Nijera Kari non-government organisation established after the famine of 1974, when many destitute rural women made their way to the cities in search of food and work. Nijera Kari means we do it ourselves. Destitute women constituted the target group of the organisation. Its aim was to rehabilitate these women. The organisation formed a team of people who had work experience at field level and who felt that the increasingly service-based approach of NGOs would simply create dependency among the clients.
The focus of the organisation is on issues that cause poverty and the destitution of rural people rather than ameliorating the sufferings caused by poverty. The organisational objective of Nijera Kari was therefore, shifted to the struggle for creating a society free of deprivation through the establishment of the fundamental rights of people. To achieve this goal the organisation developed a strategy of making people conscious of their rights and assisting them in building a collective strength necessary to establish those rights. Its target group population includes both men and women who earn their living through physical labour. Its geographical concentration has an emphasis on rural areas.
The major objectives of the organisation are to unite the people, who have long been the victims of exploitation, social marginalisation, oppression and poverty; to enable people thus united to develop awareness about their rights, causes of their problems, and their responsibilities; and to empower people to take up challenge within their own spheres to create a better and more meaningful life for themselves and their immediate community.
Nijera Kari organises landless men and women at grassroots level, conducts awareness-building campaign through group meetings, workshops and conferences. It also organises protest against all social injustices, corruption and oppression on women. It forms committees at different levels in a democratic way to develop unity and leadership and to empower them in the local power structure. It also promotes employment generation activities by raising savings and investing in joint agricultural production, fish cultivation by taking lease of pond, water reservoir etc.
It works alongside vulnerable communities engaged in traditional trades including fisher folk, weavers, blacksmiths, barbers, cobblers, potters, and small traders. Nijera Kari makes it a priority to involve the indigenous communities of Bangladesh in their activities.
The management of Nijera Kari is vested in a 13-member managing committee elected for a two years term. The managing committee appoints a co-ordinator as the chief executive. Nijera Kari holds workers convention and workers council every alternate year. In the workers convention all workers review activities, identify weaknesses, work out recommendations and future plans, and elect representatives to the managing committee and to the training cell.
Nijera Kari has no income generating programmes. Funds are provided by donor agencies. The organisation carries rural development programmes for the landless people. Its main programme is the Rural Development Programme, which operates in 17 districts of Bangladesh. As per the figures in March 2008, the organisation has 275,782 group members, of whom more than half are women. It has a staff of 348 in the programme and administration section, out of which 126 were female and 222 were male in 2008. The support staff, consisting of both women and men totals 111. [Shamsul Huda]