Bangladesh was the last of the three pilot programmes to be set up, with the work on training and manual development taking place in March 1994. Over a four week period a team of seven people (two ACTIONAID staff from Bhola, two from Jamalpur, two from Tikkapara and one from AAUK) developed the Bhola manual. The programme was designed exclusively for women and was targeted at women who were already organised into the shomitis (savings and credit groups).
The objectives of the programme were:
The manual included a strong focus on Savings and Credit, including details of the Savings and Credit pass book, preference ranking on loan use, projections on loans, an intra-household decision making matrix, units about the Shomiti itself and a broad range of Units on health:
The initial manual was written in English with key words in Bengali. This was then translated and printed in Bengali in April/May. During this time 75 visual cards were also produced by an artist following a visit to Bhola. In May ten shomitis for inclusion within the initial project were selected.
Facilitators were selected at the same time. All facilitators were women and were local to the community where they teach. Most were young and had an education level of higher secondary (about 11 years education) - which is higher than the average education level of facilitators in El Salvador and Uganda. Three of the facilitators in Bhola were married.
The facilitators were given ten days initial training in June. The literacy circles were opened in early July. The sum of 650 taka a month was paid to facilitators as an honorarium. All facilitators attended ongoing exchange/ training workshops every fortnight. Supervision and field support was also provided.
The REFLECT literacy centres started with an average of 15 participants, mostly women from the local Shomiti (though in some villages other women also joined). The one or two Shomiti members who were already literate did not join. Most REFLECT circles chose to meet in the afternoons, often from 4-6pm, though this has varied with the seasons and some circles shifted their classes to earlier in the afternoon. In one case a circle chose to meet from 7-9am. Almost all circles committed themselves to meet six days a week and have maintained this momentum.
The circles rarely had a sheltered meeting place. The norm was for women to meet in the compound of one of their homesteads, laying rush mats on the floor and sitting. Other than the facilitator's manuals and the visual cards, the only equipment was a blackboard with chalk, learners notebooks and pencils, and lots of large sheets of paper with felt tip pens for drawing.
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