“Community members must own the process of change” says Dr Noor Mohammad, Executive Director, PSTC

Applications are open for the Community Skyrocket Grant Fund. This is one of the three grant windows of the Learning Spark Fund which will be awarded by ‘Making the Most of What We Know (MMWWK) Project’, an initiative by More Than Brides Alliance (MTBA).

In this interview, Dr Noor Mohammad, Executive Director, Population Services and Training Center (PSTC), talks in detail about the MMWWK Project and the Learning Spark Fund, to help the applicants understand the goals that are expected to be achieved. This will help applicants in the process of preparing their proposals.

What is the MMWWK Project?

The MMWWK is a project by the More Than Brides Alliance (MTBA). Through this project, we are expecting to produce public resources by combining two things- research evidence and implementation experiences, that too from both the perspectives of the researcher, and the persons involved in the programme at all levels. By gathering and collecting all the information, we will develop public resources in the form of flyers, brief notes and other suitable materials. We expect that these resources will be used in designing future interventions, lobbying and advocacy. The whole idea is encapsulated in the name of this project- Making the Most of What We Know.

How is MMWWK different from the other SRHR projects?

To explain in detail, the differences are three-prone:

  1. Combining research evidence and implementation experiences: In the course of a programme implementation, we do a baseline and endline survey, and call it our ‘evidence’ of success and/or failure which helps the stakeholders understand whether any intervention made differences, and whether it was worthy to invest money for this intervention. There is much research evidence available globally and nationally. However, what makes this project different is our combination of research evidence along with the experiences of programme implementers.
  2. Utilizing participatory method of drawing the evidence and experiences: In the project being run in other countries, the experiences of young people have been utilised to create evidence. We will be taking lessons from other countries and use available resources. Here in Bangladesh, we are going to different programme persons, especially those who have implemented projects that deal with adolescent sexuality and child marriage. We will be trying to learn from their experiences. So it is a participatory approach. The programme people will tell their experiences and the research people will talk about their evidences.
  3. Resource development what we believe to be used for: We are going to devise some resources, expecting them to be used for future programme designs, lobbying and advocacy. We will have various forms of dissemination with the help of workshops or printing briefs.

Can you elaborate the idea of bottom-up learning and how you think this can bring change?

Bottom-up learning means that we are involving community leaders and community participants, including young people, learning from them and carrying their knowledge to the people working at the policy levels. So the experiences at the grassroots level will be gathered, collated and taken to the policy makers. This is called bottom-up learning. This approach will not only bring change, but also help people understand the problem more clearly and take correct initiatives to find solutions. The bottom-up approach will also ensure that the community members own the process of change, and are the drivers of change.

What are the reasons behind choosing the topics- Adolescent Sexuality and Child Marriage?

This initiative is focused on learning about the links between sexuality, particularly adolescent female sexuality and child marriage, because we believe that gender equality and concerns related to female sexuality are consistently powerful dynamics of child marriage across different contexts in Bangladesh. The dimensions of sexuality are deeply related to child marriage practices. We have learnt from our experiences and research findings that the marriageability of a girl is determined by their understanding of sexuality. This is the reason we have chosen these two areas to explore in detail about the linkages between them.

What are the other SRHR projects implemented by PSTC?

All the projects that PSTC is involved with are connected to SRHR in one way or the other. But following projects are especially focused with SRHR.

  1. UBR Alliance: PSTC is the program support lead for UBR Alliance, and conducts the coordinating role for implementing the UBR program. The focus of this project is SRHR of young people. It is supported by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
  2. Hello I Am: This project works to stop child marriage. It is supported by IKEA Foundation through Dutch NGO, Rutgers.
  3. Creating Spaces: This project is being implemented in Faridpur district. The major component of this project is to empower young girls by creating livelihood options. .
  4. Sanjog: This project has recently concluded. It was meant for young people who are vulnerable to HIV/ AIDS.

To apply for the Learning Spark Fund, visit https://morethanbrides.org/spark/

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