Community Resilience through Women Leadership

Dhaka, Bangladesh

This action plan was initiated by the Participatory Development Action Program (PDAP) to strengthen grassroots slum women through leadership building, Disaster Risk Reduction training and Local to Local (L2L) dialogue.

Over the years, many slums have been developing in Dhaka city. The Participatory Development Action Program (PDAP) has been working since 1996 in different slum areas and on various issues such as basic education, primary health care, skills development training, women’s and adolescents’ awareness raising and advocacy.  

Poor households and the women within urban communities are especially vulnerable because of the additional care-giving burdens they bear, and their lack of access and control over resources and services. For example, their ability to increase their daily income, effecting food security, is impeded by concerns about being evicted from their homes. Even if the High Court declared that “Without rehabilitation, there will be no eviction”, slum dwellers are often forced to leave their shelters, without rehabilitation. 

To respond to these issues, the PDAP initiated an action plan oriented towards community resilience through Leadership building and Disaster Risk Reduction training. The action plan was implemented in the slum of Bhola Bastee in Mirpur, Dhaka (Bangladesh). Over one year, the action plan has reached a group of 100 slum women.


City information

Size and population development
About 15 million inhabitants. Dhaka is one of the most rapidly growing and densely populated cities in the world.

Population composition
The majority of the population belongs to the Bengali Muslims community.

Main functions
Capital city; Dhaka has traditionally attracted a large number of migrant workers.

Main industries / business
The Greater Dhaka industrial area is a major hub of the Bangladesh textile industry. Other major sectors of the urban economy include: private education, healthcare, architecture, engineering and consultancy services.

Political structure
The city is runned by the Dhaka City Corporation which was divided into two administrative parts (Dhaka North City Corporation and Dhaka South City Corporation) in 2011. Both corporations are ruled by an administrator.

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Background and objectives

The Participatory Development Action Program (PDAP) was established on 6 March 1994 to address the needs of vulnerable groups and try to solve their problems. PDAP works with people whose lives are dominated by extreme poverty, illiteracy, disease and other environmental problems. With multifaceted development interventions, PDAP strives to bring about positive change in the quality of life of these people, especially of women, adolescents and children. PDAP is committed to making its programs socially, financially and environmentally sustainable using new methods and technologies. PDAP is actively involved in promoting human rights, dignity and gender equity.

The slum dwellers living in Bhola Bastee in Mirpur, Dhaka (Bangladesh) come from different areas of the Barishal district. Due to river erosion they have lost their property, resource and shelter and are very poor. Most of them are Richshaw puller, vegetable and fish seller, garments worker or home worker.  


The Participatory Development Action Program has been engaged in the following activities to enhance the resilience of the community:

  • Identification of challenges in the area through mapping and household survey;       
  • Training on leadership development skills;
  • Awareness raising activities on empowerment issues;
  • Teaching about the Local to Local methodology;
  • Use of the Local to Local methodology within the community and at a national level workshop.

The organized groups received leadership training as well as disaster risk reduction training from the Participatory Development Action Program. PDAP also encouraged them to contact NGOs directly to address their problems. The groups' leaders contacted World Vision, DSK and the Association for Realisation of Basic Needs (ARBAN).

Results and impacts

As a result, the NGO DSK provided some sanitation facilities, whilst World Vision developed roads and walkways. Road repair requires permission from the local Member of Parliament, so the women’s groups unitedly went to the local Member of Parliament to get permission for the work. World vision then started to repair the road by providing slabs to cover the open drains. Now, they are trying to adjust the water pipe line legally.

Lessons learned and transferability

Other NGOs have shared their experience with the Participatory Action Development Program.

Ms. Naseem Sheikh, member of the Senior Management Team of SSP India ("Empowering women as leaders and entrepreneurs"), came to the Participatory Development Action Program to share her experience with the grassroots leaders. She said that in their area, Maharastra, they do everything through the community group members. She gave a power point presentation, explaining about the Community Practitioners Platform for resilience ("an organizing and networking mechanism connecting grassroots community based groups working to reduce their vulnerability to disaster and climate risks in rural and urban areas") and how they improved their community through this platform and are now self-sustainable. 


- Community Resilience through Women Leadership - A Case study on Bhola slum of Mirpur, Participatory Development Action Program

External links / documents