Sultana Ashrafee, Sonia (2009). "Self- Help group: A vehicle of poor for power and participation " Paper presented at the 6th annual conference of the HDCA, 10-12 September 2009, Lima, Peru.
At the paradigm of multi-dimensional poverty context, it is wiser to accept the truth that national economic growth alone cannot prevent the growth of mass poverty. In fact a process of alarming socio-economic polarization and the deepening of social cleavages in both urban and rural areas are evident as the one sided emphasis on economic achievement by national policy-makers has set in motion. Since the rural poor have become too numerous to be helped from outside, “self-help”1 has emerged as a new paradigm for combating rural poverty, and promotion of such initiatives have became one of the main priorities for local and international NGOs in developing countries. This paper describes the findings of a study, conducted during December 2006 to February 2007, on ActionAid Bangladesh (AAB) supported self-help groups (SHG). AAB is a nationally led international NGO working in more than 35 districts of Bangladesh through partnership with around 90 community-based local and national organizations. AAB realizes poverty as a systematic problem. Most often the poor lack livelihood skills, they have little or no land and other productive asset; their access to natural resources and public services are very limited; most international and national polices are encroaching the public and natural spaces for them; and poor people are constantly either evicted or thrown out of the environment. Furthermore since poor people are in most cases, either live in place that are poor area or are part of a special group, whatever income that they have, are spent mainly on protecting their lives; in other words they and their families are more prone than others to both man and nature made disasters. Thus to ensure secured livelihood for the poor and marginalized, it is verily needed to enhance their livelihood skills, create access to natural resources and public services, raise voice to modify or establish pro-poor policies. At this juncture, AAB provides financial and technical supports to its rural and urban partner organizations (POs) for implementing poverty alleviation programmes, particularly through SHGs. AAB aims to build and strengthen poor people’s organizations as a model of good governance and democratic practice to ensure participation and transparency at every stage. Basically, the study documents the various approaches, processes and activities that the POs followed, assesses the prospects and challenges of different models and identifies best practices to work with the hardcore poor people of Bangladesh.