The Global Week of Action on Road Safety was observed in 21-27 May this year. On this occasion Child Health Initiative, an international organisation focusing on child health, stressed the importance of reducing road traffic crashes to improve the overall status of public health at the UN World Health Assembly in New York. The organisation also highlighted the issue at the recent conference of International Transport Forum held in Leipzig, Germany. They called on the non-governmental organisations to observe Global Week of Action on Road Safety this year upholding children's right to safe road.
Responding to the call the Global Alliance of NGOs for Road Safety observed the week across the world. As a member of the Alliance BRAC organised a series of programmes during the week call on the nation to work together to improve road safety for our children. FIA Foundation, an international organisation promoting creative initiatives to ensure road safety, supported BRAC in organising these events.
To observe the week BRAC Road Safety Programme organised drawing competitions for children in schools in and outside Dhaka focusing on the issue of road safety. A signature campaign was also organised in which transport owners and workers, teachers and employees of different government and private organisations took part, pledging that they would do their best to ensure road safety from their respective positions. BRAC social media platforms also ran a campaign with road safety awareness messages and stressing the significance of the week.
For Bangladesh the observance of this week is particularly important because every year a large number of children die and become injured in road traffic crashes. Many of these road crashes occur during their commuting to school. According to an estimate of 2016, every year 5,000 children, with an average of 14 children every day, die in road traffic crashes. Many of these children lost their life while on their way to or from school.
Employment generation will be the major challenge in the forthcoming national budget of fy2018-19, people responding in a recent countrywide pre-budget survey viewed. To ensure robust national development, they also stressed stronger and effective spending in five areas, namely education, health and medical care, roads building and maintenance, adequate subsidies in agriculture, and establishment of more industrials units and factories.
BRAC and Institute of Informatics and Development (IID) conducted the survey as a part of a study to identify the people's priority areas in the next national budget and review the progress of the implementation of the budget of the outgoing fiscal of 2017-18. The survey was conducted in all the 64 districts with participation of 3,846 randomly selected respondents.
Among the areas and issues the respondents gave most emphasis are: in education sector stipends and allowances for students (25%), supply of books and other education materials (24%), and establishing schools, madrassahs and colleges (18%); in health sector low cost treatment facility (42%), establishing hospitals and clinics (19%), and healthcare for the poor (12%); in agriculture sector supply of farming equipment and inputs in low cost (63%), low interest micro-loans (16%) and marketing facilities for farm produces (5%); in social security sector allowances for senior citizens (35%), shelter for the homeless (17%), and widow allowances (9%); in disaster preparedness sector appropriate measures for timely disaster forecast (47%), health and medical care both during and after disasters (10%), and building embankments to protect lives and resources against floods and storm surges (9%); and in migration sector increasing government assistance at the local level (34%), easy loan facility (21%) and increasing information flow from the government at the village level (20%).
The study report expects that money flow may increase with a reduction in revenue earning in the new budget coinciding with the next general election. Having analysed the budgets and their spending trends, the report said that the budget of fy2018-19 will be an election budget. The revenue earning might decrease, while the government spending will rise during the first six months, leading to an increased internal borrowing, such as borrowing from the banks. The overall situation may have a negative impact on the national economy.
The study also forwards three recommendations, based on a review of the spending of the budget of the outgoing fiscal and people's priorities as reflected in the survey:
BRAC recently organised an international level training for the transport drivers of the Bangladesh Navy, focusing on awareness building and behavioural change for safe driving. 22 drivers of the Bangladesh Navy participated in the three-day-long training at BRAC's driving school in Uttara in the capital, starting on 22 April 2018.
The course appropriately combines hands-on training and theoretical knowledge with a special focus on the former.
BRAC undertook the training titled 'Road safety and safe driving training', in short 'Surokkha', in 2014, realising that raising awareness and capacity building are critical in reducing the extremely high rate of road crashes in Bangladesh. In this initiative, BRAC has partnered with Hubert Ebner Ltd, an internationally acclaimed organisation specialising in automobile driving training and road safety issues.
Trainees are exposed to lessons related to safety measures on the road, techniques on self-protection while driving, and desired behavioural change. For the practical competency part of the training, drivers are tested on their ability to operate safely through the ‘P-Drive’ technique.
Under BRAC's road safety programme, BRAC Driving School similarly trained over 1,200 individuals so far. It has been observed that drivers who underwent the 'Surokkha' training were reported to have displayed considerable change in their behaviour in adapting to safe driving techniques.
Bangladesh Road and Transport Authority (BRTA), Dhaka Metropolitan Police and Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority in a recent news report attributed over 90 per cent road crashes to rash driving. Experts stress awareness raising and capacity building for skilled, safe and responsible driving to reduce the excessively high rate of road crashes.
A discussion session also took place during the training in which Lieutenant Commander Sanjida Hossain and Lieutenant Commander M Enayet Hossain were present. The speakers at the discussion emphasised that the drivers should mindfully apply their learning in the training while behind the steering wheel.
Every year in Bangladesh, 31 million people confront with legal challenges. A majority of these challenges occur when dealing with neighbours, and the most complicated ones arise when dealing with land related issues. This was among the findings presented at the launching event of the report titled ‘Justice Needs and Satisfaction in Bangladesh 2018’ at the capital’s BRAC Centre today on Wesnesday (May 9, 2018).
This research was conducted and published in collaboration between Netherlands based nonprofit The Hague Institute for Innovation of Law (HiiL), the Government of Netherlands, and BRAC. The framing questions for the research included what kind of legal dilemmas people face in Bangladesh, how they deal with those issues, who or which institutions they seek for help to resolve their concerns, and the level of responses they receive.
The study was conducted through in-depth qualitative interviews of around 6000 respondents who have randomly selected in 64 districts of the country. The study was conducted in August and September of 2017.
The chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Kazi Reazul Hoque, was present at the event as its chief guest. Also present as special guests were the head of Measuring Justice for HiiL, Dr Martin Gramatikov, and the quantitative justice data analyst of the same organisation, Martin Kind. Programme Head of BRAC's Human Rights and Legal Aid Services (HRLS) Sajeda Farisa Kabir moderated the ceremony.
The key highlights that came out from the study include: 31 million people face legal dilemmas every year. The major types of legal issues they face include, among others, issues with neighbours (40%), land disputes (29%), criminal offences (21%), family disputes (12%), money related issues (12%), social welfare (11%), consumer problems (9%), and accidents and personal injury (8%).
In terms of the severity of the issues, land related legal disputes come out on top of the rest. The severity of the problems as reported by percentage: land disputes (25%), neighbours (22%), crime (12%), family disputes (7%), money (7%), social welfare (5%), housing (4%), and accidents and personal injury (4%).
To ensure more effective dispute resolutions and ensure better justice mechanism a number of recommendations were drawn in the report, which include among others: prioritisation of legal problems to solve them, improve information delivery, design and provide affordable and accessible justice journeys for all, explore the full potential of hybrid justice mechanisms, justice innovation and digital innovation.
Involvement of women in information and communication technology will significantly strengthen their social and economic empowerment. It will in turn have important contribution in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals particularly the SDG-5. However, the effort to meaningfully expand women's engagement in the ICT sector entails tackling a number of challenges including social and family hurdles, lack of required knowledge and skills, lack of inspiration and fear about security in the virtual space.
These observations were made today on Wednesday (25 April, 2018) in a study presentation on the obstacles for women's participation in the information and communication sector. It was presented at a discussion organised at the BRAC Centre in the capital. Shahid Uddin Akbar, chief executive officer of the Bangladesh Institute of ICT in Development (BIID), delivered the presentation. BIID conducted the study for which 164 female students studying in different universities were interviewed.
Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, speaker of Bangladesh Parliament, was present at the event as the chief guest at the event with Zunaid Ahmed Palak, state minister for ICT and lawmaker, attending as special guest. BIID, BRAC, Plan International Bangladesh and Preneurlab jointly organised the programme on the occasion of International Girls in ICT Day to be observed on 26 April.
Tania Nusrat Zaman, head of child protection, Plan International Bangladesh, gave the welcome speech. KAM Morshed, director of Advocacy for Social Change, Technology and Partnership Strengthening Unit, BRAC, and Rabiul Alam Chowdhury, head of IT, Plan International, forwarded the recommendations to widen the scopes for women's participation in the sector.
The study observes that if women's participation in the ICT sector can be increased from the current 33.7 per cent to 82 per cent, it will result in 1.6 per cent more GDP growth. This achievement would help the country make stronger strides towards its SDG targets.
In this interview-based study three major challenges for ICT education for young women have been referred which are, bringing change in the perception of young women about ICT education, lack of knowledge and skills in ICT and lack of required skills to engage in the sector.
Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury said in her speech stressed three areas of work to strengthen women's participation in ICT sector which are, undertaking focused effort to popularise the sector among women, recognise ICT as a specialised sector requiring specialised human resources and spread the message that it is a sector that will reconstruct the future.
"The government targets to ensure equal stake of men and women by 2030. To achieve the target the government has undertaken digitalisation initiatives with equal emphasis on the rural and urban areas, which will continue in future," he further said.
Emphasising IT education she suggested that 'IT scholarship' may be a convenient motivation to create awareness among students.
Zunaid Ahmed Palak said that to boost youth employment in the ICT sector the Bangladesh government will train 300 thousand youths, both men and women, by 2021. "We have reserved 20-30 per cent quota for women trainees in this initiative," he further said, pointing out that two million youth enter the country's job market every year.
Participants in the open discussion stressed updating of curriculums for ICT and digital technology education to broaden the equal opportunity space, motivating more women to actively participate in the sector and establishing women-friendly workplace.
High officials from the government and international organisations and representatives from the NGOs were also present at the event.
The International Telecommunication Union in collaboration with the United Nations has been celebrating the day on the fourth Thursday of April for some years now. Since 2011 more than 30 thousand women have been celebrating the day in 166 countries across the world.
Press conference on World Malaria Day held
Three districts, Bandarban, Rangamati and Khagrachhari, are in considerable risk of malaria despite much has been achieved in checking the menace of the mosquito-borne disease. According to the National Malaria Elimination Programme (NECP), currently 93 per cent of the country's 29 thousand and 247 malaria patients are from these three districts. The major reasons for these districts to have most malaria patients are their hilly frontiers, profuse rain, large forest area, inadequacies in healthcare system and problems faced while reaching treatment and other healthcare services.
Experts revealed this information at a press conference today on Tuesday (24 April 2018) organised at the National Press Club in the capital. The government National Malaria Elimination Programme and BRAC organised the event on the occasion of World Malaria Day 2018 observed on 25 April.
The press conference was arranged to disseminate information on the future activities required to eliminate malaria, challenges in risk mitigation and recommendations as well as public awareness messages.
Director-general of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) Professor Dr Abul Kalam Azad spoke as the chief guest of the event. Director of the government Disease Control unit and also line director of Communicable Disease Control unit Prof. (Dr) Sanya Tahmina, director of BRAC's Communicable Diseases, WASH and DMCC programmes Dr Md Akramul Islam, and head for its communicable diseases and WASH programmes Dr Moktadir Kabir also spoke among others.
DGHS epidemiologist Dr Md Mosiqure Rahman moderated the press conference.
DGHS deputy programme manager for malaria and Aedes transmitted diseases Dr MM Aktaruzzaman delivered the keynote presentation, highlighting the country's success in eliminating malaria.
The speakers pointed out that malaria, being one of the major public health problems of Bangladesh, plague its 71 upazilas of 13 districts, namely Rangamati, Khagrachari, Bandarban, Cox's Bazar, Chattagram, Sunamganj, Moulvibazar, Sylhet, Habiganj, Netrokona, Mymensingh, Sherpur and Kurigram.
It also mentioned that malarial deaths have much reduced lately, thanks to the collaborative efforts and effective measures by the government and non-governmental actors. While in 2014, 45 patients succumbed to the infection, in 2015 the number fell to only 9 (nine). However, 2016 saw a little rise in the number of deaths at 17, to drop again in 2017 to 13.
Professor Dr Abul Kalam Azad said, "Our goal is to eliminate malaria completely from Bangladesh by 2030. To achieve this goal we are working to prevent the disease from occurring in eight among the 13 vulnerable districts, while make sure that 51 districts are entirely free from malaria."
Prof.(Dr) Sanya Tahmina said, "We have already produced a guideline for the travellers to the hilly regions that will help reduce their risk to contract malaria." The government has also undertaken an initiative to distribute 333 thousand mosquito nets to the hilly regions and among the Rohingya people who have taken refuge in Cox's Bazar after being forcibly evicted from Myanmar, she further said.
Dr Md Akramul Islam said, "As the world's largest non-governmental actor BRAC is resolutely extending the malaria elimination programme in the camps sheltering the Rohingyas."
The keynote presentation also highlighted some of the major challenges for malaria elimination: Shortage of physicians and healthcare professionals in the remote areas limiting the capacity for treatment and healthcare service delivery, people's increased mobility, increased risk of malarial infection in the border areas and climate change impacts.
To observe World Malaria Day 2018 a parade will be organised tomorrow on Wednesday, starting from Zero Point in the capital to end at CIRDAP. A discussion session will follow at 11am at the CIRDAP auditorium. Health and family welfare minister and lawmaker Md Nasim will be present at the discussion as the chief guest.
The theme of World Malaria Day 2018 is "Ready to beat malaria".
The BRAC Migration Media Award, held on 18 April, recognised the contributions made by journalists in protecting the rights of migrants and their families. The award ceremony was held in BRAC Centre, announcing winners under six categories, including national and local print newspapers, television, radio, online news sites and photography.
In the national newspaper category, the first winner was Abu Jar Ansar Uddin Ahammed of Samakal. The second prize was awarded to Adil Sakhawat from Dhaka Tribune, and the third to Muhammad Wasim Uddin Bhuiyan from New Age.
In the local news category, the winner was Md Kamrul Islam of Dainik Jalalabad. In television reporting, the first winner was Ashish Kumar Sarkar of Somoy Television, and the second winner was Jhumar Bari of Ekattor TV, and the third winner was Mashreq Rahat of Masranga Television.
In the radio category, the winner was Saleh Noman of Radio Today.
In the online news category, the first winner was Md Fazlur Rahman of Dhaka Tribune. The second winner was Md Kawsar Azam of thereport24.com, and the third winner was Jasmine Akhter of Bannernews.
For the first time, we introduced the category of photography to recognise the contribution of photojournalists. The first winner was Saiful Islam Ronny, and in second was Abdus Salam of Prothom Alo. The third winner was Mahmud Hossain Apu of Al Jazeera and Dhaka Tribune.
The Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister, Md Nurul Islam was the chief guest at the event, while writer and journalist, Anisul Huq joined as the main speaker. BRAC’s executive director, Dr Muhammad Musa, deputy country representative of IOM, Abdusattar Esoev, director general of the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET), Md Selim Reza, BRAC’s senior director, Asif Saleh, and head of BRAC’s migration programme, Shariful Islam Hasan were also present at the event.
The minister of Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment said, "BRAC's work in the migration sector is commendable. All the information we receive come from these journalists. This is an exceptional initiative to recognise the efforts of those journalists who cover the most urgent issues on migration. We are all working so that people can go abroad safely and properly.”
Journalist and writer Anisul Haque said, "Today there are more than one billion people abroad. More people will go abroad in the next few years. Expatriate income is now the biggest driving force in the economy of Bangladesh." Regarding the role of journalists, he said, "The media is working towards creating awareness, as well as contributing towards reshaping policies."
The director general of BMET, M Selim Reza said, "We are now focusing more on the skills of migrants. The demand for Bangladeshi workers abroad is also increasing.”
The deputy country representative of the International Organisation of Migration, Abusattar Esoev said, "We are working in cooperation with the government and non-government organisations, such as the United Nations immigration agency. This cooperation will continue.”
Asif Saleh, BRAC’s senior director said, “We can ensure good governance in this sector if the government and non-government organisations work together in alliance. We can send people abroad in a safe and efficient way.”
Presenting the keynote paper on the role of media in protecting the rights of immigrants was Shariful Islam Hasan, head of BRAC’s migration programme.
Professor Robayet Ferdous of the Mass Communication and Journalism Department of Dhaka University was present on this occasion, along with KM Ali Reza, deputy head of Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry; Shahnaz Munni, chief news editor of News24; photojournalist Pavel Rahman, and Sarwat Binte Islam, senior programme manager of Manusher Jonno Foundation.
Focus on building skills workforce to achieve SDG target
Nearly 87 percent of the country’s total workforce are involved in farming, small businesses and other forms of informal occupation. A large segment of the workforce is not being properly utilised in the skilled sectors. Many of these people are unable to enter the formal employment sector due to a lack of demanded professional skills and knowledge. This is a considerable barrier for the entire country in terms of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.
These insights were revealed at the inauguration ceremony for BRAC Institute of Skills Development held in the capital’s Uttara area today, 10th April 2018. The Honourable Minister of Education, Nurul Islam Nahid MP inaugurated the event as the chief guest.
Among the other guests present were Alfaz Hossain, Project Director at the Bureau of Non-Formal Education, ABM Korshed Alam, Chief Executive Officer of National Skill Development Council Secretariat, Beatrice Kaldun, Head of UNESCO Dhaka Office, Dr. Muhammad Musa, Executive Director of BRAC. BRAC’s Senior Director for Communications, Strategy and Empowerment, Asif Saleh, gave presentation on the skills context in Bangladesh.
It was mentioned in the presentation that more than 2 million people are entering the workforce every year in Bangladesh. The number of people readily seeking employment is estimated to rise up to 76 million by the year 2025 in Bangladesh. With almost 60 percent of the current population entering the workforce being 30 years and younger, close to 40 percent of these young people are being left unskilled and unemployed. To tackle these issues with innovative and impactful interventions, BRAC launched the Skills Development Programme in 2015. BRAC Institute of Skills Development is starting its journey as an extension and scaled up model of the programme.
BRAC-ISD provides market driven skills training covering a wide range of sectors – from information technology to hospitality and tourism. Learners receive certification that is nationally accredited by the Bangladesh Technical Education Board as well as internationally by City & Guilds. After graduating, BRAC-ISD also supports its learners to secure full-time employment.
Outside of Dhaka, BRAC-ISD operates training centres in Narayanganj, Pabna, Manikganj, Rangpur, Magura, Cumilla, Cox’s Bazar and Chattogram.
Nurul Islam Nahid MP said, "education is our utmost priority. But technical skills education also needs considerable attention. However, a big challenge in this field is changing social perceptions surrounding it. Most of our people strongly hold the belief that acquiring a higher education degree is the gold standard to landing decent employment. Some of the other barriers to proliferation of skill based education include interest from women to get involved and shortage of trained instructors."
He also added, "currently we have 49 polytechnic colleges across the country that offer four-year long programmes. With the aim of enhancing skilled workforce, the Government is also planning to establish 38 more polytechnic institutes." The Minister stressed on the fact that institutional training should focus more on modern methods instead of outdated practices.
Beatric Kaldun stated, "A significant emphasis is being placed on creating long-term decent employment opportunities to meet the targets set in SDG 8. From today's discussion it is clear to me that a large portion of people in Bangladesh entering the workforce are below 30 years of age. It is not enough to just give them skills training, but rather to ensure that the training given fulfills the needs of the market."
Dr. Musa also emphasised on improving the skills development scenario and better quality training to ensure greater opportunities both locally and abroad.
To know more about BRAC ISD click here.
Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder and chairperson of BRAC, has been awarded the prestigious 2018 LEGO Prize in recognition of his extraordinary contribution towards improving children's lives and their opportunities to play, learn and develop.
Thomas Kirk Kristiansen, chairman of the board of Lego Foundation, handed over the prize to Sir Fazle at an event last evening (Tuesday 10 April 2018) in Denmark.
The LEGO Foundation, a Danish corporate foundation, has been awarding this prize since 1985 to individuals and organisations who are committed to the lives of children and are champions of learning through play.
The prize is accompanied by a cash award of USD 100,000, which will be used to strengthen BRAC’s support for children living with neuro-developmental disabilities and their families.
From the beginning of his career and the establishment of BRAC, Sir Fazle has viewed education as a crucial catalyst for change. He firmly believes that it is about more than just schools and books, and constant innovation is a cornerstone of BRAC’s approach. Since launching its non-formal education programme in Bangladesh in 1985, more than 11 million children have graduated from BRAC’s primary and pre-primary schools.
BRAC has set up more than 1,400 play-based early childhood development centres across Bangladesh, Tanzania and Uganda, where close to 40,000 children aged 1 to 5 years are presently enrolled. Of these, some 1,200 centres known as 'Khelar Jogot' (‘World of Play’ in English) are in Bangladesh. In these centres, pre-school children have access to age-appropriate play materials, a play-based curriculum, and play spaces that ensure their holistic development.
“It is an honour to receive the esteemed LEGO Prize. Every child deserves the opportunity to grow and develop. This generous financial contribution will support the holistic development of an underserved group of children in Bangladesh with special needs,” said Sir Fazle Hasan Abed.
“At BRAC, we pride ourselves on taking an innovative approach to early childhood development and education and share the LEGO Foundation’s passion for learning through play. Through our Play Lab programme, we have seen first-hand the power it can have in a child’s development,” he added.
Finnish educator and scholar Pasi Sahlberg, educationist and president of Reggio Children Carla Rinaldi, and founder of Right To Play International Johann Koss are among the earlier winners of the LEGO Prize.
In addition to its early childhood development centres, BRAC operates some 10,000 pre-primary schools, 3,200 non-formal primary schools, 8,700 primary schools, and a university. BRAC also provides technical support to 3,846 primary schools.
BRAC, an international development organisation and global leader in developing cost-effective, evidence-based programmes in conflict-prone and post-disaster settings, was today ranked the number one NGO in the world for 2018. The ranking was done by NGO Advisor, an independent media organisation based in Geneva. BRAC took the top spot for the third year in a row as part of the 2018 Top 500 NGOs World rankings.
“We are deeply honoured to be ranked as the Top Global NGO for the third consecutive year,” said BRAC Founder and Chairperson, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed. “This accolade belongs to all BRAC staff for championing the BRAC values of integrity, innovation, inclusiveness and effectiveness in everything we do. Our 110 million plus programme participants worldwide, who play an active role in their own transformative journeys, are the real winners. We are inspired by their resilience and spirit to continue striving for a just and equitable world.”
NGO Advisor releases the Top 500 NGOs World rankings each year to highlight outstanding organisations in the nonprofit sector. It conducts exhaustive research, evaluates hundreds of NGOs against a rigorous set of criteria, and ranks these organisations according to a robust methodology. This marks the fourth time in five years that BRAC has earned the number one ranking.
“For any organisation to be a part of the top 100, not to mention the top ten, they need to score strongly in the three pillars of our methodology: innovation, impact, and governance. BRAC continues to chart new territory in all three, pioneering creative, cost-effective, and sustainable interventions that reach millions of the most vulnerable people worldwide,” said NGO Advisor Editor-in-Chief Jean-Christophe Nothias in a statement.
BRAC is one of the few development organisations based in the global south that operates worldwide. Founded in Bangladesh in 1972 and today active in 11 countries, this distinct perspective ensures success for an organisation that runs programmes in microfinance, education, healthcare, legal rights, girls’ empowerment, and agriculture; socially responsible businesses; a bank; a university; and one of the world’s largest mobile money platforms, bKash.
BRAC has an annual global expenditure exceeding $1 billion. The organisation is also unique in that the majority of its programmes are self-financed. In Bangladesh, more than 75 percent of its budget comes from its own social enterprises. In 2017, this was a key determinant for NGO Advisor, which noted this innovative cost-recovery model and focus on sustainability.
“Dynamism is one of our core strengths,” said Dr. Muhammad Musa, Executive Director of BRAC. “BRAC goes beyond the traditional NGO definition and has a unique, integrated model to drive positive social change, including development programmes, social enterprises, investments and university. 2017 has been a landmark year for BRAC as we have also extended our work in humanitarian crisis management to support almost a million Forcibly Displaced Myanmar Nationals, or Rohingyas, coming into southern Bangladesh. We will continue to evolve and focus on a humanitarian development approach, to maximise the impact for both displaced people and host communities. In the long run, we aim to leverage our expertise to support people in crises anywhere in the world."
BRAC is ranked alongside NGOs at the forefront of the international development sector, with Médecins Sans Frontières, also known as Doctors Without Borders; the Danish Refugee Council; the Skoll Foundation and Ashoka, both of which support and enable social entrepreneurship worldwide.