One leader, standing up for fair governance, helps his community find its voice and challenge the corruption threatening their futures.
The mango farmers of Gobratala, Bangladesh were being exploited. There was a corrupt municipal committee that consistently overcharged for water, but the farmers had no way of fighting back.
Then, one young leader took a stand, rallying his community to demand they be heard. “As a farming village, water is our lifeblood,” said Ariful Islam. “The Water Committee had no term limits and wouldn’t accept new members. Our community had no voice.”
Ariful learned about the importance of fair and open elections during his training with Counterpart’s Leadership Development Program. He formed a group of community members who were also concerned about the Water Committee. The group met with local officials and pushed for a public election to be held so that the people of Gobratala could choose their Water Committee members. The officials listened.
The next step was raising awareness about the election and teaching community members about how the election could make their voices heard. Ariful’s community group spread the word by chatting with people at tea stands and social events. On Election Day, much of the community cast their vote, including many women and youth.
“We established a democratic system,” says Ariful. “Now the Committee is more honest because they know they are accountable to the people.” By mobilizing his community to exercise their civic rights, Ariful helped his family and neighbors overcome a challenge that threatened their livelihoods.
Today, the Water Committee gives farmers receipts for all purchases so they cannot charge them again later. The Committee also now allows farmers to buy water on credit, helping farmers handle periods of drought by irrigating their crops when they need to and paying for the water with the profits from a healthy harvest. Most importantly, any adult in the community is now welcome to run for a position on the Water Committee – a Committee now elected by the people.
Program: Leadership Development Program (LDP)
Funded By: United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
Partners: Bangladesh Ministry of Youth and Sports
This story is a part of our #LeadMore series, recognizing our local partners and community leaders.