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24 March 2015, Dhaka. Three national media houses and 23 journalists from national and local newspapers have won the BRAC Media Award 2015 for their special reports on tuberculosis issues. The winners will receive the award from the honourable minister of the ministry of health and family welfare at a grand ceremony on march 24, World TB Day. This award ceremony is one of the major events organised on the occasion of the day in the country. 

A three-member jury gave its judgment after a scrutiny of the reports submitted. Senior journalist Md Farid Hossain, former bureau chief of AP, chaired the jury with Shahnaz Munni, news editor, ATN Bangla, and Dr Asif Muztaba Mahmud as the other members. Dr Mahmud acted as the technical expert for the jury.

The awards were given under three main categories: print, electronic and online media reporting. The print media reports which are most in number, were again divided into eight categories of seven divisions and national level. 

The Daily Ittefaq, The Daily Observer and NTV (International Television Channel Ltd), have been awarded the prize this year in recognition of their contribution in raising awareness about the issue.

Here we present the award winning reports.
 

Thursday, 26 February 2015 18:00

BRAC partners with TOMS to provide safe births

February 27, 2015.

Support through sales of TOMS Bags will help provide the conditions necessary for a safe and sanitary birth for women in Bangladesh

BRAC announces a partnership with TOMS today that will help provide safe conditions for childbirth for expecting mothers in developing countries, starting in Bangladesh. 

Formerly Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, BRAC is a global leader in providing cost-effective healthcare and other anti-poverty solutions to empower the world’s poor, while TOMS is known for its OneforOne® consumer philanthropy model. BRAC will receive funding this year for training of community health promoters in Bangladesh from sales of a new line of TOMS Bags.

“We welcome the support from TOMS in our training of healthcare workers in Bangladesh,” says Dr. Kaosar Afsana, director of BRAC’s health, nutrition and population program at BRAC headquarters in Dhaka. “This support will strengthen and sustain safe and sanitary birth for tens of thousands of women.”

Childbirth is still one of the leading causes of death for women worldwide. Most of these deaths can be prevented through the delivery of simple solutions and adequate training for health workers. In Bangladesh, BRAC has made tremendous inroads against maternal mortality by training frontline community health workers. It is running similar programs in Afghanistan, Liberia, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, South Sudan and Uganda.

“This is an important initiative by TOMS, which has shown readiness to expand its philanthropy into healthcare solutions that have been proven to work,” says Scott MacMillan, a spokesperson for BRAC USA in New York, which facilitated the partnership. “Consumers should understand that we can eliminate many of the causes and conditions of poverty by focusing on the effective delivery of training, services and basic health commodities.”

“This partnership will start in Bangladesh, but if successful, there is scope to expand it to other countries, given the tremendous need for access to healthcare in places like Sierra Leone, Liberia and South Sudan, where maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the world. We welcome the support of corporate partners in bringing those numbers down and creating safer conditions for mothers everywhere.”

The BRAC-TOMS partnership builds on BRAC’s outstanding track record in Bangladesh, a country credited by British medical journal The Lancet with outstanding progress in basic health indicators.

In 1990, the maternal mortality rate in Bangladesh was one of the worst in the world, with 575 deaths per 100,000 births. In the last 20 years, the country has made staggering improvements, with a 40 percent reduction in the rate in the last decade alone. Bangladesh is likely to reach the UN Millennium Development goal of 143 deaths per 100,000.

BRAC started as a small relief effort in 1972 and has grown into the world’s largest nongovernmental organization, measured by number of full-time staff and the estimated number of people it reaches. It is known in the international development community for providing opportunities for the poor on a massive scale. It reaches an estimated 135 million people in 11 countries, operating multiple programs in health, education, microfinance and other areas. BRAC takes a holistic approach to poverty with a breadth of interventions that include healthcare, women’s and girls’ empowerment, microfinance, social justice, and tens of thousands of its own schools. It also runs a full-fledged university, BRAC University, with its own graduate school of public health, in Bangladesh.

BRAC believes that if women and girls have access to the right tools, they can take control of their own lives and end poverty. Its maternal health program advances this philosophy by training self-employed community health promoters and birth attendants, providing both entrepreneurship solutions for women in poorer communities and healthcare for their neighbors.

BRAC’s model for its maternal, child and neonatal health program trains a network of 110,994 self-employed health workers worldwide – community health promoters or “shasthya shebika” in the Bengali language – to deliver health services and to refer patients with complications to nearby facilities.

In 1999, BRAC started manufacturing delivery kits to be sold by these trained health workers. Delivery kits include basic items necessary for a sanitary birth – sterile soap, gauze, a plastic sheet, and a surgical blade to cut the umbilical cord. BRAC health workers sell about 400,000 kits a year and, along with birth attendants, are trained in their proper usage.

For every purchase of one of TOMS new line of bags, BRAC will receive funding to train one health worker in the usage and distribution of these kits.
 

NEEP-Workshop 16th-Feb

On 16 February, 2015, BRAC held a launching workshop for its collaborative evaluation study with the American Institute for Research (AIR). The Evaluation of the BRAC Nutrition and Early Childhood Programme is being carried out under a grant from the Nutrition Embedding Evaluation Programme (NEEP), a four-year programme agreement between the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the US based donor organisation PATH. Malnutrition and under-nutrition among young children is a pressing health issue for Bangladesh. A lot of this is tied to the issue of early childhood development. Given the scale and scope of BRAC’s nutrition and early childhood development related interventions, the findings of this evaluation can have tremendous implications for the future of similar initiatives in Bangladesh and the rest of the developing world.

The workshop featured presentations on BRAC’s health programme, its nutrition and early childhood development interventions as well as a session on the proposed evaluation. It also brought together key experts and stakeholders from the field of health, nutrition and early childhood development, encouraging open dialogue and an exchange of ideas on the growing issue of child under-nutrition and malnutrition in Bangladesh.

Friday, 20 February 2015 18:00

We mourn

21 February 2015, Dhaka. Engineer Abul Iqbal Mohammed Monsoor, Director, Construction and Maintenance (Chief Engineer), BRAC passed away on Friday, February 20th, at 9pm at Apollo Hospital, Dhaka. He was 61 years old.  Engr. Monsoor was the son of Late Md Azizur Rahman of Rangarchar, Ambari Bazar, Sunamganj. He completed his graduation in Civil Engineering from BUET in 1977.  He is a life member and Fellow of the Institute of Engineers, Bangladesh and also a member of Canadian Council of Engineers.

Engr  Monsoor leaves behind his wife Dr. Taslima Monsoor, Dean of the Faculty of Law, Dhaka University and a daughter and son.

His qulkhani and milad mahfil will be hosted by BRAC and his family on 27 February 2015(Friday) after Asaar prayer. His friends, colleagues and well wishers are cordially invited to attend his qulkhani.

-the BRAC family

12 February 2015, WASHINGTON, DC – The Microfinance CEO Working Group welcomes two new members to their international collaboration: Lauren Hendricks, Executive Director of CARE’s Access Africa program, and Shameran Abed, Director of BRAC’s microfinance program. Tanzania-based Hendricks and Bangladesh-based Abed join the Working Group’s efforts to support the positive development of the microfinance industry, so the field can reach its full potential of bringing responsible microfinance and related services to those who have been traditionally excluded.

“The Microfinance CEO Working Group has worked hard to foster a diverse, collaborative and honest platform for advancing our industry’s mission to reach the 2.5 billion people around the world without access to the formal financial system. As leaders from BRAC and CARE’s Access Africa program, Shameran and Lauren complement our global perspective and bring innovative approaches to financial inclusion to our group. We’re thrilled to welcome them as new members, and they are already adding value and perspectives,” Mary Ellen Iskenderian, Co-Chair of the Microfinance CEO Working Group and President and CEO of Women’s World Banking.

In early 2011, an informal group of industry leaders met to discuss the state of the microfinance sector as it matures and encounters new challenges. Participants quickly discovered a shared perspective on the future of the microfinance industry – one rooted in high standards, client orientation, transparency and collective action.

That group formalized to create the Microfinance CEO Working Group, which has spent the last four years advocating in support of responsible microfinance and championing promising ideas and solutions for the industry. Today, the Working Group’s networks collectively represent more than 230 microfinance institutions across nearly 75 countries serving more than 57 million clients. The group supports initiatives that are playing a major role in advancing responsible microfinance, including client protection, pricing transparency and the Universal Standards for Social Performance Management. The members of the Microfinance CEO Working Group also provide forums for collaboration and information sharing among like-minded allies, including investors, funders, regulators, researchers and the broader international development community.

Hendricks is the Executive Director of CARE’s Access Africa program. Launched in 2008 to advance financial inclusion across the continent, Access Africa was built on CARE’s nearly 20 years of experience harnessing the ancient practice of savings groups and creating a sustainable system of home-grown microfinance. CARE’s Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) are built entirely on member savings and interest from loans; they receive no direct capital investment from CARE. However, their members do receive a year of intensive training from CARE in group dynamics and governance and in money management. This training enables the groups to become self-supporting, to flourish and even to establish and train other groups. Today, the Access Africa program is reaching 4.2 million people across 26 countries in Africa.

“The Microfinance CEO Working Group is all about collaboration in a shared commitment to financial inclusion.  On behalf of CARE, I’m honored to join this diverse group of leaders to support sustainable and holistic solutions for the world’s poor,” said Hendricks.

Abed is the Director of the BRAC microfinance program, which serves more than five million clients in seven countries in Asia and Africa, and has total assets exceeding USD 1 billion. Starting its work in the early 1970s, BRAC was one of the first organizations to use the modern microfinance model of lending small amounts to groups of women.

Today, BRAC’s microfinance activities are offered through a unique “credit-plus” approach, addressing the special needs of various target populations such as rural women, youth and adolescents, landless poor, marginal farmers, migrant workers and small entrepreneurs. BRAC targets and develops customized financial products and services to best meet the varying needs of the poor.

“BRAC shares the Microfinance CEO Working Group’s commitment to promoting the best practices of our industry. This is an opportunity to collaborate with a group that embraces both the latest innovations and the trusted long-standing practices that bring financial tools and other resources to those who need them most,” said Abed.

Hendricks and Abed join the following leaders from founding member organizations of the Microfinance CEO Working Group: Michael Schlein, President and CEO of Accion; Rupert Scofield, President and CEO of FINCA International; Steve Hollingworth, President of Freedom from Hunger; Co-Chair Alex Counts, President and CEO of Grameen Foundation; David Simms, Global Chief Development Officer and President, Opportunity International, U.S.; Rosario Perez, President and CEO of Pro Mujer; Scott Brown, President and CEO of VisionFund International; and Co-Chair Mary Ellen Iskenderian, President and CEO of Women’s World Banking.

This article was orignally posted here: http://microfinanceceoworkinggroup.org/press-release-microfinance-leaders-members-join-working-group/

02 February 2015, Dhaka. In partnership with BRAC, maya.com.bd has launched the first ever one-touch help service app for women in Bangladesh. ‘Maya Apa’ is an android-based mobile application, designed, developed, and implemented by female engineers, doctors, and entrepreneurs. It allows women (or any other user) to post questions anonymously, on health, legal and psychosocial issues. Within 48 hours, experts respond with tailor-made answers. 

Maya Apa mobile app is based on the hugely successful web application ‘Maya Apa Ki Bole’ on maya.com.bd’s website, the first anonymous question and answer platform in the country. Users can log in via their email address to post questions, allowing them to retain their anonymity.  The platform is curated in both English and Bangla, where experts – a team of doctors, lawyers and psychosocial counsellors –respond in the language preferred by the users. 

With the service developed for basic smartphones, BRAC Maya team is aiming to reach women and girls in both urban and rural areas of Bangladesh. At the app launch, director of BRAC’s gender, justice and diversity, Sheepa Hafiza stated, “This app will not only create a greater access to information and services for women all over the country but also a nationwide consensus for a supportive society.”

The app sets a precedence in the booming start-up culture whereby two female engineers developed a one-touch service app for women in Bangladesh. Achia Khaleda Nila and Shubrami Moutushy Mou, the developers of the application, believe that this ‘one of a kind’ app is instrumental in empowering women through technology.

Ivy H Russell, founder of Maya, added "We are motivated to continue innovating with the Maya Apa app. Our mission is to connect women to the knowledge they are looking for through technology, and there is a lot more on the roadmap this year”. The app aims to bridge the digital divide by providing information to women, and empowering women of all walks of life in Bangladesh. The Maya Apa app is launching in both Bangla and English on 3 February2015. It can be found on Google Play Store for immediate download and usage.


Download the app from Google play store.

 

Saturday, 31 January 2015 18:00

BRAC launches new research website

01 February 2015, Dhaka. BRAC's research and evaluation division launched its new website research.brac.net today. This new initiative was taken with the aim to disseminate its research publications to a wider audience as well as to bring research more prominently in development discussions. Integrating many features of web 2.0, the new website presents augmented user interactivity and mobile friendliness with clear navigations. The publications can be now read online plus social media tools have been amalgamated for easy sharing of information.

Dr Mahabub Hossain, the advisor to BRAC's executive director and present head of RED, chaired the launching event. It was attended by the senior director of BRAC’s strategy, communications and empowerment Asif Saleh was also present along with representatives from BRAC University, BRAC International and RED programme staff.
 

21 January 2015, Dhaka. World Toilet Organization (WTO) gave “Hall of Fame Award" to BRAC for significant contribution in Sanitation sector in Bangladesh. Director of BRAC WASH and DECC and TB programme, DrAkramul Islam received the awardat the 14th World Toilet Summit India in Delhi from Dr. Subramanian Swamy, MP & Former Minister of India and Jack Sim, Founder of WTO.

Minister Devendra Chaudhry, Special Secretary, Ministry of Power, India was also present in the occasion along with representatives from governments, donors, development partners, business sectors, NGOs and media.

Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in providing basic sanitation services to its people. It is now estimated that throughout Bangladesh, 57% use sanitary latrines. Open defecation has almost ended with only about 3% of the people not using toilets of any kind. The BRAC hygiene and sanitation programme reached more than 66 million people.

BRAC WASH and related programmes have made a substantial contribution to the nation's Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets for water, sanitation and health and will continue to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Over 8 years, the BRAC hygiene and sanitation programme reached more than 66 million people, about half of the rural population of Bangladesh. It has successfully worked to improve household sanitation by creating demand for hygienic latrines [2] while supporting an extensive supply chain and local businesses. Current coverage with hygienic and adequately maintained toilets is 82% in the 152 districts where BRAC has worked. All these successes have been underpinned by a strong provision of service to the poor and ultra-poor and by a unique hygiene promotion programme focusing on universal use and sustainability of services in communities, households and schools.
 

14 January 2015, Dhaka. BRAC’s Water, sanitation and Hygiene programme held a dissemination and impact sharing workshop  on 14 January 2015 at BRAC Centre to share its experience and future strategy with the stakeholders.

BRAC started its WASH programme in 2006 to tackle contamination issues. The significant achievement of reducing open defecation from 42% to 3%  (from 2003-2012) was the major finding of the research. The programme works through an intensive implementation strategy to reach rural population from all walks of life. Starting from individual household visits, cluster meetings, schools, mosque forums, formation of village WASH committees promoting rural sanitation centres and regular advocacy workshops are the key implementation strategies of the programme.

BRAC’s vice chairperson and interim executive director Dr Ahmed Mushtaque Raza Chowdhury chaired the workshop where director of BRAC’s WASH programme gave the keynote presentation on the future strategy for BRAC’s WASH programme. Ms Martine van Hoogstraten, deputy head of mission, head of economic affairs and development cooperation, Embassy of the kingdom of the Netherlands in Dhaka and additional secretary of ministry of LGRD ms Zuena Aziz were present as guests of honour.
 

7 January 2015, Sierra Leone.

Interventions include cash transfers, radios and safe spaces for girls; efforts will help recovery efforts by providing livelihood assistance for affected families and support for adolescent girls

BRAC, in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Welfare Gender and Children Affair (MSWGCA), has started distributing cash grants to young Ebola survivors with the aim of starting small livelihood activities, while also supporting adolescent girls in Ebola recovery efforts.

Distributed in the districts of Port Loko, Kambia, Moyamba and Pujehun, the cash grants have been given to orphans below the age of 22, sexually abused children, and families with children affected by Ebola. The grant amounts consist of two disbursements of 200,000 leones ($47) each, paid one month apart. BRAC is targeting 1,050 beneficiaries within the four districts, with 96 having receiving payments as of January 7. The initiative is funded by UNICEF Sierra Leone.

Meanwhile, BRAC is also working to close the gaps created by schools closures in the wake of the Ebola crisis. Its Empowerment and Livelihood of Adolescents (ELA) project is providing 840 radio sets (four for each of 210 communities), along with textbooks, exercise books, pens and pencils to boost the learning capacity of non-school goers. This promotes the Ministry of Education’s Emergency Radio Teaching programme which has immensely helped adolescents and children stay focused. The BRAC intervention targets 24 chiefdoms in Port Loko, Kambia, Moyamba, and Pujehun.

With schools and most recreational centres closed amidst the economic crisis, girls have been limited in movement and confined to their homes. This creates a stressful situation in families and communities while exposing adolescent girls to abuse, violence, and exploitation. BRAC has synced its Ebola-related activities to existing efforts to end child marriage and teenage pregnancy, as these issues are all closely related.

Funded by UNICEF, BRAC’s Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescents (ELA) programme provides safe spaces for adolescent girls, life-skills and livelihood training, microloans and community mobilization for reduction of teenage pregnancy and child marriage. It is a part of a network of girls’ clubs in five African countries with 77,000 members as of November 2014.

The existing ELA clubs’ spaces have also been used as social centres for the communities, supporting mentors to provide sexual and reproductive health training for adolescent boys and girls in smaller groups of five. The mentors, well-trained on key Ebola messages, in turn conduct door-to-door Ebola sensitization meetings and soap distribution near the clubs. Educational materials are also offered, turning the clubs into community libraries.

Owing to the fear of Ebola survivors being stigmatized, staffs and mentors have been trained on how to counsel and give support, such as psychosocial and psychological training, to people affected by the disease, helping them integrate back in their communities after treatment.
 

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