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04 August 2013, Dhaka. BRAC and National Eye Care- Directorate General of Health Services (NEC-DGHS), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare have launched the second phase of the eye care project- Vision Bangladesh. The launching ceremony was held on the 4th August, 2013 at BRAC Centre auditorium.

In two and a half years of Vision Bangladesh Phase-I, about 95 per cent of the target of 100,000 cataract surgeries and 200,000 refractive error corrections have been achieved.  Moreover, with the aid of frontline community health workers, BRAC has been able to deliver eye care at the doorstep of one million people across Sylhet division.

Based on the enormous success of that partnership and lessons learned in operating in rural areas, BRAC is now going to expand the eye care services in the slums of 10 city corporations of Bangladesh, covering an estimated 7.25 million people.

This project, which will run from July 2013 to December 2015, is aligned with Bangladesh Government’s national goal of eliminating avoidable blindness from Bangladesh by 2020.It will be implemented through a partnership approach and will foster collaboration between BRAC, NEC-DGHS, and other partner organizations including NGOs and hospitals. This project will develop capacity of the eye care providers and institutions; deliver eye care services and establish and sustain referral networks between the slum community and functional government hospital/private/NGO facilities for eye care. 

Prof. Dr. A.F.M Ruhal Haque MP, Honourable Minister, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW), attended the ceremony as the Chief Guest. Prof. Syed Modasser Ali, Advisor to the Honourable Prime Minister for Health and Family Welfare and Dr. Capt. (Rtd.) Mozibur Rahman Fakir MP, Honourable State Minister, MoHFW, attended as Special Guests. The event was chaired by Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, Founder and Chairperson, BRAC.

The Minister said, “The effective leadership in National Eye Care and BRAC’s widespread network of frontline community health workers would equate to the certain success of this project.”  

Prof. Syed Modasser Ali pointed out that the immense success of Sir Fazle in implementing a diverse range of development projects is the indicator that this project will also be a success.

Sir Fazle Hasan Abed said, “BRAC and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare have been involved in a number of partnerships for a long time to provide a range of healthcare services, including eye care.” He emphasised on scaling up Vision Bangladesh project across the country to eliminate cataract backlog by 2020.      

A memorandum of understanding was signed by Dr. Prof. Deen Md. Nurul Huq, Line Director, National Eye Care and Director cum Professor NIO&H and Dr. Kaosar Afsana, Director, Health Nutrition and Population Programme, BRAC.
 

12 July 2013, Dhaka. BRAC, the global development organisation founded in Bangladesh in 1972, received the World Justice Project Rule of Law Award at the fourth World Justice Forum in The Hague, Netherlands. The Rule of Law Award recognises BRAC for its efforts to promote legal empowerment of the poor as a means to end poverty.

The World Justice Forum is a global gathering hosted by the World Justice Project, an organisation dedicated to advancing the rule of law worldwide. BRAC was awarded in the organisation category alongside Ms Shirin Ebadi, in the individual category, for her relentless struggle to uphold the rule of law in Iran. Faustina Pereira, director of BRAC’s human rights and legal services (HRLS) programme, accepted the award on behalf of BRAC.

She said, “This award recognises BRAC’s approach to a ‘whole person development’. This view underscores the need to go beyond economic development, and places it hand in hand with social and legal empowerment. This award is recognition of the hard and dedicated work of all BRAC’s grassroots workers, particularly its 12,000 barefoot lawyers, its hitherto unsung heroes.”

BRAC’s HRLS programme is the world’s largest nongovernmental legal services programme. Through a cadre of ‘barefoot lawyers’, it empowers the poor by informing them of their legal rights and delivering legal services to the doorsteps of millions. A version of the programme is also active in Sierra Leone.

This recognition comes soon after the awarding of BRAC’s founder, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, of the Open Society Prize from Central European University, which was founded by the philanthropist George Soros. Soros and Abed have collaborated on advocacy and interventions to promote legal empowerment of the poor. “A legally empowered citizenry is both the guarantor and lifeblood of democracy,” Soros and Abed wrote in a jointly authored comment in Financial Times last year. “Poverty will only be defeated when the law works for everyone.”
 

Sunday, 07 July 2013 18:00

Innovations in youth skill development

08 July 2013, Dhaka. A round table discussion on 'Innovations in skill development training for youth: effective planning and implementation’ was held on 7 July at Spectra Convention Centre organised by BRAC Education Programme. The discussion focused around understanding the achievements of the government’s and the NGOs so far, in the skills development training initiatives for the youth, and future prospects of scaling up.

Participants included representatives of Bureau of Non-formal education, national skill Development Council, ILO, FBCCI and concerned partners. S.M Ashraful Islam, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Primary and Mass education emphasised that “skills training should now be more focused on demand driven then supply driven”. He also mentions that overseas job opportunities should also be explored when speaking of skills development for the youth.

Jibon Kumar Chowdhury, CEO of National Skills Development Council, raised the concern of a lack of certified assessors in the country, who can efficiently validate the skills of development trainees in order to certifying them. NSDC is currently working on capacity building of assessors so that trainees could be certified through proper authority.

Dr Mahabub Hossain says, “according to the projected population dividend, youth will be more dominating in our population. Without proper skill development training we cannot expect to have an efficient workforce which would help the country to become one of the middle income countries by 2021”.

So far BRAC’s Skills Training for Advancing Resources (STAR) initiative, in partnership with GoB, ILO and UNICEF, worked with 1000 youths in the first phase, of whom 992 have successfully completed their respective skills training and of them 968 have been placed in proper jobs. STAR now is at its second phase and hopes to cover 3000 and more youths, with the support of the government and BRAC’s self initiatives, by the end of 2016.

 

03 July 2013, Dhaka. The country’s largest development organisation is now offering health insurance to its large workforce in Bangladesh as part of its efforts to improve workers’ benefits.

Regular and contractual employees of BRAC from head and field offices, Aarong and enterprises will be able to claim up to BDT 1,00,000 a year for hospital expenses for themselves, their spouses and unmarried dependants up to the age of 25. The new initiative by the world’s largest and recently top ranked anti-poverty group began this month and will cost employees nothing. BRAC will pay the monthly premium of BDT 150 on behalf of its staff.

BRAC decided this move was necessary to ensure staff were not overwhelmed with the emotional and financial pressures that comes from hospital treatment. Ten per cent of cost must be borne by the employee and any costs above BDT 1,00,000. For example if a hospital bill is BDT 30,000, the employee would contribute BDT 3,000 and BRAC’s scheme would reimburse BDT 27,000. If the bill comes to BDT 1,20,000, the employee would bear the first 10 per cent (BDT 12,000) and the remaining cost after BRAC’s health insurance’s contribution of 1,00,000, which would be BDT 8,000 more. Up to BDT 50,000 can be sanctioned while admitted to hospital, with permission from the respective deciding committee.

To qualify for the scheme, applicants must be current BRAC employees under the age of 65.

 

28 May 2013, Dhaka. BRAC’s chairperson Sir Fazle Hasan Abed spoke at the 19th International Conference on The Future of Asia in Tokyo, Japan last week.

The annual forum, held this year on 23-24 May, brought political leaders and top business executives together to discuss the future of Asia-Pacific nations and how development in the region stands to impact the global economy.

In a dialogue with Akihiko Tanaka, President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), BRAC's founder and chairperson said the poor needed more than money alone to improve their lives.

"You can help the world’s poorest people with assistance more than investment," Sir Fazle said. "You need to provide nutrition and education to get the poorest to an appropriate level for entering industry."

He added, "We need to provide skills training so people have an opportunity to earn income."


Sir Fazle Hasan Abed with Prime Minister of Japan Shinzō Abe

In addition to the Nikkei and Japan Center for Economic Research organised forum, Sir Fazle met with the Japanese press and prominent business executives such as the president of Kumon, Japan’s number one education company. On 27 May, the chairperson attended a press conference in Tokyo organised by Alliance Forum Foundation (AFF) to discuss BRAC’s work with the AFF, the BracNet project and microfinance graduate course, and spoke about microfinance’s potential to create a stable middle class in Africa.

 

 

BRAC University is offering Diploma in Midwifery in collaboration with implementing partner organisations in respective areas of Dhaka, Dinajpur, Cox's Bazar, Khulna, Mymensingh and Sylhet. The Diploma in Midwifery Programme is a 155-credit, full-time, 36-month residential programme taught by experienced faculties trained by Jhpiego and Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and OGSB.

BRAC University is admitting students to its three year residential Diploma in Midwifery programme with generous scholarships. Interested students may apply online via bracu.ac.bd/apply  or call 880 172620726 for further information. Deadline for application is August 18, 2013.

 

24 June 2013, Dhaka. BRAC reiterated its commitment to assist Bangladesh in attaining the Millennium Development Goals and vowed to make lasting changes in people’s lives based on a grassroots survey conducted this year. BRAC’s executive director Dr Mahabub Hossain presented the findings of the survey, followed by the official launching of the 2012 annual report and an open discussion session aimed at taking a closer look at the upcoming development priorities in the development agenda and BRAC’s role in it. Looking ahead to the post-2015 agenda, BRAC surveyed 30,234 grassroots voices on high priority development interventions. The findings from the survey surmised that gender justice, prevention of child marriage and dowry, reduction of poverty, food security, universal primary schooling, greater employment generation, safe drinking water and good sanitation for all, and ensure safer roads are the high priorities for the grassroots people.

M M Akash, professor at University of Dhaka, expressed his surprise at some of the findings. "For stopping violence against women and preventing child marriage and dowry to be the first priority for rural people is noteworthy and surprising considering how prevalent it has been in Bangladesh in the past." He added, "This says something about grassroots people."

Badiul Alam Majumder, country director of The Hunger Project, commented on BRAC's findings, "People are increasingly becoming authors of their own futures."
Present during the occasion was Managing Director of BRAC Enterprises & Investments Muhammad A (Rumee) Ali, BRAC Group CFO S N Kairy, BRAC International’s Executive Director Faruque Ahmed, Senior Director of Strategy, Communications and Capacity Asif Saleh, Senior Director of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, and Disaster, Environment and Climate Change Dr Babar Kabir, Senior Director of Aarong, BRAC Dairy and Ayesha Abed Foundation Tamara Abed, and all the directors of BRAC’s various programmes.

Also present were distinguished guests from several organisations, including Anisa Haq, Institute of Educational Development, BRAC; M M Akash, University of Dhaka; Bushra Binte Alam, World Bank; Susan Davis, BRAC USA; Naomi Hossain, IDS; Laurie Thompson, UKAID; Rubana Ahmed, Policy Research Institute; Ferdous Jahan, BRAC Development Institute; Shahrukh Safi, AusAID; and Badiul Alam Majumder, The Hunger Project.

Mr Saleh moderated the open discussion session, with participation from the civil society organisations, government officials, and BRAC’s senior officials.
Bangladesh has made significant progress in achieving the MDGs since 2000. Economic development, health, education, sanitation, gender, justice and social awareness programmes are some of the areas where BRAC, alongside the government, have successfully collaborated.

As of December 2012, Bangladesh has halved the rate of extreme poverty, and BRAC’s ultra poor programme has played a crucial part, serving 1.4 million households. In the education sector, the enrolment rate in primary education stands at 90 per cent, and BRAC’s ‘second chance schools’ have provided more than five million children with primary education. In 2012 BRAC’s health programme extended its maternal, neonatal and child health services to char areas of northern Bangladesh, contributing to Bangladesh’s success in meeting the MDG to reduce maternal mortality. BRAC also partnered with the government to combat childhood tuberculosis - a long-neglected scourge in Bangladesh. As part of their initiatives to provide safe drinking water, BRAC built water facilities in 175 sub-districts, providing an estimated 12 million people with safe drinking water.

The list of priorities which were the findings of the grassroots survey are all in sync with the proposed Bellagio goals submitted by the UN’s High Level Panel in May 2013, highlighting the people’s aspirations in Bangladesh are closely aligned with the global development agenda proposed by the Panel. While good governance, gender justice, and security and safety priorities and common goals which the people of Bangladesh have identified with the UN Panel, the people are still concerned will underdeveloped transport and power infrastructure, neither of which are included in the global agenda. Resonating voices across the world, people in Bangladesh also feel that income inequality, the root cause of many of the development problems, has not been addressed by the global agenda.

Dr Mahabub Hossain, responding to questions from the media and guests, said, "Inequality is a big issue that we obviously need to address and BRAC's programmes are working towards mitigating many aspects of inequality, injustice and discrimination."

Download BRAC annual reports here: http://www.brac.net/content/annual-report-and-publications

 

21 June 2013, Dhaka. The Word Bank signed a US$2.58 million grant agreement with BRAC today to implement a pilot project on Safe Migration for Bangladeshi Workers, with the objective of reducing vulnerability of migrant workers and their families. The pilot will be implemented across 80 upazilas in 20 districts and aims to benefit 864,000 potential migrants and their families.

The pilot project aims to develop and strengthen local information and support systems through Community Based Organizations (CBOs) for potential migrant families. CBOs will be strengthened to provide accurate and timely access to information and services for safe migration and ensure that potential migrants are well informed if they decide to pursue migration. Migrants’ family members will also be able to obtain information on more affordable ways to fund migration as well as manage remittances. Particular focus will be paid to female migrants. The pilot will also help to support and formalize local networks to facilitate information sharing on the migration process.

“While the economic gains from migration are obvious for both migrants and their families, migrants incur substantial costs, especially in the absence of complete information,” said Christine Kimes, Acting Country Head, the World Bank Bangladesh. “This project has great potential for reducing the vulnerability of potential migrants and their families by enhancing information flows about migrant rights, the migration process, affordable financing, and remittance management.”

Remittances from migrant workers in the fiscal year to date amount to more than US$ 13 billion and account for approximately 10 percent of GDP. Remittances are thus a major source of Bangladesh’s foreign exchange earnings. At the family level, they enable poor households to obtain better nutrition, education and health care for family members, and thus play a vital role in the fight against poverty. 

“During the recent past, there has been a significant rise in work-related temporary overseas migration for export of services. Migrant remittances provide direct, immediate and far reaching benefits to the country,” said Mahabub Hossain PhD, Executive Director, BRAC. “This project will help strengthen BRAC’s efforts to better prepare potential migrants for overseas employment while improving the “migration value chain”, including lower migration and remittance costs for families.”

The grant financing is made under the Japan Social Development Fund (JSDF) financed by the Government of Japan and managed by the World Bank.

20 June 2013, Dhaka.


Habibur Rahman(middle) with the South Sudanese Minister of Education Joseph Ukel(Left).
 

BRAC family is deeply saddened by the loss of Mohammed Habibur Rahman, Regional Manager of education programme, who passed away on June 19, 2013 while travelling on official duty from Juba to Yei in South Sudan.

Habib served BRAC's education programme in South Sudan for more than three years. He joined BRAC in 1990 and worked tirelessly in the education programme for 22 years in Bangladesh before being posted to South Sudan in 2009. Habib was 45 years old and leaves behind his wife who is a school teacher and a son in primary school.

Habib's untimely death is an irreparable loss for BRAC. The organisation expresses its deepest condolences to the bereaved family and commits to provide full support to them to deal with this loss both in the short and long term.

BRAC is currently working with the country office in South Sudan to provide support for conducting a thorough investigation and bringing Habib's body to Bangladesh as soon as possible.

 

20 June 2013, Dhaka. A Consultation on Significance of Remittance: Poverty Alleviation and Livelihood Development in Bangladesh was arranged by BRAC Migration programme on 20th June 2O13, from 2.45pm to 5:30pm at Auditorium, BRAC Center Inn, Dhaka. Practitioners, Academics, Economists, Researchers, Government officials, Service providers, Media and activists were present at the consultation.

The key Note on the consultation was presented by Dr. Mahabub Hossain, Executive Director, BRAC and was moderated by Sheepa Hafiza, Director, GJ&D and Migration Programme, BRAC.

The participants discussed about the importance of remittance in the country’s economy and development and also the importance of developing proper policies to manage the migration and remittance flow and how to maximise the use of remittance to decrease the poverty and create alternative livelihood option.

The Key Note speaker Dr. Mahabub Hossain mentioned in his key note presentation ‘Migration is considered as essential, inevitable and potentially beneficial component of economic and social life of individual household, as well as for economic progress of both sending and recipient countries′. He shared findings from his researches done in 1988, 2000, 2008 and 2010.

Barrister Anisul Islam Mahmud, MP and Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee, Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment said ‘remittance is a net source of income for us, because migrants are sending the money home which they are generating at abroad; we should re think about our  migrants workers security and benefit, they should be treated as hero but still we are not providing them the support we owe to them, we should ensure their safety and well-being and we need to provide them technical education rather than higher education to make them more equipped to work and earn better on migration More allocation should be kept in national budget.’

Zahid Hussain, Lead Economist, World Bank, Dhaka office, Bangladesh said, ‘Remittance is the no. 1 source of foreign currency. But as we generalize that migrants don’t invest in productive sectors, it’s not correct, they do invest on productive sector. Constraints of migration must be dropped.’
Zafar Sobhan, Editor, Dhaka Tribune said ‘We should not only be happy by considering the increasing amount of remittance as a success story but, we should also take it to account that, how the Bangaldeshi Migrants are vulnerable and victimized on migration and we should focus on how we can provide them more safety coverage and migration facilitation for them.’

Dasgupta Asim Kumar, Executive Director, Bangladesh Bank said, ‘Apart from Anti money laundering Act Bangladesh Bank has taken a lot of steps to increase remittance flow like establishing exchange houses, introducing mobile banking, establishing BACH, online banking, NPS. Now the beneficiaries’ are getting quicker remittance service and the remittance flow is increasing’.