Sustaining and Defending Underprivileged Women’s Rights in Bangladesh through Health Assistance Programs

Project location: BANGLADESH, Various locations
Project start date: May 2014 - Project end date: April 2017
Project number: 2014-003
Beneficiary: Associazione per Sewa


The aim of this project is to increase the financial support of Associazione per Sewa to Banchte Shekha, an organization in Bangladesh which Sewa has been working with since 2009.

Banchte Shekha, which in Bengalese means "Learn how to survive", is an national NGO which gives local support and work through various activities to 30.000 underprivileged women, widows, divorced, abandoned or simply struggling women. Banchte Shekha also has a program on Health care, on education, and on legal rights for women.

For 2013-2016, Associazione per Sewa has decided to focus on three of their projects, all aiming at improving women's conditions:
- Disable Center Project, expand capacity of the current Structure
- Breast Cancer Project: expand capacity of the current Structure
- Web Site Project: develop an on-line platform to sell handcraft products (mainly produce by rural women)

Associazione per Sewa is qualified to undertake successfully these three projects because it has secured a strong and very personal relationship with Banchte Shekha, a global Bengali NGO, for more than 7 years based on trust and respect. In addition, Sewa monitors very carefully the results gained by visiting them regularly every year.
In 2007, Associazione per Sewa started to work with Banchte Shekha by acquiring products, which were sold during the yearly fundraising event and by sending them back funds to finance social projects.
Banchte Shekha's leader and founder, Angela Gomez, won the Nobel Asian price "Ramon Magsaysay" in 1999. This extraordinary woman, educated as a Christian, has dedicated her life to defend the poorest Muslim women in Bangladesh.
She created "Banchte Shekha" in 1981 and then "BaSe" which is the non-profit fair trade organisation that coordinates, promotes and sells the handicraft products made by various women-producer groups. "BaSe" promotes all local traditions of art and craftwork.

Disable Center Project
In 2009, Associazione per Sewa started to finance directly a Rehabilitation Center for the disabled children. It proved to be very successful: thanks to the new equipment and to an additional physiotherapist, the Center was able to cure 270 children (originally 120). Because of the success, the Center started to cure adults as well.

Breast Cancer and Web-site projects
In 2013, Banchte Shekha asked Sewa to co-finance the development of two projects as they are facing increasing demand from local population. Sewa will monitor the results with the same competence and dedication demonstrated in the past.

The success of Banchte Shekha lays in the capillary local network they developed in the country: "BaSe" employs a total of over 10.000 workers (99% are women) organised in 18 producer groups, producing over 3.000 products, mostly in the south-west of the country.
Associazione per Sewa deeply believe that Banchte Shekha's mission perfectly matches the Nando Peretti Foundation's mission to support unprivileged community especially women, their wrights and their dignity. Defending the women's work and their legal rights consequently will improve, defend and support children's rights, education, health, and preserve local cultures and know-how, which is also the mission Associazione per Sewa has endorsed since its start.

In 2013 Sewa has selected three projects: 2 operative projects, Disabled Center Project and Breast Cancer Project, and one project aim to improve services, with the launch of a web-site to sell and promote local handcraft products.

Quick description of Disable Center Project:
Equipment of the existing physiotherapy facility adequately to the current higher level of demand by buying: assistance device, equipment, furniture's and fixtures
- Buying materials useful for physiotherapy, like bicycle, floor mats, wheel chair, muscle extensors ...
- Organizing a children space with toys
- Organizing an office and a waiting room to welcome more patients

Breast Cancer Center: 
In Bangladesh with a population approaching 150 million, only the privileged receive treatment for cancer. Barriers to cancer care come from poverty, mis-information and culture traditions and result in very poor health care for women. Less than 20% of Bangladeshi women who develop breast cancer get care in curable stages.
The breast problem clinic is held one day per week in private examination room to the Banchte Shekha's head office campus, Jessore. A trained female doctor and medical assistant attend each clinic, examining and keeping records of each woman who comes to the clinic. Women are provided advice and supportive care; those with more serious issues are referred to an affiliated doctor at Khulna Medical College. Regular advertising of the clinic is conducted and the local hospital and family planning clinic refer patients with breast problems to Banchte Shekha's Center.

From 2013 to 2016, the co-finance needed will cover the following costs:
- Medical staff (doctor and assistant)
- Patient's expenses
- Office facilities and monitoring

Website Project: 
The main purpose of this project is to develop an E-commerce website to promote the local producers and help them sell their products to a wider audience.

Banchte Shekha is the best and most efficient association to address the problem of the poorest (from women to their children or the outcast) as it is a small and very well capillary connected organization. Therefore it has been able to establish a strong local network and gain trust of the local population, especially amongst rural muslin women groups.
Regarding the Disable Center, since 2002 Banchte Shekha has shown its high capacity in facing the country's great problem of 12% of the population affected by disabilities of any kind, by organising a Consulting & Treatment Center. The Center offers a free daily medical assistance and physiotherapy. Since our commitment in 2009 up to now, the children treated have improved form 120/year to 270/year. The number of adults using the Center has also increased significantly.
The methodology used in the past has been successful and will be followed in the next years but to face the high demand, the resources have to be increased: new equipment required, more qualified staff and doctors as well. It requires additional investments, which Association per Sewa would like to support.
Regarding the Breast Cancer Project, the key of success lays in the local organization and methodology set up by Banchte Shekha:
- All medical staff of Banchte Shekha are female which allows direct and easy contact with these very poor, rural women worker (90%) without any harassment or embarrassment.
- A weekly visit for the patient
- Monthly information to develop awareness among every group age (from very young to very old women)
- Free treatments to the poorest (from meal expenses to conveyance or stay in hospital) as well as chemotherapy treatment at a very low cost
The Website Project is addressing the problem of very small, local and rural craftswomen by creating a E-commerce website to promote their hand crafts products:
- Developing and designing the website software
- Buying laptops for the office.

This project has received a grant from the Nando Peretti Foundation. It aims to achieve the following goals:
Disable Center Project: 
- increase the Center capacity to cure
- educate the mother/parents/guardians of the children about the prevention of disability and provide training on physiotherapy techniques
- help the general population to accept, respect, assist and welcome disabled people into their lives
Breast Cancer Center:  
- increase the Center capacity to +/- 1000 patients annually instead of 300/year today
- Create awareness about the breast cancer
- Develop a multi-disciplinary breast care center for consulting and advice
- Screening of breast problem
Web Site Project
- create more work opportunities for the 10.000 women producers by selling and marketing their products directly online and therefore generating income to their families
- raise awareness of disadvantaged producers' working conditions, 99% of them being women

Associazione per Sewa
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20121 Milano
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