The Economic Empowerment of the Poorest programme started in 2008, and closed in September 2016. Often known as EEP/Shiree, it aimed to lift 1 million people out of extreme poverty by March 2015. That goal was successfully achieved and was augmented by a No Cost Extension in 2016 to consolidate gains made.
EEP/Shiree was a partnership between the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Government of Bangladesh (GoB) under the leadership of the Rural Development and Cooperative Division (RDCD) of the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives (LGRD).
The EEP/Shiree programme was worth over £83.5 million. Known by many as ‘Shiree’ –the Bangla word for ‘steps’ – the name is an acronym for “Stimulating Household Improvements Resulting in Economic Empowerment” which reflected the programme’s core approach: to provide households with the assets and support needed to take enduring steps out of extreme poverty.
EEP/Shiree used two challenge funds to provide resources to national and international NGOs working in Bangladesh: the Scale Fund and the Innovation Fund. The Scale Fund, using tried and tested methods, gave NGOs opportunities to take large numbers of people out of extreme poverty. The Innovation Fund challenged NGOs to design and implement innovative approaches to reducing extreme poverty in urban and rural areas.
Additionally, EEP/Shiree also implemented two nutrition funds from 2012. The Scale Fund Nutrition Component provided direct nutrition support to pregnant and breastfeeding women, adolescent girls, and children through existing EEP/Shiree Scale Fund partners. The Innovation Fund Nutrition Component tested new and unproven approaches to increasing protein intake among women, adolescent girls and children.
Overall, EEP/Shiree funded 43 projects with its partner NGOs under the Scale and Innovation Funds.
In addition to its work with NGOs on direct delivery, EEP/Shiree played a low key but strategic role to ensure the needs of the Extreme Poor were recognised in policy and practice. Initially networking with other relevant actors in Bangladesh to develop learning platforms on extreme poverty, EEP/Shiree went on, with DFID support, to assist the Planning Commission in framing the policies on extreme poverty now included in the Government’s 7th Five Year Plan (2016 – 2020), approved in October 2015. EEP/Shiree’s strategic assistance to the Planning Commission on extreme poverty policy comprised: a Background Paper to assist preparation for the Five Year Plan, a major research conference in April 2015 and finally, in August 2015, a public consultation with practitioners on the Government’s thinking on extreme poverty. In parallel, EEP/Shiree continued to stimulate thinking on eradicating extreme poverty through its media campaign in the press and on TV.