Aarong: a big brand or just a handicraft retailer?

The world’s most famous brands reach their consumers through ad campaigns with supermodels and celebrity endorsements. Their glamorous photoshoots are raised on billboards, magazine covers, and in store displays. They run special offers through newspapers and direct mailers, or email you a coupon code you can use on their website.

In the transition from Millennium to Sustainable Development Goals, the international development field has been atwitter with the importance of innovation and scaling up. Ambitious global goals cannot be achieved with business as usual; innovation will be necessary and on a large scale. It appears, however, that while many organisations can generate innovations, few can scale them up quickly.

Aarong, one of BRAC’s social enterprises employs 65,000 artisans, 85 per cent of whom are women. These artisans find an extensive support system through the Ayesha Abed Foundation, Aarong’s network of production hubs which are spread all over Bangladesh.

Committed to the guiding principles of fair trade, Aarong combines sustainable development with securing the rights of its artisans. Some of the services it extends are legal assistance, hygiene awareness and free schooling for children.

Over the past decade Bangladesh has been experiencing urbanisation at an unprecedented speed and scale. For Bangladesh, urbanisation has been identified as a leading engine of growth with the urban sector already contributing to more than 60 per cent of the GDP. On the downside, like in many other developing countries, this rapid urbanisation is also accompanied by increasing urban poverty and inequality.

New video: Scoring goals for equality

Sports for development is one of the more recent initiatives designed to get adolescents talking about issues that are rarely ever discussed in their communities. Believe it or not, activities such as football, cricket and swimming are leading to discussions amongst young girls – they range from sexual health to menstruation and nutrition.

Traditional hospital-based services are not able to reach some of the world’s poorest and most remote villages. Over one billion people globally, including 400 million Africans, lack access to health services because they live too far from a health facility. Rural communities know that if a child becomes ill, the long walk for treatment could potentially turn a minor ailment into a serious health problem.

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