Notes from the Field

From Bangladesh: Enhancing the Role of Religious Leaders in Development

March 21, 2007

Bangladeshi society confers stature and respect on individuals whose contributions to community life reflect special knowledge and personal integrity. As leaders of influence, Muslim religious leaders, or imams, are well placed to contribute to national development efforts. They understand local community needs and can communicate citizen interests to development professionals, while also using their weekly sermons and other outreach to provide information on development initiatives and opportunities to community members. Through the Foundation’s Leaders Outreach Initiative program, more than 5,000 imams from across the country studied community development initiatives in education, public health, agriculture, fisheries, environmental conservation, human rights, prevention of trafficking in persons, and enterprise development. Participating imams share the knowledge acquired with members of their communities, harness this experience for their own development efforts, and have established collaborative working relations with secular civil society organizations with which they previously had little contact.

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