HEKS in Bangladesch

Combatting poverty – empowering minorities

Bangladesh Country Programme

HEKS/EPER supports the social and economic integration of marginalized minorities. They learn to ensure their own food security through sustainable agriculture and cattle farming, and are supported in building up small businesses. Assisted by HEKS/EPER, grassroots organizations strive to ensure that the authorities respect the rights of minorities.


Bangladesh became independent in 1971. Despite economic growth and major social advances, for example in health and education, the country is still plagued by political instability and corruption. Located in the world's largest river delta and rising to just a few metres above sea level, Bangladesh is also flood-prone. Besides, it experiences regular tropical typhoons. This is all the more dramatic when it is considered that Bangladesh is one of the world's most densely populated countries. The ongoing economic upswing is not benefitting everyone, however. More specifically, the Dalit, called casteless, and Adibashi, who belong to the indigenous population, face exclusion and discrimination in society. Their fundamental human rights are not realized and they are bypassed by the benefits of economic growth.

Objectives and priorities

HEKS/EPER support targets these social, ethnic and religious minorities, focusing on the north-western part of the country where there are some 1.5 million Dalit and about 350,000 Adibashi. The country programme is aimed at the social inclusion of these vulnerable groups, promoting greater enjoyment of equal rights and equal economic opportunities. In addition, HEKS/EPER also provides emergency and reconstruction aid after natural disasters.

HEKS in Bangladesch
Sabine Buri


The overall goal of the HEKS/EPER country programme Bangladesh 2017-2020 is to strive towards the social inclusion of Dalit and Adibashi in Northwest Bangladesh. The focus on the marginalized Dalit and Adibashi communities confirms HEKS/EPER’s commitment to engage with the most vulnerable groups. It is a continuation of the previous phase with the same goal and focus. It strives at consolidating successful practices, reaching out to more communities, bringing about systemic change, and enhancing the sustainability.

In order to achieve social inclusion of Dalit and Adibashi in the Northwest it is fundamental that the (O1) PooC communities are enable to claim their rights and fulfil their obligations, so that they can be active participants of the society; (O2) enjoy equal rights and have access to services, whereby (O3) a secured access to land is particularly important; and are given equal economic opportunities in order to (O4) improve their economic status, to benefit from the country’s economic development and to contribute to a more inclusive growth. Working toward social inclusion requires addressing grievances and conflicts between the minority and majority groups in society. In this regard, HEKS/EPER aims at (O5) an improved relationship with the mainstream society; which is inherently linked to (O6) an improved security of PooC communities. 
Bangladesh is one of the most disaster prone countries in the world and will become even more so as a result of climate change. Therefore, the programme has a strong focus on building up the resilience of communities. Vulnerable groups such as Dalit and plain land Adibashi shall be better prepared for natural disasters and be included in relevant government bodies for disaster preparedness. In case of an emergency, HEKS/EPER responds to the humanitarian needs of the most affected people.

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