Women in the Lead: Monitoring Health Services in Bangladesh- Sarita Barpanda, Samia Afrin, Abhijit Das
Naripokkho is the first non political organisation working on women’s rights, liberty and freedom in Bangladesh. It is a membership based organisation, which was started in 1983 and its 110 active members provide the impetus for its work which is primarily executed through networks and partnerships. It works in all the 64 districts of Bangladesh through an alliance named Doorbar where the primary focus is on political empowerment and prevention of violence against women (VAW). Simultaneously, Naripokkho works on reproductive health and rights in partnership with 37 NGOs in 29 districts.
This case study highlights the accountability component of the Women’s Health and Rights Advocacy Partnership (WHRAP) initiative which is operational in five districts and 14 upazillas (sub districts) of southern Bangladesh. WHRAP is a partnership with 16 NGOs.Naripokkho works with these NGOs to strengthen the accountability mechanisms of health systems through a three pronged approach. Here, women from the marginalised sections have organised into groups at the village level (Nari Dal) and monitor the Community Health Clinics and the Upazilla Health Complexes. As a second step Naripokkho has trained the functionaries of its partner organisations to conduct monitoring visits in the local District and sub- district (Upazilla) hospitals. As the third strategy Naripokkho and its partners are working with Members of Parliament, local elected representatives and other members of the hospital management committees to create a participatory and relevant review and planning mechanism.
Naripokkho defines itself as a movement based organisation which empowers communities with an emphasis on supporting women in fighting for their reproductive health rights and addressing issues related to gender based violence. The WHRAP initiative clearly brings out this dimension of Naripokkho’s work where women are negotiating their entitlements directly with health providers and NGOs negotiate with public officials and local representatives for improving the quality of care of services and the accountability of health providers.
The case study is in two parts. The first part traces Naripokkho’s interest in accountability and provides a brief background of the organisation. The second part has three sections which highlight the activities, outcomes and challenges faced in implementing the three pronged accountability approach. The main body of the case study is accompanied by two annexures. The first provides a brief overview of women’s health rights issues in Bangladesh and the second lists the names and work areas of the sixteen partner organisations of the WHRAP initiative.