Monday, March 15, 2010

Habitat Bangladesh Celebrate International Women’s Day in a Different Way

In celebration of International Women’s Day, Habitat for Humanity International - Bangladesh gathered over 50 women to build homes with beneficiaries in South Rajashan in Savar on Friday 5th of March.

Forty women signed up for the 2nd annual Women Build event with Habitat Bangladesh and they were joined by eight other women staff of Habitat Bangladesh and female beneficiaries.

The event has been generously sponsored by Bangla Trac, Neway Bangladesh and its sister concern Guardian Travels and Cargo Limited.

At the opening ceremony Habitat Bangladesh’s National Director Ms. Kelly Koch expressed happiness on the fine blend of participants from the Bangladeshi and expatriate communities. Ms. Koch said, “It is very exciting to witness you all actively participating to contribute to the lives of other women and their families.”

The three female homeowners, Rumi Begum, Rina Begum and Rasida Begum and their families worked tirelessly all through the day, and expressed their gratitude to the volunteers for assisting to build their new homes.

An exciting addition to this year’s Women Build was an Open Dialogue among the participants. Two facilitators; Ms. Quazi Baby and Ms. Samia Ahmed led the participants on discussions of the topics: Women at the Workplace; Challenges and Opportunities; and Women’s Land Rights and Inheritance Issues. The Dialogue was very lively and the participants, Habitat home-partners (beneficiaries) and staff actively shared their views on the issues.

Quazi Baby is the founder and Executive Director of Participatory Development Action Program (PDAP). Samia Ahmed is currently the Director for the South Asia Forum on Responsive Business and has spent a number of years working for ActionAid Bangladesh, most recently leading the Stop Violence against Women, Women’s Rights & Gender Equality Sector.

Beneficiary Rumi Begum was a perfect example how homeownership empowers women. Rumi Begum works at a garments factory and saved enough money to buy 1.5 decimal land which was in addition to the .5 decimal which she inherited from her father. Rumi Begum commented during the discussion, “I think my future is secured because if my two sons do not take care of me when I am old, I would not fear loosing this house as I own the title of the land now we are building our Habitat home on it.”

The day was all about helping each other, meeting new friends, making a practical difference and reflection on the circumstances of women across Bangladesh.

Women Build is a fundraising and awareness building concept of Habitat for Humanity around the world. It has gathered involvement from women and support from men to carry forward Habitat’s mission in eliminating poverty housing. Women participants in these builds vary from home-makers to professionals, celebrities and representatives of different organizations and institutions.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Empowerment of Women: Ensuring Housing and Land Rights

On Saturday 30th of January 2010 a seminar on “Empowerment of Women: Ensuring Housing and Land Rights – MDG 3” was organized by Association for Development Agencies in Bangladesh (ADAB) and Participatory Development Action Program (PDAP) at the National Press Club in Dhaka.

Kelly Koch, National Director of Habitat for Humanity International – Bangladesh was invited at the seminar as a Special Guest.

Speech of Ms. Kelly Koch at the seminar on “Empowerment of Women: Ensuring Housing and Land Rights – MDG 3”

“I’m fairly new to Bangladesh. But from Habitat for Humanity’s 10 years of operation here, we have witnessed a major gender disparity in different aspects of life. The adult literacy rate for women is estimated at 48 per cent. Dowry and dowry-related violence is still widespread, and women are the most likely victims of acid attacks. We have one of the highest rates of child-marriage in the world and many women still die in childbirth. The Constitution of Bangladesh guarantees equal rights to all citizens, yet laws still discriminate against women. Women who are dependent on men for land and housing are vulnerable to violence and economic deprivation.

Habitat Bangladesh encourages women to play an active role within their families, primarily through home-ownership, decision-making and training. As women tend to be the primary care-takers of and care-givers within the home, we emphasize that women take leadership within their communities. More than half of Habitat home loans to date have been served through agreements with women.

Habitat Bangladesh also works closely with female-led Community Based Organizations across rural Bangladesh. Our experience with loan-based programs has shown that working directly with men requires more extensive monitoring, while women borrowers are more responsive to social guarantees and encouragement from their peers. Looking at the gender disparity we recognize that having the land title in the name of women ensures that she obtains improved status within the family and society.

A great achievement for Bangladesh is that enrollment rates boys and girls in primary and secondary education has equaled. However fewer than half the children who complete primary school reach expected standards. There is a direct relationship in children performing at school and having a safe, comfortable space at home where they can study. Mothers also play a major role in supporting children in their learning. A number of mothers have said another major reason for taking on a Habitat home loan is to ensure their adolescent daughters have privacy as they get older – somewhere to study, grow and live with security. Education is a key tool in increasing the status of women.

Contributing financially supports a sense of empowerment for many Bangladeshi women, and Habitat homes provide a place in which women can work to further their livelihood. One of Habitat Bangladesh’s Homeowner Rubina Akter uses a corner of her Habitat home to sew clothes and dress materials which she later sells. Another female Habitat homeowner Rashida Begum uses a space of their little land to take care of her cow. Each day when the cow is milked the family uses some for their own needs, and then sells around two and half liters for extra income.

If we take examples of widows, it is too often a case that a widow is deprived of her matrimonial home and driven away, ending up destitute. Therefore inheritance rights of women and girls should be promoted and protected to safeguard their human dignity.

When we visit Habitat houses women proudly show us their homes and introduce us to their families. Having a clean and safe house in which they can raise their children or earn an income increases their confidence immensely.

One of our current program focus is on Hygienic Sanitation Facilities and Hygiene Promotion in Rural Bangladesh. This project will provide access to improved sanitation and hygiene conditions for low-income families in our program areas. The project aims to promote a healthy environment for all; with a particular focus on women, children and adolescent girls. By coordinating with local CBOs, we aim to proactively target women-headed or inhabited households, in order to promote their empowerment, gender equality, safety and wellbeing.

Last year we celebrated International Women’s Day by organizing a volunteer house building activity for women called ‘Women Build’. We invited economically solvent women join Habitat’s women beneficiaries in building their homes. The event developed skills and furthered understanding between women from diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. We will be hosting yet another Women Build in March. I invite my fellow women colleagues to attend the build. Please speak to me afterwards should you wish to join us on the day.

Five of the eight Millennium Development Goals require the promotion of women’s land and livelihood rights. All development results cannot be sustained without addressing the different needs of women and men. We have found women to be particularly good with their money, in terms of stretching resources and repaying their loans on time and joining as an active partner in development. Let us continue to work proactively with women-focused housing and livelihood programs. Let us create opportunities for women to gain knowledge, strengthen their skills, and increase their ability to earn, educate and lead their families and society.

Thank you!”

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Habitat responds after devastating Haiti earthquake

Habitat for Humanity will address housing needs in Haiti after major earthquake.

Habitat for Humanity International is assessing the impact on affordable housing and response options in Haiti after a major earthquake struck near Port-au-Prince on Tuesday.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Jan. 13, 2010) — Habitat for Humanity International is currently assessing the impact on affordable housing in Haiti after a 7.0 earthquake struck near Port-au-Prince. Habitat for Humanity will develop an appropriate response as need and available resources become clearer.

“Habitat for Humanity will mobilize all available resources to address shelter solutions for low-income families affected by the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on Tuesday,” said Torre Nelson, area vice president of Habitat for Humanity International’s Latin America and Caribbean office. “We are closely monitoring the situation and have been in contact with Habitat for Humanity Haiti. We will begin Habitat’s recovery efforts as soon as possible.”

“Habitat for Humanity is sending an assessment team into the impacted area,” said Kip Scheidler, senior director Global Disaster Response, Habitat for Humanity International. “Once we know the full magnitude of this disaster, we’ll begin Habitat’s recovery process.”

Habitat for Humanity has been at work in Haiti for 26 years and will use its local expertise and mobilize resources as part of the rebuilding efforts. Habitat has provided more than 2,000 families with housing solutions through a variety of initiatives including new home construction, progressive building, home repairs and improvements. It also builds capacity in construction skills, disaster mitigation and financial literacy, and works in coordination with community and government agencies.

The number of affected persons is unknown, however, Haiti’s ambassador to the U.S. has called the quake a “catastrophe of major proportions.”

Habitat for Humanity’s ability to respond effectively to this disaster will require support from donors, volunteers, corporate partners and other community organizations. Donations can be made at

About Habitat for Humanity’s Disaster Response Habitat’s Disaster Response focuses on the housing needs that arise from natural disasters and humanitarian emergency conflicts. Habitat offers expertise in technical information; program design and implementation; and disaster response policies, protocols and procedures. We also provide support and informational resources for disaster mitigation and preparedness―helping communities in disaster-prone areas protect themselves against future threats.

About Habitat for Humanity International Habitat for Humanity International is an ecumenical Christian ministry that welcomes to its work all people dedicated to the cause of eliminating poverty housing. Since its founding in 1976, Habitat has built, rehabilitated, repaired or improved more than 350,000 houses worldwide, providing simple, decent and affordable shelter for more than 1.75 million people. For more information, or to donate or volunteer, visit and

Photo: Reuters/Eduardo Munoz, courtesy

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Deepest Sympathy to the People of Haiti

Habitat Bangladesh is sending thoughts and prayers to the Caribbean Island of Haiti, which was hit by a 7.0-magnitute earthquake on January 12th 2010.

The fatalities are said to be somewhere in the thousands, however it may be days before exact figures are known. Many people are still missing.

Habitat for Humanity International will mobilize all available resources to address shelter solutions for low-income in affected areas. Our ability to respond effectively to this disaster will require donations from volunteers, corporate partners, regular donors, and other community organizations. Your support is vital to our efforts.

If you would like to assist the people of Haiti, please follow this link:

Haiti is the poorest nation in the Americas - seventy per cent of its population lives on less than $2.15 per day and half of its 8.5 million people are unemployed. As Bangladesh is frequently ravaged by natural disasters, we understand the deep personal and physical damage which such an event inflicts.

For further information about the earthquake and Habitat for Humanity in Haiti, see the links below.

Map of affected area:

General information about the Earthquake (hosted by Thomson Reuters):

Background on HFHI – Haiti and past disaster response information:

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Open Mind, Open Arms, OPEN BUILD

More than 50 enthusiastic volunteers joined Gazipur homeowners to build and renovate houses on Saturday the 5th of December, as part of Habitat for Humanity Bangladesh’s first ever OPEN BUILD event.

The one day build marked the United Nations International Day of the Volunteer, and hosted participants from Australia, The United States, The United Kingdom, India, Japan and Bangladesh. OPEN BUILD, held in the Kaliganj district which is northeast of Dhaka, focused on recognizing the basic right every person has to adequate shelter and sanitation.

The event is part of the International Volunteer Week Celebrations, coordinated by the United Nations Volunteers association under the theme of Volunteering for Our Planet. Other events focus on Climate Change action and AIDS awareness and prevention.

Each building site held an infusion of humanity, with volunteers, homeowners and Habitat staff learning from local masons, being assisted by a throng of curious children and people from the neighbourhood. One volunteer, Jeanie Manibusan, said she “really loved how the community came together and the children of the village tried to find a way to become a part of the project. It really made me happy to meet the family that would benefit from the build”.

A light-hearted day of heavy-lifting ensued, and while the weather was perfect for a relaxing Saturday, the dedicated volunteers quickly broke a sweat as they relentlessly worked through to the afternoon. Four teams renovated two houses and turned what began as unassuming mounds of dirt into the foundations for three new homes.

Shakil, the son of homeowner Ruby Akhter, proved to be an inspiration to volunteers at one building site. HFHI-B staff member Forkhan Uddin made a particular connection with Shakil. “I was so motivated seeing his smiling face. I can’t forget the words “Aktu Jiran” (regional Bangla phrase meaning “please take rest for a while”) which he mentioned several times to me. That was great assistance for me in my work,” Mr. Uddin said.

Volunteer Sarah Goulding reflected; “a woman and her child are being assisted to build a house, which will be a life-changing event for them. I think the community also benefited from seeing foreigners taking the time to help out.”

Volunteerism transforms the pace and nature of development and benefits both society at large and the individual. Events such as Open Build provide an invaluable opportunity to be reminded of the hopes and challenges that unite us all, despite cultural, language and socio-economic differences.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

International Day of Prayer 2009 observed in piety at Habitat Bangladesh

266 people across seven communities shared thoughts for the homeless and destitute this September, as Habitat for Humanity International in Bangladesh gathered for the International Day of Prayer.

The intent of the day is to place in the hearts, minds and souls of people everywhere; the idea that squalid, unsafe, often expensive housing is unacceptable.

Special prayers have been offered for the millions of people who become homeless due to the effect of war and natural disasters such as floods, cyclones and earthquakes.

International Day of Prayer was observed on the 15th of September in the Chapel of Mymensingh Baptist Church in Kachijuli. The Habitat team at the Mymensingh Satellite also issued letters to churches requesting offers of prayers on Sunday for those in need of decent shelter.

Celebrations organized by the Durgapur Satellite occurred on the 18th of September at the YWCA conference room in Netrakona. Habitat staff, Advisory Board Members, Church and NGO leaders shared prayers, songs and tea on the day.

Habitat’s Madhupur Satellite held the largest International Day of Prayer meeting on the 20th of September, which took place at the Church of Bangladesh Social Development Program in Edilpur (see picture above). The 85 guests included Tribal leaders, School teachers, and children of Usha children village, and speeches highlighted Habitat’s works in providing safe accommodation for all human beings.

Local organizations and churches joined the Savar Satellite of September 29th to observe the day at the Glory Baptist Church in Anandapur. The participants “contributed their time in interesting and blissful prayer”, Savar Satellite coordinator Lydia Barikdar reported.

On the same day, 34 people met to pray at the Satkhira Satellite, Sultanpur. The program included prayers led by; Social Worker Mr. Mizanur Rahman; Father Joha of the Sultanpur Catholic Mission; Pastor-Rabindronath Sarker; Divisional Program Manager Masudul Hasan of the Khulna Habitat Resource Centre and Mr. Ankur Robert Chowdhury, Satkira Satellite Coordinator.

On September 30th, Khulna Habitat Resource Centre held a prayer meeting led by Community Development Officer Mr. Roton Patrick Marandy, and was attended by community groups, church members and NGO Directors.

“It was a nice time to reconcile and rebuild our relationship among all the people of our community without discrimination,” Mr. Marandy said.

More than 35 people attended at the service at the YWCA Conference Hall in Dhaka, thoughtfully led by Reverend Sourov Folia, Principal at the St. Andrews Theological College. A choir from the College welcomed guests to the afternoon by gently singing a number of hymns.

Particular Prayers for the day included a Prayer for Human Dignity, a Prayer for those in Slums, a Prayer for Peace & Prosperity, a Prayer for those in Authority and a Prayer for those Helping the Poor.

Dr. Peter Halder, President of the HFHI-B National Advisory Board and long-term Habitat supporter, addressed the group with the message that while not everyone is in a position to donate financially or support Habitat, prayer is always possible.

HFHI-B National Director Ms. Kelly Koch recognized the importance of partnerships – with individuals, organizations, communities and with God - to fulfill Habitat’s mission of providing shelter for the millions of homeless around the world.

“We call upon you to join us in prayers so that we can come up with specific projects and programs, advocacy and networking plan and necessary funding and resources to address to the housing need of Bangladesh,” Ms Koch said.

“Let’s spend these moments in prayer for our less fortunate brothers and sisters who live without a place to call ‘home’. Let us take a conscience action to end homelessness; lets us be united in belief that rights to decent housing are a matter of conscience not a choice,” she concluded.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Gorgeous in Green and Beautiful in Blue

Bangladesh was brightened on October 5th as supporters of Habitat for Humanity International wore green and blue in celebration of World Habitat Day.

Workers and students from across the country participated in World Habitat Day, which provides an opportunity to focus on the dire need for adequate shelter for all, and the active search for solutions.

The symbolic campaign of NIL SHOBUJER BHALOBASHA (for love of blue and green) represented Habitat for Humanity colors – green for the home environment (habitat) and blue for family and community (humanity).

Nearly all the students from the International School Dhaka dressed in blue and green for the day. Other teams going to particular effort included the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the Participatory Development Action Program, the American Alumni Association as well as Habitat Staff from Mymensingh and Dhaka. See below for photographs of participating groups.

In rural Bangladesh, 84% of homes are inadequate or temporary. 54% of urban-dwellers live in temporary structures. Millions of Bangladeshi families live with insufficient electricity supplies, unhygienic water and sewerage connections, which lead to serious health concerns and a lack of human security.

“We understand perhaps more clearly than ever before that no-one can be excluded, especially the poor. On World Habitat Day, let us pledge to do our part to follow through on our plans for a better, greener, more sustainable future for our increasingly urban planet.” (United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon)

Though the current programs of Habitat for Humanity International - Bangladesh are rural and semi-urban focused, it recognizes the need to comprehensively address issues arising from exponential urban growth.

For the poor who live in overcrowded, unsafe, unsanitary, unacceptable conditions, planning must also be more equitable. To break the cycle of poverty means creating sustainable communities where people have access to affordable land and enjoy secure tenure rights.

HFHI-B is working tirelessly in achieving these goals and aims to serve 1,500 families before World Habitat Day 2010 comes around.