DHAKA – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today celebrated the successful conclusion of the European Union (EU)-funded Food Security for the Ultra Poor (FSUP) project in a ceremony at Westin Hotel, Dhaka. The project, which began in January 2009 and concluded December 2012, supported 30,000 ultra-poor women to become entrepreneurs, raise their incomes and improve their own and their families’ food security.
At the ceremony WFP Representative Christa Räder was joined by Honourable State Minister of Women and Children Affairs Dr. Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, Ambassador and Head of Delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh William Hanna, and Executive Chairman of Power and Participation Research Centre (PPRC) Dr. Hossain Zillur Rahman.
The State Minister congratulated all those involved on the achievements of the project, drawing links between the approach used and her ministry’s own work. “The Vulnerable Group Development Programme, one of the largest social safety nets in the country, addresses the feminization of poverty through the exclusive targeting of ultra-poor women. With the assistance of WFP, we will formulate a new long-term strategy for pro-active poverty reduction, using experiences from promotional safety net projects, such as FSUP to assist in improving sustainability in graduation out of extreme poverty,” she said.
Participants in the FSUP project were provided with training in entrepreneurial skills, income generating activities, disaster preparedness, and nutrition. To put this knowledge to use, ultra-poor women in disaster-prone Pabna, Sirajganj, and Bogra districts received a 14,000 taka cash grant, and an additional 500 taka each month over two years to meet their basic family needs. This enabled them to secure three meals a day, invest in trade and other productive assets for both themselves and their husbands, and prioritise the education of their daughters and sons.
“You see a great deal of self-confidence which comes from people having self-respect, having some resources, and being respected by their communities,” said the Ambassador of the European Union, William Hanna, who met with participating women last October. “They are perhaps the most eloquent witnesses of how development assistance can help the very poorest people move out of poverty.”
At the end of the FSUP project, the average monthly income of participating women had increased five-fold, savings had more than quadrupled and household assets were tripled. The women’s families now consume a wider range of foods, including more animal products and fresh vegetables, reducing the likelihood of their children becoming undernourished.
“FSUP has proven to be a successful promotional safety net, demonstrating that with the right support ultra-poor women are fully capable of lifting themselves and their families out of extreme poverty and towards food security in a relatively short period of time. We now need to think of how such programmes can be further scaled up” said WFP Representative Ms. Christa Räder.
“As Bangladesh explores scaling up its social protection activities, inclusion of such promotional approaches will be important and can serve to strengthen the graduation process and ultimately reach a much wider coverage. This has the potential of making a lasting change to ultra-poverty and food insecurity in Bangladesh,” said Dr. Hossain Zillur Rahman of PPRC.
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Christa Räder, Representative, WFP/Bangladesh, Tel. +880-2-8116344- 48 or 8119064-73
Danielle Trotter, Social Safety Nets, WFP/Bangladesh, Tel. +8801819212777