Bangladesh: Health and neighbourhood development programme

Fighting poverty means training women and improving their position. YWCA Bangladesh does this at 13 different locations with its health and community development programme.

Background Bangladesh and Programme Environment

Bangladesh has 160 million inhabitants, 20 million of them live in the capital Dhaka.
The political situation has calmed down, no more strikes for two years, the corruption index has fallen from around 140 to 100 The income is growing, but at the same time the needs are growing because globalization (Internet, social media) shows what is possible and in.

The South Asian state is known as one of the world's largest textile producers. However, Bangladesh's global economic relevance to the textile industry must not obscure poverty, social grievances and health problems. There is a lack of running water, hygiene awareness, organised medical care and a qualitative education system. In addition to inadequate health care, the problems are caused by poorly trained social workers and political instability. One third of the population is between 15 and 34 years old. According to World Bank statistics, 78% of Bangladeshi live below the poverty line of CHF 3 per day, 44% of them below CHF 2 per day. Two thirds of all children are undernourished or malnourished. 40% of people have no toilet. 56% of births take place at home, without the help of obstetricians. (Source: World Development Indicators of the World Bank)

Target Groups

A health and neighbourhood development programme (Health and Community Development Programm; HCDP) with 750 employees looks after around 75,000 women and their families. Women receive training in health, education, income generation, women's rights and environmental awareness.


The HCDP strives for a sustainable livelihood, good health for the beneficiaries and secure women's rights. Women are looked after, build up knowledge and acquire skills and competencies. They are involved in community networks and campaigns. At the same time, YWCA is pursuing a holistic approach with the training of children and young people, which has a positive effect on the micro, meso and macro levels.

The beneficiaries should control their own behaviour and improve their social and economic position in society (empowerment). As a result, maternal and child mortality rates are falling and at the same time the average family income is rising above the poverty line of CHF 2 per day.
The HCDP concentrates on the five thematic areas:

  • Organisational development, women and junior managers
  • Social, health and sexual rights of women
  • Economic equality of women
  • Democracy and good governance
  • Awareness raising and prevention in the field of climate change

Activities & Effects

Organisational Development, Women and Junior Managers

YWCA Bangladesh's forty years of experience and successes show that women's organisations make an existential contribution to gender equality. The focus here is on mobilising and empowering women to know their rights and to demand them.

  • Social development activities
  • Leadership seminars/ workshops
  • 13 different International Women's Day events
  • 13 Seminars on equality

By learning and implementing what they have learned, women help themselves and become leading advocates of their rights. They use the offers to exchange their physical condition, social, intellectual and spiritual experiences and abilities.

Social, Health and Sexual Rights of Women

The legal inequality between men and women in Bangladesh is the cause of the discrimination and poverty of women in Bangladesh's society. The untiring commitment to women's rights is YWCA's core task.

  • Seminars and workshops on "reproductive health
  • Courses on HIV/AIDS
  • 900 events on breast and uterine cancer
  • Women are informed about their rights and gender equality

Strengthening women's social, cultural and health rights in both the private and public spheres.
The society is sensitized to communicable and increasingly occurring diseases (e.g. breast and uterine cancer).

Economic Equality of Women

Every two weeks, the microcredit groups meet to pay in the savings deposit (30 centimes to approx. 1 franc). The meetings are important discussion and training forums. At the same time, women continue their education in the following topics: health and child education, hygiene, women's rights, early marriage or domestic violence. By reading and discussing the current media together, women learn, become aware of their own situation and at the same time strengthen their leadership qualities.

  • Discussion rounds on saving and lending groups
  • Women and men from YWCA savings groups take part in group meetings
  • Microloans in the amount of CHF 1,650,000 are granted to group members.
  • Employees participate in job trainings, workshops, seminars
  • Building up technical and market-related knowledge enables members to generate income and thus reduce their poverty.
  • Women in marginalised groups have access to loans at preferential conditions to support their business profitability.
  • Promotion, further training and support in finding and evaluating business ideas increase the chances of unemployed women in the labour market.

Democracy and Good Governance

Every two weeks, the microcredit groups meet to pay in the savings deposit (30 centimes to approx. 1 franc). The meetings are important discussion and training forums. At the same time, women continue their education in the following topics: health and child education, hygiene, women's rights, early marriage or domestic violence. By reading and discussing the current media together, women learn, become aware of their own situation and at the same time strengthen their leadership qualities.

  • Members take part in the 45 events on "Democracy & Responsible Leadership".
  • The culturally induced gender equality deficit is tackled on a grassroots basis:
    Women are sensitized and empowered to raise their voices and to participate in decision-making processes. They thus improve their living conditions and contribute to the development of democratic values.
  • Participants receive social security in the form of retirement provisions or scholarships.
  • Member groups are involved in the budget preparation of the administration.

Awareness Raising and Prevention in the Field of Climate Change

Statutory environmental rights mean access to unspoilt natural resources that allow a dignified life. This includes land, housing, food, water and air. In Bangladesh, these environmental rights are massively affected, especially for poor people and marginalised groups, as a result of disasters, environmental degradation and climate change. The YWCA programme on environmental justice raises awareness of this discrimination and in particular of environmental protection.

  • Construction of latrines and wells
  • Provision of seedlings and plants for schools, children, students and civilians
  • Events on environmental protection, disaster relief and climate change
  • Demonstrations on climate change to raise society's awareness
  • Awareness raising material, building social networks with governmental and non-governmental organisations at local and national level, developing joint measures
  • Strengthening the competence, capacity and measures of authorities and residents to reduce environmental pollution and disaster risks.
  • Youth groups and pupils become active as actors and change leaders in informing and raising awareness about sustainable environmental and climate policy.



Results (2017)

Program Area „Health“

Direct medical treatment:
  • 5,400 women and children received direct medical assistance and 245 were referred to doctors and hospitals.
  • 3,953 children were vaccinated against measles, polio and tetanus.
  • 215 out of 222 women gave birth safely to their child and 46 women (20.72%) gave birth to their children at home with the help of YWCA obstetricians.
  • 328 women took prenatal examinations and 207 women took postnatal treatment.
  • Of a total of 336 pregnant women among the beneficiaries, 321 were vaccinated against tetanus (95.5%). By supplying 180 pregnant women (81%) with vitamin A capsules, night blindness was reduced to zero.
  • More than 60% of all mothers fed their children exclusively through breastfeeding up to the age of 6 months.
Health education and awareness-raising campaigns
  • The regular courses on education and prevention of uterine infections, venereal diseases, breast and uterine cancer, breastfeeding advice, sexual education, infertility, HIV/AIDS reached a total of 16,097 young women and girls.
  • Over 80% of couples in the health programme use contraceptives.
  • 9,985 couples participated in family planning events. The benefits of small families and contraceptives were discussed.
  • YWCA Bangladesh co-founded the Breast Cancer Awareness Forum in Bangladesh (BBCAF) in 2016. In 2016, 60,000 awareness flyers were distributed and free screenings offered, and last year 10,000 posters and 50,000 breast and uterine cancer prevention flyers were distributed.
  • Through awareness-raising campaigns against everyday unhealthy behaviour patterns, 16,672 people and 7,231 students were reached and informed about physical and mental health, as well as socio-economic development and reproductive health.
Environment, sanitation and drinking water supply
  • 14'150 (77.53%) families of the YWCA have access to clean drinking water.
  • 11,882 (65.11%) YWCA families have access to latrines.
  • 1,588 fruit trees were distributed and planted among the beneficiaries.

Program Area „Education“

  • Girls and young women are trained in reading, writing and arithmetic.
  • Raising awareness of women's social and cultural rights
  • Raising awareness of democracy and good governance
  • Raising awareness of climate change and its impacts
Literacy courses for adults

Young people who dropped out of school for various reasons or never attended school learn reading, writing and arithmetic during a 1½ year course. Important course topics are: reproductive health, HIV/AIDS prevention, development of self-esteem and communication/ leadership skills. 128 girls successfully completed the 18-month course and 60 of them enrolled in local schools to continue their education.

20 girls continue to attend classes and 173 have newly enrolled in the course. For adult women, eight-month literacy courses were offered in the regional centres, each with 20 adult women. Of the 130 course participants, 81% successfully completed the course. The remaining 20 women are currently attending a follow-up programme. The impact of the courses is great: graduates are able to read, write and develop a strong sense of self-worth. With the reading skills acquired, they can use their knowledge in various areas such as health, cooking and sewing. Around 70% of graduates maintain their reading habits according to monitoring and support others in reading and writing.

Climate change and Democracy

To make families in the YWCA's catchment area aware of climate change and to inform them about it, 686 events with 13'584 participants were organized. During these events, participants were informed about the causes and consequences of climate change and encouraged them to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle. In addition, 47 environmental associations with 990 members were founded. In the field of political education, 143 events with almost 3000 participants were organised with the aim of political participation.

Women’s rights

Local workshops with a total of 9,103 participants addressed women's rights and gender equality. The evaluations show that 2,465 women were active in interest groups outside the structures of YWCA. 2,400 women from the YWCA environment are active in political offices or social organisations.

Program Area “Income Acquisition”

In order to give those affected the opportunity of financial independence, savings and lending groups were set up in all 13 YWCA locations, which meet regularly and receive microcredits to realise a business idea.

Microcredits are an important instrument in the fight against poverty.
They are very small loans for people who do not have access to financial services provided by traditional financial institutions. Facilitated borrowing enables entrepreneurial activities that lead to an increase in the income of those affected. At the same time, the public welfare of the neighbourhood is increased. The loan amount can increase if previous loans have been repaid and sufficient savings capital has been accumulated. YWCA supplements these microcredits from a rotation fund.

These finances are invested in income-generating activities. Every two weeks, the participants meet to pay in the savings they have set themselves (30 centimes to approx. 1 franc). The meetings are important forums for discussion and further training. In addition to the exchange of experiences and tips, they were trained in topics such as health education, hygiene, education, women's rights, early marriage and domestic violence. Often a member reads a newspaper article aloud, the content of which is then discussed. The women improve their own situation and strengthen their leadership qualities.

  • 21,135 beneficiaries (including 2,169 men) are organised in 1,829 savings groups. Most of them have already completed a follow-up programme after having learnt to read and write in a previous programme and thanks to the courses attended command the necessary knowledge for managing the household budget.
  • Combined, the beneficiaries have saved around CHF 2,018,331 since the start of the programme. In 2017 CHF 1,986,860 were granted to members in the form of microloans. The investment of the loan in economic activity improved the members' own income. The business areas are very diverse: e.g. setting up poultry or cattle breeding, growing and selling fruit and vegetables, fish farming, setting up a food or firewood shop, hairdressing salon, buying a rickshaw for a taxi company.

Program Area „Capacity Development“

YWCA's organisational structure is also constantly being optimised. To this end, the employees are continuously trained in efficiency and effectiveness. The following further training courses were carried out:


- Savings and Creditprogramme policy: 33 participants


- Organisation Management: 31 participants
- Evaluation of strategy planning 13-17: 49 participants


- Training measures: 39 participants
- Good Governance training: 26 participants
- Webbased software training: 32 participants

The results of these activities are manifold: YWCA enjoys a good reputation in Bangladesh as a professional and committed cooperation partner with both state and civil partners. The good level of training and organisation of YWCA staff enables individual centres to finance their social programmes largely by themselves in future. In addition, the partner organisation is able to adapt to the constantly changing requirements and develop new solutions.



"Willkommen im alltäglichen Wahnsinn"
Activities worldwide

Further information

Flag of Bangladesh
Facts about the program

Title: Health and neighbourhood development
Partner organization: YWCA of Bangladesh (BGD)
Location: Barisal, Birisiri, Chandpur, Chittagong, Comilla, Dhaka, Dinajpur, Gopalgonj, Jessore, Khagrachary, Khulna, Pabna, Savar
Goal: Education, health promotion and income generation for disadvantaged young women
Target group: 22,000 beneficiaries women and children from the slums of 13 towns and villages
Required funds 2019: CHF 280'000
Duration: 2019-2020
Responsible: Susanne Furler,

Facts about Bangladesh

Capital: Dhaka
Population: 165 mill.
Human Development Index: 0.608 (rank 136.)
Life expectancy: 72.8 years
Median age: 25.6 years
Youth unemployment (15-24 years): 11.4%

Source: Human Development Report