Bangladesh: Health and neighbourhood development programme

Fighting poverty means training young women and improving their position. This is done in the YWCA Bangladesh health and community development programme.

Background Programme context

Supported by sustained economic growth, Bangladesh has made considerable progress in poverty reduction over the past 16 years. Poverty measured against the international poverty line of USD 1.90 per capita per day has been reduced from 44.2% in 1991 to 14.8% in 2017. At the same time, life expectancy, literacy rates and the food production per person have risen significantly. Thanks to a stable macro- and export-oriented industry-led growth, Bangladesh's economy is one of the fastest growing in the world¹. This rapid growth has enabled Bangladesh to achieve the status of a low-middle-income country in 2015. In 2018, Bangladesh met all three eligibility criteria for removal from the United Nations list of the poorest developing countries for the first time, and is on its way to achieving the removal in 2024².

The country is at a point where it can ascend within the middle income bracket. The World Bank has declared job creation to be the country's top development priority. Bangladesh must create more and better jobs to deal with the problems of rising youth unemployment and the informal nature of jobs. Major obstacles, such as insufficient access to affordable energy, poor transport infrastructure and limited land availability, must be mastered quickly.

Despite progress in development, 24 million people in Bangladesh still live below the poverty line of 1.90 USD per capita per day³. The high population density, increasing urbanization, climate catastrophes, inadequate health care and education, and male-dominated culture are difficulties that affect the poorest sections of the population the most.

Target Group

The Health and Community Development Programme (HCDP) reaches annually 10'000 young women from the poor quarters of 7 cities. The young women receive training in the areas of health, equal rights, gender justice, women's rights, income generation and environmental awareness.


The HCDP strives for a sustainable livelihood, good health for the beneficiaries and secured women's rights. Young women are involved in groups on the topics of sexual and reproductive health rights, women's rights, gender justice, income generation and environmental protection in their social network. The young people know their rights and claim them. They are able to live a self-determined life with perspectives.


Activities & Effects

Sexual and reproductive health rights

  • Establishment of youth groups that are committed to the topic and engage in their social environment.
  • Campaigns, seminars and workshops on reproductive health rights.
  • Workshops on breast and cervical cancer screening and prevention.
  • Seminars on mother/child health.
  • Youth friendly workshops on sexual and reproductive health.
  • Strengthening the social, cultural and health rights of women in both the private and public spheres
  • Society is sensitized on increasingly common diseases (e.g. breast and uterine cancer).
  • The women use the programme's services to exchange information about their health, social, intellectual and spiritual experiences and skills.

Women's rights and gender equality

The legal inequality between men and women in Bangladesh is the trigger for the disadvantage and poverty of women in Bangladesh's society. The untiring commitment for women's rights is the core task of YWCA.

  • Establishment of youth groups that are committed to women's rights and gender equality in their social environment.
  • Seminars and workshops on women's rights and gender equality.
  • Public campaigns on women's rights and gender equality.
  • Strengthening the rights of women and their awareness of their rights.
  • Sensitization of the population about equal rights.
  • By learning and implementing what they have learned, women help themselves and become leading advocates of their rights.
  • The young women actively bring their concerns into local committees.
  • Women are sensitized and empowered to raise their voice and participate in decision-making processes. They improve their living situation and contribute to the development of democratic values.

Economic equality for women

  • Education of women in entrepreneurship, handling money, saving, accounting.
  • Creation of savings groups with regular meetings on the subject of saving.
  • Networking and linking the women with the local labour market.
  • Building up technical and market-related knowledge enables the young women to generate their own income and thus reduce their poverty.
  • Women from the 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 on the labour market.

Awareness raising and prevention in the area of climate change

Legally established environmental rights mean access to untouched natural resources that allow a dignified life. In Bangladesh, these environmental rights are massively impaired, especially for poor people and marginalised groups, due to disasters, environmental destruction and climate change. The YWCA programme on environmental justice strengthens the awareness of this discrimination and in particular the awareness on environmental protection.

  • Establishment of environmental groups that are committed to the topic in their social environment.
  • Organisation of events on environmental protection, disaster relief and climate change.
  • Establishment of social networks with governmental and non-governmental organisations at local and national level with the development of joint measures.
  • Strengthening the competence, capacity and measures of authorities and inhabitants to reduce environmental pollution and disaster risks.
  • Youth groups and student groups actively inform and sensitize as actors and change leaders about sustainable environmental and climate policy.

Results 2019

A total of 6'592 young people participated in the programme, acquired knowledge about the programme topics and raised their voices in their families, the community and local authorities. Through this, Programme-specific knowledge was passed on to another 7’516 other people who benefited indirectly. 2’937 people attended 210 community meetings to discuss sexual and reproductive health rights, women's rights and gender equality, economic equality and environmental protection. 6 young women of programme are active in local committees and bring the issues into political processes.

Sexual and reproductive health rights
  • A total of 79 young people were trained in 7 groups on sexual and reproductive health rights.
  • The young people became advocates for the topic and took an active role in spreading their knowledge within their family, the community and in local committees.
  • During 70 community meetings and 14 events, the young people sensitised a total of 1’142 community members on women's health rights.
  • The young people conducted several public campaigns and reached another 1’000 people.
  • 7 School Health Clubs with a total of 422 members were founded, which actively introduced the topics into school lessons.
Women's rights and equal rights
  • In 7 groups, a total of 72 young people were trained in women's rights and equal rights.
  • The young people became advocates for the topic and took an active role in spreading their knowledge within their family, the community and in local committees.
  • The youth groups organised 70 community meetings at which they informed a total of 836 community members about social issues such as child marriage, dowry, polygamy, domestic violence and participation of women in family decisions and sensitised them on women's rights.
  • The young people organised thematic meetings with other local organisations and thus sensitised further 285 people.
  • The youth groups organised several public campaigns, raising awareness of women's rights and equality for another 517 people.
  • 165 young women have claimed legal and psychological counselling on domestic violence issues.
Economic equality for women
  • 282 women have completed a training in entrepreneurship and have joined together in 25 savings groups. This training helped them to become active in the labour market and financially independent as small entrepreneurs.
  • The savings groups received a basic training in accounting, saving, team spirit and leadership skills. The women learned how to move confidently in the labour market and how to sensitise their environment to equal rights in the job market.
  • 66 families have increased their household income by training young women in small entrepreneurship and networking with the local labour market.
Awareness raising and prevention in the area of climate change
  • In 7 groups, a total of 77 young people were trained environmental pollution, climate change, environmental disasters and the effects on water, soil, air and the negative consequences for health, food production and the ecosystem.
  • The young people became advocates for the topic and took an active role in spreading their knowledge within the family, the community and in local committees.
  • The young people held a total of 70 community meetings with 995 participants on the environment and organised public campaigns and events on environmental protection, climate change and civil protection. In this way, they sensitized another 700 people.

Results 2018

Organizational development for women and junior managers

  • 2,196 women actively participated in social development activities.
  • 539 women participated in leadership seminars/workshops.
  • 2,189 women attended the International Women's Day events at YWCA's 13 local offices.
  • 3,038 women attended a workshop on the prevention of violence against women.

Women's social, health and sexual rights

  • 4,968 women took an active role in family decisions regarding the enrolment of their girls.
  • 2,229 members attended seminars and workshops on reproductive health.
  • 5,000 women participated in courses on HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
  • On 273 occasions, 5,406 women were informed about breast and uterine cancer.
  • 539 women were examined in 6 screening programmes.
  • 3,518 women were informed about their rights and gender equality.

Economic equality for women

  • 2,641 members of a savings group have founded a small business.
  • 21,079 women and men from 1,852 YWCA savings groups attended group meetings.
  • 6,252 women have increased their household incomes.
  • Microloans amounting to CHF 4,232,448 were granted to the group members.
  • 278 beneficiaries attend job training courses, workshops and seminars on the subject of small entrepreneurship

Democracy and good governance

  • 4,968 women were sensitised and enabled to raise their voices and to participate in decision-making processes within the family.
  • 1040 participants received social security in the form of retirement provisions or scholarships under the microcredit programme.
  • 4 women were elected community leaders on local committees.
  • 2,127 women took part in the 73 events on "Democracy and Responsible Leadership".

Awareness-raising and prevention in the field of environment and climate change

  • 14,041 households have access to clean drinking water
  • 12'704 households used the sanitary facilities
  • 56 youth environmental groups with a total of 964 participants were founded
  • 1,640 young women played an active role as change leaders for environmental protection
  • 802 trees were planted by students of the community schools.
  • 1,550 trees were distributed to the population for reforestation of the communities.
  • 4,800 people took part in events on environmental protection, disaster relief and climate change.
  • In 201 public demonstrations, society was sensitized to the topic of climate change.



Activities worldwide

Further information

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Facts about the program

Title: Health and neighbourhood development
Partner organization: YWCA of Bangladesh (BGD)
Location: Birisiri, Dinajpur, Gopalgonj, Jessore, Khagrachary, Khulna, Savar
Goal: Education, health promotion and income generation for disadvantaged young women
Target group: 10'000 beneficiaries women and children from the slums of 7 towns and villages
Required funds 2020: CHF 60'000
Duration: 2019-2020
Responsible: Andrea Rüegg,

Horyzon is withdrawing from YWCA Bangladesh's health and community development program by the end of 2020 after more than 30 years of commitment. More Information

Facts about Bangladesh

Capital: Dhaka
Population: 161.4 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