This year, Swisscontact Bangladesh kicked off the celebrations of International Women's Day 2022 through a series of activities. On 8th March, 2022, the organisation commenced the Women’s Day festivities by giving every staff, both men and women, a three-layered Lucky Bamboo Plant along with a customised greeting card. As part of the activities, Swisscontact Bangladesh staffs were also invited to make a pledge to self-reflect to address unexamined biases and to challenge gender discrimination via KudoBoard. Following the COVID-19 protocol and in line with the 2022 theme “Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow”, Swisscontact Bangladesh organised an online event for internal staff on March 16, 2022. The objective of the event was to enable the Swisscontact Bangladesh staff to identify, understand and actively attempt to #BreakTheBias. The event was hosted by Zarif Enam, Manager-Interventions, Sarathi. The event started with a briefing on Swisscontact's Gender and Social Inclusion Policy and Practices, presented by Helal Hussain, Swisscontact's Head of Portfolio and Gender Focal for South Asia.
Later, Mahiratul Jannat, Coordinator, Gender, Labour Rights and Decent Work, B-SkillFUL Programme moderated an interactive session on commonly practiced gender biases. The definition of bias, types of bias, and common types of gender biases that women face on a daily basis in the workplace were the main discussion points. To make it fun and more interesting, Swisscontact Bangladesh colleagues also performed live dramas to demonstrate how deeply ingrained gender biases are and how they would respond to such scenarios. Live dramas such as these not only sensitised the audience, but also created awareness among colleagues about how unconsciously they practice biases. Following each live drama, the audience was given the opportunity to ask questions and share any relevant experiences. A few colleagues shared the gender biases that they faced in their family, workplace, and educational institutions. After the interactive session, a quiz contest was held to keep participants interested and test their knowledge and learning from the event regarding the different types of gender bias. Lastly, the celebration of International Women’s Day ended by sharing the e-learning modules on gender sensitisation designed by Swisscontact Global Gender Advisor for all the staff in Swisscontact Bangladesh. This event is expected to foster a culture in Swisscontact Bangladesh in which everyone is aware of their biases, particularly their unconscious biases, and takes action to address them.
Since Swisscontact believes in creating equal opportunities regardless of gender, the organisation also puts emphasis on celebrating contributions of both. For International Men’s Day 2021, Swisscontact Bangladesh organised a virtual panel discussion that highlighted perspectives, not only across genders, but also generations to provide a clear idea of where we currently stand and the roadmap towards achieving better relations between men and women.
People often misinterpret the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 5, “Gender Equality”. Where “Equal” should represent fairness to both genders. Stereotypical beliefs such as - “Men don’t require a special day, every day is men’s day.”, often leaves men feeling like their contributions are being overlooked. “International Men’s Day” is not only celebrated to acknowledge men’s contribution but also to establish true equality across genders. It’s important to identify that it’s not just women who are struggling against patriarchy, toxic masculinity etc. but also men who must live their whole lives without being able to truly be themselves.
Hence, as a preacher of equality, Swisscontact Bangladesh took the opportunity of arranging a virtual panel discussion on “International Men’s Day 2021” to discuss topics such as impact of patriarchy on men, consequences of toxic masculinity (especially on mental wellbeing), evolution of expectations from men across generations, role of media (movies, music etc.), traits required to promote gender equality etc. The panel consisted of 5 members: Monoj Kumar Roy - Senior Advisor for Digitalisation of Bhomra Land Port, Fazle Razik - Team Leader of ASTHA, Bipasha Hossain - Senior Technical Advisor for Portfolio and Communication, Makbul Hossain - Senior Manager of Partnership & Strategy for B-SkillFUL Phase II and Tanzila Shawkat Ira - Sector Officer for B-SkillFUL Phase II. The panel was arranged in a way so that each of the panel members had something different to bring to table. The whole discussion was moderated by Mohammad Sakib Khaled – Coordinator for Portfolio Development, who successfully guided the whole discussion in a manner that not only provided each panelist to participate effectively but also to engage contrasting perspectives to make the discussion fruitful and relevant for all. Projna Dasgupta – Communications Officer for Uttoron, Sayedul Arefin – Field Research Supervisor for Shujola and Sharmin Akter Shakila – Senior Officer KCMA for PRABRIDDHI created an impactful video highlighting the main aspects of the International Men's Day. Pritam Azra Hassan – Officer for Portfolio Development coordinated the event with active participation from Waseka Nourin – Communications Consultant for Sarathi, and the overall communications team of Swisscontact Bangladesh.
The aim of the discussion was to instigate self-analysis and initiate further discussions that would act as a guide towards a future where both men and women and treated as equal. In reflection of the insightful discussion, Mujibul Hasan, the Country Director of Swisscontact Bangladesh said,” The more you study history, you will realize that the equality we experience today was not given by society automatically. Both men and women had to put a lot of effort for us to be able to discuss these liberal thoughts today. But I believe from a personal, family, and societal perspective, we still have miles to go.”. Which signifies that even though change takes a significant amount of time and effort, it is certainly possible.
Swisscontact Bangladesh organised an internal competition on project idea submission on August 12, 2021. With a total participation of over 15 ideas, only 8 ideas made it to the presentation round. In the presentation round, the 8 selected candidates explained the feasibility, scope and thematic area of their ideas. The Country Director, Head of Portfolio and Portfolio Development Coordinator, after careful consideration, have awarded the top 4 ideas. The idea that took the first position was from Tahmina Islam Sadia, Jr. Officer – Administration, the second idea was from Asaf Ud Daula Ashik, Monitoring and Results Measurement Consultant – M4C, and the third ideas were from Shariful Islam Chowdhury, Sr. Monitoring and Results Measurement Officer - Sarathi and Gunjan Mathur, Partnership and Innovation Associate, ASTHA. To celebrate this joyous achievements, Swisscontact Bangladesh invited these innovative incumbents for a dinner with the Mujibul Hasan, Country Director, and Helal Hussain, Head of Portfolio. The event was organised by Mohammad Sakib Khaled, Portfolio Development Coordinator and Pritam Azra Hassan, Portfolio Development Officer.
Inclusive Systems Development (ISD) is an increasingly popular development approach that calls for an in-depth analysis of the “system” to identify the root causes of problems and addressing the underlying market constraints through a facilitative approach, ensuring sustainability and scalability of development solutions. Swisscontact is one of the pioneers of this approach as ISD principles guide our actions in the design and delivery of interventions and is being promoted across all projects and mainstreamed across the organisation.
Understanding the potential to help Swisscontact colleagues develop a “systems thinking” ability and provide them with a basic understanding of the building blocks of this approach, Swisscontact Bangladesh organised this introductory workshop titled “An Introduction to Inclusive Systems Development (ISD) Approach”. As we are well into the second year of the pandemic, the need for a virtual workshop was identified and successfully executed by the team from Swisscontact Bangladesh.
As many of the participants had no prior experience of this approach, the workshop was conducted in three days (29 June 2021, 01 July 2021, and 05 July 2021) and was divided into two sessions per day. Mr. Manish Pandey, Director- South Asia of Swisscontact inaugurated the workshop and set the tone for the next three days. These sessions were conducted by the three lead facilitators Mehjabin Ahmed, Senior Manager- PRABRIDDHI project; Syeda Ishrat Fatema, Team Leader- Sarathi and Shujola; and Mohammad Sakib Khaled, Coordinator- Portfolio Development from Swisscontact Bangladesh with a cumulative experience of over 25 years in designing and implementing ISD projects in different countries. Pritam Azra Hassan, Officer- Portfolio Development and Waseka Nourin, Intern- Sarathi supported the lead facilitators in organising and facilitating the workshop. Around thirty participants from Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar actively participated in every session.
On day one, two sessions were conducted, followed by a brief introduction session in the beginning of the workshop. The participants were divided into five diverse groups to make all six sessions lively and challenging. This provided the opportunity for participants from different countries and projects to work alongside and get better acquainted with each other’s projects.
Each session had embedded group discussions and assignments that not only kept them engaged but also resulted in a much better understanding of the process. The facilitators created a common MS Teams channel for the participants, which will stay live for a month so that any participant can go back and review the content and discussion at his/her convenience, if needed.
The workshop received positive feedback from participants who now understood the concept of inclusive systems development better and enjoyed working alongside colleagues from different projects and countries amidst an ongoing pandemic. They acknowledged this as an effective knowledge sharing platform and looked forward to future workshops and such opportunities. The participants also highlighted the need to have a more detailed workshop broken down in additional sessions and days to help them go deeper into the principles.
International Women’s Day celebrates the historic journey that women around the world have taken to better their lives. The day comes as a reminder that while a lot has been achieved, the journey is long, and a lot more needs to be done. Keeping that in mind, Swisscontact Bangladesh, like every year, on March 8th, 2021, commenced their celebration of International Women’s Day 2021 by sending an e-card signed by Mujibul Hasan, Country Director, to every employee. The email was followed up with an invitation to a virtual seminar organised by the Portfolio and Communications department on March 11th, 2021.
This year’s theme revolves around and draws attention to our choices and commitment, to challenge and call out gender biases and inequalities, to celebrate the achievements of women in various roles globally. It is a commitment to take a step every day and #ChooseToChallenge to help create an inclusive world. Challenging norms of prejudice, stereotypes and inequalities head on would address and create the change needed to move towards an equal world.
The webinar started at 03:30 p.m. on 11th March 2021 with an introduction session, which followed up with introductory remarks from the Country Director. Mujibul Hasan enlightened the importance of the day and shared his gratitude to all the key speakers for their time and to all the employees for attending the session. The key speakers were Jannat Adib Chowdhury (Senior Manager – Innovation and Knowledge Management, M4C), Farzana Amin (Manager – MRM and Knowledge Management, PRABRIDDHI), Nowsheen Sharmila (Officer - Policy and Communication, ASTHA), and Farhana Noor (Manager – MRM and Partnership, BMMDP). The speakers shared how they reflect equality in their projects and elaborated gender role and women participation in their project. They also highlighted the importance of women participation in their projects. The session ended with an interactive question and answer session.
This event gave the employee of Swisscontact Bangladesh the opportunity to learn about what other projects or programmes are doing and how they are implying gender inclusiveness. The question answer session opened the field of suggestions for further improvement in gender inclusiveness of the projects. The overall event was hosted by Pritam Azra Hassan (Officer – Portfolio Development) and co-organised by Anika Parvez (HR Specialist).
The International Men’s Day 2020 is an international event celebrated on 19th of November every year to acknowledge the achievements, contributions and sacrifices of men. The broader and ultimate aim of the event is to promote basic humanitarian values. The event was inaugurated in February 1992 by Thomas Oaster and it was later re-initiated by Trinidad and Tobago in 1999. There are six core objectives of this event, they are promoting positive male role models, celebrating men’s positive contributions to society, focusing on men’s health and wellbeing, highlighting discrimination against men, improving gender relations and promoting gender equality, and creating a safer, better world. From 2002, an optional secondary objective has been suggested by world coordinators beside the six core objectives. For this year, the secondary objective was “Better health for men and boys”. Other than these objectives, three new themes were introduced, they are “Making a positive difference to the wellbeing and lives of men and boys”, “Raising awareness and/or funds for charities supporting men and boys' wellbeing”, and “Promoting a positive conversation about men, manhood and masculinity”.
In 2020, Swisscontact Bangladesh hosted an online session to highlight this event and celebrate the presence of men in the organisation through a series of activities.
Swisscontact Bangladesh organised an internal story writeup competition where the participants had to write a short story of 150 words about a male figure who have positively influenced their life.
On the first half of 19th of November, the collected write-ups were rated by the internal employees online.
At 3:30 pm Bangladesh Time (BDT), the online session started with a warm introduction from the event was host and moderator Tamjid Ahmed (Intervention Manager, Sarathi), followed by an insightful speech of Mujibul Hasan (Country Director, Bangladesh) on the importance of celebrating International Men’s Day.
At 3:45 pm BDT, a structured panel discussion took place based on the theme “Promoting a positive conversation about men, manhood and masculinity” where the panelists were David Harvey (Team Leader, B-SkillFUL), Jannat Adib Chowdhury (Manager, M4C), Md Ashikujjaman (Senior Project Officer, Uttoron), and Mosiur Morshed (Senior Officer – MRM, Uttoron).
The panel discussion ended with a follow up question session which ended at 4:15 pm BDT and the winner to the competition was announced. The winner also gave a glimpse of the inspiration behind the winning story to the audience and with warm wishes and gratitude the event ended at 4:30 pm.
Beside the Tamjid Ahmed and Mosiur Morshed, other members who were in the organising panel were Anika Parvez (HR Specialist, Business Administration), Manib E Eram (Coordinator- Gender & LRDW, B-SkillFUL), and Pritam Azra Hassan (Officer- Portfolio Development).
On November 19th, Swisscontact Bangladesh celebrated International Men’s Day 2020 with a story writing competition followed by an online event. The story writing topic was “Share a short story on a male figure who have influenced your life”, which encouraged a number of employees to participate enthusiastically. Among the participants, four stories were shortlisted and was put online for review. Based on ratings of the employees of Swisscontact Bangladesh, the story “স্বপ্নের কারখানা”, translated as “Dream Factory” written by Shariful Islam Chowdhury (Project Officer – MRM, Sarathi) won the competition. The story, alongside the in-house translation is given below.
মাসের বাজারের সব খরচ শেষে ৪৫০ টাকা বেঁচে গেল। বাসাই এসেই খুব গোপনীয়তার সাথে নিজের জমানো টাকার বাক্সটা বের করলো করিম সাহেব। সব মিলিয়ে ২,৫০০ টাকা হলো। আজ ই কিনতে পারবে নিজের শখের গীটার টি। গত ৪ মাস ধরে নিজের ব্যক্তিগত খরচের টাকা থেকে একটু একটু করে বাঁচিয়ে এই গীটারের টাকা টা জমিয়েছেন। আজ সে অনেক বেশী খুশি। কেউ জানে না তার এই শখের কথা। প্রতিদিন গীটারের দোকানে একবার করে দেখে আসতেন। একটু পরেই তিনি বের হবেন। কিন্তু খুব আজব কারনবশত তার ছেলে কান্নাকাটি করছে একটি তিন চাকার সাইকেলের জন্য। তাকে কিনে দিতে হবেই। করিম সাহেব খুব বিরক্ত । সে অনেক ভেবে গীটার কেনার উদ্দেশ্যেই বের হলেন। গল্পের সাসপেন্সের দরকার নেই, বোঝাই যাচ্ছে সে বাড়ি ফিরলো তিন চাকার সাইকেল নিয়ে। করিম সাহেব ভাবলেন আবার ৩-৪ মাস জমিয়ে শখের গীটার টি কিনেবেন। জানি, কোনদিন ও তিনি পারবেন না। আর কোনদিন কেউ জানতেও পারবে না তার এই বারবার স্বপ্ন ভঙ্গের কথা।
At the end of all the market expenses of the month, 450 taka was saved. As soon as he came home, Mr. Karim took out the box of his savings with great secrecy. In all, it was 2,500 taka. Today he can buy his own desired guitar. For the last 4 months, he has saved a little bit from his personal expenses and saved money for this guitar. Today he is ecstatic. No one knows about this hobby of his. He used to visit the guitar shop once a day. He will be out shortly. But for some very strange reason his son is crying for a three-wheeled bicycle. His son wants him to must buy it. Mr. Karim is very upset. He thought a lot and went out to buy the guitar. There is no need for suspense in the story because he returned home with a three-wheeler. Mr. Karim thought he would buy a hobby guitar after 3-4 months. I know he will never be able to. And no one will ever know about his dream being broken again and again.
The International Women’s Day is a global event celebrated on 8th of March every year to acknowledge the achievements, contributions, value, sacrifices and role of women. The ultimate goal of this day is to create a gender-equal world. In 2020, Swisscontact Bangladesh hosted a half-day event in their country office to highlight this event and celebrate the presence of women in the organisation.
Swisscontact Bangladesh celebrated the International Women's Day 2020 on March 12, 2020. The event was hosted by Anika Parvez (HR Officer), moderated by Nooha Sabanta Maula (Project Officer, Shujola and Sarathi), and organised by Pritam Azra Hassan (Portfolio Development Officer) and Aishwarya Rahman (Portfolio Development Officer). The theme Each for Equal was thoroughly highlighted in the panel discussion where the panelists were Syeda Ishrat Fatema (Team leader, Sarathi and Shujola), Salma Akhter (Project Coordinator- Partnerships and Advocacy, Sarathi), Md. Alamgir Kabir (Head of Business Administration) and Nadia Afrin Shams (Team leader, Uttoron).
Multiple issues were discussed such as the challenges women face at work during maternity period, assurance of workplace equality by assigning equal work to male and female, behaviour of a male colleague towards a female colleague, etc. The event ended with the positive note that together we can make the world a better place for both women and men.