’t have any institution to nurture and promote their culture, high levels of unemployment among others.

For Goainghat the leaders raised the issues of regular thefts of Betel leaf and betel nut from their farms, the encroachment of their land by river during floods, thefts of stones used for construction work inside from their land by a group of majority community, illiteracy and low enrolment levels in schools, unemployment, overcharge at the ferry, bacterial infection of beetle leaf and nut etc.

An open forum was then held to discuss the issues raised. The moderator presented the synopsis of the discussion regarding the problems of indigenous peoples of the project area. The forum had full participation from all sections of the population from every part of the upozella. It also includes women. Mr. Lakshmikanta Singh then open the floor to the UNO’s to express their views and possible intervention on the issues raised. They tackled each issue explaining how they will delegate to the respective offices such as Upozilla Education Officer, Assistant Commissioner of Land and UP Project Implementation Officer. The UNO’s suggested the indigenous peoples to be quick to inform their Union Parishad (lowest layer of local self government) Chairmen when they have problems as it is their duty to work for the development of their constituents. They both acknowledged ECDO’s efforts in advocating indigenous community rights and thanked the organization for organizing an exceptional meeting.

Upozella consultative meeting at Jaintapur Upozella, SylhetIt should be mentioned that two Upozella project orientation meetings were organized from the very beginning of the project where it explained the activities of the AGU Project and the set budget to all its stakeholders such as the project participants and the local government. Creating credibility and understanding on the project as well as proving accountability and transparency were the main targets of that orientation meeting.

ECDO celebrates World Indigenous Day 2008

Venue: Sharoda Hall, Sylhet, Bangladesh
Dated: 9th August 2008
The Theme of this year’s World Indigenous Day was The Economic and Social Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Introduction:
Ethnic Community Development Organization (ECDO) is a non government & nonprofit voluntary development organization working with different ethnic and indigenous communities in Sylhet region, Bangladesh. As an organization dedicated to the welfare of disadvantaged indigenous communities, in 2005, it took an initiative to celebrate World Indigenous Day for the first time in Sylhet city with support from VSO Bangladesh. After the successful celebration in 2005, ECDO continues to celebrate World Indigenous Day with the active participation of different local indigenous and ethnic community based organizations. This year ECDO also celebrated this Day successfully.
A brief description of the celebration:

Inauguration session:
World Indigenous Day 2008The celebrations began with the raising of the national flag & singing the national anthem at 10 am, the day’s celebration was inaugurated by Prof. Abdul Aziz. Just after the inauguration, a colorful rally of about six hundred indigenous peoples walked around the city. They carried different placards & banners marking different indigenous rights.

Discussion session:
After the rally, all the participants went back to Sharoda auditorium where discussion and a cultural session was held. The discussion session was chaired by Mr. Gouranga Patra Chief Executive of Patro Sampradai Kollyan Parishad. Mr. J, N Biswas, Additional Commissioner Sylhet Division was present as the chief guest. Mr. Harunoor Rashid Khan, deputy commissioner- Sylhet, Md. Aftab Uddin acting General Secretary of Sylhet Press Club and Mr. Saikat Biswas Project Officer of OXFAM GB were present as Special Guests. The Welcome speech was given by Mr. Lakshmikanta Singh Executive Director of Ethnic Community Development Organization (ECDO). He said that ECDO has been organizing World Indigenous Day since 2005. Indigenous people in this region at present are facing many problems and to solve them we need to cooperate with one another and spread awareness. He requested the cooperation of local government and civil society in the economic and social development of the indigenous community.
IMG_6576The present situation of indigenous community of Sylhet region prepared by ECDO and PASKAP research paper was presented by Mr. Nabul Chism. He suggested 10 recommendations for the development of indigenous community. Then Adibashi leaders gave their speeches, Mr. Jubel Lusai Chairman of Tribal Welfare Association of Sylhet, Mr. Rano Bahadur Jute leader of Tea labor community, Mr. Rabindra Patra Chairman of Patra Adibashi Oykya Parishad, Ms. S. Rina Devi Chairperson, Bangladesh Manipuri Mahila Somity and Mr. Horendra Patra. In their speech they all vocalized the need for the indigenous to have their own language, literature, and culture and requested the government for a system where a quota of government services went to Indigenous people. They also appealed to government to stop the harassment of indigenous community by some mainstream community.
Special Guest Mr. Harunoor Rashid Khan said that government and non government organization should cooperate together to ensure the rights of indigenous people are upheld. He went on to add that the problem of CHT and plain land are separate but their heritage and culture are similar. Indigenous people have rights but they are not claiming their rights, the government on the other hand, is also not ensuring indigenous rights. According to him this issue would be resolved if indigenous leaders have links with the local government.
Chief Guest Mr. J, N Biswas said that indigenous communities are part of our society and it’s quite impossible to develop a country without them. Indigenous communities are being phased out by war, harassment, under development, so to remedy this situation not only government agencies but also non governmental organizations should play a more active role with them. He added that indigenous people’s culture and heritage are well known in foreign countries and present care taker government is working for the development of indigenous community. The situation of indigenous people has improved from the past. He emphasized the importance of education to overcome the many problems of indigenous people. He commended the program of World Indigenous Day and said that it has vastly improved his knowledge of indigenous people’s problems and given him suggestions on resolutions to explore. He ended his speech by pledging his support from the government side to solve the indigenous problems.
Discussion Session Chair Person Mr. Gorango Patra said that indigenous people’s problems have no limit.  At present, Indigenous people are harassed by some local mainstream community peoples. To ensure the fundamental rights of indigenous communities, he urged the cooperation of the government. He then closed the discussion session.

Cultural Program:
After lunch break there was an excellent cultural program organized and participated by the different indigenous communities in the area: – Khasi, Manipuri, Patro, Garo and Tea labor. Each community was given a chance to present their distinct culture on the stage. The audience was entertained by the lively program and their applause could be heard in all the surrounding neighborhoods. The program was presented and organized by Nongpoklai Sinha & Rabikiron Singha Project coordinator of ECDO.
ECDO would also like to recognize OXFAM GB and VSO Bangladesh, whose financial support made the day’s celebration possible. Without their financial support and cooperation it would have been impossible for ECDO to organize such a large scale program. So ECDO gratefully acknowledges these organizations for their unconditional support and assistance and ECDO believes that this cooperation will be continued and extended in future. It should be mentioned that ECDO also published a journal with the name of Annual Review of Ethnic Affairs Volume IV. On the occasion of this day celebration with support from VSO Bangladesh; the review contains a lot of indigenous related articles.

AGU Project Orientation Meeting held at Goainghat Upozilla, Sylhet

Ethnic Community Development Organization (ECDO) organized the ‘Anagrasar Ganaunnayan Project’ (AGUP) orientation program at Goainghat upozila on the 16th of May 2008. The Chief Guest was Upozilla Nirbahi Officer (UNO) of Goainghat, Mr. Zamil Ahmed. The orientation was presided by Mr. Lakshmikanta Singh, Executive Director of ECDO with the chairperson of Bangladesh Rural Development Board (BRDB) Goainghat Upozilla Mr. Shafiqur Rahman as the special guest.

The meeting began with an introductory speech by Miss. Nongpoklai Sinha ECDO’s Project Coordinator (DIGNITY). Mr. Rabi Kiron Singha, Project Coordinator (AGUP) then presented his paper on the details activities of AGU Project.

Project orientation meeting at Goainghat Upozilla, SylhetThe Chief Guest Mr. Zamil Ahmed delivered his speech on the importance of education for the indigenous people, as well as the need to ensure that their land rights are upheld for their development. Stressing on the importance of land rights for the indigenous peoples, he noted that there was no printed or published inheritance law for the indigenous people but there are many land related cases for the indigenous people which have been intentionally kept aside because it is a very sensitive issue and they don’t have a source of reference. He therefore, requested ECDO to take the initiative to publish inheritance laws for all the indigenous communities of this region.

An open discussion followed with the issue of land grabbing from mainstream community taking precedence. The headman of Lama Punjee Mr. Richon Kongwang said that this occurred because the indigenous people lacked land documentation. Mr. Zamil Ahmed said that various trainings, workshops and meetings should be organized with the Upozila Assistant Commissioner (Land) so as to ensure his assistance. Other participants brought up the issue of health. The children, women and elder men are suffering a lot of due to lack of health service facilities in their punjee (villages) and have to travel over 70 kms to receive better health facility from the District Hospital. This is because of the lack of proper communication infrastructure from the punjee to district headquarters.

Mr. Lakshmikanta then made his speech adding that ECDO is committed to work for the development of indigenous communities and that ECDO will work towards ensuring the solution of the issues raised in the meeting. Mr. Lakshmikanta then closed the meeting with a special thank you to chief guest Mr. Zamil Ahmed for taking time from his busy schedule to attend the Project Orientation Meeting and giving lots of suggestions and recommendations. He also thanked the participants from the civil society, journalists and the indigenous people for attending and making the meeting a success.