Reetika Joshi (pictured here in black jacket) is a member of the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) team of consultants from Columbia University in New York City working with the THP Global Office and THP-Bangladesh on a Gender Impact Assessment. This last January, Reetika and her colleague Aaron Foss (pictured here in green shirt) conducted a field visit to Bangladesh. She shares her experience here:
I have had the opportunity to work with the THP Global Office and THP-Bangladesh over the past five months as part of a team of graduate consultants from the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University. Over these five months, I have been able to interact extensively with THP staff and volunteers on the ground and have been impressed and inspired by their dedication and commitment to the organization and to the improvement of their communities.
The team was appointed to create user-friendly assessment tools, conduct a gender impact assessment of THP’s programs in Bangladesh, and identify gaps in the Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) system. As part of this project, I conducted a field visit to Bangladesh, together with another member of the team, and worked closely with the THP office in Bangladesh to understand the programs, the existing M&E system, and to create and test tools with the Bangladesh staff. We held focus groups and interviews with both THP and non-THP individuals, and were able to see first-hand the influence of THP programs on volunteers and their communities.
While in the field in Bangladesh, I had a chance to meet many volunteers, and hear some incredible stories such as THP volunteers stopping early marriages, persuading parents to send their children to school, persuading students who had dropped out to return to school, stopping polygamy, helping battered women and advocating for pure drinking water. One thing that really stood out for me was how dedicated these volunteers were to an organization from which they received no direct material benefits. These volunteers were clearly gaining something of value from the THP trainings and meetings in order to diligently participate in these events, and then to take action in their communities. This was further qualified in focus group discussions with non-THP individuals who spoke of THP volunteers as progressive in their personal and professional lives, active and respected in their communities, and role models. Based on my experience, I feel that there is an inherent value in THP’s bottom-up approach of giving power to the people, and equipping them with the personal tools to make a difference in their communities.
The THP staff were incredibly generous and hospitable, and very responsive all through our engagement with them. I learned a lot from this project, personally and professionally. A big thank you to the THP staff and volunteers in Bangladesh and New York for making this an incredible experience!
Reetika and Aaron with school children in Bangladesh