Working papers

Working papers

These working papers present early research and learning from the shiree/EEP programme, specifically focused on extreme poverty. They make links between practice-based learning, research and wider poverty debates.

Action Research and Extreme Poverty: Khutamara Union, Nilphamari District, Bangladesh


Pressure to pay dowry drives households from moderate poverty to extreme poverty


Dowry is considered to be among the leading causes of poverty in Bangladesh, having the potential to push households into a state of destitution. The growing body of research on this topic has however yet to implement any projects capable of significantly curbing this process. The aim of this action research is therefore to identify viable and practical interventions that can support a change in people’s preferences and actions in relation to dowry, grounded in the perspective of the community. This endeavour tries to close the gap between the communities’ perceptions of dowry and projects that aim to mitigate the practice. The paper specifically focuses on the relationship between dowry and the extreme poor, and the effects that interventions aiming to reduce this practice would have on this particular group.

The findings suggest a strong relationship between dowry and the undertows of extreme poverty. The paper also reports that, in the eyes of the community, actions in relation to dowry can be changed through a series of simultaneous activities. Based on these recommendations, this paper suggests three such interventions; i) the formation of anti-dowry ward committees of locally respected individuals to draw awareness to the illegality and harmful consensuses of dowry; ii) increase law enforcement to enforce already existing laws surrounding dowry and; iii) enrolment of young women into income generating activity training. The paper concludes that through these main interventions a considerable change in actions in relation to dowry would occur and furthermore, the effects of this change would be strongly beneficial for the extreme poor.

Authors: Christopher Tomlinson and Sheikh Tariquzzaman.

July, 2009

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Targeting the Extreme Poor: Learning from shiree


Targeting the extreme poor is made more difficult by Bangladesh’s landscape, calling for need for context-specific approaches


The extent and persistence of extreme poverty in Bangladesh requires focused attention and action. The extreme poor are people living below the lower half of the poverty line in Bangladesh comprising 25% of the population. However, whilst distinguishing the extreme poor from the poor is straight forward on paper using expenditure data, it is much more challenging in the field. The first attempt by the shiree-supported NGO projects to target the extreme poor suffered from important errors of inclusion of the non-extreme poor. These errors of inclusion may lend support to the argument that we should use a less precise, cheaper and arguably more ethical universal poor + extreme poor approach.

However, there is a growing body of research showing there are unique characteristics and causes of extreme poverty. The extreme poor find it significantly harder to climb out of poverty and can be excluded or reportedly non-responsive to ordinary pro-poor interventions such as micro-finance (although our findings show that more information is needed on how the extreme poor are engaging with micro-finance activities). Moreover, by not targeting the extreme poor, they may continue to be excluded politically and practically from donor programmes

In this paper we discuss what we have learned from our experience refining targeting techniques after an initial attempt which suffered from significant mis-targeting. We find that over specification (one-definition) of one or more criteria or over reliance on one targeting tool could lead to targeting errors and in the diverse contexts of Bangladesh. Instead, a mix of contextually specific criteria and methods had to be applied. It then discusses general learnings from this experience, best practices and an overall 6 stage model for targeting the extreme poor, of relevance to improving the targeting of NGOs, donors and government programmes towards the extreme poor.

Author: Hannah Marsden.

December, 2010.