Organizing Rural Water Sanitation Programs In Bangladesh: Do The Methods Of The Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee Really Empower The People?
The effectiveness of participatory education in rural development by NGOs has come into question by many researchers and scholars. Participatory education involves facilitators listening to and learning from the needs of beneficiaries. Once needs are assessed, facilitators work together with beneficiaries to find solutions to problems in the community. Scholars and researchers protest that these participatory education methods used by NGOs are not socially empowering their beneficiaries. Social empowerment involves assisting people to realize their individual and collective sense of who they are and their place in the society and their political power so that they can make positive changes in their society. NGOs in Bangladesh and other countries have come under scrutiny for their inability to socially empower rural beneficiaries. A non-government organization known as the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) works with rural populations in Bangladesh. BRAC works to help alleviate poverty and empower rural populations through different programs such as microfinance and health programs. In addition, many of BRAC's programs address mitigating water sanitation issues in Bangladesh. BRAC uses participatory methods of teaching in their water sanitation programs to help build awareness of water issues in Bangladesh. These programs are supposed to offer beneficiaries a variety of different benefits such as health awareness. Another outcome of these programs, as stated by BRAC, is social empowerment. However, whether participants are in fact socially empowered by these participatory practices in water sanitation programs are in question. This research is framed by two major questions. First, are BRAC's participatory methods actually participatory in nature? Second, do BRAC's participatory methods lead to social empowerment for its beneficiaries? It is important that facilitators of these programs have a clear understanding of the effectiveness of their programs for social empowerment so that they can improve upon their teaching methods. This study uses qualitative synthesis to gather data on BRAC's organizational and teaching methods as well as case studies on BRAC's water sanitation practices. First, a systematic review of available material on BRAC's educational practices and water sanitation programs was conducted. This review yielded various source materials from BRAC including field studies and data-based reports. After the review, data were gathered for a qualitative synthesis. This synthesis describes the combined effects from all the studies gathered. Using these resources, the nature of these participatory practices is examined as well as their effect on social empowerment. These resources include four case studies and descriptive reports on BRAC's organizational and educational methods. The findings of this study reveal that the teaching and organizational methods of BRAC try to be participatory in nature. BRAC workers do in fact work with the beneficiaries to solve problems in the community. Yet some key components to the participatory approach are missing in their practice, such as allowing beneficiaries to tell their own stories during issue-based meetings. In addition, these practices do not seem to encourage any kind of social empowerment. In fact, there seems to be more emphasis on economic empowerment than social empowerment. Also, it appears that participatory practices are a way to control beneficiaries' behavior, instead of actually empowering them. This thesis recommends that BRAC needs to clearly define its goals for empowerment including social empowerment. If evaluation data are gathered by outside evaluators, as well as those who are BRAC staff members, these data, would be more robust in gaining new perspectives on how to improve the effectiveness of their programs. In addition, more research is needed to ascertain the meaning of social empowerment and participation in Bangladesh to help understand why BRAC facilitators practice as they do.
Dissertation or Thesis