Where we work
MATI is working in three districts, Mymensingh, Sherpur and Tangail, in the North of Bangladesh, not far from the Indian border. MAP
Our Head-Office in Mymensingh-Sankipara
Mymensingh is the district capital of the district Mymensingh. The town is one of the main cities in the middle North of the country, located 120 km straight up the road from Dhaka. The town has 400 000 inhabitants and is spread out along a side-channel of the Brahmaputra river. Locally Mymensingh is known as the capital of Rikshaws, as they are the main means of transport and luckily outnumber motorized transport by far. Mymensingh is also known for its vibrant Hindu culture.
Our Head Office is located in the Mymensingh town area named Sankipara. The parental home of Mati founder Lenen Rahaman has been turned into the organizational headquarter and is home to the lively community of Mati staff and volunteers. This is where the brains of our organization are at work. Here, the project work is planned and coordinated. Since here we enjoy the luxury of electricity (impermanent as this may be due to the frequency of power cuts), it is the heart of communication with our partners overseas. Apart from housing the office buildings there are also a growing number of training facilities such as sewing and computer management. From Mymensingh our staff also cycles out to the Millennium Village Harguzirpar every day, which is 8 km away.
With the attached “fieldstation” we work with the families in the surrounding slums. Here we try to address the specific problems of the poor in urban areas. Around 3000 women are active in Mati Women Groups in the locality.
Our fieldstation Huzurikanda – Chandrokona Union – Sherpur Distrikt
Huzurikanda is a remote, but densely populated village like thousand others in Bangladesh. Here Mati has its roots, as this is where Lenen Rahaman started to work with two women as health motivators in his semester break in 1997. He lived three months with a local family, to learn about the problems of the rural poor.
One year later, Mati became a registered organisation with the Social Welfare Department Sherpur, and the first very modest office was built with the help of German Foundation “Stiftung Umverteilen, Berlin”. At that time, the Mati staffs were sleeping at night in the office, to protect it from possible thieves, and because staff accommodation did not exist back then. In 1999 the first class at the Mati School welcomed the first students.
By 2012 Mati works in 40 villages in the region around Huzurikanda, Nakla Thana. The are is very remote, structurally underdeveloped, overpopulated, and very poor. Many villages are accessible only via mud-road or by boat, as they lie in the char areas (land reserved for the river’s excess water during the monsoon season) of the Brahmaputra. Many households are still without electricity.
Nearly all families are dependent on agriculture. 80% are marginal farmers or day labours. 70% of the adult generation are completely illiterate. About 35% are chronically hungry, although they are producing food – for others. The lack of affordable education leads to the prevalence of the partriarchic, extremely conservative society structure, where women are de-facto second class citizens without rights.
In Huzurikanda Mati has established the Mati Primary School for nearly 300 students,
and a field station working together with app. 3000 poor families.
Our fieldstation in Borobilerpar
Borobilerpar is MATI’S second field area. It is situated in the sub-urban area of Mymensingh Sadar Police Station, on the outskirts of Mymensingh, about 10 km distance from the Head Office. The locals have been especially welcoming towards the idea to establish a MATI training centre in their neighborhood and have ever since been very cooperative to make our programs there successful. We built our own office there in 2007, with an attached training centre. In 2011 also a new building for a carpentry workshop was added. A small guesthouse is in the planning phase.
Our fieldstation in Azmotpur
In Azmotpur Mati’s work started in 2006. The villagers had heard about us and invited us several times, hoping, that they could profit from cooperating with Mati as well. When having a look at the village on our first visit, we knew a lot of work was ahead. The next paved road is miles away from the village. No household had a freshwater pump, only that of the chairman. Toilets? None. The next school? Too far to walk there. Children with protruding bellies were lining the streets, the typical signs of malnutrition and worms.
So our first intervention was handing out anti-worm medication to all children. The women were very motivated to start savings-groups. They established a community loan system. Thus they could start disbursing the first small loans among their group members. Huts got repaired, toilets installed, some bought chickens and goats. Mati sponsored two community water pumps.
At the moment we are renting a small office room nearby, but several of our staff still cycle out the 15 km every day to meet with the women, who are waiting for them.