Mita visar klänningen hon har gjort själv.

Mita shows the dress that she has made on her own. To help pay for Mita’s education, she and her sister-in-law have begun working from home, sewing sequins on traditional dresses.

Photo: GRM International

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New ways to understand poor people's situation

Published: 2 March 2010 Updated: 21 August 2014

Sida and other players in Bangladesh have discovered new ways of gaining a genuine understanding of poor people’s situation. Every year, researchers go out and live with local families and gather information about the way they live.

In this way, they increase their knowledge about the needs of poor people, while gaining an understanding of how public services work at the local level. In the longer term, the aim is for the information gathered to be used in dialogue with the Bangladeshi government to try to improve public services. 

Mita wants to be a doctor

Mita is nearing the end of her primary education and is helping to pay for her schooling herself. She would like to be a doctor when she grows up, but her parents are concerned. They pleaded with researchers visiting last year:

“Help Mita with her education because we’re illiterate and can’t afford the support she needs.”

When researchers visited her family this year, Mita said that she still wanted to be a doctor but because she had not passed her maths and English exams, she was having to repeat a year.

One year in school costs the equivalent of about EUR 14  for uniforms, shoes, books, pens and other equipment. The extra lessons that Mita takes cost a further EUR 1 per month.

All family members help out

“We haven’t been able to save anything this year,” says Mita’s father, who sells small cakes at the bus terminal.

This is in spite of the fact that all seven members of the family earn money to help support the household.

To help pay for Mita’s education, she and her sister-in-law have begun working from home, sewing sequins on traditional dresses. They can earn about EUR 3  per month if they work for one or two hours per day.

A way of gaining knowledge about poor people’s situation

The interviews carried out with Mita and her parents were part of the Reality Check project, during which researchers visit the same families every year over a five-year period. They stay at least four nights with the families, spending time with them and listening to what they have to say. The purpose of the project is to understand poor people’s situation and examine whether public services are really reaching them.

Reality Check focuses on health and education, and is particularly important because the information collected comes directly from the poor, and from those who provide them with the services.

The study began in 2007 and will be repeated five times until 2011. It is a “listening” study, with researchers gaining an insight into the situation of poor people. The poor people lead the discussions they have. With the study being repeated over a five-year period, the principal focus of it is on the ways in which people’s lives may have improved.

For example, the study has shown that people dare not complain about poor health care for fear of it jeopardizing the little care they receive.

One example within the education arena has shown that more boys than girls tend to opt out of school, not purely for economic reasons but rather because they choose to do so themselves, against their parents’ will.


Page owner: Department for Asia, North Africa and Humanitarian Assistance

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