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The signing ceremony of the financing agreement between the Economic Relations Division, Ministry of Finance, and the World Bank and the Project Agreement between the World Bank and Social Development Foundation (SDF), the implementing agency, was held on 27 June.

Fatima Yasmin, secretary of the ERD, and Mercy Miyang Tembon, the World Bank’s country director for Bangladesh and Bhutan, signed the agreement on behalf of their respective sides.

Tembon also inked the project agreement on behalf of the World Bank while AZM Sakhawat Hossain, managing director of the SDF, signed the papers for the implementing agency. SDF Chairperson Md. Abdus Samad, also a former senior secretary, was also present at the signing ceremony, according to a SDF media release.

Built on the success of the first and second Social Investment Programme Projects and the Nuton Jibon Livelihood Improvement Project, the RELI project will mobilise, develop, and strengthen community organisations, and finance their community plans to provide cash transfers and loans for income-generating activities.

The project will provide training to almost 490,000 people on climate risk, adaptation, and resilience building. It will also build 5,120 climate-resilient small-scale infrastructures.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the poor in rural areas, particularly women, by limiting their income and economic opportunities,” said World Bank country director for Bangladesh and Bhutan Mercy Tembon.

“This project will help boost the rural economy and 90 per cent of the beneficiaries will be women. The project will also help with health and nutritional awareness. When a woman earns more, her family and the community are better off,” Mercy Tembon added.

The project will support rural entrepreneurs and producer groups with market linkages including e-commerce platforms, partnerships with local governments, and promotional activities, said a WB press release.

It will also provide skills development training to the unemployed or under-employed youth and returnee migrants to increase their employability.

ERD secretary Fatima Yasmin said, “Through community mobilisation and climate-smart agriculture practices, the project will help rural women withstand any future shocks like the pandemic without falling back to poverty.”

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