United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Strengthening Women’s Ability for Productive New Opportunities (SWAPNO)

General Economics Division, Bangladesh Planning Commission (

    Strengthening Women’s Ability for Productive New Opportunities (SWAPNO) is an excellent example of the government’s initiative in fighting against poverty. SWAPNO is a social transfer project under Local Government Division (LGD) for ultra-poor women to be engaged in public works essential for the economic and social life for rural communities. It promotes employment, and most importantly future employability, of extreme poor rural women, which is the most efficient way to secure poverty reduction and inclusive growth.

    Implementation of the Project/Activity

    The approach of SWAPNO includes cash transfer for work, build human capital, create saving behavior among women, and provide counselling and necessary support for investment. Moreover, assistance is provided for their transition from safety net employment to market-driven employment through trainings, market linkage, access to public services and linkages with SMEs and Public Private Partnership (PPP). The benefits of SWAPNO program has been analyzed by the government. In National Social Security Strategy (NSSS) Action Plan, LGD decided to replicate SWAPNO pilot model in more than 200 Upazilas. Initial pilot was completed in two most vulnerable districts: Kurigram (most flood affected poor and remote district) and Satkhira (most climate and disaster-risk-prone poor coastal district). The second phase continues the previous districts and upscaling in new five districts: Kurigram, Lalmonirhat, Gaibandha, Jamalpur, and Satkhira.


    The expected outcomes of the project are as follows: -About 65,000 ultra-poor households will be able to ensure their food security and livelihoods. -Women beneficiaries and their dependents will attain improved nutrition, health, education and participation in decision making. -About 65,000 beneficiary households will have access to public services essential for their livelihood activities and family wellbeing. -Public assets promoting local economic regeneration, improving social conditions and enhancing environmental conditions will be maintained and developed for the benefit of the poor of the participating rural communities. -Local communities will have better capacity to withstand natural disasters and recover after disasters. -Local government will have the capacity to implement social transfer projects with accountability, transparency, gender sensitivity and pro-poor approach.

    Enabling factors and constraints

    The major reasons of the success of SWAPNO project are the active role of Union Workers (UWs) and the community monitoring mechanism. The UWs hired by the Partner NGOs have efficiently complemented the functions of local administration in all steps of project implementation. On the other hand, community monitoring served to inform the general people about the schedule of different work activities so that they can easily verify if the women are working properly and timely. One of the major challenges is the necessary fund to replicate the model across the country.

    Sustainability and replicability

    It is found in the end line study that SWAPNO beneficiaries earned on an average 3.5 per cent more than the control group and the short-term impact of the project is likely to sustain. The first major indication of sustainability is the amount and type of productive investment the beneficiaries made out of their income and savings. Second, the beneficiaries have learnt some basics of running a business. This has boosted their self-confidence, and changed their attitude. Third, the beneficiaries now have greater control over their assets, while at the same time their mobility has increased along with self-confidence, self-efficacy and aspiration. All these indicators strongly suggest that the beneficiaries now aspire to live a better life and they will continue to do so in the absence of the project. Similarly, the extent of longer term impacts can be explored through subsequent surveys. Being a success at the first-phase, the model is being replicated to other districts of the country.

    Other sources of information
    COVID-19 Impact

    SWAPNO project has continued its operation during the COVID-19 period. Apart from the project activities, various supports have been extended to the beneficiaries in the project areas. These include awareness building, cash grant for maintaining social distance during COVID-19 etc. A total of 6064 beneficiaries have received the cash grants. Besides, distribution of food items to 126 unions of the three project districts has been done to ensure food security of marginalized women in response to COVID-19. Under this initiative, 5000 women received food assistance in these three districts.

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    This initiative does not yet fulfil the SMART criteria.
    01 July 2014 (start date)
    31 July 2021 (date of completion)
    Local Government Division (LGD), Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development & Co-operatives, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh
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    Other beneficiaries

    The main beneficiaries of the project are the poor and vulnerable women. It is a program of Local Government Division, Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development & Co-operatives of the Government of Bangladesh. Major partners of the project include SDG-F, UNDP, ILO, SIDA, BSRM, Marico and others including NGOs.

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    Contact Information

    Mohammad Zariab