Programme for Sustainable Development (PSD) is a grass-roots, non-government, non-religious, not-for-profit social development organisation based in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh. We aim to facilitate sustainable social change in ultra-poor communities through education and livelihood development. We achieve this by delivering free primary schooling, basic health care, micro-credit finance schemes, alternative livelihood development, partnering and advocacy. We have a particular focus on meeting the needs of the most disadvantaged groups in society – women, children and ethnic minority groups.
Underprivileged communities will free themselves from poverty, reach their full potential and achieve a sustainable future through access to education and the application of knowledge and skills.
PSD will help break the cycle of poverty and facilitate sustainable futures for underprivileged communities in Dhaka by providing free primary schooling, basic health care, micro credit finance schemes, alternative livelihood development, partnering and advocacy. We will provide these opportunities to the most vulnerable people in society – women, children and ethnic minority groups.
The strategic objectives of PSD are to:
- Reduce poverty by strengthening the empowerment, self-reliance and adaptability of disadvantaged communities through education and capacity building projects.
- Improve economic stability of impoverished communities by building skills and capacity in alternative livelihoods and through microfinance schemes.
- Increase awareness of poverty, sustainability and social justice issues and policy through advocacy and education.
- Strengthen cooperation and partnerships at local, regional, national and international levels.
PSD was established on 27 November 2000 by a group of community members concerned about increasing urbanisation in Dhaka and the associated rise in extreme poverty. In its early stages, only 20 students attended PSD’s first school in Moghbazar. Initially, it was difficult
to convince the community that the free schooling and other programmes would be beneficial and potentially life changing.
With great persistence, the PSD team have built up trust with the local community and today there are a total of 500 beneficiaries participating in PSD’s various programmes. At present, 200 families receive economic assistance through the microfinance programme and 150 students receive free schooling at the Moghbazar branch. The demand has been so high that PSD opened another school in Nandipara camp in 2010, which has 150 students enrolled.
PSD targets and works with disadvantaged families in some of the most impoverished areas of Dhaka city. Currently we focus on two communities, the Pearabag Slum in Moghbazar and the Nandipara Camp in Nandipara. In both of these slums the population density is very high, particularly in Pearabag where approximately 5000 people reside in an area less than 500m2. Such cramped conditions cause an array of social, health and environmental issues, making life in these communities very challenging (see Poverty in Bangladesh to learn more). PSD targets people at particular disadvantage within Pearabag and Nandipara, including women, children and ethnic minority groups.
In Bangladesh (and in many developing contexts) women are at significantly greater risk of slipping into poverty than almost any other demographic. The causes of poverty in Bangladesh are complex and interrelated however gender discrimination is a major contributing factor to the overall situation. Traditionally, women are married at a very young age (often to a much older man) and are expected to start a family, which diminishes their access to education and opportunities. Subsequently, they are more likely to be illiterate, unemployed or earning significantly lower incomes than men. Female representation in governance and other decision making roles is also grossly underrepresented in Bangladeshi society. Additionally, ownership of economic assets in Bangladesh is usually held in the man’s name, which means many women have no legal entitlement over shared assets. Consequently, most are either completely or heavily reliant on men for their economic welfare, leaving many in a vulnerable and disempowering situation.
It is women themselves who hold the key to their emancipation and a poverty free Bangladesh. Research and PSD’s experiences strongly demonstrate that self-help finance schemes and education programmes are more effective in alleviating poverty when offered to women,.
Women are much more likely to repay their small loans than men and have a greater tendency to pass on economic benefits to the wider family unit. Essentially, women who are educated and earn a decent income tend to rear children who are well fed, healthy and encouraged to attend school. A cycle of prosperity, rather than a cycle of poverty, can begin through a woman.
Bangladesh is one of the most underdeveloped countries in the world. Out of a population of over 160 million people, the United Nations estimates 63 million people live below the poverty line. Competition for basic resources is fierce and the population density is one of the highest in the world (an estimated 1,130 people per km2). Urbanisation, urban decay and the associated increased poverty represents one of the most significant development challenges for Bangladesh. Due to lack of economic opportunities and frequent natural disasters in rural areas, many are moving to cities in search of a better life. However, these dreams become a distant memory as the reality of rapid urbanisation and intense competition for resources unfolds.
Families find themselves living in extreme poverty, often in slum conditions, with limited or no access to basic human needs. Slum shelters are precarious and public infrastructure such as water, sanitation and electricity are lacking. People are exposed to harsh climatic conditions, pollution and overcrowding. Under these conditions and without access to adequate health care, infectious diseases spread rapidly. Personal and property security is also a serious issue. Decent employment opportunities are limited and when they do arise they are usually poorly paid, unsafe and insecure. Some examples include rickshaw driving, rag picking, brick breaking, garment factory work, construction and domestic servants. With little hope on the horizon, begging and substance abuse are often taken up. Children are no exception to these situations.
Bangladesh is also prone to natural disasters, which most commonly include floods, droughts and cyclones. These events regularly destroy communities and displace thousands of people, intensifying poverty and urbanisation. Another major concern for the country is climate change. Most of Bangladesh is very low-lying and scientists predict millions of Bangladeshi people will be adversely affected in the coming decades by the effects of climate change, which will include coastal inundation, salt water intrusion, storm surges and intense cyclone events.
Locally-based education and empowerment opportunities are essential in mitigating poverty and further decline of the natural environment. Through these opportunities, individuals and communities will be in a better position to adapt to current and future challenges.
Education, including formal education, public awareness and training should be recognized as a process by which human beings and societies can reach their fullest potential. Education is critical for promoting sustainable development and improving the capacity of the people to address environment and development issues.
Sustainable Development and education are the core underpinning philosophies of PSD. Sustainable Development is commonly defined as ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’.
The principles of sustainable development include broad community participation and cooperation, poverty alleviation, inter and intra generational equity, education for all, involving youth and marginalised groups and careful consideration of the triple bottom line (i.e. economic, environment and social issues) in planning and decision making.
Concept model of Sustainable Development
Appropriate education is critical if we are to achieve a sustainable future. Education for Sustainable Development is a relatively new concept which ‘aims to help all people to develop attitudes, skills and knowledge to make informed decisions for the benefit of themselves and others, now and in the future, and to act upon these decisions’.
Its goals are to:
- foster clear awareness of and concern about economic, social, political, and ecological interdependence
- provide every person with opportunities to acquire the knowledge, values, attitudes, commitment and
skills needed to protect and improve the environment
- create new patterns of behaviour in individuals, groups and society as a whole toward the environment
Education catalyses the sustainability process and facilitates preferred personal and societal transformations. It can give people the knowledge and skills to participate equally in society, become more self-aware and empowered. Ultimately it can lead to an improved quality of life, better decision making and sustainable futures.
PSD believes that appropriate education, a fundamental right of every human, is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty and achieving a sustainable Bangladesh. Through our programmes and projects [link to webpage], we are a real life example of effective Education for Sustainable Development.
 UNESCO (2011) Education for Sustainable Development (www.unesco.org/new/en/education/themes/leading-the-international-agenda/education-for-sustainable-development/three-terms-one-goal/)
 UNESCO (2011) The Right to Education (www.unesco.org/new/en/education/themes/leading-the-international-agenda/right-to-education )
 World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) (1987) ‘From one earth to one world’ in Dryzek, J.S. and Schlosberg, D (1998) in Debating the Earth: The environmental politics reader, Oxford University Press.