Social development through art

Preyanka Chowdhury, Chittagong Community Manager
Chittagong, 22 August 2016

Along the southern coastline of Chittagong lies the world’s largest ship-breaking yard. Thousands of people work hazardous jobs to cut down giants of the ocean into salvageable metal and make a living on less than two dollars a day. This poverty stricken community of ship-breakers and fishermen living in squalor in an otherwise picturesque setting have very little opportunities to develop themselves. The severe lack of infrastructure and almost no schooling entrenches the future generations of these communities to live in a constant cycle of poverty. The children here are forced to take up fishing or other menial manual labor jobs to support their families in desperate need of additional working hands.

CODEC (Community Development Centre) a non-government organization (NGO) since 1985 have helped these impoverished communities by working for their basic rights. They obtain aid from various international and national organizations to give out services like micro credit loans, free educational facilities, scholarship programs, sanitation projects and many more. CODEC also focuses on life education as they believe it is the ultimate tool to bring forward enlightenment in terms of literacy and social awareness which can further bring about economic and communal development.
One such tool used by CODEC for life education is through art. They encourage children and youth to participate in art workshops held at their schools and even write poetry and take part in narrative plays. CODEC aims to tackle issues like land dispute, familial conflicts, poverty and death. Education on surviving natural disasters like cyclones and floods and working in stormy seas are also part of the art awareness programs.

The art workshop not only manage to extract issues out of the powerful young minds but also enables CODEC to scrutinize their social standing. With the issues in mind, CODEC conducts discussion groups with the fishermen communities to address the problems and the corrective measures that needs to be adopted to counter them. In such a manner, CODEC not only works for the benefit of these deprived communities but also focus on attracting government attention and aid to cater to issues like free educational system, food supplies and skill development workshops and diversified job opportunities for the fishermen and their families when they are unemployed in particular months of the year.

Expression through forms of art in Bangladesh is still at its infancy. In Chittagong, the usage of art to convey developmental issues is rarer still. CODEC is one of the few who has taken the initiative to tackle these socio economic issues from a different light, which is indeed very commendable.

Photo: GMB Akash

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