‘Time to opt for skill development approach to meet emerging needs of Rohingyas’
Since five years have elapsed, repatriation is still hanging in limbo, and the flow of funds is more fragile than before, it is time to focus on making a strategic shift towards skills development approach for the Rohingyas sheltered in the camps.
Speakers at a policy dialogue titled: “Rohingya Crisis Response in Bangladesh: Do we need a strategic shift from the current approach?” came up with the observations on 30 November 2022. BRAC and the Department of Development Studies, University of Dhaka jointly organised the dialogue at a local hotel.
Since the beginning of the Rohingya influx in 2017, the responding agencies have prioritised providing lifesaving assistance to the Forcibly Displaced Myanmar Nationals (FDMNs).
Several other issues such as the Russia-Ukraine war, humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, and the ongoing global economic crisis appeared as bigger global concerns in the meantime. The prolonged nature of the crisis also tightened the flow of humanitarian assistance from donors and international agencies.
Four idea papers developed by the Department of Development Studies, University of Dhaka were presented at the dialogue that explored the changing needs of the refugees, potential livelihood mediums for them in 2023 and beyond, and roles of local, national and international NGOs in addressing these issues as well as map new sources of finance.
Citing the papers, speakers stressed on paying attention to the needs of the host communities. Addressing their insecurities would strengthen the host-Rohingya relationship; thus paving the way for determining strategic response, they said.
Honourable Planning Minister Mr. M A Mannan MP graced the opening session as the chief guest. He said, “Unfortunately, we have no direct control over the Myanmar issue. The Government of Bangladesh did whatever was possible on its part. However, Myanmar’s position is still unclear. With help from NGOs, development partners, and UN agencies, we have been able to reach a point to meet the basic requirements of the Rohingyas but it is not enough. We need to reach a consensus with our neighbours and the international community. The government will continue its attempts to repatriate the Rohingyas.”
Ms So-Jin Rhee, UNHCR interim Country Representative in Bangladesh, said, “The solution lies in Myanmar. But in the meantime, we have to bridge the gap. We are in a protracted situation. As a UN agency, we have to look at this strategically. Going into sixth year, funding is dwindling. At this juncture, we need to look into how to ensure the minimum like protection, health, WASH, food. We need to invest in resilience, education, skills development so that the Rohingya refugees become productive members of society.”
H.E. Mr Mustafa Osman Turan, Ambassador of Turkey to Bangladesh, said, “Turkey is best placed to understand the situation in Bangladesh as we are hosting the highest numbers of refugees in the world, which is nearly 4 million. We really appreciate the compassion and generosity that was shown by Bangladesh when the Rohingyas had to flee several times and significantly in 2017. We stood by Bangladesh and have been providing support in many different ways including a field hospital, which is treating 1,500 patients every day, free of charge. I would like to congratulate BRAC and Dhaka University for digging deeper into this very complex problem. I am looking forward to the outcomes. Turkey will continue to support Bangladesh until Rohingyas are repatriated.”
Asif Saleh, Executive Director of BRAC, said: “We should now look for a mid-term strategy for the refugees as we continuously advocate for their safe and dignified return to their homeland. There is a growing consensus within the sector that the current work needs to shift towards a development-like approach from a very short-term humanitarian crisis-focused approach. The only solution for the Rohingya refugees is their sustainable and voluntary repatriation to Myanmar.”
Ms Kathryn Davis Stevens, Mission Director, USAID Bangladesh, said, “We need to focus on market based solutions so that the Rohigyas can return to a prosperous future in Myanmar. At the same time, we must educate and ensure essentials for the host communities; going beyond the humanitarian response. Today I would like to stress on livelihoods, educational opportunities, security, stable economic opportunities to guard against dehumanisation of Rohingyas. Our total assistance in response to the Rohingya refugee crisis reached nearly $1.9 billion since August 2017. USAID will continue to provide support to the Rohingya crisis.”
Vivek Prakash, Head of Cooperation, Rohingya Refugee Response, High Commission of Canada to Bangladesh, said, "Canada has been the development partner of Bangladesh since its independence. The Rohingya crisis has moved past the emergency response to a more protracted nature. We are also continuing to mount pressure on the government of Myanmar. Canada continues to provide essential services to the Rohigya community; a key support is LPG gas that is helping in protecting the environment. It is important to maintain social cohesion among the Rohingyas and host communities so that the host community does not feel left behind. But it’s important not to forget this is a humanitarian crisis and in Bangladesh, the Rohingyas have limited opportunity to work so the financial implication is high.
In his concluding remarks the Chair of the Session Dr Imtiaz Ahmed, Professor of International Relations, University of Dhaka said, “To make it all inclusive it would have been better if the research considered voices of the Rohingya population as well.”
It may be mentioned, the government of Bangladesh has been striving to expedite the repatriation of about 1.2 million Rohingyas sheltered in Cox's Bazar and Bhasan Char. However, no significant response is yet perceptible from the Myanmar side.
“Invest, young people will take care of the rest”, said State Minister for Youth and Sports Zahid Hasan Russell, MP while emphasizing the necessity for hands on-the-job training in Bangladesh. He was addressing as the Chief Guest at the celebration of 10 years of STAR (BRAC’s Skills Trainings for Advancing Resources) project held at BRAC Centre, Dhaka.
“Bangladesh Government is investing in skills development of youth and taking different initiatives. Government and non-profits. Government and NGOs can work hands on hands to reach out to youth who are in needs of education or technical training”, he added.
The on-the-job training programme is a solution to unemployment and poverty for the out of school adolescent and youth, said Asif Saleh, Executive Director of BRAC.
He noted that this programme is even more effective in terms of creating employment for the female participants.
Also present as special guests were, Md Nuruzzaman Sharif, ndc, Director General and Joint Secretary, Bureau of Non-formal Education (BNFE), Dr Md Omar Faruque, Director General and Additional Secretary, Directorate of Technical Education, Dr Md Alfaz Hossain, Project Director, Comprehensive Village Development Program (CVDP).
The training has more positive impacts on girls than boys: Effect on girls’ savings was 6 times higher than that of boys, employment among unmarried women increased by 43%, reduced chances of early marriage by 62% amongst female participants and subsequently delayed early childbirth.
In 2012, BRAC, UNICEF, ILO and Bureau of Non-Formal Education (BNFE) launched the Skills Training for Advancing Resources (STAR) as part of the Basic Education for Hard-to-Reach Urban Working Children (BEHTRUWC) project. The training builds on the traditional “Ustad-Shagred” (Master-Apprentice) model, where out of school adolescent and youth are placed as apprentices with local businesspersons known as Master Craft Persons. Over the years, STAR has demonstrated its success in providing an alternative learning pathway by training over 120,000 young people, especially in reaching around 60% girls who had no other learning options.
As the training is aligned with market-driven skills needs and the National Technical and Vocational Qualification Framework (NTVQF), graduate apprentices can go on to acquire Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) certification, and eventually better-paid jobs, in the formal sector as well. STAR has also been recognized as one of the top 10 global solutions for youth by the Generation Unlimited.
BRAC has stepped up the implementation of its policy to use environment-friendly materials. The organisation now stops using PVC banners and all other one-time campaign materials made of plastics as part of its environ-friendly policy.
A memo signed by Asif Saleh, executive director, BRAC Bangladesh, was circulated internally for all its staff. The policy will be in effect from tomorrow Monday, 1 November 2022.
This initiative is a part of the organisation’s effort to curb its carbon footprint through environment-friendly measures. BRAC has formulated its strategy and infrastructural targets to reduce carbon emission across all its offices. The measures in this regard include - stop using of all one-time campaign materials such as one-time PVC banners and replacing those with cloth and other environment-friendly materials. The initiative also includes stop using of one-time plastic bottles, bags, spoons, straws and other materials/utensils in all events of BRAC, and ensure use of environment-friendly materials as much as possible for all organisational purposes.
A close monitoring system has also been put in place to ensure rigorous policy and strategy implementation.
BRAC’s first initiative in this regard was brought into effect on 1 November 2019, under which use of one-time plastic bottles was forbidden at all BRAC offices.
The post-pandemic world will see a robust rebuilding if the governments, non-governmental and private actors, innovators, social and mass media and community join hands in well-coordinated efforts to address the inequalities pervasive throughout the communities across the world and that aggravated during Covid-19.
These views came at a 2-day (12-13 October) conference titled “Frugal Innovations Forum” (FIF) hosted by BRAC. With 200 participants and over 40 speakers from the Global South countries, FIF 2022 comprised one daylong field visit and two days of panel discussions, presentations and workshops.
BRAC, one of the largest development organisations in the world, is hosting the Frugal Innovation Forum for the last seven years to facilitate the exchange between the social innovators around the world, especially those from the Global South, and other actors. This year, the FIF’s focused theme “The Future of Development in a Post-Pandemic World” highlighted the topics ranging from financial inclusion and education to healthcare and beyond.
Dr Shamsul Aam, state minister, Ministry of Planning; Dr Lilly Nicholls, high commissioner of Canada to Bangladesh; Anir Choudhury, policy advisor, Government of Bangladesh/UNDP; Rani Yan Yan, Chakma Rani (Queen), Chittagong Hill Tracts; Kamal Quadir, chief executive officer, bKash; Hillary Miller-Wise, deputy director, Global Growth and Strategy, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Zaved Akhtar, CEO, Unilever Bangladesh Limited; Yasir Azman, CEO, Grameenphone Ltd.; and Md Mahbub ur Rahman, CEO, HSBC Bangladesh; were among the distinguished guests at the different sessions of the 2-day event. Members of the senior management from BRAC also addressed the audience at the event.
State minister for planning Dr Shamsul Aam in his speech today (closing day) focused on the government’s proactive actions to mitigate the impacts of climate change in Bangladesh. He said, “we are increasingly prioritising actions to build our resilience, while we are at work in finding nature-based solutions to address the adverse situations triggered by climate change.”
Speaking on how the lessons learned during the pandemic can be utilised in the post-pandemic time, Anir Choudhury policy advisor of Government of Bangladesh/UNDP said, “we have three takeaways from the pandemic, which are:
Eminent economist and chairperson of BRAC Bangladesh Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman emphasised that solutions to the challenges in the Global South should be ground-up, gender intentional and based on people’s lived experiences, which is the key takeaway of the 2-day Frugal Innovation Forum. “To make meta-transformations, the world of policy and non-state actors cannot speak in different languages,” he further added.
Speaking on the closing day, Asif Saleh, executive director, BRAC, highlighted BRAC’s future role in the new normal era. “BRAC will continue to stay relevant. With the changing nature of society and country, different types of problems will be emerging. We look at ourselves as part of the solution ecosystem with the government, private sector, development partners and social entrepreneurs. BRAC will be doing exactly what it has been doing. We are working side-by-side with the governments, private sectors and change-makers both nationally and globally. Because beautiful things can happen when all of us work together.”
Experts, activists call for stronger collaboration to transform gender stereotypes
“We have a force in our country that is vehemently against gender equality. In Bangladesh, women have indeed achieved much progress, but they will still have to go a long way. But their journey is fraught with many hurdles. They will have to reach that state where they will claim their right to make decisions about their own life. It’s the family who has to stand beside their women and children in their fight to progress in life, but in our society our families are ridden with patriarchal values. We have to relentlessly work to transform this value system,” said Dr. Dipu Moni, minister for education and lawmaker, at a roundtable discussion today, Monday, 10 October 2022 organised at BRAC Centre in the capital.
BRAC organised the event on the occasion of International Girl Child Day to be observed tomorrow. The education minister was present at the event titled “International Girl Child Day dialogue on ‘Youth attitude towards gender norms’” as the chief guest. Asif Saleh, executive director, BRAC, chaired the programme.
The youths of Bangladesh, popularly termed as ‘population dividend’, currently make up more than half the population of the country and as such are the prime actors, sometimes prime victims also, in terms of the country’s scenario of gender equity and gender-based violence.
Recognising this crucial role of the youth, BRAC conducted a study on the youth perception towards gender norms in Bangladesh and shared the findings of the study at an event.
Special guests were Rasheda K. Choudhury, former adviser to Caretaker Government and present executive director, Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE); Farida Pervin, director general, Department of Women Affairs, Ministry of Women and Child Affairs; Professor Nehal Ahmed, director general, Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, Ministry of Education; Professor Dr. Mahjabeen Haque, Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology, Dhaka University; Professor Dr. Mizanur Rahman, former chairman of Bangladesh Human Rights Commission and at present teaching at Dhaka University; Dr. Fahmida Khatun, executive director, Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD); Syeda Rizwana Hasan, executive director, Bangladesh Environment Lawyers’ Association (BELA); and Korvi Raksand, founder, Jaago Foundation. KAM Morshed, senior director, Advocacy, Innovation & MEAL, BRAC, also spoke at the event. Nobonita Chowdhury, director, Gender Justice and Diversity, and Preventing Violence against Women Initiative, BRAC, moderated the dialogue.
Professor Dr. Mahjabeen Haque, Dr. Mohammad Salim Chowdhury and Dr. Md Azharul Islam jointly conducted the study titled “Exploring attitude towards gender norms among the youth population in Bangladesh”, the findings of which were shared at the dialogue by Dr. Mahjabeen Haque. The study was conducted among 2,790 men and women of age group 18-35 years, with around 50% male-female participant ratio, from altogether eight districts covering eight divisions.
Overall, the findings reflected a deeply rooted psyche favouring male control and male supremacy among the participants. Some of these responses are:
CAMPE director Rasheda K Chowdhury said, “Bringing overnight change in the youth psyche is not possible. It will take time. Also we have to bring changes in the education curriculum to reflect the national achievement of our women. We have to read about Nishat Mazumder also besides Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary as the celebrated climber of Mt Everest.”
Former BHRC chair Professor Mizanur Rahman said, “If the rule of law is weak in ensuring equity in other areas of life such as distribution of wealth it will never help in achieving gender equity. Investment has to be made in education to promote gender equality among the young population. Involvement of any religious institutions to promote domestic violence is a despicable act and a violation of human rights.”
DG for Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education Professor Nehal Ahmed said, “We have taken initiatives to bring changes in the curriculum promoting gender equality learning for students. We hope the new curriculum will positively contribute in transforming gender norms among the young population.”
Department of Women Affairs DG Farida Pervin said, “The ministry of women and children affairs is working towards the empowerment of women with a focus on social and behaviour change communication. The ministry operates over 6,000 adolescent clubs down to the union level each of which have 20 girls and 10 boys as members. The government also launched the Joy mobile app with an aim to help women and children in emergency situations whenever they face violence.”
Jaago Foundation founder Korvi Raksand said, “Gender stereotyping starts at a very young age when girls are bought dolls and boys are bought guns. So it’s not an easy task to change the mindset of the youth. It’s important to focus on primary education and involvement of parents too.”
CPD ED Dr Fahmida Khatun said, “A large number of women who earn an income do so from working in the informal economy. We must consider how to bring women from informal to formal sectors. Education, skills and access to finance are important factors to ensure that women go ahead in life.”
BELA ED Syeda Rizwana Hasan said, “I believe we have an inner sense of respect for women but we could not nurture it. The state must take an initiative to cultivate a culture which promotes respect for women and gender equality.”
BRAC ED Asif Saleh said, “Bringing change would need us to work with those who can deliver the learning. We need to work with the cultural, media and publishing sectors. Moving towards gender equality is essentially a political and power struggle. Even if there has been a change in political commitment, there is a need for norm change. This is why we have planned to create a movement called shomotontro, (a system of equality) where we want to involve leaders from all sectors. We have to work towards solving the practical realities of why women don’t get involved in professional activities.”
16 journalists have received the BRAC Migration Media Award for their contribution to journalism in the field of migration. On Thursday (29 September 2022) the Minister of expatriates' welfare and overseas employment, Mr. Imran Ahmad, MP, attended a ceremony organised at BRAC Center as the chief guest and handed over the prizes to the winners. Director General of Bureau of manpower employment and training Md. Shahidul Alam, BRAC Executive Director Mr. Asif Saleh, and BRAC Migration Programme and Youth Initiative Programme Head Shariful Islam Hasan were present at the time.
BRAC introduced the award in 2015 to recognize journalism in the migration sector. This year the award was given for the seventh time. The award was given under the inspiration project of the BRAC Migration Programme in collaboration with the Embassy of Denmark in Bangladesh.
The chief guest of the event, Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Imran Ahmed, MP highlighted various measures of the government for the welfare of expatriates and said that everyone should work together. Addressing the journalists, he said that the role of the media is important in protecting the rights of migrants and providing correct information. He suggested to present the news avoiding bias.
Director General of Bureau of manpower employment and training, Md. Shahidul Alam, NDC, who was the special guest of the event, said that 7.8 million people have gone abroad in the last 13 years. 212 billion dollars (21 thousand 200 million dollars) came from expatriate income. These positive things can also come in the media. In addition to journalists, he proposed to give fair migration award to those agencies who ethically employ foreign workers.
BRAC executive director Asif Saleh, president of the event, said that migration is very important in poverty alleviation, especially in the rural economy. That is why we work in the migration sector to create skilled people, secure migration, stop human trafficking and repatriate repatriates. Every year we organise this event of Media Awards with enthusiasm so that a picture of the whole year emerges. He said, if there is goodwill, change is possible.
Shariful Hasan, Head of BRAC's Migration and Youth Initiatives Programme, presented the keynote address. International Organization for Migration (IOM) Deputy Chief of Mission Nusrat Ghazzali, ILO Chief Technical Advisor Laetitia Weibel, Jury Board Member from the Ministry of expatriates' welfare and overseas employment, deputy secretary Mr. ABM Abdul Halim and Secretary General of Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies, Mr. Shamim Ahmed Chowdhury Noman spoke on the occasion.
On January 14 this year, the announcement of the 7th BRAC Migration Media Award was published on the media and BRAC website. This year, the members of the jury board were Professor Robaet Ferdous of the Department of Mass Communication and Journalism of Dhaka University, Mr. ABM Abdul Halim, Deputy Secretary of the expatriates' welfare and overseas employment Ministry, Shaikh Muhammad Refat Ali of ILO and Chief News Editor of News24 Television Shahnaz Munni.
Daily Samakal's Rajib Ahmed won the first place in the newspaper national category this year. Prothom Alo's Mansoora Hossain was second and The Financial Express's Arafat Ara and Ajker Patrika’s correspondent Md. Shahriar Hasan (currently working in Dainik Bangla) achieved joint third place. Farooq Munir of daily Chittagong Khabar was first in newspaper regional category, Shariful Islam of Ekushey newspaper was second and Md Emdad Uliah of weekly Chauddagram newspaper was third.
Sabina Yasmin of DBC News, (now working at Independent Television) took first place in the television news category. Marzia Mumu of Zaham Television was second and Masuda Khatun of News24 was third. Channel 24's Morshed Hassib Hasan won the award in the television program category. Md. Mostafizur Rahman of Bangladesh Betar won the award in the radio category.
The first prize in the online newspaper category was won by Md. Jahangir Alam of Jagonews 24 online. Dainik Prothom Alo's Md. Mohiuddin came second and Dainik Bangla's Jasmine Akhtar and expatriate freelancer Rakib Hasan jointly got the third prize.
Each winner receives a crest, certificate of recognition and a check for the prize money as an award.
A BRAC and ActionAid in Bangladesh initiative
One of the six winners of the 2022 Aga Khan Award for Architecture is Community Spaces in the Rohingya Refugee Response, a programme created through a partnership between BRAC and ActionAid to design dignified space for the Rohingya refugees based on their culture, craftsmanship and identity. Located in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, in the world’s largest refugee camps, the spaces are a collective of six sustainably built structures that evolved collaboratively in the field without drawings or models. The process was led by architects Khwaja Fatmi, Rizvi Hassan and Saad Ben Mostafa, working in close cooperation with women and girls of the Rohingya community. It reflects BRAC’s commitment to unlocking the potential of people and communities, frontline pragmatism, frugal innovation, and engaging women as catalysts of change.
The six spaces are part of a massive response to the forced displacement of almost one million Rohingyas from Myanmar to Bangladesh in August 2017. That displacement left the community feeling like a ship without an anchor. The loss of homes and possessions, the temporary living arrangements in makeshift shelters and the denial of nationality imprinted a sense of dissociation and a loss of any feeling of safety. As time went on, and dependence on aid increased, the sense of loss grew, and the effects were disproportionately felt by women and girls.
Amid the congested shelters, community spaces were needed where women and girls could access support networks, strengthen social relationships, learn and share skills, and find peace. Vital was the participation of women and girls in the design who would use the resulting spaces.
The spaces that evolved are female-friendly, low to the ground to withstand cyclones, and recognizable for their complex roof trusses built by Rohingya bamboo workers. The exteriors are designed to avoid disturbing visiting elephants.
The Award’s master jury citation calls the spaces an “ingenious response to emergency needs related to the major influx of Rohingya refugees into Bangladeshi host communities, with particular attention to the safety of women and girls.” It adds: “The concept and design of the six spaces are the result of appropriate planning, solid partnerships and inclusive processes involving the diverse refugee and host communities, such as defining spatial and functional needs. The project’s implementation succeeded in adapting to various constraints (physical, social, regulatory, budgetary, climatic and environmental) and harsh working conditions, and harnessing the skills of workers and artists – women and men from refugee and host communities – for both construction and decoration, drawing from a variety of Rohingya and Bangladeshi construction techniques, spatial and architectural features, ways of life and aesthetic references.”
The design process began with a focus group discussion led by the architects involving mostly Rohingya women. The discussion identified needs to be met by the structures – and how they could best be addressed. Construction used locally available materials such as bamboo, straw, and tarpaulin. The building of the spaces was led mostly by Rohingya men, many of whom are expertly skilled at woodwork and building with bamboo. The interior decoration was led mostly by Rohingya girls and women, who covered the structure with vibrant artwork and colours that continue to be expanded by other girls and women using the space.
The Aga Khan Award for Architecture is given every three years to projects that set new standards of excellence in architecture, planning practices, historic preservation and landscape architecture. The Award seeks to identify and encourage building concepts that successfully address the needs and aspirations of societies across the world, in which Muslims have a significant presence.
Right targeting must to shun resource misuse
Social safety net programmes design should have components to assist people to learn skills for income generation to become self-dependent, which will help them reduce their dependence gradually on safety net assistance. Also targeting the right people for receiving safety net assistance is a must for proper utilisation of the public funding. The social security system in Bangladesh, however, deals with errors of exclusion (failure to reach the needy) and errors of inclusion (providing aid to the non-needy), which leads to misplacement of resources.
These observations were drawn at the “Workshop on GO-NGO collaboration platform for strengthening social protection programmes” today on Sunday (25 September) at Hotel Intercontinental in Dhaka. Jointly organised by BRAC and the Cabinet Division of Bangladesh, the event had Shamsul Arefin, secretary (coordination and reform), Cabinet Division, as chief guest.
KAM Morshed, senior director, BRAC, Mohammad Khaled Hasan, joint secretary, Cabinet Division, Tapan Kumar Biswas, director, NGO Affairs Bureau, other government officials from different ministries, and representatives of 17 member NGOs of the GO-NGO Collaboration Platform were also present at the workshop.
In his opening remarks, BRAC senior director KAM Morshed said, “Despite its beginning with full vigour in 2018-19, the GO-NGO Collaboration Platform lost its momentum due to Covid induced lockdown. Through today’s workshop, we are trying to reintroduce the activities of the forum.”
“The government spends 2.55 percent of the GDP on social safety net programmes. However, in rapidly progressing countries like Bangladesh, a segment of the population in remote places usually fall behind. NGOs work for them, with them. This aligns with the SDG commitment of ‘leaving no-one behind’ and poverty alleviation,” he further said.
Cabinet secretary for coordination and reform Shamsul Arefin in his chief guest’s remarks said, “Article 15, Clause D of Bangladesh Constitution deals with the vision of creating a country free of poverty, hunger and exploitation. In 2015 the government formulated the National Social Security Strategy for the poor and marginalised.”
He further said, “We cannot achieve the goal without building consensus with NGOs, who have been the most essential partners of the government. They are complimenting the government in its struggle to eradicate poverty. The cabinet division has taken initiatives to institutionalise GO-NGO Collaboration Platform and deeply appreciates the support from BRAC.”
Joint secretary Mohammad Khaled Hasan discussed the scopes of collaboration between the government and development organisations. “A combination of social safety net and social security ladder provides both capital and training, thus the recipients utilise their resources to never fall back to the cycle of poverty,” Khaled said.
Participants in the workshop engaged in a dialogue to identify areas where NGOs can play the role of associate or subsidiary to the government. NGOs can play a key role in monitoring and evaluation and by taking the information and data gathered from the grassroots to policymakers, they observed. A key discussion also took place on “better targeting” to avoid misplacement of assistance.
To facilitate the mechanism of the social safety net in Bangladesh, the GO-NGO Collaboration Platform was introduced, with BRAC as the lead NGO. Thirteen representatives from ministries and agencies implementing social security programmes and 17 NGOs working on social security issues are part of the platform.
To celebrate the golden jubilee of BRAC – one of the world’s largest non-governmental organisations, BRAC today on Saturday, 17 September launched an exciting initiative in Sunamganj district to bring play-based and experiential learning for children through floating boats. The ceremony took place at the Upazila Parishad Auditorium in Bishwambharpur Upazila with great festivities and celebrations.
The event was attended by, among others MD Jahangir Alam, District Education Officer, Sunamganj; Mahamudul Hasan, Assistant Upazila Education Officer, Bishwambharpur; Badal Chandra Barman, District Children Affairs Officer, Sunamganj; MD. Safar Uddin, Upazila Chairman, Bishwambharpur. Safi Rahman Khan, Director, Education, Skills Development, and Migration; and Profulla Chandra Barman, Programme Head, Education Programme; were present from BRAC.
Thematically designed around mathematics, science, and values – the three boats will travel a long water route stretching from Sunamganj in the northeast to Bhola Island in the south bordering the Bay of Bengal. They will make stopovers en route where a wide range of children, students, teachers and people from the community can visit and experience the travelling exhibits along with activities. The duration of stopovers will be for 7-10 days from 10am-4pm. The boats will draw volunteer teachers from the local communities to guide visitors. Special ramps have been designed for children with disabilities.
Md Safar Uddin, Upazila Chairman of Bishwambharpur said, “BRAC boat school initiative of 2011 gave access to education to the deprived children of the haor areas. Education should be brought to the doorsteps of children and hence BRAC should reintroduce more boat schools to provide education to the disadvantaged children of haor areas.”
Safi Rahman Khan, Director, Education, Skills Development, and Migration said, “The inherent beauty and magic of math can at times be hard to see, and even harder to explain to students. Through experiential learning, play based and hands-on activities, children will hopefully enjoy and not fear math.”
The educational activities and materials have been particularly designed for primary school children, although older students and visitors will also be able to experience the joy of learning. The visitors will be offered activities and contents on values, while subjects on maths and science are designed with puzzles, hands-on experiments, problem solving with fun activities and games, and photographic introduction to great scientists and mathematicians.
The Values Boat was inspired by the philosophy of Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder of BRAC, who ensured that along with regular academic subjects, value education and performing fine arts are incorporated in BRAC schools.
All the boats will be covered under CCTV surveillance and will strictly follow BRAC’s safeguarding policies along with the health, safety and security guidelines.
BRAC had introduced the boat schools in the wetlands (haor regions) of north-eastern Bangladesh in 2011. The idea was to bring the classroom to the children who were deprived from accessing education living in the haors. The Boat School project was selected as “100 Global Inspiring Innovations of 2017” list by HundrED, a Finnish global education non-profit organisation.
As the largest development collaborator of the government, BRAC has been undertaking and scaling up innovative learning initiatives for this along with other difficult-to-access regions.
Climate-resilient migrant-friendly town development urgent
Through locally-led adaptations
Bangladesh is globally recognised as a role model in tackling climate change impacts with sustainable solutions. The district of Bagerhat, especially its Mongla upazila, gets special importance in the climate adaptation initiatives of the government. It’s particularly so because the preservation and development of Sundarbans, a world heritage site situated in this region, means the development of the whole world.
This observation came from Sanjay Kumar Bhowmik, additional secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, while he spoke as chief guest at the inception meeting of a project titled ‘Building climate resilient migrant-friendly towns through locally-led adaptation in Bangladesh’.
Development organisation BRAC and Mongla Port Municipality jointly organised the programme today on Monday (05 September 2022) at the Upazila Muktijoddha Complex in Mongla Port Municipality town.
The project will be implemented in a consortium of BRAC, International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) and technology service company Spark India. BRAC will be in charge of its overall implementation, while ICCCAD and Spark India will be technical and knowledge partners. Mongla Port Municipality will lead the implementation of the pilot in its township. The project has been undertaken with a view to strengthen the process of building climate-resilient migrant-friendly urban centres in Bangladesh. The programme will be replicated in three more urban centres by 2026 and in 26 more such areas by 2030.
Kamalesh Majumder, upazila nirbahi officer, said in his special guest’s speech, it is important to implement various projects by prioritising the needs of climate-vulnerable people. The main problem of Mongla city is the lack of safe drinking water. Increased salinity increased various health risks. It’s urgent to identify and solve the main problems in a sustainable manner.
Bir Muktijodha Sheikh Abdur Rahman, mayor, Mongla Port Municipal, and a special guest at the event, said that the coastal region especially Mongla Port Municipality is one of the most climate-vulnerable areas of Bangladesh. Ensuring safe water supply in this area is essential to combat climate risks. Also, sustainable measures should be undertaken to provide necessary facilities for climate migrants.
Dr. Md Liakath Ali, director, Climate Change Programme, BRAC & BRAC International, and Urban Development Programme, BRAC, in his chair’s speech said, this project is being implemented for the first time in Asia, funded by the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA). Climate change Programme and urban development Programme are closely related. The project will be worthwhile if the real needs of the climate migrants living in Mongla are identified and mitigated through appropriate measures.
At the meeting, BRAC Urban Development Programme’s programme head Imamul Azam Shahi presented details about the project, while Climate Change Programme’s programme head Abu Sadat Moniruzzaman Khan gave welcome speech. SPARK India official Nihar Johori presented a brief on mobilisation model for the development of low-income communities at risk of climate change. Savio Rozario from ICCCAD spoke on vulnerability, risk assessment and climate adaptation planning processes.
Md Hafiz-al-Asad, additional deputy commissioner (revenue), Bagerhat, educationists, journalists and dignitaries were also present on the occasion.
The project will provide support to climate migrants especially women, children, youth and citizens with disabilities to enhance skills, job opportunities, income generation, financial inclusion and social security opportunities.