Arua, in the West Nile region of Uganda was the host of this year's International Youth Day celebrations, which was presided over by His Excellency General Y.K. Museveni, President of of the Republic of Uganda. Youth groups and adults came from all over the country for the event, including members from BRAC Uganda who travelled to Arua to join in and see how lessons from BRAC could fit in with this year's theme, Accelerating Youth Empowerment through Skills Development.
The day commenced with cultural performances from youth across the country who filled the stadium with color, dancing, and singing. Youth delegations came from far and wide and were joined by fellow youth, politicians, senior civil servants, foreign diplomats, donors, NGO staff, and members of civil society. Participants also included local celebrities Dorcus Inzikuru (aka the "Golden Gazelle," Uganda's fastest runner) and Bobbi Wine (aka the "Ghetto President," a popular singer) to inspire the youth with their success.
Uganda has the world's youngest population and the highest prevalence of poverty among its youth. Over half of its population is under the age of 18, and 94 of its young people live on less than US$2 a day. Skills development was chosen by the government as this year's theme in Uganda to help address the youth unemployment problem in the country. Youth face large barriers to securing stable employment given limited job opportunities and for many, inadequate skills and education. Skills development, therefore, is critical to assist youth in in the transition to work, equip them with the skills to become job creators, rather than seekers, and to allow youth greater participation in the social and economic transformation of Uganda. One of the many questions asked on the day was what strategies and programs do we put in place to do this?
BRAC Uganda has been developing the skills of young men and women in Uganda since 2008, when it launched its Empowerment and Livelihoods for Adolescents (ELA) program, offering adolescents and young girls a safe space in which they can socialize and be provided with life skills training, financial literacy training, livelihoods training, vocational training, and access to microfinance. The clubs, launched in partnership with the MasterCard Foundation, reach nearly 28,500 adolescent girls through the 743 clubs in 26 districts of Uganda. More recently, BRAC has launched two additional programs for youth skills development and empowerment, making youth one of its key focal areas. In 2010, BRAC supported 278 young men and women to undergo vocational training at registered institutes under their vocational training program, offering them assistance afterward with job placement, tools to generate self-employment and formal certification of their course. In addition, 2011 marked the opening of 120 Youth Centers in partnership with UNICEF in the Karamoja Region of North Uganda. Through this initiative, nearly 3,000 young women will have access to skills training and some initial input supply for becoming self-employed in the trade they have learned. To celebrate International Youth Day, UNICEF has created a video to highlight how youth supported by BRAC's initiatives are overcoming various barriers.
BRAC's work with youth has led us to recognize the need for a deeper understanding of the complex challenges they face as they negotiate the transition to adulthood. In light of this, the Research and Evaluation Unit has undertaken a large nation-wide research study on youth, to be launched soon in November 2011. Combining a nationally-representative survey of 5,000 youth with in-depth qualitative research methodologies, the report will provide a dynamic understanding of the experiences and aspirations of youth, and identify the forms of support that have allowed youth in Uganda to overcome these challenges, providing important lessons on how to adopt policies and programs to the needs, preferences and priorities of youth.
11 August 2011, Dhaka. The pathways for the poor and marginalised to access property and other fixed assets as a significant human right, was widened when the second batch of HRLS Upgrade Sheboks successfully completed and graduated from a comprehensive government certified land measurement training course on the 7th of August 2011. This residential training course began on July 3rd 2011. It has already graduated 32 Upgrade Sheboks in the previous batch to this end.
The training module is a unique triple layered component of the Property Rights Initiative. This project is currently being piloted in Rangpur and Gaibandha districts under the corroborative direction of BRAC HRLS, Omidyar Network and BRAC USA. The project aims to actively realize the claims of vulnerable communities to property and other fixed/productive assets via legal education, community outreach efforts, and a land measurement model as highlighted above.
With their new skill set, the group of freshly trained land measurers, can more effectively provide specialized land measurement services and become community advisers who can impart free information and knowledge about property rights issues throughout the community.
Both the training and certificate distribution ceremony were held at Rangpur's BRAC Learning Center (BLC). Distinguished figures from the community such as Chief Trainer and Rangpur BLC in-charge, Md. Yaqub Ali, presented the graduates with their certificates, Chief Guest and president of Raja Ram Mohon Club, Rangpur, Md. Monwar Hussain, and Special Guests, Advocate Kamal Kumar Mojumder, and BRAC Microfinance Regional Manager, Md. Delowar Hossain all graced this event with their presence.
25 July 2011, Dhaka. Aarong Milk has now achieved the International benchmark of quality by getting the ISO 22000: 2005 certification for food safety management.
Aarong Milk was first marketed in 1998 by BRAC dairy - a dairy social enterprise of development organization BRAC, to help poor rural dairy farmers protect and grow their dairy enterprises and improve their family’s income by facilitating access to urban markets. Inspired by this purpose, Aarong Milk has worked to build a brand that is as true to its urban consumers as it is to rural suppliers, providing dairy products of impeccable quality that drive its vision of a healthy and strong Bangladesh. As a part of its’ quality commitment, Aarong Milk has ISO 22000 certification to strengthen the consumer’s confidence.
Mr. Muhammad A (Rumee) Ali, Managing Director, BRAC Enterprises & Investments received the ISO 22000: 2005 certificate on behalf of BRAC Dairy from Mr. Zulfiquar Rahman, Founder Chairman of Intertek, a leading provider of quality and safety solutions worldwide. Ms. Tamara Abed, Director- BRAC Dairy and Mr. Ronald Biswas, Country Manager- Intertek were also present along with other high officials of BRAC Dairy & Intertek.
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02 August 2011, New York. This June the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics released the preliminary report from its 2010 Household Income and Expenditure Survey. The report indicates that in the period from 2005 to 2010, 13 million people have been lifted out of poverty and that the overall poverty level has fallen by 8.5 percentage points.
"Bangladesh is truly an amazing story of human progress, despite the obstacles," said Dr. Lincoln Chen, Chair of the BRAC USA Board of Directors and President of the China Medical Board of New York. "Surely the large NGOs like BRAC deserve much credit."
Additional survey findings pointed to significant increases in a number of important poverty indicators. Individuals per capita, per day intake of food has increased by 5.5 percent, from 947.8 grams in 2005 at the national level, to 999.9 grams in 2010. Quality of life has improved as well. The survey found significant increases in access to safe drinking water and electricity. A phenomenal increase was observed in the use of mobile phones, with an increase from 11.29 percent in 2005, to 63.74 percent in 2010.
Average monthly household income has increased by 59.38 percent at the national level, 58.27 percent in rural areas, and 57.48 percent in urban areas. A large increase was also seen in average monthly household expenditures, with an increase of 82.59 percent at the national level, 80.71 percent in rural areas, and 82.01 percent in urban areas, compared to 2005.
The report also referenced significant improvements in education, with increases in the literacy rate of 7-year-olds increasing from 57.91 percent at national levels, compared to 51.9 percent in 2005. The proportion of people benefiting from at least one public safety net program has increased as well. In 2010, 24.57 percent of households reported having received a benefit during the past year from at least one type of program, compared to only 13.03 percent in 2005.
BBS Director General Shahjan Ali Molla said the survey was conducted in 12,240 households, including 4,400 in urban areas, and 7,840 in rural areas across the country from Feb. 1, 2010 to Jan. 31, 2011.
27 July 2011, Dhaka. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed today between BRAC and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to facilitate collaboration in matters of common interest, including contributions to the economic and social development in Africa, Bangladesh and other regions and countries. The two parties agreed to establish the institutional cooperation framework necessary to achieve the partnership.
(In-front from-left)Muhammad Rumme Ali - Managing Director of BRAC, Mahbub Hossain - Executive Director of BRAC, Kenzo Oshima - Senior Vice President of JICA, Toda Takao - Country Director of JICA
The MoU was signed by, Mr. Kenzo Oshima, Senior Vice President, JICA during his visit to Bangladesh and Dr. Mahbub Hossain, Executive Director, BRAC Group. JICA's country director Toda Takao and Managing Director of BRAC Enterprise Mohammad (Rumee) Ali were also present.
BRAC is a forerunner in promoting agriculture sector in many countries in Africa. They have the experience of community access and capacity building of agricultural programs in Africa which is derived from the experience from their work in Bangladesh in the same sector. On the other hand, JICA, having recognized the increasing importance of rice production in Africa, launched the Coalition for African Rice Development (CARD) initiative at Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) IV held in May 2008, in Yokohama, Japan. During the course of discussions, both BRAC and JICA shared common interests in exploring the possibilities of partnerships in promotion of agriculture and rural development in Africa, in particular through the promotion of CARD.
BRAC’s Social Enterprises have evolved to support its core programmes. They enable BRAC to attain its vision and mission statements by sustaining the development interventions and creating job opportunities- thereby contributing to poverty alleviation. JICA supports promoting private sector development that enhances economic and social activities in developing regions of the world, including through its Private Sector Investment Finance. In this common interests, JICA and BRAC are interested in establishment of a Social Development Fund for supporting social enterprise and social business in any country where JICA and BRAC share interests.
Under this MoU, the parties may have the privilege of exchanging opportunities for staff in terms of knowledge and experience through various opportunities.
22 July 2011, Dhaka. Bangladesh’s first complete mobile financial service provider, bKash Limited, a BRAC Bank subsidiary, launched its operation yesterday. Bangladesh Bank Governor Dr. Atiur Rahman inaugurated the service at Radisson Water Garden Hotel in Dhaka. The Governor marked the occasion as a milestone event not only for the advancement of Bangladesh but also to celebrate a true partnership between banking and telecom industries.
bKash is designed to provide financial services via mobile phones to both the unbanked and the banked people of Bangladesh. The overall bKash value proposition is simple: a safe, convenient place to store money; a safe, easy way to make payments and money transfers.
The bKash mobile wallet, a VISA technology platform which is fully encrypted to ensure most secure transactions, will be the customer account into which money can be deposited and out of which money can be withdrawn or used for various services. Customers will be able to receive electronic money into their bKash accounts through salary, loan, domestic remittance, and other disbursements and eventually will cash out the electronic money at any of the hundreds of cash out agents which bKash assign.
In February 2011, mobile operator Robi Axiata Limited signed a partnership agreement with bKash to provide access to its services for Robi subscribers and extend the distribution of the service. bKash’s other distribution partner is BRAC which provides a local presence to offer the bKash service at the vicinity of the beneficiaries. bKash has already selected over 500 agents and is adding hundreds of new agents to its network every month. In addition, bKash has signed an MOU with LGD and A2I to use their 4501 Union Information & Service Centers to make financial services accessible to grass root people. “With the backing of leading players in the field, bKash has the scale and expertise to deliver a service that the majority of Bangladeshis desperately need,” said Kamal Quadir, CEO of bKash. “We will evolve with the needs of individuals, businesses and communities,” continued Quadir.
"bKash provides a wonderful opportunity for millions of unbanked people who have a cell phone to a have a bank account where they will be able to deposit, payout and transfer funds as they wish safely and securely", said Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, chairperson and founder of BRAC, special guest of honour at the event.
“bKash presents a compelling business plan which capitalizes on a ripe economy to dramatically expand access to formal financial services, both as an extension of BBL and as a full- scale mobile phone-based payments switch. This will highly benefit the country as 83% of the population lives under $2 a day and access for finance can help in improving the economic situation,” said Rumee Ali, Chairman of BRAC Bank and Chairman of bKash.
Managing Director & CEO of Robi Axiata Michael Kuehner emphasized that this is the first time a dedicated mobile financial service provider has partnered with a mobile operator so the customer expects truly transformative payment solutions and services. “bKash will fundamentally change the way people now do transactions. Customers will not need to come to the bank, rather the bank will come to their places”, said Syed Mahbubur Rahman, Managing Director & CEO of BRAC Bank.
BRAC is a global development organization dedicated to alleviating poverty by empowering the poor to bring about change in their own lives. BRAC’s holistic approach aims to achieve large scale, positive changes through economic and social programs that enable women and men to realize their potential. BRAC was launched in Bangladesh in 1972 and today reaches more than 138 million people in Africa and Asia through its programs that address poverty by providing micro-loans, self-employment opportunities, health services, education and legal and human rights services. Learn more at http://www.bracusa.org and http://www.brac.net.
21 July 2011 Dhaka. On 16th July the final round of inter-school debate competition 2011 was organised by BRAC Education Programme in NAEM (National Academy for Educational Management) auditorium.
Students from 750 High Schools from 47 districts and teachers from 232 High Schools from 58 districts participated in this competition which started at the beginning of this year. Participants had to go through different levels of competitions: inter-school, inter-subdistrict, inter-district and lastly inter-divisional level. In the final round of the teacher debate Lohagora Pailot High School (Narail) beat Baksh Mahmud High School (Feni). Mollah Md. Moniruzzaman, teacher of Lohagora Pailot High School (Narail), won the best debaters (teacher) award.
In the student debates, Mohalchora Pilot High School (Khagrachori) became champion and Rudroboira Girls’ High School (Jamalpur) became runner-up. Chen Chen Nu, student of Mohalchora Pilot High School (Khagrachori), won the best debaters (student) award.
A welcome speech by Mr. Asif Saleh, Director of BRAC Communications kicked off the final round, while Dr. Safiqul Islam, Director of Education Programme, presided over the event.
Dr. Kamal Abdul Naser Chowdhury – Secretary of Ministry of Education was chief guest of the inter-school debate competition. Other high level government officials were present in the event.
This is the third time Mentoring Programme under BRAC Education Programme organised this competition around the country. The objective of Mentoring Programming is to engage high school students in co-curricular activities and grow leadership skills in them. It creates logical attitude among the debaters. They not only learn from textbooks, they need to go through national and international news, articles and books to prepare themselves on various issues of debate competitions. The process of debate allows participants to analyse the similarities and differences between differing viewpoints, so that the audience can understand where opinions diverge and why. Debate is also an excellent way to model the analytical and communicative processes that students are learning. It helps them to build up confidence level to speak in public fluently and effectively. Youth are the future of our country and well-being lies on the shoulders of them. To take our country forward we need to prepare our youth for the future.
21 July 2011, Dhaka. BRAC and Bangladesh Youth Leadership Centre (BYLC) signed a memorandum of understanding on July 20, 2011 at BRAC, whereby BRAC will fully finance refurbishment of BYLC's new leadership training centre in Baridhara, Dhaka. The deal is seen as a significant step forward in the development of the first leadership institute in Bangladesh.
As an active supporter of BYLC’s work to catalyse positive change in society by training youth, BRAC has agreed to provide an institutional grant to BYLC to positively impact the quality of leadership across different sectors in Bangladesh.
Asif Saleh, Director of Communications for BRAC and BRAC International and Ejaj Ahmad, Founder and President of BYLC signed the agreement on behalf of the respective organisations.
Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, Founder and Chairperson of BRAC, and Barrister Manzoor Hasan OBE, Chairperson of BYLC also attended the signing ceremony. "The future of Bangladesh depends on the investments we make in educating our young generation today, and we are pleased to offer assistance to BYLC, a budding organization, in training a new generation of ethical, responsible, and competent leaders", said Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, while handing over the check to Ejaj Ahmad after the agreement signing.
Ejaj Ahmad said, "Our dream is to be at the forefront of Asia in ten years as the continent's most respected and trusted name in leadership education, and the support from Sir Fazle Hasan Abed and BRAC has laid a strong foundation for BYLC to strive towards its aspirations."
"BRAC focuses on inclusiveness and has a number of programmes aimed at promoting underprivileged youth of the country, and we are happy to be a partner of BYLC in equipping young people from different strata of the society with leadership skills", said Asif Saleh, after the signing.
The BYLC training centre will allow the organisation to centralize its resources and channel them toward executive and semester-long leadership programs. The training and office facilities in the new centre will also help to accommodate the growing number of students who are eager to participate in BYLC's programmes. As BYLC expands in the coming years, the new office will be a hub for innovation among Bangladeshi youth.
Generous in-kind support from the owner of the property at Baridhara, Shahid Khalek and Major Salek Bir Uttam Trust, is also helping to facilitate BYLC's youth leadership development work in Bangladesh.
18 July 2011, Dhaka. Government of Bangladesh recently adopted Bangladesh ‘National Eye Care plan' responding to the Vision 2020 - "The Right to Sight" - global campaign to eliminate avoidable blindness by the year 2020. The Vision Bangladesh Project, a joint initiative of BRAC, Sightsavers and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, has been specifically designed in accordance with the Government’s national eye care plan with an aim towards eliminating avoidable blindness across Bangladesh by the year 2020.
BRAC and Sightsavers in cooperation with the Government of Bangladesh have launched a pilot project to conduct surgery on 100,000 cataract patients in Sylhet division over a period of three years. The goal of working in Sylhet is to eliminate the backlog of treatable cataract blindness from Sylhet division by the year 2013. In January 2010, Vision Bangladesh began the first phase of this project with screenings and operations in Sylhet.
At a function held on Sunday, July 17 at a city hotel, the government formally signed an agreement with BRAC and Sightsavers to implement the project. The health minister Dr. AFM Ruhal Haque was present as the chief guest while Prof. Deen Md. Noorul Huq, Line Director-National Eye Care & Director-NIO&H, Faruque Ahmed, Director of BRAC Health Programme and Dr. Wahidul Islam, Country Director of Sightsavers were also present on the occasion.
The government would introduce eye care facilities under the project at 4 district hospitals and 33 upazilla health complexes in Sylhet division. Primary eye care training would also be provided to health workers of both BRAC and government community clinics through this project.
16 July 2011, Dhaka. MEJNIN - Meyeder Jonno Nirapad Nagorikotto (Safe citizenship for women) Programme of BRAC has organised a Human chain in front of the National press club, demanding exemplary punishment of Parimal Jayadhar.
The speakers called upon the authorities to implement the High Court guideline against sexual harassment in educational institutions and launch a complaint cell at every school and college to monitor any types of sexual harassment.
Activists of the different development organisations, students, teachers and guardians from different educational institutions of the capital have participated in the human chain programme.
Tahmina Yesmin and Selina Shirin and Chiroranajan Sarker from BRAC MEJNIN programme delivered their speech. Mahbuba Niru from BAWSE (Bangladesh Association of Women for Self Employment), Rehana Begam from CAMPE (Campaign for Popular Education), Hafizur Rahman, a guardian representative and Nargis Akhtar a student expressed their solidarity through this programme along with the students of Viqarunnisa Noon School and demanded exemplary punishment of the perpetrator immediately.
Speaker expressed that the incident at Viqarunnisa Noon School had exposed the extent of moral decadence in the society. They called for building up a strong social campaign against such evil activities.