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Step towards poverty alleviation

Published : Thursday, 13 June, 2019 at 12:00 AM  Count : 236
Farjana Jerin Nisha & Sumsun Naher

Poverty alleviation is regarded as one of the key indicators of the socio-economic development of a country. Because of the combined efforts of both the government and non-government sectors, Bangladesh has achieved outstanding development in poverty alleviation during the last few decades. Not only the rate of poverty is decreased, but also the incidence and depth of poverty has been reducing regularly. Because of effective implementation of different government and non-government development programmes, poverty rate declined 15.7 percentage points within a decade (40 per cent in 2005 reduced to 24.3 per cent in 2016). According to the 7th Five Year Plan (2016-20), it has been targeted to reduce poverty rate at 18.6 percent by 2020. Government and non-government sectors of Bangladesh take different initiatives to reduce poverty.
Maternity allowance is one of the effective initiatives of non-government sector. Maternity allowance is the recognition of motherhood and their existence. It is also one of the largest social investments in the form of a safety, a right and ultimately a poverty free Bangladesh. Maternal allowance is a social security program aimed at improving the health and nutrition of the poor mother and child, through a Conditional cash, product or supportive service will be provided for a period of 36 months from pregnancy.

This is to be noted here that the allowance will be applicable only for first and second time of pregnancies of which not less than 20-years of age for protecting early marriage. Maternity allowance is the gateway towards poverty alleviation. Through implementation of this project grassroots level staff of Health & Family Planning will be more effective on preventive guidance. This shall increase the mother and her family's self-dependent approach in our country.  DORP is the pioneer of Maternity Allowance (MA).

In a travelling seminar on Working Women and Maternity Protection held on 16th April 2005 organized by the Voluntary Health Services Society (VHSS), founder of Development Organisation of the Rural Poor (DORP) AHM Nouman proposed to introduce maternity allowance for poor and underprivileged mothers. At the eve of World Mother's Day, 8th May 2005, on Sunday DORP announced the investment to the womb of mother providing Maternity Allowance to the poor mother at a  seminar which appeared in different influential media. This project started by using own fund of DORP for MA ensures nutrition, women empowerment in family, mothers economic decision  making power, economical  social freedom, woman friendly family members supportive environment, protects child mortality, breast feeding, safe & accessible sanitation of mother as well as child.

After long dynamic discussion and advocacy with Bangladesh Government, MA program has been included in the budget of Bangladesh Government from 2007-2008 fiscal year Based on experiences with Maternity Allowance Program, and realizing the success of the program, DORP designed an integrated Social Safety Net Model named "Social Assistance Program for Non Asserters (SAPNA)", funded by AECID-Spain for implementing the program covered 892 pregnant and lactating poor mothers. Seeing & considering the success of SAPNA project, Directorate of Women & Child Affairs implemented the project according to DORP's design and proposal with the fund of Ministry of Women & Child Affairs during the period of 2014 to 2017 within 10 upazila of 10 districts with 700 mothers.

To accelerate the effort of poverty alleviation a 6 elements safety net package has been designed named SAPNA Model to cover for 20 years of a generation cantering MA supplemented by 5 essential basic services: (a) Health, Nutrition and birth control card, (b) Education and Culture card, (c) Housing and hygienic latrine, (d) Livelihood materials, (e) Savings and Development credit on need.

The objectives of maternity allowances are: (1) to find out an effective/result driven Mechanism to come out from the poverty trap through targeted mothers and their families for future healthy citizen of poverty free Bangladesh. (2) To carry out advocacy and lobby for increment of MA in the national budget to cover all poor deserving mothers under Social safety net coverage. (3) To build a system and strategy for timely and accurately distribution of MA within targeted mothers in country wide. (4) To design a sound and effective Monitoring and Evaluation System to assess success and resolve problems of SAPNA program for 20 years phase by phase Safety Net plan for poverty alleviation.

The SAPNA program is based on six pillars including Maternity allowance as the central given elements. Broadly it covers United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 1-6, 8, 16 and 17 no goals.

Maternity allowance (MA):
The Maternity Allowance refers to a monthly cash transfer BDT 800/-, (USD 4.43) given to mothers from the moment of conception (of first or at most second child). The cash allowances will ensure the mother's nutrition during pregnancy, increase birth care giving facilities and/or under supervision and therefore positively impacts on the maternal and neonatal health, improve social status of the mother. This provision covers the SDG's goal 1, 3 and 5.

Provision of health, nutrition and birth control card:
This card will create an opportunity and free access for getting health service especially reproductive health and MNH for the mother and children. The Ministry of Health & Family Planning is taking the initiative in this regard as the goal of the Government is to achieve and cover the goal of SDG. It covers the SDG's goal 2 and 3.

Provision of education and culture card:  This card, to be issued by Ministry of Education, will ensure that the child will be enrolled by age five and complete elementary and livelihood education at least  up to standard eight or beyond. The couple also gets livelihood education and basic literacy or continuing education under the non-formal education program of the Government. It covers the SDG's goal 4.

Provision of housing and sanitation:
Low cost durable housing with a sanitary latrine within an amount of BDT 30,000 (USD 379.75 plus) so that the family will have a habitable shelter. It could be accomplished under grant fund provision or at least under Housing Fund program of the Bangladesh Bank/ Ministry of Finance. The house will ensure the couple security, safety from normal monsoon calamities, confidence to start and enhance income program, increase social dignity and strength to come out from the vicious circle of poverty. It covers the SDG's goal 6.

Provision of livelihood development seed money/materials:

The support in cash or in kind incentive of BDT 30,000 (USD 379.75 plus) will allow poor families to undertake or enhance income generating activities for improving their livelihood status. Use the skill of livelihood training and experience the couple shall start income activities and increase their property and plan for their children's education health and wellbeing. It covers the SDG's goal 8.

Provision of individual savings and micro development support:
This will be provided under PKSFs direct patronage or by other credit providers. The approach shall have the access to credit for micro and small enterprise so that create employment opportunities for others. Savings shall safeguard their future and or any unwanted incidents. It covers the SDG's goal 8.

Farjana Jerin Nisha, MSS on Anthropology from Shahjalal University of Science & Technology, Sylhet. Sumsun Naher, Development & Gender Practitioner.

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