BRAC founder and Chair Emeritus Sir Fazle Hasan Abed has won the prestigious Yidan Prize, the largest international prize in education, for his groundbreaking work on education development. The Yidan Prize Foundation made the announcement in a statement on September 19, 2019.
From the beginning of his foray into development work, Sir Fazle viewed education as a crucial catalyst for change. To date, more than 12 million children have graduated from BRAC’s pre-primary and primary schools. BRAC offers holistic and joyful learning solutions with play-based early childhood development centres, primary and secondary schools, adolescent learning programmes, and also operates a University.
Dr. Charles Chen Yidan, founder of Yidan Prize, said: “Knowledge attainment is an area that transcends racial, religious, economic and national boundaries, affecting everything from human health and the environment to well-being and personal fulfilment. I hope every country and region can benefit from the results of the best research and education development work, helping to create a better world through education.”
Currently, BRAC is running a total of 656 play labs across Bangladesh, Uganda and Tanzania, reaching out to around 11,500 children every day. The BRAC Institute of Educational Development (BRAC IED) also developed a play-based solution called the Humanitarian Play Lab (HPL) model to help refugee children learn and heal from trauma.
Thanking the Yidan Prize authorities, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed said: “Early childhood is a critical time to provide learning opportunities to children to ensure optimal development. BRAC is engaged in research on play-based learning for children from 3-5 years including displaced children living in refugee camps and suffering from trauma, whose well-being and resilience can be enhanced through play. I hope the world’s leaders will realise the potential of this play-based education model to develop more socially and emotionally intelligent individuals who are able to live happier, conflict-free lives.”
As a Yidan Prize Laureate, Sir Fazle will receive a gold medal during the Award presentation ceremony in December and HKD 30 million (around USD 3.9 million or BDT 33 crore), half of which is a cash prize and the other half a project fund.
“The very generous Yidan Prize funding will allow us to expand our education activities. We plan to use the funds for two purposes: strengthen our existing basic education programme, and establish new Play Labs,” Sir Fazle added.
Originated in Hong Kong, the prize, managed by the Yidan Prize Foundation and governed by an independent trust, consists of two awards: the Yidan Prizes for Education Research and Education Development. This year, the prize for Education Research is going to Usha Goswami, professor of cognitive developmental neuroscience at Cambridge.
Bangladesh Technical Education Board (BTEB) has approved the competency standard module that BRAC has recently developed for skills training of domestic workers. The official approval came after a review at a workshop today on Monday, (September 9, 2019) organised on the BTEB premises in Agargaon in the capital. BTEB will publish the module on its website for others to use. BRAC is also ready to share its knowledge and experiences with others working in this area.
Md Mahabubur Rahman, secretary and chairman (additional charge) of BTEB, was present at the workshop as chief guest. Tasmiah Tabassum Rahman, programme head of BRAC’s skills development programme, was also present among others.
Speakers at the workshop said domestic work is one of the most important occupations in the informal sector of Bangladesh's economy. While consisting mostly of women and girl children, domestic workers' force has a small share of men too. Women domestic workers now hold a fair share of the country's migrant workers' force. According to the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET), 12.1 per cent of the migrant workforce of Bangladesh were women domestic workers in 2017. That year a total of 1,008,525 migrant workers, 121,925 of whom were women, went abroad.
A recently-published joint study of International Labour Organisation and Refugee and Migratory Movement Research Unit estimates that around four million people are currently engaged in this occupation in Bangladesh.
Although domestic work provides livelihood for a large population, skills training opportunities are almost absent in the country. BRAC’s skills development programme (SDP) in this context is implementing a pilot project named 'Chacri' (Choosing household work as career to raise income) in Dhaka, facilitating skills development for domestic workers. The project has three objectives: provide skills training to underprivileged young men and women which will help them obtain domestic workers' job in decent work environment with better wage; assist them in job placement; and develop quality training curriculum and materials for domestic workers. BRAC expects that such quality skills training will also be organised for those who want to work abroad as domestic workers.
Having started in February this year, the nine-month pilot is now in its closing phase. With an objective to produce 300 skilled workers in this period, BRAC is operating two quality training centres in Korail and Hazaribag in the capital. The project's partner organisation Sheba.xyz is doing job placements through their online portal for those completing the training course.
In today’s world, the internet has made it easy to access all kinds of services such as healthcare, education and finance, but it does not entirely cater to persons with disabilities. Like many countries across the globe, persons with visual impairments in Bangladesh find it particularly difficult to access and avail services from digital platforms. As a part of its continued effort towards inclusion, BRAC has made its website user-friendly for persons with disabilities.
The website with the added features was launched on Sunday, September 08, at BRAC Centre, Dhaka. K M Abdus Salam, director-general of the NGO Affairs Bureau, was present at the event as chief guest. Asif Saleh, executive director of BRAC, chaired the programme. Sharmeela Rasool, chief technical adviser of the human rights division of UNDP was present as special guest. Md Ismail, additional secretary, and Dr Md Abul Hossain, deputy secretary to the Ministry of Social Welfare, were also present among others.
The transformation work, which took three months to complete, was supervised by Vashkar Bhattacharjee, national consultant to the Access to Information (A2i) project under the prime minister’s office. BRAC’s official website now has a number of features that would enable persons with disabilities to use it. These include thoughtful navigation and minimum number of buttons so it can be operated with keyboards only; support of navigation through voice command; and variable font sizes. Persons with visual impairments can also adjust the screen to high-contrast colours.
Chief guest K M Abdus Salam said, "In the last 10 years, ICT usage has significantly increased. Now it's time to bolster efforts to ensure access to services for persons with disabilities."
Special guest Sharmila Rasul said engagement with persons with disabilities had largely been seen from a charity perspective. “Now, time has come for us to see things from a human rights perspective."
BRAC’s executive director Asif Saleh said, "It’s high time that we change the society's mind-set that 'persons with disabilities cannot.’ In order to achieve that change, the leadership must change their mind-set first."
BRAC is ready to share the knowledge and skills acquired through this website transformation exercise with those who are working for the inclusion of persons with disabilities into the digital world, he added.
One of the pledges of the Bangladesh government’s Vision 2021 is to ensure internet access for all, including persons with disabilities. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), around four million visually impaired people in Bangladesh cannot use digital platforms. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities also endorses their rights to accessibility as well as freedom of expression and opinion and access to information. The World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative stipulates that websites should be inherently designed so that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate and interact with the web.
Tamara Hasan Abed, currently Senior Director, BRAC Enterprises, has been redesignated as the Managing Director, BRAC Enterprises, effective August 1, 2019. She will report directly to the BRAC Bangladesh Governing Body. She has headed BRAC's 13 social enterprises, including Aarong, BRAC Dairy and BRAC Seed & Agro Enterprise, since 2014.
Tamara Abed brings with her extensive experience in investment banking, entrepreneurship and social enterprise, with a career spanning over two decades across diverse sectors. Leading by example, she has carved a respectful position as a senior leader in traditionally male- dominated industries and has inspired more women to come forward and make a mark. She is passionate about driving value-based business models, operating at the intersection of social good, sustainable business and inclusive growth.
She began her career in 1995 at Peregrine Capital Ltd, a Hong Kong-based investment bank, in Dhaka in corporate finance. Her experience exposed her to leading private sector companies in Bangladesh, including Pacific Bangladesh Telecom, ACI and Rahimafrooz, dealing with raising equity and restructuring. After Peregrine, she joined BRAC's Urban Development Programme, mobilising slum-based women entrepreneurship groups. Simultaneously, she started her entrepreneurial venture through a cafe. Later she moved to New York and worked in Goldman Sachs in Mergers and Strategic Advisory.
She joined Aarong in 2002 as General Manager, Design and Product Development and later took charge of the Export Division of Aarong and started the Marketing Department. In 2005, she was promoted as the Head of Aarong and Ayesha Abed Foundation. Under her leadership, Aarong has gone from strength to strength, celebrating 40 years in 2018 as Bangladesh's most popular lifestyle retail chain. From BOT 123 Crores annual sales in 2005, when she started leading Aarong, it has delivered solid, year-on-year revenue growth. The sales turnover is expected to reach BOT 1,000 Crores in 2019. She has been instrumental in driving the expansion of Aarong to 21 national outlets, multiple brands, e- commerce and digital platforms. With a keen sense of design and consumer insights, she launched 'Taaga', 'Taaga Man', and 'Herstory' connecting the younger generation of the country with the pride of Bangladeshi craftsmanship.
In 2006, she was given charge of BRAC Dairy and since then has built a strong team to take the dairy business to new heights. BRAC Dairy is currently the third-largest dairy processor in Bangladesh with a diverse portfolio of products.
She served on the Board of Directors of BRAC Bank for eight years from 2008-2016. She currently serves on the Boards of IPDC Finance, BRAC EPL Investments, BRAC EPL Stock Brokerage, edotco Bangladesh and BRAC Tea Estates. She is also on the Board of Trustees of BRAC University and Chairs the Board Finance Committee. She chairs the Board of BRAC Services Ltd. and is the Executive Trustee of Ayesha Abed Foundation.
She has represented Bangladesh globally and was honoured by the World Economic Forum as a 'Young Global Leader' in 2010. She also represented Bangladesh during the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship in Washington in 2010. She is an Asia 21 Young Leader. She received the Outstanding Women Leadership Award from the World Women Leadership Congress in 2014.
Tamara Abed holds an MBA in Finance from Columbia University and was inducted into the Beta Gamma Sigma honour society for her distinctive academic achievements. She completed her BSC in Economics from the London School of Economics.
Asif Saleh has been appointed the new executive director of BRAC Bangladesh with effect from 1 August 2019.
He brings with him a diverse multi-sectoral experience in senior leadership roles in private, public and non-government sectors with proven track record of effectively managing interfaces of development programming, operational and financial sustainability and building effective partnerships, both within and outside BRAC.
“BRAC Governing Body is confident that Asif Saleh is the right choice to steer BRAC Bangladesh ahead, driving innovation and positive transformation and ensuring that BRAC stays rooted in our mission, meeting the needs of the people of Bangladesh,” said Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder and chairperson of BRAC.
Asif Saleh has been deeply anchored in driving the strategic direction of BRAC. He joined BRAC in 2011 and took up an increasingly important role in leading advocacy for social change, information technology, communications and social innovation. He has been instrumental in ensuring that BRAC addresses emerging development challenges in the areas of urban poverty, youth skills development, inclusive growth and migration. As the senior director of the empowerment programme cluster, he led BRAC’s new programmatic areas namely, the urban development programme, human rights and legal aid services, skills development programme and migration programme.
"Unique, priceless and transformational would be the words that best describe my experience at BRAC over the past eight years. I am inspired everyday by the perseverance and pragmatism of the people we work with and how they turn around their lives against all odds. I feel honoured and humbled to be asked to lead BRAC Bangladesh and taking ahead our vision of building an equal world. As a team, we are committed as ever to continue our legacy of being grounded, working closely with the local communities, our partners and supporters and complementing the development efforts of the Government of Bangladesh,” Asif Saleh commented.
Prior to joining BRAC, he worked as a policy specialist for the Access to Information (A2i) Programme at the Prime Minister’s Office. As part of the government’s Digital Bangladesh initiative, he led the policy effort to expand affordable broadband connectivity across Bangladesh and devised the government's m-governance strategy. He was also a key part of the Union Digital Centre team that created digital service centres in every union in Bangladesh. Since then, he has actively promoted the role of technology and frugal innovation in the development sector. He spent 12 years in Goldman Sachs in different fin-tech roles and institutional client sales in New York and London, ending his term there as an executive director. He has also worked in Glaxo Wellcome, IBM and Nortel.
Asif Saleh is an active member in a range of international networks and alliances, advocating inclusive achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. He was selected to be a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2013. Asif was also recognised for his work by Asia Society’s Asia 21 programme in 2008, the Bangladeshi American Foundation in 2007, and was selected as an Asia 21 Fellow in 2012.
He chairs BRAC IT Services Limited and is on the boards of BRAC Bank and BRAC Net. He is also a board member of multiple non-profits, such as 1 Degree Initiative, Spreeha, Institute of Informatics and Development, and Maya.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science and an MBA in management and marketing from the Stern School of Business, New York University.
Most Bangladeshi youths (57% female; 42% male) see government jobs as the most viable career. Many educated young people from well-off families want to establish their own businesses. On the other hand, youths with no or less institutional education want to find work abroad to secure better earning. Moreover, only 5% of the respondents believe that their educational qualification will help them secure employment.
However, more women than men were found to be concerned about their children's wellbeing. As much as 34% women put their children's wellbeing ahead of any other issues of their life. Only 11% men are as much concerned about their children.
These are part of the findings of a survey among Bangladeshi youths BRAC conducted in 2018. The findings of the survey were released in an event on Wednesday (24 July 2019) at Lake Shore Hotel in the capital. Zahid Hasan Russel, lawmaker and state minister for youth and sports, Dr Md Jafar Uddin, acting secretary to the ministry of youth and sports, Asif Saleh, acting executive director of BRAC, and Dr Imran Matin, executive director of BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), participated in a discussion at the programme.
Currently, Bangladesh is enjoying a unique historical period of "demographic dividend" with its working age population (15-59) way bigger than the non-working age population. At the same time, according to the Commonwealth's Global Youth Development Index Bangladesh is among the worst performing countries. Although there awareness about this issue is rising, there is a shortage of evidence-based information about what the country's young people are thinking and aspiring for. This youth survey is an effort to fill that gap.
BRAC, BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) and BRAC University conducted the Youth Survey 2018 involving 4200 respondents. Bangladesh was divided into five regions, from which 30 upazilas were randomly selected. Two unions/wards were selected from the upazilas, from which one village or neighbourhood (mahalla) were taken. Finally, from each village/neighbourhood, 14 respondents (7 women and 7 men) were randomly selected. Following this process, a total 4,200 respondents aged 15-35 years were surveyed.
The survey focused on the self-identity, aspirations, institutional education, skills, choice and the preparation to enter employment of the respondents. Among the respondents, 7% male and 4% female had higher education and 14% had vocational training. Of the respondents only 16% were confident about their English language and computer skills. The confidence level among women and less educated respondents were lower than the average. Around 40% had access to internet, although urban spaces offered better access than the rural ones.
Of the educated youth, 57% women and 42% men want government jobs. Around 90% of the young men studied up to the higher secondary level and less were employed. The more educated the respondents are, the later they start earning. Only 5% women with education from 5th grade to upto higher secondary level are earning. Around 90% of the respondents who do not study, are not working to earn or not in any training programme are women.
Around 20% respondents are interested in securing a job abroad, but only one-third of them are actively planning to do so. 31% male, compared to only 7% female respondents, are interested to work abroad.
Male respondents enjoy greater liberty regarding choice of their educational institutions, friends and occupation, mobility and spending money than women. Only 40% women have freedom of mobility, which is just half compared to that of men. All respondents are seriously concerned about two issues: gender-based violence (early marriage, dowry, sexual harassment and rape) and drug addiction.
Welcoming the BRAC Youth Survey 2018, state minister Zahid Ahsan Russel said, "Such surveys enrich our experience and help identify potential work areas. We are trying to overcome the problems gradually. Women's participation in wage earning work is increasing; more than 60% primary school teachers are women. The government has made a decision to set up youth research centres in different regions. These centres will offer assistance to the young people based on their problems, potentials and needs."
Youth and sports acting secretary Dr Md Jafar Uddin said some of the findings in this survey may look like problems, but they actually are not. Rather they should be regarded as challenges. "By overcoming these challenges, the nation will go forward through effective collaboration between the public and private sectors."
BRAC acting executive director Asif Saleh said BRAC has long been engaged in the skill development of young people, "Now we are on to introducing school-based learning programmes that will contribute to their future skill development."
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No less than 400 thousand youths, a large portion of which is women, received training in a number of employable skills in non-agriculture sector from BRAC in last eight years and have found decent employment or started own initiatives.
BRAC officials revealed this information at an event today on Tuesday (23 July 2019) at the BRAC Centre in Dhaka. BRAC organised this event as a part of its celebration of World Youth Skills Day. The programme comprised an exhibition of BRAC skills development initiatives, launch of a publication titled “Star Toolkit: Introducing a Successful Entrepreneurship” and a series of panel discussions.
Faruque Hossain, chairman, National Skills Development Authority, was present as the chief guest at the panel discussion titled “SDG-8: Youth, skills and employment”. Tapan Kumar Ghosh, chairman, Bureau of Non-formal Education, and KAM Morshed, director, BRAC, participated in the discussion among others. Asif Saleh, acting executive director, BRAC, moderated the discussion.
Angela Naumann, first secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australian High Commission, Bangladesh, Mashfique Ibne Akbar, private sector development adviser, Department of International Development, British High Commission, Dhaka, Zhigang Li, social sector specialist, Asian Development Bank, Tomoo Hozomi, country representative, UNICEF Bangladesh, participated in another panel discussion on financing of skills development initiatives.
BRAC Skills Development Programme is currently working with focus on three areas, namely, skills training and other services, systems change with the government and industry partnerships, and community engagement. At present it is operating eight projects focusing on the communities living in the cities, municipalities and Rohingyas and host community in Cox’s Bazar. These current projects are: Skills training for advancing resources (STAR), Promoting skills and productivity enhancement for resilience (PROSPER), Promoting business Incubation for small entrepreneurs (PROMISE), Pro-poor growth of rural enter-prises through sustainable skills-development (PROGRESS), Alternative learning programme for out of school adolescents (ALP), Partnership reinforcement for integrated skills enhancement (PRISE), Skills development project for Rohingyas, and Apprenticeship-based training for host community.
BRAC’s Skill Development Programme began its activities with the STAR project, which has developed a unique model reforming and institutionalising the ancient tradition of skills training through apprenticeships under a master craftsman. Under STAR project, BRAC officials find out skilled people who run their own business. After they go through specially designed training, selected trainees start apprenticeships under them. The trainers receive an honorarium for running the six-monthly course. This model on one hand creates opportunity for underprivileged youths for quality skill training, while helps keep costs low compared with institution-based training. After finishing apprenticeships, BRAC assists the youths to get decent jobs or start their own business.
Under the STAR project, BRAC trained 30 thousand youths up to December 2018. Of them 95 per cent found decent employment. For women trainees the impact is even bigger, reducing child marriage 65 per cent. Post training, the apprentices saw six times increase in both income and employment.
BRAC developed this unique model jointly with ILO, UNICEF, Department of Non-Formal Education of Bangladesh government and follows the National Technical and Vocational Quality Framework (NTVQF).
The experts at the panel discussions stressed effective collaboration between the government, donors, non-governmental actors and private sector for expanding the opportunities for employable skills development. They said to achieve SDG targets there is no alternative for skill development.
BRAC established Skill Development Programme with a socio-economic background of an increasing youth population, large gap in employable skills and training, risky migration of unskilled and semi-skilled labour force, increasing violence against girls and women, and expansion of urban spaces and their population.
Targeting both the domestic and overseas labour market, BRAC is currently giving 15 kinds of skills training in non-agriculture sector, which are: Tailoring and dress making, mobile phone servicing, wooden furniture making, beauty salon, refrigeration and AC servicing, basic electronics, graphic design, IT support technician, aluminum fabrication, motorcycle servicing, wooden furniture designing, electrical house wiring, block and batik, screen printing, jori and chumki work.
Non-governmental development organisation BRAC has allocated BDT 50 lac for flood relief operations across Bangladesh. Until 22 July, the organisation has distributed dry food and cash assistance among 8,659 families in 34 worst affected upazilas across 11 districts. With the new allocation, the operation will now be expanded to all flood-affected districts.
Although water is receding from some of the districts, the flood could linger for a longer time, especially in the northern and central regions of the country. In this emerging humanitarian crisis, BRAC has launched a coordinated effort in order to ensure timely response in the form of relief, deploying several thousand relief workers in some of the worst affected districts.
BRAC has expanded water, sanitation and hygiene support to schools, embankments and highways in Bagura and Gaibandha districts where hundreds of thousands of people have taken refuge. Everyday, new sanitary latrines, bathing cubicles and tube-wells are being built to cope with the rising demand.
“We are focusing on remote areas, especially where conducting relief operations have become difficult as a result of damaged communication system. We are doing a quick needs assessment of affected families, so that we can expand our operations rapidly,” said Asif Saleh, Acting Executive Director of BRAC.
People in Ulipur of Kurigram, Sarishabari of Jamalpur, Kalmakanda and Barhatta in Netrakona, Sylhet Sadar and Sariakandi of Bagura district are the latest upazilas to come under BRAC’s relief operations coverage.
"We are coordinating our operations to complement the government's relief efforts. If the situation does not improve soon, all concerned should come forward to support various government and non-government efforts,” Asif Saleh added.
BRAC University President and Vice-Chancellor Vincent Chang met Chairman of the Global Commission on Adaptation and former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. They discussed global citizenship, and opportunities for collaboration between BRAC University and the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens. Based in Vienna, the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens was jointly founded by the former UN Secretary General and Heinz Fischer, the Austrian President from 2004-2016, and focuses on empowering youth and women.
Their meeting concluded with a warm gesture from Ban Ki-moon. The former UN Secretary General fondly recalled signing one of the first diplomatic treaties between his country, South Korea, and Bangladesh, a newly independent nation then. At the time, he was working as a junior diplomat officer of South Korea. Vincent Chang thanked Ban Ki-moon for inviting him despite his tight schedule. Chang invited Ban Ki-moon to visit BRAC University to encourage students to participate further in the global arena.
Ban Ki-moon was in Dhaka to attend the Global Commission on Adaptation meeting, which was inaugurated by the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, and attended by dignitaries from around the world. This was the former secretary general’s first visit to Bangladesh after leaving the UN.
The South Asian Policy Leadership for Improved Nutrition and Growth (SAPLING), a multi-stakeholder advocacy platform for healthy, affordable and accessible diets all over South Asia, was launched today on Sunday (7 July 2019) in Dhaka. SAPLING platform is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with its secretariat hosted by the Health, Nutrition and Population Programme (HNPP) of BRAC. The platform aims to be an exclusive regional mechanism which collates relevant evidence, brings greater visibility to nutrition issues and promotes action by engaging with policy making processes and leadership at the national level. The Launch ushered in discussions on cross border perspectives regarding food systems and nutrition priorities for South Asia.
Dr Purvi Mehta, deputy director and head of Asia for Agriculture at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr Kaosar Afsana, professor at BRAC James P Grant School of Public Health at BRAC University, and Saiqa Siraj, coordinator of SAPLING and programme head of HNNP, BRAC, among others, addressed the audience at the launch event.
Asif Saleh, acting executive director of BRAC, moderated a panel discussion on the topic of “Healthy, affordable and accessible diets for all across South Asia: Where do we stand?” Dr Akhter Ahmed, country representative of International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) Bangladesh, Dr Sandy Thomas, director of the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition, Dr Basanta Kumar Kar, country director of Project Concern International, India, Dr Tayan Raj Gurung, senior specialist, Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, Bhutan, Dr WMW Weerakoon, director general of the Department of Agriculture, Ministry of Agriculture, Sri Lanka, and Dr Morseda Chowdhury, associate director of HNPP, also participated in the panel.
Youth involvement in food systems businesses, food trade within South Asia and political commitment to nutrition were especially focused in the panel discussion.
Throughout the next year, SAPLING will continue its role as a policy advocate, knowledge hub and facilitator. The platform will accumulate high quality research and case studies from the region to develop papers on the status quo of food systems in South Asia and policy recommendations. Latest news and resources from SAPLING can be found on www.sapling-initiative.org.