Ninety-four per cent (94%) women commuting in public transport in Bangladesh have experienced sexual harassment in verbal, physical and other forms, a study by development organisation BRAC has revealed. A somewhat surprising revelation of the study is that males belonging to relatively older age group of 41-60 years have been identified as the major perpetrators. This group has been identified as perpetrators for 66 per cent of such incidents. The study also mentions factors including lax implementation of laws, excessive crowds in the buses and weak or no monitoring (such as absence of close circuit cameras) as the major causes behind sexual harassment in roads and public transport especially in the buses.
The findings of the study titled 'Rods free from sexual harassment and crash for women' was presented at a press event today on Tuesday (6 March 2018) at the National Press Club in the capital. BRAC with assistance from BRAC University carried out the research.
Professor Syed Saad Andaleeb, Professor Simeen Mahmud, Fahmida Saadia Rahman and Kabita Chowdhury conducted the research.
Hasne Ara Begum, programme coordinator of GJ&D programme and Kabita Chowdhury, research associate of the BRAC Institute of Governance and Development under BRAC University, presented the keynote on the research findings. Professor Syed Saad Andaleeb and Ahmed Najmul Hussain, director of BRAC Road Safety Programme, spoke among others at the event. GJ&D programme coordinator Nishath Sultana moderated the programme.
BRAC organised the press event on the occasion of International Women's Day to be celebrated on 8th March and in alignment with its broader objective of promoting the agenda of creating safe public space and facilitating safe mobility for women.
Ahmed Najmul Hussain in his welcome speech said, 'BRAC is working in 100 schools along the Gazipur-Tangail highway to raise awareness about sexual harassment on road and public transport. Students and teachers will be informed on the issues of road safety and sexual harassment risk on road and will be trained raise their capacity of preventing such incidents'
The research was conducted in a three-month period between April and June last year (2017). A total of 415 women participated in the research as respondents in its quantitative and qualitative stages. In terms of localities, the study covered the women from low and lower-middle income background in urban, peri-urban and rural areas, who commute by public transport and on foot to go to workplace and other destinations. The geographic areas covered in the research are Gazipur, Dhaka and Birulia of Savar upazila in Dhaka district.
According to the research, 35 per cent respondents using public transport said they faced sexual harassment from males belonging to the age group of 19-35 years. Around 59 per cent respondents faced such harassment from the males who are 26-40 years old. The forms of sexual harassment experienced by the respondents include deliberate touching of victim's body with chest and other parts of the body, pinching, standing too close to the victim and pushing, touching of hair of the victims, putting hand on their shoulder, touching private parts of the victims. In response to the question 'What do women do when they are victim of such harassments?' 81 per cent women said they have kept silent while 79 per cent said they moved away from the place of harassment.
The research also observes that the present education system in which male and female children attend institutions separately restricts the scope for learning gender equality lessons as well as building the attitude and habit of treating both the sexes equally and with respect. To help children learn such attitude adequate training and counselling of teachers and counsellors are essential, it also observes.
Professor Syed Saad Andaleeb said that the pervasive nature of sexual harassment on road and transport calls for a much larger study that will reflect the nationwide scenario in this regard.
Habibur Rahman, programme head of GJ&D said in his closing remarks that the recommendations and observations made by the journalists at the press event will be taken into consideration for conducting studies in a larger scale.
Speakers at the event also observed that although commendable progress has been made in the country in terms of women's education and professional engagement, the feeling of insecurity among women is pervasive. To address the existing issues they demanded for stricter implementation of laws besides initiatives to raise public awareness.
In the Balochistan province of Pakistan, the most vulnerable people suffer severely from seasonal income crisis, acute food insecurity, severe malnutrition, and scarcity of water and sanitation. Due to unfavourable weather and under utilisation of resources, most of these people survive on low purchasing power with diminished economic opportunities.
We launched the ultra poor programme in Lasbela district in Balochistan to graduate people out of extreme poverty, in collaboration with Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund.
Our programme is specially designed to meet the needs of the vulnerable and marginalised, who are deprived of social and economic opportunities. We use an integrated model to provide a holistic environment conducive to socioeconomic uplift of ultra poor, poor and marginalised communities. The objective is poverty reduction through creation of sustainable conditions of social and economic development, including increased income and production capacity and social support.
Our holistic model has interventions in all sectors. We create social mobilisation for strengthening of community institutions. We increase health coverage by developing qualified paramedical staff and improving government health facilities. We promote education through community sensitisation, teachers’ training, establishing school enterprises and supporting government schools. We build communities through physical infrastructure development in renewable energy schemes, irrigation schemes, and drinking water schemes to collectively provide a sustainable enabling environment. Finally, we improve livelihood through productive assets transfer, skills and enterprise development trainings, with eventual graduation to microfinance.
|Ultra Poor Programme||Programme for Poverty Reduction||Government of Italy’s Facility and Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund||July 2015||3 years|
One in three women worldwide have been beaten or raped during their lifetime, according to a publication by the World Health Organisation. With a world population of 7 billion, that is more than one billion women and girls. At BRAC, our vision is a world free from all forms of exploitation and discrimination where everyone has the opportunity to realise their potential. This vision can only be achieved if men and women around the world work together to end violence, exploitation and discrimination against women.
One Billion Rising (OBR) first launched on Valentine’s Day in 2012 as a call to action to end violence against women. The theme of the 2018 campaign is “Solidarity Against the Exploitation of Women”. On the 14 February 2018, BRAC in Uganda, Nepal, Myanmar and Pakistan rose in solidarity with the one billion women and girls who suffer due to violence against women.
BRAC in Uganda pledged its support to the One Billion Rising campaign through writing short yet powerful slogans in a number of languages. The question 'What message would you depict to call for the end of violence against women?' was posed to country office staff to find out their attitudes towards violence against women. There were a number of clear favorites, such as "Pamper her, don't batter her" and "Humankind = Womankind Mankind. Women are human too".
BRAC Uganda country office staff promote OBR
Adolescent girls’ club members and female community health volunteers rally for OBR in Nepal
BRAC Myanmar staff at their stall for OBR in People’s Park, Yangon
BRAC Pakistan promotes OBR through a learning and awareness session
In Nepal, 100 adolescent girls’ club members, female community health volunteers and BRAC staff participated in rallies ending at three local government offices. Videos of ‘Break the Chain’ and past OBR events in different parts of Nepal were shown. A collective appeal letter signed by more than 200 adolescent girls and women of the community was presented to the ward chairpersons with the aim of ending child marriage in the community.
BRAC in Myanmar supported the cause at an OBR event organised by the Men Engaging Working Group Myanmar at People’s Park, Yangon. Awareness of the campaign was raised through games, music and dance. The staff of BRAC Myanmar wrote slogans and distributed pamphlets from a BRAC stall to show their support of OBR and gender equality.
BRAC in Pakistan held a learning and awareness session with OBR coordinators and special guest Kishwar Sultana, CEO of Insan Trust Foundation. Women’s right to property was the main topic of discussion to promote ‘Property For Her’, a new OBR campaign in South Asia which aims to secure land and property rights for women. In south Asian culture and Pakistani societies, women are mostly given dowries and denied their property rights. Participants shared their experiences of instances where the birth of a girl was not welcomed. Videos, speeches and poetry were presented to highlight how property rights for women can change these perceptions which discriminate against women and girls.
46% of Tanzanians lack access to improved drinking water and 87% have no access to improved sanitation. 20% of the population wash hands with soap before preparing food and 16% are practicing open defecation. Alarmingly, 56 pupils on average share one latrine in public and private primary schools nationwide. 84% of the schools do not have functional hand washing facilities. Water borne diseases like cholera, malaria, trachoma, bilharziasis and diarrhoea are on the increase in Tanzanian communities. Children are the most affected. These diseases not only affect their physical development but also school attendance and academic performance.
When it comes to serving the urban poor, research shows that most municipal governments in developing countries prioritise portable water provisioning over sewage removal. Water is usually provided via community taps (standpipes shared by a group of households) that have led to improved availability of portable water to many slum settlements. However, it is in what we refer to as ‘the last 100 meters’ where water is carried from standpipe to home that problems arise. Unserved by sewerage systems, slum-dwellers rely on toilets draining into poorly constructed pits or septic tanks. The settlements are commonly located on low-lying and poorly drained lands, and the dwellers lack awareness of and provisions for safe handling and disposal of faeces, resulting in leakage of faecal material into local environments. Through various pathways (e.g. dirty buckets, unwashed hands, insect and rodent vectors) potable water and food is contaminated, causing ill-health.
BRAC in Tanzania, through our water, sanitation and hygiene programme is implementing a research project on Safeguarding Potable Water Provisioning to Urban Informal Settlements “The Last 100 meters” in collaboration with Lancaster University of UK and a network of institutions including the University of Manchester, the University of Dhaka, Ardhi University, CSE, WaterAid and DSK. The research is funded by the British Academy through its Global Challenge Research Fund.
The 16 months research project is developed on the rationale that, the last two decades have seen much improvements to potable water supply to millions of poor urban people across the developing world. However potential benefits of improved water supply are severely compromised by sewage contamination at a critical zone around the point of use – ‘the last 100 meters’- where water is taken from the standpipe to home.
The research addresses a critical challenge about how to transform water and sanitation infrastructure and practice in a relatively small space leading to measurable improvements to quality of water and sanitation management for poor urban people.
|Water Sanitation and Hygiene||The Last 100 Meters||British Academy through its Global Challenge Research Fund||March 2017||16 Months|
Sylvia Borren, vice-chair (left) of BRAC International, Nicolette van Dam (middle) ambassador of the Postcode Lottery and Fawzia Rasheed (right) board member of BRAC International. Credits: Roy Beusker Fotografie.
Friday, February 16 - BRAC, for the first time ever, received a contribution of 1.5 million euros from the Dutch National Postcode Lottery to combat extreme poverty in Liberia. BRAC will employ their proven approach to permanently lift women and families (those who live on less than 1.69 euros a day) out of extreme poverty.
BRAC has helped 1.7 million families in Bangladesh out of extreme poverty through its graduation approach. It provides a step-by-step guide to women, who in two years time, “graduate” permanently from extreme poverty along with their families. "With this fantastic contribution from the Postcode Lottery, we can do in Liberia what we already achieved on a large scale in Bangladesh," said Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, the founder and chairperson of BRAC.
According to Sir Fazle, the Postcode Lottery and BRAC are natural allies. The Postcode Lottery involves millions of people in strengthening charities, while BRAC helps millions of people to fight poverty through piloting, perfecting and scaling projects. BRAC is currently operating in 11 countries in Asia and Africa with a holistic and integrated approach to fighting poverty consisting of education, agriculture, microcredits, health and strengthening of girls' and women’s rights.
BRAC’s graduation approach is highly recognised by prominent international researchers from Yale, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the London School of Economics, amongst others. Studies have repeatedly proven the effectiveness of the model, and the results are permanent. The graduation approach has been adopted by governments and NGOs in 37 countries. BRAC is targeting to lift a further one million people out of extreme poverty through this approach.
"BRAC realised that, despite 40 years of programmes and strategies, it still could not reach the poorest group. The people who are invisible and can not participate in their community because they are too poor. We listen, involve from day one, people from the community. We start small- test, adjust, test again- and scale to large numbers of families, in more villages and slums, and regions and eventually to a whole country.”
-Sylvia Borren, vice-chair, BRAC International.
BRAC Liberia was awarded ‘Outstanding International NGO of the Year’ for 2017 by the Society for the Promotion of Peace, National Reconciliation and Reunification (SPPNRR) on Thursday, 9 February 2018.
J Mayfield Copson, national chairman and chief executive office of SPPNRR, spoke of the award, “We honour you, BRAC Liberia, as a good, reliable and productive capacity-building international NGO of the Year 2017, for your invaluable and measurable contributions towards society’s good, for which you are present across 10 of our 15 political subdivisions.”
Md Abdus Samad, BRAC Liberia’s senior programme manager for education, and the empowerment and livelihood for adolescents, thanked SPPNRR for bestowing the award, promising to work even harder to deserve such an award again. He spoke of BRAC’s pride in working towards alleviating poverty, and ending exploitation and discrimination of all forms in Liberia. He added that BRAC’s promotion of diversification and capacity development has resulted in the placement of more Liberians in senior management positions within the organisation.
According to World Bank, 54% of Liberia’s population lives below the poverty line. Since 2008, BRAC Liberia has taken holistic, integrated approaches to combating poverty, including programmes in microfinance, health, empowerment and livelihood for adolescents, education, and food security and livelihoods.
BRAC, in collaboration with the Government of Liberia and the European Union under its Pro ACT 2015 food security project are implementing a series of nutrition awareness activities to reduce the prevalence of malnutrition in the country.
Liberia stands at 177 out of 188 countries in the UNDP Human Development Index (2016). 32% of children under five years are stunted and 15% are underweight (USAID).
BRAC is conducting nutrition awareness campaigns (NAC) and mother forum sessions as a way of reducing the prevalence of malnutrition in all its forms, including micronutrient deficiencies. In 2017, 910 mothers, pregnant women, and other women of child-bearing ages were enrolled into mothers forums totalling 91 NAC groups comprising 10 members each, and seven per branch. Members are taught the importance of food diversification (eating from the five food groups), feeding practices of pregnant women and children, women nutrition, care of sick and malnourished children, prevention of vitamin A deficiency, as well as consumption of iodine salt and comprehensive homestead development.
Ms Thon Okanlawon, a nutrition officer, has noticed that food diversification and exclusive breastfeeding are already being practiced by project participants. “The participants take into their localities knowledge gained under the programme as a way of promoting active lifestyle changes,” she remarks. “Some of what they are being taught was not practised in the past, but they are now well prepared to change eating habits and breastfeeding practices which reduces malnutrition and micronutrients deficiencies, as well as stunting.”
The project currently operates in 13 branches in six of the 15 counties of Liberia, (Montserrado, Margibi, Bong, Grand Bassa, Bomi and Grand Cape Mount) with similar expansion planned for the next phase running from September 2017 to September 2018.
In Liberia, of women aged between 20-24, 5.9% of them gave birth before their 15th birthday, and 37% gave birth before their 18th birthday according to the UNFPA (2013). Early pregnancy is a barrier for these women as they are hindered from partaking in decision-making. It also reduces their self-esteem and increases the risk of spreading sexually transmitted diseases and infections.
BRAC in Liberia began focusing on empowering adolescents in 2014. We empower adolescents to participate meaningfully in decisions that will affect their lives positively and become active agents of social change, thus creating a supportive environment for the development of adolescent girls at the household and the community level.
We establish clubhouses situated near the homes of target communities, as safe spaces where adolescents socialise and discuss issues of concern, as well as challenges that are common to them. The mentors of each club receive training on teaching through monthly refresher programmes. Teenage pregnancy, limited access to reproductive services and information, malnutrition, sexual and gender-based violence are some of the biggest health issues that adolescents face. Lack of proper services and little knowledge about prevention of unwanted pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases put them at high risk.
|Empowering and Livelihood for Adolescents||BRAC Liberia Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescents - Scale Up||NoVo-PIMCO Foundation / BRAC USA||January 2016||3 years|
We started working in the education sector in 2016 through the Liberian Government’s Partnership Schools for Liberia (PSL) project. The project is a public-private partnership, geared to dramatically improve learning outcomes for children. With data pointing to poor reading skills among pupils as well as lower gross enrollment ratios in lower and upper secondary schools (2008 -2012), we wish to address these challenges. We are now the second service provider and we operator 33 public schools. Our approach is to get learning outcomes right in a small number of schools, funded at a basic level, and then scale up if reforms are effective. In addition to the PSL project, we have also started an early childhood development programme in partnership with UNICEF. We developed a curriculum, trained master trainers (those who will train others), distributed education materials, and set up guidelines for the operation of 30 centres.
|Education||Partnership Schools for Liberia||Absolute Return for Kids, UBS Optimus, Big Win Philanthropy, ESDC, Government of Liberia, and other private donors||September 2016||3 years|
|Learning and Caring for Young Children in Liberia||UNICEF||September 2016||1 year 6 months|
DHAKA, Feb 1 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Bilkis Begum has lived on the lakeside in Dhaka's Korail slum for 16 years, but in December 2016, her extended family's 12 houses were razed to the ground by a fire.
The inferno destroyed the oven her husband, Shahid Gazi, used for his bakery and the fridges he relied on for his business selling leftover chicken meat from Chinese restaurants.
For the Gazis, it was a struggle to cobble together the $3,000 they needed to rebuild their homes and business.
They borrowed $900 from moneylenders, and found the rest from relatives and friends. They also got tin, pillars and a little cash aid from Bangladesh-based development agency BRAC.
In addition, they received pro-bono help from architects like Sheikh Rubaiya Sultana, who helped redesign the neighbourhood to protect it better against future fires.
"Architects have social responsibility," said Sultana, an assistant professor at BRAC University in Dhaka. "I watched the fire before my very eyes, but couldn't do anything then."
The Gazi family now has eight new units and the couple are back in business, running a small restaurant on the old site.
"We couldn't have stood back on our own feet unless we got (this) support," said Begum, 32, a mother of three.
A team of 16 architects, planners, engineers and students, brought together by BRAC, has tested out simple, cheap design solutions to rebuild Dhaka's two biggest slums after fires destroyed some 650 homes in late 2016, affecting 2,500 people.
The new approach aims to tackle the ever-present threat of fires in Dhaka's crowded slums, while improving living conditions for residents.
But in a city where less than 10 percent of areas are planned, altering the slumscape is a tall order.
A team of volunteer architects led by Aforza Ahmed of J.A. Architects works with a home owner in Korail slum, locating his home on a map drawn up by them in Dhaka, Bangladesh. HANDOUT/J.A. Architects Ltd
LACK OF LAND RIGHTS
One major challenge is working out what is feasible for slum residents who have no legal rights to the land they live on.
Ashekur Rahman, an urban programme specialist with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Bangladesh, said the transitory existence of many slum dwellers is a major impediment to keeping them safe from threats like fires in the longer term.
Many are seasonal migrants who split their time between villages and cities, limiting their access to services and permanent accommodation.
Government providers worry that improving services in informal settlements could attract more migrants from rural areas, Rahman said.
"Weak and ill-defined land tenure and property rights pose big threats to resilience-building and are considered the underlying causes of the poverty and vulnerability of the urban poor in Bangladesh," he added.
Sandwiched between Dhaka's upscale Gulshan and Banani neighbourhoods, Korail - which sprang up in the 1980s - sprawls over some 170 acres of land owned by three government ministries.
It is home to as many as 100,000 residents, including rickshaw drivers, domestic helpers, garment workers and small traders.
Fire is just one of the threats inhabitants face on a daily basis, which include eviction, drugs, crime, police harassment and extortion.
After digitally mapping the fire-hit areas, the design team led by Dhaka-based J.A. Architects Ltd consulted with residents who each agreed to give up a tiny amount of space to widen access roads and narrow lanes so that fire trucks and ambulances could enter if another blaze breaks out.
The group of experts was appalled by the unhygienic conditions in the slums. In summer, the tin shacks are "like ovens", said Shamim Hossain, a manager with BRAC's urban development programme.
To improve living conditions, the team made modifications to dwellings, such as adding windows, wire netting and transparent plastic to let in air and light.
They also helped rebuild homes in Sattola slum, which suffered a major fire in December 2016 too, destroying 115 homes in just 10 minutes.
Made homeless overnight, residents had to pass more than three cold winter months under the open sky.
MORE AIR, LIGHT
In the slum, which is home to 50,000 people and located on land belonging to the health ministry, residents have since built concrete houses with green tin roofs to reduce losses in the event of a fire - despite the risk of eviction as the government plans to build a physiotherapy college there.
The new design has allowed some homeowners to afford a luxury - a communal area – as well as an upstairs.
In the family space, where children play and adults gossip while sipping tea, Rabeya Akhter recalls how she clambered out of the house when her brother-in-law shouted "Fire! Fire!" just after midnight on December 12, 2016.
Her family lost valuables worth about $600 when their TV, PC monitor, wardrobe and other furniture burned to ashes.
They managed to get credit of more than $3,600 to rebuild their home, mostly from Dhaka-based micro-finance institution DSK.
Shah Alam, who co-owns a two-storey home, has used metal netting for corridor walls and plastic roofing in parts to ensure it is ventilated and well-lit – an idea partly his own and partly from the volunteer architects.
Like Akhter's father-in-law Siddiq Howladar, 70, who moved to Dhaka from the southern island-district of Bhola, many of Sattola's residents migrated from coastal Bangladesh, where land erosion and floods are common, poverty is pervasive and jobs are rare.
Dhaka alone attracts an estimated half a million rural migrants seeking employment each year, according to the World Bank. Almost one-third of its population of 18 million lives in slums.
Government figures show some 20,000 fires occur annually in Dhaka. But the cause often remains unknown, and the blazes get little international attention.
Residents of the capital's Kalyanpur slum suspected a fire that gutted dozens of homes in early 2016 was started deliberately to remove them from land owned by the ministry of housing and public works, local media reported.
It happened a day after a court order to halt an eviction that had sparked violence between inhabitants and police.
Abu Obaidur Rahman, a lawyer with the Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation the fire had "accelerated the eviction process", although the Dhaka-based charity had no evidence of who started it.
"Slum dwellers are citizens of this country and they make a contribution to the city," he said. "The government has the responsibility to rehabilitate them."
While the transformation of parts of Korail and Sattola has made residents less vulnerable to fires, the thorny question of land tenure persists.
City councillor Mofizur Rahman described Korail's residents as "temporary" and said they would have to vacate the land when the government starts to build an IT park there.
Under a new programme to reduce urban poverty, the UNDP aims to resettle people on unused or under-used government land, and broker medium-term tenure deals between private land owners and tenants, said the agency's Rahman.
Hossain Zillur Rahman, executive chairman of the Power and Participation Research Centre, a Dhaka-based think-tank, believes urban policy must become "humane" so that slum dwellers can get more secure land tenure.
Supporting reconstruction in the fire-hit slums was the "right decision" but it did not advance residents' legal rights, he noted.
For now, Korail and Sattola are "more liveable than before", said BRAC's Hossain.
"It's a start," said architect Sultana. "Others can follow it."