I joined the PRODIGY (Promoting Democratic Inclusion and Governance through Youth) project, under the British Council, through a survey in November 2014. I later became engaged with it through a three-phase training session in 2015. After the end of this training I was able to find out and map some major problems in our locality, most of which entailed because citizens in my area were not aware of the information and local services available to them. This is where our Social Action Project (SAP), ‘Promoting the Right to Information Act’ began its journey.
As the name suggests, the SAP was intended to raise awareness on the Right to Information (RTI) act. The main objective was advocating with the local government representatives to improve accountability and ensuring easy access to information for the community people.
Some of the youths in the rural Rajshahi area came to know about these problems during our PRODIGY training. Before that, they were unaware of the situation. Through the training, they developed skills such as leadership, accountability and team management. The young leaders worked to raise awareness among the community about civil rights. They also encouraged the local service providing organizations to be more welcoming towards the citizens.
We chose Gomvira as one of the communication tools because it is a popular entertainment medium in the area. Gomvira is a musical that is performed with a particularly distinctive rhythm and dance with two performers, always personifying a man and his maternal grandfather, discussing a topic to raise social awareness. We also used drawings to demonstrate the negative externalities of the lack of proper information.
Additionally, we organised a workshop on the RTI act where students, citizens, and local government representatives participated. Owing to the constant efforts of the youth leaders, the community people proceeded to appeal for necessary information at different service providing organisations, under the RTI act. This RTI workshop under the PRODIGY programme held on 2 January 2019, inspired the participants to be more aware about their rights.
Md. Yead Ali, a villager of Porijunpara, Baksimoil union of Mohanpur Upazila in Rajshahi, had a bitter experience while visiting one of the local government hospitals in his area. His relative was a patient at the hospital and they were denied free medical services there. Yead was eventually forced to pay for all hospital facilities in an institution that is obligated to provide services free of cost. Later, he came across our Gomvira play Right to Information, performed by our PRODIGY youth leaders. He feels as though he is now better informed about his rights and will be able to apply for services diligently.
The community people were motivated by our initiatives and have so far filed 45 RTI applications in the local government offices, schools, medical authorities and sub-district administrative offices for getting information. So far, the PRODIGY young leaders of our SAP have successfully aware more than 1,200 people about the Right to Information Act through their Gomvira.