Areas of Work


Mobilizing and empowering urban poor communities was at the heart of UPPR’s poverty reduction strategy. UPPR’s theory of change for reducing poverty in poor urban settlements across Bangladesh was built upon the understanding that communities themselves are best placed to judge what their main priorities are and who amongst them is most in need of support.

The targeting of the poorest households was completed through the Participatory Identification of the Poor (PIP) process, which was amongst the most innovative and inclusive aspects of UPPR. This process gave the communities responsibility for definingpoverty and identifying those most in need. Each community discussed and agreed upon relevant social, economic and physical poverty criteria to identify the poverty status of all households. Households were then categorized as eitherextremely poor, poor and non-poor.

Community governance structures

Poor urban households were mobilized by joining Primary Groups (PGs). Each PG represented about 20 households and formed the grassroots level of the community governance structure that UPPR worked with. Almost all members of the PGs were women, creating space for their empowerment and allowing them to take on leadership roles in their communities. In turn, these PGs formed Community Development Committees (CDCs). These groups came together and engaged in the development of Community Action Plans (CAP), which entailed identifying the needs of their communities and designing apt solutions to tackle them in order to improve living conditions and reduce poverty. Such independent community-led planning helped members realize that they not only have the capacity, but also the right to identify their own problems and shape appropriate solutions to alleviate them.

Representing about 200 to 300 households each, CDCs were also supported to prepare and manage community contracts to deliver infrastructure and services to meet community needs. Cluster Committees were then formed, in which several CDCs together could share experiences, lessons learned and establish networks for an even greater impact on poverty alleviation.

Empowering new leaders to emerge

UPPR worked with women and girls to overcome their disadvantaged social position by encouraging them to take on leadership roles within their communities. Emphasis was thereby placed on empowering the extreme poor and poor women. This focus extended to households vulnerable to the risk of social exclusion, including those that were female headed, had at least one disabled member, or belonged to an ethnic minority or scheduled caste. The assumed responsibilities and improved standing within their communities empowered women politically and facilitated their ability to assert their voices.

CDC Federations

CDC Clusters were further organized in Federations at the town level. The CDC Federations supported the CDCs by providing training, assisting in establishing partnerships and linkages, and mobilizing resources from Local Government Institutions (LGIs) and other agencies for poverty reduction activities. Furthermore, Federations provided oversight functions for the CDC structures such as, Savings and Credit Groups; advocated with LGIs for pro-poor planning; and monitored the distribution of local government resources. For direct communication withthe CDC Federations, please contact:

  • CDC Town Federation Bogra Pourashava at:
  • CDC Town Federation Rajshahi City Corporation at:
  • CDC Town Federation Sirajgonj Pourashava at:
  • CDC Town Federation Naogaon Pourashava at:
  • CDC Town Federation Barisal City Corporation at:
  • CDC Town Federation Chittagong City Corporation at:
  • CDC Town Federation Mymensingh Pourashava  at:
  • CDC Town Federation Comilla City Corporationat:
  • CDC Town Federation Tangail Pourashava at:
  • CDC Town Federation Dhaka South City Corporation at:
  • CDC Town Federation Jessore Pourashava at:
  • CDC Town Federation Dinajpur Pourashava at:
  • CDC Town Federation Dhaka North City Corporation at:
  • CDC Town Federation Gopalgonj Pourashava at:
  • CDC Town Federation Sylhet City Corporation at:
  • CDC Town Federation Rangpur City Corporation at:
  • CDC Town Federation Narayangonj City Corporation
  • CDC Town Federation Gazipur City Corporation at:
  • CDC Town Federation Kushtia Pourashava at:
  • CDC Town Federation Chapai Nawabgonj at:
  • CDC Town Federation Hobigonj Pourashava at:
  • CDC Town Federation Savar Pourashava at:
  • CDC Town Federation Khulna City Corporation at:


Children, especially girls, from poor urban settlements throughout Bangladesh constantly face the risk of having their education interrupted by external shocks caused by poverty in the absence of social safety nets. In addition to poverty, girls often stop their studies at the primary level due to early marriages. Although the cost of primary education is free in Bangladesh, many households struggle to afford uniforms or transport, discouraging students’ attendance and forfeiting opportunities to complete their education. As a result, these children lack the human capital to break out of the cycle of poverty later in life.

In order to help urban poor children stay in school, UPPR provided an education grant that was designed to support more than 90,000 vulnerable girls and boys towards achieving their primary and secondary school certificates. Other initiatives to keep the girls in school, such as campaigns, youth development programmes and training on early marriage, early pregnancy, dowry, and gender-based violence, were also being undertaken in many towns where UPPR operates.

With the help of education grants and increased awareness on the importance of completing school, UPPR supported urban poor to access education and aimed to prevent them from dropping out due to early marriages and other poverty related causes. This allowed the recipients to build up human capital that will help them to escape the poverty cycle. 

Community banking

Neglected by the formal banking sector, the poor population in Bangladesh have lacked adequate access to formal or informal financial services, such as savings products and loans. As a result, there are no cost-efficient ways for the poor to accumulate savings from their income or take out loans for income generating activities and/or for the improvement of their livelihoods. In this context, UPPR recognized that an inclusive financial system can serve as a powerful support that greatly contributes to the economic growth of a community, enabling community members to mobilize available resources and generate income. With such recognition, UPPR has supported the communities that it works with to establish their own community-based savings and credit groups. 

Households investing in their own future through savings and credit groups

Local community savings and credit schemes, which are fundamentally bound to formation of the vast majority of Primary Groups, are key to increase income and assets. In contrast to micro-credit interventions, community members initially focussed on mobilising local financial resources by collecting savings from group members. In turn, savings and credit groups would lend from their capital to provide credit to members for micro-enterprise activities and fulfillment of community needs. A share of the profits from the savings and credit scheme would also go towards supporting group management costs, providing the basis for long-term sustainable community empowerment. A total number of 398,247 households have joined the Community Banking scheme since UPPR's inception. As of August 2015, the savings balance across all groups reached BDT 668 million (USD 8.7 Million) and the overall disbursement of loans throughout the duration of UPPR reached USD 31 million.

UPPR’s savings and credit groups have demonstrate that poor communities with low-income levels - who are usually neglected by the formal banking sector – are not only able to accumulate savings, but can also operate and manage their own savings and credit operations utilizing their local resources. 

Tenure & housing

Security of tenure, which is defined as the right of individuals and groups to effective protection by the government against forced evictions, plays a crucial role in urban poverty reduction. As per the secure tenure campaign of UN-HABITAT, ‘security of tenure is a fundamental requirement for the progressive integration of the urban poor in the city and one of the basic components of the right to housing.’

Tenure security can help the affected families escape from poverty by taking away their fear of eviction and helping them increase their income through investment and business opportunities, for example, through using land titles as collateral for loans. In addition, tenure security for the poor serves as a foundation to pursue other rights – such as rights to services for health and education, and rights to occupy or sell a house or land – for social well-being and for improving housing conditions.

UPPR has a two-track approach for the improvement of tenure security for the urban poor in Bangladesh. Firstly, UPPR works towards influencing relevant policies through the establishment of strategic partnerships and advocacy for more inclusive urban planning. In that regard, UPPR uses its tool, Settlement Land Mapping (SLM). Using GIS maps printed by UPPR, slum community members mark the low-income settlements and plots of vacant land in the wards in which they live. Once the settlements and vacant land have been marked on the maps, trained community members assess the poverty level of each of the mapped settlements. Using a set of sixteen indicators - such as access to water, electricity and roads - the settlement is categorized as extreme poor, very poor, poor or non-poor. Details on the vacant plots of land - such as their size, topography and potential use - are also recorded. The data produced can also be used to accurately target interventions in settlements, wards or towns according to one or more of the sixteen indicators. The data that SLM produces on vacant land is stored in case a slum settlement is destroyed or in danger of being evicted and alternative living space is needed. To date, UPPR has worked with relevant local government institutions and successfully obtained the respective Mayors’ official endorsement of the SLMs. By endorsing the maps where slums are included, the Mayors are allowing their inclusion in the Town Master Plans and therefore, allowing future inclusion of those slum dwellers in government programs like any other citizen. Settlement mapping and community registration process is an incremental development move in the tenure continuum from informal land tenure rights to formal ones. 

Secondly, UPPR provides operational support to the improvement of tenure security through the development of alternative approaches to forced eviction and models for security of tenure. In Gopalgonj, 24 very poor families have been living as tenants with no contract for more than 30 years, paying rent in a waterlogged highly polluted area with no toilets and water supply. With the assistance of UPPR, the communities negotiated with the landlord the improvement of the settlement provided tenants were given a long-term ground lease. The landlord agreed to sign a contract with each household for a long-term lease (20 years) and allowed the tenants to readjust physical locations of slums on a planned layout within the same land. 

The project also facilitates UPPR communities to access support to housing and housing finance. UPPR has helped the communities to establish a Community Housing Development Fund (CHDF) in 14 UPPR towns/cities. The CHDF  is a fully established and sustainable town level institution that arranges loans and housing development for community members and serves as an innovative model that has contributed to the improvement of tenure security and housing.


Because poverty is not only reflected in income levels, we work with the Government of Bangladesh to reduce poverty through a multi-sectoral approach. Through the Socio-Economic Fund (SEF), we provide the necessary funds for the communities to identify the poorest of the poor in need of support and finance activities that improve their livelihoods and expand their economic opportunities. The aim is to build the human and financial capital of these households so that they can support themselves to rise out of poverty.

Local solutions for increasing skills and improving livelihoods 

UPPR connects women and men with an opportunity to learn skills that give them a better chance of finding employment through apprenticeships. The potential apprentice works with UPPR staff to choose a skill. The community and UPPR then work together to find the right place to provide this training and negotiate its terms and conditions to ensure good quality training that leads to a positive outcome. Apprentices typically receive around USD 20 a month for up to six months. 

In addition, UPPR provided selected individuals with a block grant of up to seven thousand Taka, to start up a small business. The recipient worked one-on-one with a mentor from the community - who is employed by UPPR - and learned about using the funds and starting the business. The mentors also undergo special training and have at least completed Junior school so that they can provide good quality support to the recipients. Businesses established through the block grant include grocery stalls, tea stalls and the purchase of assets for daily rent such as carts.

Since mid-2014, the SEF team of UPPR has concentrated on engaging with the private sector for skills training and employment. By December 2014, UPPR had established 10 partnerships with private sector  and training Institutions/organization to train and provide at least 80%  of employment. Private sector partners include the Bangladesh Garment Manufactures Export Association (BGMEA), the Solar Group, Land Mark Footwear and Nippon Industries.

Today, over 50 thousand poor and extremely urban poor are busy putting their skills to work or operating their own businesses. UPPR continues to work to see an increased number of people realizing their potential by applying their skills on the job market.

Health & nutrition

Many poor households in Bangladesh cannot afford three meals a day; thus, they often fall weak and sick from malnutrition. Mothers and children suffer from low milk supply for breastfeeding due to poor nutrition behaviour and lack of access to essential vitamins and supplements, leading to illness. In the absence of a stable income, poor households often cannot cover the cost of doctor visits and medicines in cases of illness, further aggravating the problem of malnutrition. Hence, many households are not able to seek or are forced to give up treatment not only for themselves but also for their children. Such failure to improve the nutrition of infants and children has significant effects on their ability to learn and generate income in the future, which makes it difficult for them to break out of the generational poverty cycle.

UPPR ran an urban food production strategy to increase the number of food-producing households in poor urban settlements. It is expected that this will not only improve household nutrition but also boost household income.

UPPR helped these people by introducing them to Community Development Committees (CDC) and their activities. Their involvement helped them to get better access to any training they need as well as contribute their skills to help other members. Through household-level urban food production, members received technical training on how to grow homestead vegetables and how to start rearing poultry. UPPR members continue to grow and garden different seasonal vegetables that are rich in necessary nutrients and raise hens to produce eggs and meat. As a result, many families can now afford two full healthy meals per day and do not have to worry about the costs of doctor visits and medicines from nutritional deficiencies. In addition to the benefit from the sale of their home-grown food, household members participating in urban food production are also able to increase their calorific intake. 

In some cases, in which households engage in household-level urban food production, such as sharecropping in the neighbourhood and working towards establishing a small dairy farm to produce milk, their family members are not only healthy from more regular nutritious meals but also are able to sell the surplus from their produce to generate income.

Another direct nutritional intervention is mainly targeted at women, adolescent girls and children under the age of five. This strategy includes the distribution of iron and folic acid (IFA) supplements to pregnant and breastfeeding women, as well as adolescent girls. De-worming tablets and multiple micronutrient supplements are supplied to children under the age of five as well. In addition, services such as training, workshops and counselling on nutrition, exclusive breastfeeding and hygiene practices take place in order to raise awareness of healthy and proper practices.


Through its Settlement Improvement Fund (SIF), UPPR provided financial support to poor and extremely poor communities that live in hazardous environments to contract the necessary works for physical improvements in their neighbourhoods that they have identified as priorities. This approach ensured that infrastructure development and service delivery met the needs and priorities of women and children in the urban slums. The works included the extension of drains and footpaths, and the construction of latrines, reservoirs and water dwells to improve sanitation and hygiene conditions and to improve access to roads and markets, as well as a range of other activities in response to the priorities expressed by communities through their Community Action Plan.

From 2008 to 2014, UPPR has financed 5,334 contracts for communities to improve their settlements resulting in 246,891 households now benefiting from improved access to water facilities and 187,101 households benefiting from improved latrines.

Because all SIF investments are contracted by the communities themselves, UPPR not only stimulates local economies by supporting local manufacturers and businesses, but also achieves value for money. Community-led implementation resulted in an estimated savings of USD 4.7 m up to 2012, with project costs being in average 15.475 per cent lower than usual LGED contracting costs (according to the Value for Money study, 2014).  

By getting directly involved in the planning and execution, the community members learn and develop local skills that can be utilized for future employment as skilled and unskilled labourers. Further, a sense of ownership over the final output is developed over the implementation process, resulting in communities contributing to ensure the quality of construction and maintenance. 

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