Dance Troupe Photo: CARE Bangladesh

By Thomas R Lansner, Project Director, Social Accountability Media Initiative (SAMI), Aga Khan University Graduate School of Media and Communications (GSMC

Facebook might now be the best way to connect with development professionals in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka. But traditional musical theater troupes, delivering social accountability messages crafted by GPSA partner CARE Bangladesh, still draw appreciative crowds in poor villages in northern Bangladesh [please see photo].

My visit to Bangladesh at the end of March and early April included an advocacy communications workshop with civil society staff and government officials in Dhaka, and a social accountability storytelling workshop with media practitioners in Rangpur, in the country’s north. More about the Social Accountability Media Initiative can be found here, and here.

Also in Rangpur, several government officials joined CSO staff, village committee members, and media representatives for a roundtable titled “Voice Matters”, that focused on how to build trust and better collaborations among these groups to promote social accountability.

The need to address different audiences through varied and appropriate media and messages was a recurring discussion point across each meeting. Newspapers and social media may reach elite audiences who could help make social accountability a national priority. Community media and traditional theater can help empower people to make demands for service delivery on a very local level, by informing them of social accountability mechanisms such as scorecards and participatory forums that engage local government.

Media coverage also serves an important purpose to demonstrate the impact of what are still small scale projects, according to Murad Bin Aziz, Care Bangladesh Governance Coordinator, Extreme Rural Poverty Program: “Stories that show how real people benefit from social accountability projects,” he said, “will encourage other local governments to take up similar methods.” 

CARE Bangladesh’s GPSA project is the Journey for Advancement in Transparency, Representation and Accountability [JATRA] Staff from Manusher Jonno Foundation, which runs the other GPSA-supported project, Social Engagement for Budgetary Accountability [SEBA] also joined the Dhaka Workshop.

Photo: Social Accountability Media Initiative [SAMI] Bangladesh Mentor Kazi Islam [standing] joins local media practitioners Mohammed Tofazzal Hossain [left] and Anzarul Islam Jewel [right], and Care Project Offer Golam Rabanni [center], in an exercising on reporting social accountability stories.

Dance Troupe: 16 January, 2017, Kashiram Belpukur Union, Saidpur, Nilphamari, Bangladash. Cultural troupes Binapani and Matir Manush developed a program for CARE Bangladesh’s GPSA-supported Social Accountability campaign. Using a local folk form called “Pala Gaan”, a Bangla theatre style incorporating music, dance and storytelling, and northern Bangladesh music known as “Bhawaiya”, they promoted social accountability messages in rural villages.