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Roni, the community pond builder

  • Published at 04:09 pm January 5th, 2020
Roni showing of her gourd plant
Roni showing of her gourd plant. Photo:Courtesy

PROTIC’s training and smartphone gave her the knowledge and confidence for success

Roni is a woman who never gives up. When she saw that her community was suffering due to a lack of fresh drinking water, she took the initiative to build an accessible freshwater pond. She submitted her proposal to the Upazilla Parishad in 2013, but no government officer took her seriously. She lacked the social connections needed to push for the project. Being a member of the NGO Practical Action and a leader of Shushilon were not enough.

Over the course of the next four years, Roni persisted. She started with PROTIC in 2016 and attended multiple trainings and workshops with the local government, giving her the opportunity to forge connections with officials. At the same time, she used the knowledge she gained through her smartphone to start multiple agricultural practices, including raising poultry, cows, goats, fish, and shrimp to cultivating vegetables and selling plants from a nursery. She learned how to make her own organic pesticides and fertilizers too. Through her economic empowerment, she gained decision-making power first in her home. She started to earn more than her husband and gained a say in how the household was run. He respected her advice and opinions because he was now reliant on her knowledge and expertise.

Roni started holding monthly meetings in her home to provide a platform for non-animator women in her community to come together and troubleshoot their agricultural issues with each other. She would share everything that she learned through her PROTIC trainings, SMSs, and calls to the call center. She listened to their concerns, gaining their trust and respect. As her connections to local government strengthened through further PROTIC trainings, she was able to bring forward these issues to officials.

Slowly but surely, she gained decision-making power and influence not only in her home, but in her community and local government as well. The chairman and other government officials called her to attend several development meetings because they saw that she knew her community and their issues well. When Roni brought forward her proposal to build the freshwater pond again, the Upazila Chairman was much more willing to help and endorsed the project. With Shushilon as the implementing partner, the pond was finally built in 2017. Now local community members use the pond as a source of fresh drinking water, no longer having to travel long distances to meet their needs.

Through Roni, we learned that persistence, connections, and economic strength in combination are key to implementing a large scale project. PROTIC’s training and smartphone gave her the knowledge and confidence to improve her agricultural practices and the connections she needed to help her community in a meaningful and impactful way. Roni went above and beyond the average woman that received a smartphone, helping not only herself but her community.

Tania Ahmed and Mity Mahmuda are research officers at ICCCAD.