Exploring the Marginalized: A study in some selected upazilas of Sylhet division in Bangladesh
Samir Ranjan Nath
In spite of overall development during the past four decades, Bangladesh also experienced marginalization and social exclusion. Inequality in social and economic outcomes exists among the geographic regions and small ethnic groups, and various socio-occupational sub-groups. BRAC, a national Non-Government Organization (NGO) in Bangladesh, aims to alleviate poverty through empowering people. It works in those areas where social exclusion is high and the people are deprived of various opportunities for development. Recently, BRAC decided to scale up various development interventions in the marginalized upazilas of Sylhet division, which showed poor performance in various social outcomes, to achieve MDG targets. Eight upazilas were primarily selected to initiate the task which includes Baniachang and Nabiganj of Habiganj district, Companiganj and Gowainghat of Sylhet district, Sulla and Bishwambarpur of Sunamganj district, and Kamalganj and Juri of Moulvibazar district. Selection of the upazilas was not random but six of them fell in the UNICEFâ€™s category of â€˜most deprivedâ€™ and the rest two were of â€˜averageâ€™ category. This study had three objectives. These are â€“ to generate an information base for developing a comprehensive understanding of poverty situation in these upazilas, to identify eligible individuals and households for various development interventions, and to create a baseline for future impact assessment studies.
Comparison of findings of this study with those from relevant sources clearly showed that the eight selected upazilas collectively lagged behind the Sylhet divisional averages as well as the national averages in various development indicators on demography, health, education and economy. This indicates right selection of upazilas for extensive intervention. Diversity existed among the population in the upazilas. They lived in three distinct locations: 60.4% in the plain land, 26.5% in the haor areas and 13.1% in the tea estates/hilly areas. Proportions of non-Muslims and those belonged to small ethnic groups were much higher than the respective national averages. Nearly a fifth of the study households belonged to non-Muslims and 5.4% from among the small ethnic groups. The upazilas were distinctly different among them in terms of distribution of households by location, proportion of non-Muslims and small ethnic groups.