Wikimedia Bangladesh finally completed the exhaustingly long bureaucratic process of local registration when treasurer Ali Haidar Khan collected the registration certificate from the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies & Firms office. This marked another big step towards the creation of a Wikimedia Chapter in Bangladesh. The formal public launching of the chapter is the last task, which we will be doing very shortly.
The idea of having a Bangladesh chapter began in 2009. Since then, Bangladeshi Wikimedians have been hosting regular offline activities for the purposes of realizing this goal. We formally submitted our bylaws to the Chapters Committee (now AffCom) in April 2011. Final approval from the Wikimedia Board of trustees came a few months later on October 3, 2011. We were the 39th chapter to be approved by the Wikimedia Foundation board.
After getting the approval from the WMF, the biggest challenge for us was to find a lawyer who would complete the legal formalities of registration at a low cost. Most of the lawyers we approached turned down our proposal because, according to them, getting registration as a non-profit ‘society’ was very difficult since applicants require a security clearance from the National Security Intelligence (NSI) of Bangladesh. We finally found a lawyer who agreed to help us with the condition that we collect the security clearance from NSI on our own. After accepting the condition, we submitted our application for local registration with the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies & Firms on May of 2012. We knew that the registration might take some time but we never imagined it will be such a long process that would take so long. We had to wait more than two years before finally receiving the certificate of registration on June 10th, 2014.
Wikimedia Bangladesh is registered at Joint Stock Companies & Firms – Bangladesh under the Societies Registration Act of Bangladesh and our official name is Wikimedia Bangladesh Foundation.
The usual government administrative setup is quite bureaucratic in Bangladesh, long delays are common when trying to get approval from the authorities. We were prepared to face difficulties in completing the registration as a non-profit ‘society,’ however, we were not prepared for the setbacks that came when trying to get security clearance from NSI. Despite the difficulties, we decided to get the ‘society’ registration as it allowed for more transparency, accountability, good governance and a smooth transition of leadership. During the registration process, we learned that it is very difficult to get the NGO registration in Bangladesh, as only about 5% of all the applications get final approval. There are ways to reduce this uncertainty, one of which is by offering bribes to the appropriate desks. We were informed by our legal consultant several times that ‘speed money’ could expedite the process and we could complete the registration within two to three months. However, we were determined to not to give any bribes and instead chose to keep persisting with patience.
It took us more than two years to get the long awaited registration in Bangladesh. These two years were marked with many visits to government offices, submitting the same paperwork several times, making personal appeals to different people and persistent follow-ups. At the end, it makes us quite happy to finally register our chapter in an honorable way, upholding the Wikimedia spirit.
Wikimedia Bangladesh and the community
Though we got the approval as a Wikimedia chapter in October 2011, the active community that we organized existed long before that. We staged different online and offline events to expand the community and enrich the Bengali Wikipedia.
We have been organizing various types of events in the name of Wikimedia Bangladesh since we got approved as a Wikimedia chapter. Since our beginning as a chapter, we’ve organized many offline events such as Wikimeetups, Wikipedia workshops, Bangla Wikipedia Unconference, photo-walks, Ekushey Book Fair outreach programs as well as a press conferences with the launch of Wikipedia Zero in Bangladesh. There are some online activities as well to encourage new contributors to increase and improve the quality of articles in Wikipedias. Wikimedia Bangladesh is also very active in social media channels like Facebook, Twitter etc.
We have started to collect members for our chapter and are planning to launch our new website very soon. We also plan to have regular offline monthly meetups and online IRC meetings. The offline meetups will be used as brainstorming and planning platforms for other larger events. We also have plans to engage the new editors as well as the new members of the chapter. We will do these in project basis, some of them will be online projects and some will be offline. The announcement will be published on mailing lists and on social media platforms.
We would like to welcome other chapters/thematic organizations and the larger Wikimedia community to offer suggestions and provide comments/feedback on our activities. We look forward to increased collaboration with other movement entities, chapters and the Wikimedia Foundation.
Ali Haidar Khan (Tonmoy), Treasurer, Wikimedia Bangladesh
Nasir Khan, Executive Committee Member, Wikimedia Bangladesh
Tanweer Morshed, Executive Committee Member, Wikimedia Bangladesh
Mayeenul Islam, Executive Committee Member, Wikimedia Bangladesh
This blog post was published on official blog of Wikimedia Foundation on June 27, 2014.