Nijera Kori is a well-known activist NGO in Bangladesh. “Nijera Kori” in English means, “We do it ourselves”.
Nijera Kori in its present form was reorganised in 1980. It is registered with the NGO Affairs Bureau with registration No. 66. Since 1980, Nijera Kori decided to focus on awareness raising of the rural poor and building their autonomous organisation to address the multiple economic, political and social constraints that prevent them from establishing their rights over the institutions that govern their lives and livelihoods. It is an organisation which values secularism, democracy and equity and strives to eradicate the structural issues of patriarchy, class and fundamentalism that continue to exploit and marginalise the most vulnerable people of Bangladesh.
Nijera Kori is, in many ways, a unique organisation within the universe of NGOs in Bangladesh. It began out as a privately initiated response by an expatriate nutritionist working with a development agency to the distress of destitute rural women who migrated into Dhaka city in the aftermath of the 1974 famine. In this early phase, it was a relief-oriented initiative, providing food, shelter and income-generating skills to these women. It became inactive after its founder’s departure from Bangladesh. It was revived again in 1979, when the staff (mainly women) of CUSO’s Women’s Programme, dissatisfied with the welfarist direction the programme was taking in relation to gender issues, left CUSO and revived the defunct Nijera Kori in order to run CUSO’s development programmes with poor, rural women under new auspices.
A change of direction took place in 1980 when large numbers of field organisers left BRAC to join Nijera Kori. Here too, the cause of dissatisfaction related to programmatic concerns, in this case with BRAC’s gradual move away from a primary focus on raising awareness and building the organisations of the poor to an increasing stress on service delivery functions.
The particular analysis of the causes and manifestations of, and longer-term solutions for, poverty and social injustice which underpinned the dissatisfaction of this group played an important role in shaping the direction and content of Nijera Kori’s future activities.
Thus, while strictly speaking, Nijera Kori has been in existence since 1976, the organisation really began in 1980. Since then, what has set Nijera Kori apart from perhaps every other NGO in Bangladesh is that it has eschewed all forms of service provision for the poor and concentrates instead on mobilising them to claim their entitlements and demand their rights.
Nijera Kori means ‘we do it ourselves’. At a time when Bangladesh has rightly become famous for its innovations in the arena of credit, Nijera Kori staff humourously say that their other name is: ‘We-don’t-do-credit’.
In 2016, Nijera Kori enters into its 42nd years of existence. Nijera Kori is working in 1,168 villages, 147 unions, 31 upazila and 14 districts in Bangladesh (March 2015). The organisation has a total of 211,694 group members (117,579 women and 94,115 men).
By now Nijera Kori has gained a reputation at the national level as being an organisation that can bridge local issues with formulation of national policies, and through their active interactions in bringing local, marginalised, unheard voices to dialogue with policy makers at the central level.