Wednesday, May 22, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

To be equitable

Bridging gaps for marginalized communities for achieving the SDGs

Update : 30 Mar 2024, 01:07 PM

Social exclusion presents a significant challenge to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the objective of inclusive development. Apart from economic factors, various other reasons contribute to the marginalization of certain communities or groups of people.

Inclusiveness lies at the heart of the SDGs, which aim to ensure that no one is left behind.

This principle is more clearly reflected in SDG 10, which aims to reduce inequality within and among countries. Target 1.3 of SDG 1 emphasizes the implementation of a social protection system, while SDG 3 focuses on ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages. Lastly, SDG 4 highlights the importance of inclusive and quality education for all, as well as promoting lifelong learning.

There are certain groups of people who experience marginalization based on their ethnic and other identities. Additionally, certain groups face marginalization due to their occupations, including sex workers and bede (river gypsies). On the other hand, individuals are excluded from society because they are unable to contribute to the country's economy, such as elderly people who rely on begging.

Individuals with disabilities or terminal illnesses encounter various difficulties due to societal discrimination. The issue of gender identity further exacerbates social marginalization, particularly for those identified as hijra or third gender. Additionally, individuals residing in geographically challenging areas, such as char, haor, hilly, coastal regions, and islands, can also experience marginalization due to their hard-to-reach locations.

Displacement resulting from natural and human-made factors such as river erosion, salinity, climate change, natural disasters, and extreme poverty contributes to the marginalization of these individuals.

In 2023, the Leave No One Behind (LNOB) Network in Bangladesh, a coalition of nine civil society organizations led by BRAC, conducted district-wise community-based public service monitoring using the community scorecard method. The scorecard, developed by the LNOB Network, aimed to assess key indicators of social safety nets, health, and education-related public services.

These indicators included participation, transparency, accountability, and the quality of services. 10 marginalized communities were included in the assessment to evaluate the performance of basic public services, specifically social safety net schemes, health, and primary education.

The findings suggest that out of the total number of districts, 45 received moderate scores while 19 districts received low scores in the categories of health, primary education, and social safety net schemes. Surprisingly, none of the districts achieved high scores. In terms of individual sectors, the social safety net schemes received the lowest scores while health and primary education received relatively moderate scores. This finding suggests that marginalized communities are less satisfied with social safety net schemes compared to education and health services.

Certain communities face greater challenges in accessing public services due to deprivation. Specifically, poor individuals residing in remote areas, internally displaced persons, and ethnic minorities encounter lower accessibility rates. In comparison to other marginalized groups, the scores for these groups are notably lower.

Most of the indicators for the safety net schemes received low scores, indicating a need for significant improvement in several areas. These include the complaint mechanism, selection of beneficiaries, reduction of nepotism and bribery, and availability of information.

In order to address the challenges of accessibility and availability of services, it is necessary to introduce a social advancement budget or a budget specifically dedicated to marginalized communities.

This budget would provide financial support to these communities, their children, and essential services like schools. It is crucial to establish a participatory identification process for identifying the poor and marginalized individuals within unions, municipalities, or city corporations. This process will help reduce errors related to inclusion and exclusion.

To improve the service delivery of local institutions, it is crucial to involve marginalized communities in community-based monitoring. Duty-bearers must create an enabling environment where marginalized community members can freely participate. It is the responsibility of duty-bearers to ensure the inclusivity of public services so that marginalized individuals are not left behind.

The community scorecard is a well-established approach that empowers citizens to voice their concerns and hold duty bearers accountable for providing adequate public services. By actively involving marginalized communities and using the scores and assessments provided, duty bearers have the potential to make more informed decisions and enhance the quality of public services. Integrating the indicators into the monitoring framework of local service delivery institutions would bring added benefits.

To enhance the effectiveness of social safety net interventions, it is important to align the budget with the National Social Security Strategy (NSSS). The NSSS aims to transition from a system focused on providing relief for the poor to a system that addresses risks throughout an individual's life cycle. To minimize exclusion, it is crucial that the budget clearly defines the different groups of marginalized individuals.

Mohd Rubayat Ahsan and Abu Said Md Juel Miah are Development researchers, currently working at BRAC Advocacy for Social Change.

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