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Ongoing international dialogues and actions to support the forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals sheltered in Bangladesh need to be stronger to ensure a safe and meaningful future for the more than 500,000 children from this community. The call was raised at a program organised by BRAC, one of the leading on-ground responders, at BRAC Centre Auditorium in Dhaka this morning, marking one-year since the influx began. BRAC senior officials shared experiences and learnings with journalists from the last 12 months of humanitarian interventions.

At the event, BRAC also announced the launching of an international communication campaign titled #SpaceOnEarth, to help strengthen global support for the Rohingya, especially the children. The campaign was developed in partnership with Ogilvy and Texel Foundation.

Women and children typically bear the biggest brunt of any disaster. Children are often left with no option but to shoulder the same responsibilities as parents. In the #SpaceOnEarth video, Rohingya children describe in their own words the atrocities they faced. They ask: in a world as big as ours there must surely be a safe place they can call home. The video can be accessed here: https://bit.ly/2wOP93f

BRAC Executive Director Dr Muhammad Musa said children are behaving like adults. They have seen so much atrocity in their short lives that they have forgotten to cry, as if their childhood is lost. “We cannot let that happen and the world needs to step in to support the effort to ensure a meaningful future for these children.”

The event began with Dr Akramul Islam, director of BRAC's Humanitarian Crisis Management Programme, giving an overview of the organisation’s activities for the Rohingya community in the last year. He stressed BRAC's involvement with both the Rohingya and the host communities.

BRAC, as one of the very first responders to the crisis, provided emergency services in the first phase, and then expanded into comprehensive, coordinated services in areas such as healthcare, education, skills development and agriculture, as a partner to the government. Until now, more than 45,000 children have been registered in BRAC’s child friendly spaces. BRAC’s healthcare centres provided consultation to over 1.1 million people and nearly 150,000 people are now living in shelters built by BRAC. In addition, BRAC has also been serving people from the host communities from Teknaf and Ukhiya with education, life skills, livelihood and emergency support.

প্রতিবেদন/লেখা আহ্বান

 

যক্ষ্মা নিয়ন্ত্রণ কর্মসূচিতে গণমাধ্যমের সহায়তা জোরদার ও উৎসাহিত করার লক্ষ্যে ব্র্যাক যক্ষ্মাবিষয়ক সাংবাদিকতায় সম্মাননা দিয়ে আসছে। চলতি বছরেও ঢাকাসহ আটটি বিভাগে কর্মরত প্রিন্ট, ইলেকট্রনিক ও অনলাইন মিডিয়ার সাংবাদিকবৃন্দকে সম্মাননা প্রদান করা হবে। আগ্রহী সাংবাদিকদের কাছ থেকে এজন্য সংবাদপত্র, অনলাইন ও টেলিভিশনে প্রকাশিত/ সম্প্রচারিত প্রতিবেদন আহ্বান করা হচ্ছে।

 

আগ্রহী সাংবাদিকদের যা পাঠাতে হবে

  1. যক্ষ্মা বিষয়ে প্রতিবেদন।
  2. জীবনবৃত্তান্ত।
  3. প্রতিবেদকের ছবি।

 

প্রতিবেদন/লেখা পাঠানোর বিস্তারিত নিয়ম

  • লেখার বিষয়: সারা দেশের পত্র-পত্রিকায় প্রকাশিত যক্ষ্মাবিষয়ক অনুসন্ধানী প্রতিবেদন/ফিচার/ কলাম/কেস স্টাডি এবং রেডিও-টিভি চ্যানেলে প্রচারিত যক্ষ্মাবিষয়ক প্রতিবেদন।
  • প্রতিবেদন প্রকাশিত/প্রচারিত হওয়ার সময়সীমা: জানুয়ারি ২০১৫ - ডিসেম্বর ২০১৭ (তিন বছর)।
  • বিভিন্ন গণমাধ্যমের সাংবাদিকবৃন্দ যেভাবে প্রতিবেদন/লেখা পাঠাবেন:
    • প্রিন্ট ও অনলাইন মিডিয়া: আবেদনকারী নিজ বিবেচনায় তাঁর সবচেয়ে সেরা লেখা/প্রতিবেদনটি পাঠাবেন। অর্থাৎ একজন আবেদনকারী সর্বোচ্চ ১টি লেখা পাঠাতে পারবেন।
    • ইলেকট্রনিক মিডিয়া: বিভিন্ন রেডিও ও টিভি চ্যানেলের জাতীয় ও স্থানীয় পর্যায়ের প্রতিবেদকরা তাঁর বিবেচনায় সবচেয়ে সেরা নিজের প্রতিবেদনটি ডিভিডি কপিতে পাঠাবেন/লিংক ইমেল করবেন। অর্থাৎ প্রত্যেক আবেদনকারী সর্বোচ্চ ১টি প্রতিবেদন পাঠাতে পারবেন।
  • প্রতিবেদন/লেখা পাঠানোর শেষ সময়: ৩০শে সেপ্টেম্বর ২০১৮।
  • প্রতিবেদন/লেখা পাঠানোর সময় খামের ওপরে ‘যক্ষ্মাবিষয়ক সাংবাদিকতায় সম্মাননা ২০১৮’ বাক্যটি লিখতে হবে।
  • প্রতিবেদনের সঙ্গে প্রতিবেদকের পূর্ণাঙ্গ জীবনবৃত্তান্ত (PDF | DOC) ও এক কপি পাসপোর্ট সাইজের ছবি পাঠাতে হবে।
  • প্রতিবেদন/লেখা পাঠানোর ঠিকানা: ফজলুল ইসলাম, সেন্ট্রাল মিডিয়া ইউনিট, ব্র্যাক, ব্র্যাক সেন্টার (২০ তলা), ৭৫ মহাখালি, ঢাকা।

 

প্রতিবেদন, জীবনবৃত্তান্ত ও ছবি ইমেলেও পাঠানো যাবে।  ইমেল: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Thursday, 26 July 2018 00:00

BRAC’s Annual Report 2017 launched

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Investing in next generation and eliminating extreme poverty are at the heart of Bangladesh’s pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and BRAC, the biggest development organisation in the world, has been a strong supporter. Senior officials of the non-governmental organisation said this at the launching event of BRAC’s Annual Report 2017 in Dhaka Thursday (26 July 2018) morning.

At the programme organised at the BRAC Centre Auditorium at Mohakhali in the capital, Dr Muhammad Musa, executive director of the organisation, said BRAC has been playing an important role in supporting the government’s efforts to achieve the SDGs. The organisation has been working to eliminate extreme poverty through its Targeting the Ultra Poor (TUP) programme since 2002. In 2017, more than 75,000 households have permanently emerged from extreme poverty with assistance from BRAC’s poverty eradication programme. In addition, last year, BRAC provided humanitarian assistance to over 600,000 people from the Rohingya community and the programme is still running.

Dr Muhammad Musa also said, BRAC is focusing on eight areas in its five-year strategic plan covering the period of 2016-2020, namely, eliminating extreme poverty; expanding financial choices of people living in poverty; employable skills for decent work at home and abroad; climate change and emergency response; gender equality; universal access to healthcare, nutrition, water and sanitation; pro-poor urban development; and investing in the next generation.

Asif Saleh, BRAC’s senior director for strategy, communications and empowerment, said they had provided skills training and employment assistance to nearly 34,000 youth in 2017. Furthermore, over 3.8 million children and teenagers enrolled in the 44,000 schools and centres of BRAC across the country last year alone.

Having referred to the World Bank data, Asif Saleh further said every year 2.2 million youths enter the job market, but 41 per cent of them are not equipped with necessary education and skill training for obtaining decent jobs. To address this gap in skill education BRAC has set a target to train 400 thousand job entrants by 2020.

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Children living in the coastal and wetland (haor) regions in Bangladesh are 1.5 times more likely to be stunted - one of the findings from a study conducted by LANSA, led by BRAC. The study explores agricultural innovations to fight malnutrition in Bangladesh.

The study identified haors and the coastal belt in Bangladesh, which are geographically distinct from other parts (waterlogged and salinity affected areas, respectively), as pockets of undernutrition. Analysis showed that overall prevalence of stunting ranged from 46.6% in the haor basin to 30.9% in other parts of Bangladesh, whereas the prevalence of underweight ranged from 44.5% in the haor basin to 34.1% in other areas. This is a serious cause of concern for the country.

This was revealed at the concluding seminar for the Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in South Asia (LANSA) – an international research partnership of which BRAC is a partner. The seminar titled ‘Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in Bangladesh’ was held at the BRAC Centre today, 23 July 2018. LANSA programme is funded by UKaid.

The chief guest at the seminar was Fazle Wahid Khondaker, Additional Secretary (Research) of the Ministry of Agriculture. The seminar was chaired by Dr Imran Matin, executive director of BRAC Institute of Governance and Development. Dr Samir Kanti Sarker, director of Institute of Public Health and Nutrition (IPHN), Dr Lalita Bhattacharjee, senior nutritionist of FAO, Prof Abdul Bayes, former director of Research and team lead of LANSA BRAC also spoke on the occasion.

Research revealed there is a strong interrelation between crop diversity, diet diversity and nutritional outcomes. It was found that the number of people with malnutrition will decrease if we increase production of diet-diverse and nutrition-rich food items.

The seminar emphasised that there is a need to increase public awareness on these issues. The discussants and participants at the seminar called for the government to take up more initiatives in encouraging farmers to cultivate diverse crops in order to increase nutritional outcomes.

The Additional Secretary Fazle W Khondaker, in his speech, mentioned that the government is working towards attaining the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Agriculture remains the most important tool to achieve the targets and overall development. However, right now the country’s agriculture is facing major challenges with the adverse effects of climate change, labour shortages, floods and flash floods, severe storms, tidal surges, and other natural disasters.

He said, “Agriculture is directly related to our food and nutrition. So we are working towards sustainable agricultural practices and systems, and food security. To achieve this, all sectors need to work in close collaboration with each other.”

Dr Samir Kanti Sarker said, “There is a need for health education along with the regular education system. Knowledge regarding food is necessary to ensure nutrition outcomes. We need to have an integrated approach towards building this knowledge.”

Dr Imran Matin mentioned that to achieve better nutrition, three things should be focused on among others: the role of access to information, the role of agriculture incentives and the role of food consumption behaviour. It is time to go for interventions and identify cost effective approaches to address malnutrition through agriculture.

A synthesis of LANSA research studies was presented by Barnali Chakraborty, senior research fellow of BRAC’s research and evaluation division. Dr Lalita Bhattacharjee, senior nutritionist of FAO presented a paper on ‘Agriculture and Nutrition: Lessons learned from FAO Projects on Food based nutrition strategies’. Dr Mahfuza Rifat, programme head of BRAC’s health, nutrition and population programme, presented a paper on ‘Nutrition Interventions of BRAC’.

The seminar discussed different approaches to combat malnutrition for the people living in poverty, like, school nutrition/feeding programme, encouraging more consumption of milk, increased food storage, and processing capacity, etc.

The discussants recommended that special programmes should be adopted in response to the special needs of geographically fragile and vulnerable areas of the country.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018 00:00

Urban Innovation Challenge launched

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Around 55 million people live in the cities and other urban areas of Bangladesh. With the ever increasing pressure of people bound for urban areas the problems in urban living are rising too. Social development organisation BRAC is encouraging and promoting the youths to take on these challenges with creative solutions. With this objective BRAC launched its second 'Urban Innovation Challenge' today on 24 July (Tuesday).

State minister for information communication and technology Zunaid Ahmed Palak opened the programme at the BRAC Centre. Asif Saleh, senior, director, strategy, communications and empowerment, BRAC and BRAC International, moderated the event.

Having called on all to come forward to create scopes for youths to explore their power of innovation, the state minister said that this responsibility does not lies solely with the government.

The government is ready to extend all kinds of assistance to the innovators who are coming forward from such initiatives of the non-governmental actors, he further said, hoping that the innovations by the young people will one day solve all the problems plaguing the life of the urban people at present.

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Savar municipality mayor Mohammad Abdul Gani was present at the programme as special guest. The panel speakers at the event were Tina Jabeen, investment adviser, Startup Bangladesh, ICT Division, Munir Hasan, coordinator, Youth Programme, Prothom Alo, Saif Kamal, founder, Toru Institute of Inclusive Innovation, and Rubana Huq, managing director, Mohammadi Group.

In the 'Entrepreneurs talk' session the speakers were Abu Sayed Al Sagor, chief executive officer, BD Assistant, Farhana Rashid, co-founder, Bhumijo, and Shahriar Hasan Jisun, chairman, Bloodman.

BRAC senior director Asif Saleh said, 'We are intent on providing scope and necessary assistance so that the different innovative ideas for solving urban problems can be translated into social entrepreneurships.' He also called on the investors to take initiatives to nurture the country's young talents.

In this competition event plans for sustainable solutions addressing different urban problems in five categories can be submitted from across the country. The categories are housing, healthcare, safe water and hygiene, renewable fuel resources, and climate change. A jury board, after analysing the merit of these plans, will declare awards in all the categories.

BRAC will grant a period of six months to the winning team to implement their plans with a grant of up to BDT 5 lakh. BRAC will also help the winning teams establish contact with probable investors.

Deadline for submission of applications: 30 August 2018.
To send applications please log-in to: uic.brac.net

in-media-farisa-kabir

Law Desk (LD): Could you tell us about the background of the study titled 'Justice Needs and Satisfaction in Bangladesh, 2018: Legal Problems in Daily Life'?

Farisa Kabir (FK): Jointly published by HiiL (a Netherlands based organisation) and BRAC, the report talks about legal problems in daily life of the people of Bangladesh. A nationwide survey on justice needs and satisfaction was conducted aiming to make the demand for justice in Bangladesh transparent and to outline what people of our country mean by their notion of justice.

Also they talked about how people see their justice journey. The questions here include, if a person is in a legal trouble how do they want to solve the problem? Where do they go first? Who do they consult? Do they seek informal services? Do they seek professional help? Are they satisfied with that professional help?

As their local co-coordinating partner, we assisted in conducting some of the interviews. HiiL did most of it by conducting 6000 interviews in all districts across Bangladesh among randomly selected adults in August and September 2017.

LD: What were the main findings of this study?

FK: The main findings of the study, very briefly, were that 4 out of 5 adults in Bangladesh faced one or more legal problems during the past 4 years. They have also identified three main legal problems people face, land disputes being the frontrunner. There are roughly 8 million people who are facing land disputes, after that there is neighbourhood conflicts that comes up to about 6.8 million per year. Then you have crime which is about 3.8 million per year. HIIL has categorised these 3 as the most serious current legal problem in Bangladesh. There is also lack of legal awareness. The main barrier to people not seeking legal advice is the belief that it will not make a difference.

LD: What is BRAC doing to make justice more accessible?

FK: BRAC runs a legal aid programme which has coverage in 61 districts in Bangladesh. Through these clinics we try to give local solutions; we have seen people prefer out-of-court settlements. Most of our clients are women, women who have come for divorce, who have faced torture for dowry, or who have been divorced and now are seeking maintenance. What we offer is solution to their problems through these legal aid clinics. We have conducted about 15,000 mediation in 2017 and on average we receive about 20,000 requests a year.

LD: There are 33 lakh cases pending in courts. Do you think we should think and act differently in regards to the backlog of cases?

FK: It is high time to think about justice differently. It's not just sitting in a room and blaming people; lawyers, bench officers, judges, infrastructure or anything or anyone else. We are at such a stage where we need to think how we can solve legal problems differently. We need to think about justice system, legal aid, and hybrid justice models.

The system should not be about adding more people to it or giving more resources, but going forward thinking about legal problem as a whole. We can think of mediation, formal arbitration mechanism for the poor, forums chaired by retired lawyers and judges, etc. We have to have a mechanism for everybody regardless of their socio-economic class.

Regarding this current backlog, there needs to be more analysis as to understand the nature of these 33 million cases. I think it is also important to understand problems of the people from their perspective, to understand their needs and think about how to create alternatives to the justice system.

LD: Is the current system of justice, formal and informal, catering to the justice needs of the people?

FK: This is a tricky question. It depends on who the client is. There is no end to effort from people, government, NGOs, civil society members to try and solve the problems. I think instead of trying to solve an existing problem we need to create branches to relieve the pressure of the formal system.

A core message of the study is that, a more effective and innovative solution could be implemented if the citizens are at the center of the reform. It also suggests the problems be considered at macro levels and solutions are implemented where people interact with justice mechanisms. Lastly, there should be justice innovation, which is about the redesign and improvement of justice journeys.

LD: Thank you for your time.

FK: You are welcome.

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The OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) has awarded its annual development award of 2018 to BRAC for its continued humanitarian support programme for the Rohingya people who have taken shelter in Bangladesh.

OFID, the development platform of the members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), has been giving this award since 2006.

BRAC has launched the largest civil society response in support of the forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals of Rohingya community who took shelter in Bangladesh in the aftermath of the incidents of 25 August 2017. BRAC's response programme is meeting the immediate needs of the vulnerable people, while building skills, resilience and awareness that will facilitate their long-term wellbeing as the situation evolves.

The 2018 OFID Annual Award for Development comes with a monetary reward of US$100,000. BRAC will use the award money to provide further support to Rohingya women and children.

Since launching its response activities, BRAC has provided over 660,000 people with at least one form of critical support. It is working closely with the government of Bangladesh, the United Nations, and local and international organisations, and will continue to provide a range of services through its integrated, community-based approach. BRAC has so far mobilised around US$37 million from different partners in its efforts to strengthen the humanitarian work in Cox’s Bazar where the Rohingya people have been given shelter.

The award was presented by Dr Carlos Alberto Patricio Játiva Naranjo, Ecuador’s head of delegation and OFID governor, ambassador and representative to the Vienna-based international organisation.

Accepting the award Dr Mushtaque Chowdhury, the vice chairperson of BRAC, said. "We at BRAC are delighted to accept the OFID Annual Award for 2018."

"This will inspire us and many others to move forward with added zeal and commitment. The monetary award will be used to further support Rohingya women and children," he further said.

OFID Director-General Suleiman J Al-Herbish remarked: "This year’s award aims to help shed light on the Rohingya crisis and recognise one particular organisation for standing strong in the face of injustice." He added that BRAC "empowers the vulnerable and helps them bring about positive change in their lives by creating opportunities."

"Presenting this award to BRAC is consistent with OFID’s approach – through its Grants Program – of responding to the needs of the world’s most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, and addressing the underlying root causes of poverty in developing countries," he added.

It is estimated that over 700,000 refugees have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh since August 2017. BRAC has provided lifesaving services at scale in the sectors where it is currently a leading provider, such as water and sanitation, health and child protection, and has contributed substantially to others, including education, shelter and nutrition.

Past winners of the OFID Annual Award for Development include, among others, the Foundation for Integral Development in Guatemala; the Children’s Cancer Hospital in Egypt; and Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan.

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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.

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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.

pre-budget-survey-frontpre-budget-survey

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:

  1. Give priority to aligning budget allocations along the social sectors according to the demands of the country's financial development and SDG targets to be achieved by 2030
  2. Strengthen private enterprises' participation under public-private partnership (PPP) in realising big projects, and
  3. Utilise public money and other resources, establish and strengthen transparency in public spending, and ensure timely and proper implementation of public sector development projects to ensure continued socio-economic progress of the country, particularly to effectively deal with the challenges Bangladesh may face in the coming years after it graduates to the club of developing countries from that of the least developed countries (LDCs).

These Heroines of Health are inspiring the next generation of global health workers 

At the World Health Assembly this year, GE Healthcare and Women in Global Health, a movement that strives for greater gender equality in global health leadership, are joining forces to honor and celebrate women in global health. 2018 Heroines of Health, Professor Sabina Faiz Rashid and Professor Malabika Sarker are being honored this year for their work with vulnerable populations in Bangladesh. Both have strong academic backgrounds; Sabina is the first female Dean of the BRAC James P Grant School of Public Health, appointed in 2013, and Malabika is the first female Director of Research. Their partnership and collaboration is key to their leadership and is inspiring the next generation of global health workers. Their research has offered the world invaluable learning on topics such as community health workers, sexual and reproductive health, non-communicable disease, urban health, health systems, HIV – and beyond. 

Tell us more about the work that you do with your organizations

Sabina: I head the BRAC School of Public Health in Bangladesh. We have transformed our Masters of Public Health (MPH) so that students learn first-hand in the community. My colleague and friend of over twenty years, Professor Malabika Sarker, shares my vision to transform public health advocacy for developing world needs. I have also focused on gender, sexual and reproductive health, and the health needs of people in urban slums. In 2008, I established a Centre for Gender and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights with seed funding from a UN organization, pushing for laws to stop child marriage; providing a safe space for LGBTQI communities and working to develop online resources on sensitive topics that bypass traditional gatekeepers such as parents and teachers. I also established the Centre for Urban Health and Equity in Dhaka, a city of 16 million with 5 million poor. Slum settlements remain invisible to the state – there is no comprehensive urban policy, and the poor lack housing rights, basic services, and suffer from the worst health indicators.

MalabikaI teach, conduct research, and oversee research activities as Director of Research. I coordinate and teach various modules, such as the implementation research and a reproductive health course. I also lead the Center of Excellence for Science of Implementation and Scale Up committed to evidence generation. As a member of the senior management committee, I also oversee the finance and human resource in partnership with the Dean of the school. I regularly mentor 27 researchers working with me on several research projects. For several years, I also worked as a public health physician in BRAC, the largest Non-Government Organization in the world. After completing my doctorate, I startedworking as a researcher/teacher which I’ve now been doing for 13 years.

How did you get involved in this work; what was your inspiration? 

Malabika: When I was 17, I got married. It was an arranged marriage. My husband and my father decided that I should go to medical school even though I was interested in studying Physics or Mathematics. After a year-long training as an obstetrician and gynecologist post-medical school, I started my career as a community-based reproductive health programmer.  One of my primary services was menstrual regulation (MR), which is what abortion is called in Bangladesh.  I was surprised by the number of women who came for MR given the availability of free contraceptives. I realized that the availability of a service does not ensure its acceptability, and I became interested in the social factors which determine health. I then joined BRAC where I worked on a community-based maternal mortality reduction project, and so my journey in public health started.

Sabina: When I was 23 years old I got a job at BRAC’s research division in a village called Comilla in Bangladesh. I’d never been to a village before and six months in that village changed my perception of the poor. They were kind and hospitable, welcoming me and my questions with humor and patience. They taught me that local practices were often pragmatic decisions, made with little money and with traditional home practices often the first line of healthcare. Solutions I’d read in books were not so easily applied in real life and I found that the actual needs and priorities in the community were not always heard. This was my motivation. Following this experience, I decided to do my Master’s in primary research on poor women who were using a type of female contraceptive implant in Bangladesh. Many remained uninformed of the implant, side effects and had to fight with doctors to have it removed.

Can you share a story that solidified why you got into this line of work?

Malabika: When I was working for BRAC in Bangladesh, they launched a ‘maternity waiting home’ (MWH) for pregnant women from the remote villages who were diagnosed with complications or thought to be at high risk. In 1993, Banu, a pregnant woman was admitted to the MWH. It was her ninth pregnancy and she had a history of abortion, stillbirth, and neonatal death. With four children, Banu was restless and kept talking about how her children would suffer without her. She left the waiting home after a day. Three days later, we got the news that Banu had been admitted to the hospital with obstructed labor. I ran to the hospital where I learned that the baby was dead and that Banu needed a craniotomy for delivery. Following the craniotomy, when Banu gained consciousness, she left the hospital and the nurses didn’t know where she was. We immediately went looking for her but by the time I reached Banu’s house, I received the news that Banu had passed away as she tried to walk the six kilometers. This was an extremely traumatic experience for me that made me realize the complexity and value of public health and how simply addressing the clinical need of a patient isn’t enough. 

Sabina: A life-changing moment for me that also solidified why I got into this line of work was when I spent 15 months conducting ethnographic research in slum settlements in Dhaka city, studying the lives of married and unmarried adolescent girls and their sexual and reproductive health needs. Adolescent women and their families there spoke of a constant worry that pervaded their daily lives and resulted in palpitations, insomnia, chest pains, fevers, and other ailments. I began to reflect on how their experiences challenge our dominant model of health interventions, which are biomedical and disease oriented. Do we often blame the poor for the lack of improvement in their lives, for not accessing appropriate services, or not being compliant about taking certain medications or for certain practices that are deemed as backward, without understanding their social worlds? I realized that public health needs to have a comprehensive approach to meet the needs of the most marginalized. I also learned very quickly that reproductive and sexual health for many of the urban poor adolescent women was much broader; it was the absence of social, economic and political rights that impacted created adverse health conditions. I returned to Bangladesh and joined BRAC School of Public Health. Their mission was in alignment with my growing passion to work in an institution that was committed to improving the lives of disadvantaged communities, especially poor women and children.

What’s the greatest piece of advice someone ever gave you?

Sabina: Whenever I felt intimidated by the brilliant and inspiring individuals who I met, my father, who was always very supportive of me, would say: “Sabina, 99% is aspiration, 1% is inspiration”.  Basically, that you don’t have to be brilliant to make a difference, just work hard, remain sincere, committed, and passionate about what you do, and your work will speak for itself. 

MalabikaBe curious, engage, and involve”.

Professor Sabina Faiz Rashid and Professor Malabika Sarker are two of nine women being recognized at this year’s World Health Assembly as part of the Heroines of Health honors. Learn more about the 2018 Heroines of Health here.

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