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Chairperson's Remarks at the South Asia Economic Summit Conference

22 October 2011.
Fourth South Asia Economic Summit,
Current Phase of the Recovery and Implications for South Asia,
Speech delivered by Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, Guest of Honour.

"It seems that South Asia weathered the fall outs of the global economic and financial crisis relatively well, though the impact of the recent euro crisis on exports and growth in South Asia is still uncertain. These aggregate level perspectives of the macroeconomic adjustments however do not fully reveal the new set of risks that are emerging along with the traditional structural problems and the prevalent widespread poverty and vulnerability. It is these human dimensions of the crisis that I want to focus on in my brief remarks.

The poor are hit the hardest by any economic downturn. The poor take much longer to recover, as recovery in real wages and employment take much longer than recovery in GDP. Poorer people are affected more than others because they have fewer buffers, and because the range and effectiveness of their buffers are inadequate. The poor lack assets and predominantly possess unskilled-labour and engage in the informal sector. This restricts their ability to cope by switching jobs, and expose them to unregulated labour markets. In addition, economic downturns push poor households into a vicious cycle of poverty. They are often forced to respond with measures that keep them poor: reducing the number and quality of meals, postponing health-related expenditure and withdrawing children from school. These actions lead to lower future income-earning potential for current and future generations, resulting in a trap of persistent poverty.  And the women and children bear the greatest brunt of these damaging fluctuations and adjustments.

The immediate and the longer term, perhaps even inter generational impact of the global food crisis, fallout of the economic and financial crisis, has been dire and the term ‘recovery’ is perhaps too premature to be used in describing its current phase. Let’s put the trend in some perspective. In 2007 alone, the prices of principle food staples—rice, corn, soybeans and wheat, effectively doubled throughout the world. This was an unprecedented rise and it revered the more than 50 years of declining prices. We know the results which were immediate and devastating. By the most conservative estimates, globally, the number of hungry or chronically malnourished rose by at least 100 million, to nearly one billion people—that is almost one seventh of the world’s population.  Though the grain prices have declined substantially since 2008, experts agree that they are poised to rise again.

Recent evidence from developing country settings confirms that increases in food prices cause maternal and child under nutrition levels to rise rapidly.  And the negative impact starts with the unborn child in the womb—it is quality and not just the quantity of the diet during pregnancy that is important for successful birth outcomes. The consumption of more expensive micronutrient rich food (milk, green leafy vegetables and fruits) during pregnancy is found to be positively associated with the size of the infant at birth. Rapidly increasing food prices are also likely to cause nutritional insults very early in pregnancy, which will influence later fetal and infant growth. The full human cost of the food crisis may thus well be intergenerational and very expensive for the society and the economy.

The crisis has a number of drivers which include the diversion of grains in North America and Western Europe to bio fuel production; higher energy costs which translate into more expensive chemical fertilizers; and financial speculation over staple crops, which cause price fluctuations. The situation is further aggravated by underlying trends such as rapid population growth. Climate change is also threatening to lower crop yields at precisely the time when staple foods urgently need to be produced.

What needs to be done? Issues of both production and distribution are important here and should be approach in an integrated way. In my view, we should focus on two strategic priorities that lie at the centre of both the production and distribution aspects of the problem—getting elimination of hunger and malnutrition at the centre of our politics and reenergizing the women’s economic empowerment agenda.

We know that food, hunger and politics are inextricably linked. When governments have been committed, progress has been very rapid, as the examples of China, Thailand, Vietnam, Mexico and most brilliantly Brazil have demonstrated conclusively over the last three decades. In contrast,  the prevalence of underweight children in the South Asian countries barring the shining example of Sri Lanka, is among the highest in the world, and is nearly double that of Sub-Saharan Africa with dire consequences for mobility, mortality, productivity and economic growth. Unless governments are made to care for its citizens going hungry and are fully committed to reducing the number of hungry and chronically malnourished people, no solutions will have the political teeth to make the real dent.

We need to turn this agenda as a central part of our political process and one of the non negotiable KPIs of any regime. Concrete targets and action plan in reducing the number of citizens who are hungry and are chronically malnourished should be a critical part of every electoral manifesto and this has to be made a popular topic of public debates. The targets have to be broken down by local constituencies to reflect regional differences and also to decentralize and amplify citizen monitoring and voice. A compact between the different development actors will be forged at every political constituency to deliver on the local target plan. In the final analysis, food security is an issue of citizenship and a matter of fundamental citizenship rights. We need to centre our politics around this fundamental element of the social contract between a citizen and her state.

Let me now turn to the other strategic priority— eliminating the gender gap. There are two very influential global reports—the Global Hunger Index (GHI) report and Gender Gap Report (GGR). IFPRI researchers examined the relationship between these two indices and found gender inequality and hunger go hand in hand--- an important step to ending world hunger is thus empowering women and eradicating gender disparities in education, health, economic participation, and political opportunities.

What type of gender gap matters more for hunger? Is it different in different parts of the world? The Gender Gap Index is divided into four sub components—economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival and political empowerment. The researchers find that while in Sub Saharan Africa, the gender gap in educational attainment is the primary driver, in case of South Asia; it is the gender inequality in the health and survival domain, i.e. the inequality between men and women in healthy life expectancy and sex ratio at child birth, which is the main driver of hunger. Here's a statistic to digest - 49 percent of children under five in South Asia are underweight. In sub-Saharan Africa, a region many associate with images of starving children, the figure is 28 percent. India, Bangladesh and Pakistan together account for half the world's underweight children. This is directly related to women’s status in south Asia.

To address this, it is important that we invest in women’s and girls’ nutrition over the life cycle and build support for women’s empowerment in communities. I would like to underline the focus on taking a ‘life cycle’ approach to nutrition and the importance of empowering the women beyond the household—in public life and in her community. Ultimately, the structural cause of the gender gap is the inequality that exists in economic and political participation—narrowing this gap is fundamental to sustaining any progress that is made in addressing the gender gaps in the more practical needs domain. Working at the policy and advocacy level to strengthen women’s property rights and creating pressure from below by improving women’s legal awareness are keys to addressing the structural constraints.

As citizens of a part of the world that is successfully tackling the complex challenges of economic management and delivering on solid growth in an uncertain world, we cannot accept the political irresponsibility of our governments failing to ensure that no one suffers the indignity of going hungry and the denial of an opportunity to realize the full potential of our children because of being malnourished. This is doable-- one of the greatest accomplishments of the 20th century was to make famine which seemed inevitable, a rarity. Today, famine is almost invariably the product of evil governments or no governments. So with right politics as global humanity we have been able to consign to the museums the hunger that kills. The 21st century challenge is to do that for the hunger that stunt and wastes our potential. "


12 October 2011, Dhaka. Youth Forum for Poverty Alleviation & Development (YFPAD) and Asian University of Bangladesh jointly organised a Dialogue on Youth Engagement in Poverty Alleviation: Scopes & Beyond in collaboration with Advocacy for Social Change, BRAC in Asian University of Bangladesh campus, Uttara on October 11, 2011. Prof. Abulhasan M. Sadeq, Ph.D; Vice Chancellor, Asian University of Bangladesh graced as the chief guest, while Dr. AKM Salahuddin, Proctor, Asian University of Bangladesh attended as the special guest. Md. A. Halim Miah and Md. Mashiur Rahman, BRAC were in the panel discussion. YFPAD President Raquibul Islam chaired and Secretary General Galib Ibn Anwarul Azim moderated the event.

Direct participation and valuable opinion of the representatives of a number of organisations, to develop a national youth strategy in ultra poverty alleviation, made the programme a successful and lively one where about 200 participants were present.

Development Organisation of the Rural Poor (DORP); Aparajeyo Bangladesh; Manush; Debate for Humanity; Initiative for Peace; Centre for Leadership Assistance & Promotion; Community Action; One Degree Initiative; Future StartUp; Share; Voluntary Services Organisation (VSO) and Faculty members of Dept. of Economics, Asian University of Bangladesh were among the participants.

12 October 2011, This Wednesday evening, BRAC UK will be running a LIVE  telethon appeal on Channel S to raise much needed funds for Vision Bangladesh.

From 7 pm onwards, studio guests representing Vision Bangladesh and the Bangladeshi catering community across the UK will be appearing to discuss their involvement in Vision Bangladesh's new £1 on the Bill campaign. It would be fantastic if BRAC esteemed colleagues could encourage their friends and families to ring in on the night and make a personal donation.

Vision Bangladesh is a partnership between BRAC and Sightsavers and the aim is to eliminate avoidable blindness across Bangladesh by the year 2020 starting with the Sylhet region by 2013.

80% of blindness in the country is from easily treatable cataracts – occurring in both young adults and children, not just the elderly. Every year, 150,000 more cases are added to the backlog of nearly one million poor people who are denied the simple procedure that could save their sight – and their future.

Cataract surgery is one of the most cost effective health interventions (£20 for an operation). The real tragedy of blindness in Bangladesh is that the majority of the cases are unnecessary – having cataracts should not inevitably lead to blindness.

Vision Bangladesh is the biggest campaign of its type and has already implemented over 21,000 successful cataract operations since January 2011. The campaign needs your help to reach the whole of the Sylhet region by 2013.

So please watch Channel S (Sky channel 814) and ring in to donate and support Vision Bangladesh.

For viewers outside of UK, the details of the new transponder are as follows:
Satellite:  Eurobird 1
Orbital Location:  28.5º East
Transponder:  F1 Upper
Uplink Frequency / Polarity: 14 059.67 Vertical (Y)
Downlink Frequency / Polarity:  12 559.67 Horizontal (X)
Symbol Rate: 27.5 Msys/s
FEC: 2/3

STUDIO HOTLINE: 44 208 523 411

DONATION HOTLINE: 44 208 523 1666

“It is the poorest people who are most at risk of blindness and low vision as they are more likely to go blind for a lack of simple treatment and stay blind for a lack of simple surgery.” - Founder and Chairperson of BRAC, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed

12 October 2011, Dhaka. As part of BRAC Advocacy month-long activities on the observance of International Day for the Eradication of Poverty 2011, Dhaka University Debating Society (DUDS), in cooperation with Advocacy for Social Change, BRAC and Youth Forum for Poverty Alleviation and Development (YFPAD), has organised a debate competition titled BRAC Advocacy 1st Inter Hall Female Debate Championship 2011 in the University of Dhaka on Ultra Poverty issue at TSC, Dhaka University on October 2-3, 2011.

Advocacy for Social Change, BRAC seeks to mobilise and raise awareness among youth towards the issue of extreme poverty. We organise quiz, seminar and debate from grassroots to national level to address the issue. We have already reached 2.17 million school, college and university level students. Now we have taken a step forward in engaging the youth of urban areas.

The topic of the final debate was “We are Poor because we are Poor.”  Samsun Nahar Hall, became the champion and Bangladesh-Kuwait Maitree Hall, was the runner-up.

Dr. A.A.M.S Arefin Siddique, Vice Chancellor of Dhaka University was present as the Chief Guest of the event. Special guests were Professor Dr. Mahbuba Nasrin - Professor of mass communication & journalism department, Moderator of DUDS; Professor Mahfuza Khanam; General Secretary of Asiatic Society, Bangladesh; Khushi Kabir - Coordinator of Nijera Kori and Sheepa Hafiza - Director of BRAC Gender Justice & Diversity and Advocacy. Provosts of female halls and Alamgir Hossain - Director of TSC were also present.

We strongly believe that engaging the youth in such national issues will bring about positive changes in the future.

 BRAC Uganda Country Rep Ariful Islam accepts award from Association of Microfinance Institutions of Uganda

28 September 2011 - With global recognition that microfinance institutions should be placing emphasis on social as well as financial goals, the Association of Microfinance Institutions of Uganda (AMFIU) gathered representatives from microfinance institutions across the country for the first Social Performance Management Awards on September 27, 2011. This aimed to create awareness and promote social performance management across Uganda’s microfinance industry and to identify whether microfinance service providers are meeting their individual goals of poverty reduction and empowerment.

A number of microfinance institutions were recognized for their efforts in integrating social performance management into their operations. After the bronze and silver awards were distributed, Khondoker Ariful Islam, Country Representative of BRAC Uganda was called to accept the only Gold Award for “Outstanding Recognition in Implementing Social Performance Management”. While through its partnership with the MasterCard Foundation, BRAC has emerged as the largest and fastest-growing microfinance providers in Uganda, this Award reinforces BRAC's commitment towards maintaining its focus on social performance and poverty alleviation.

The audience warmly received his heartfelt speech that touched upon the successes and challenges that BRAC Uganda has experienced in Social Performance Management, and stressed that above all, BRAC’s achievements are based upon our role as a learning organization, that through its coordinated system of program management, monitoring, auditing and research departments strives to learn everything about our microfinance programs - including what works, as well as what doesn’t. Only this way, he said, can we be confident that as an organization we are meeting our target clients of poor rural and urban women, as well as being aware of and responsive to the needs of our over 100,000 borrowers across the country.

The speech was particularly poignant, considering the Mr. Islam would be soon departing Uganda to take over as the Country Representative of BRAC Afghanistan. As the Country Representative, Mr.Islam had played an instrumental role in launching BRAC Uganda - growing it to become one of the largest microfinance institutions in the country. In a span of four years, BRAC Uganda has disbursed more than $71 million in loans through its network of 94 branch offices. It has also scaled up Health, Agriculture, Adolescent Development and Education programs. Under his visionary leadership, BRAC has emerged as the largest non-profit organization in the country, employing more than 1,800 people and touching the lives of 1.8 million poor people in Uganda.

AMFIU, the Commissioner of Microfinance, and representatives of other MFI’s thanked him for the huge contributions that BRAC has made in Uganda under his leadership over the past six years, changing the microfinance landscape in scale, poverty outreach, and reputation. Although secretly hoping that he would take up one of the many offers he has had for Ugandan citizenship, the team at BRAC Uganda are immensely proud of him and wish him the best as he takes his many strengths of leadership, honesty and dedication to Afghanistan.

27 September 2011, London.

Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, Chairperson and Founder of BRAC, and Dr Caroline Harper, Executive Director of Sightsavers, officially started the £1 on the Bill campaign today at the national committee meeting with leading Asian restauteurs from around the UK.

Vision Bangladesh is a ground breaking partnership between BRAC and Sightsavers – two highly respected international charities. The aim is to eradicate avoidable blindness in Sylhet by 2013 and across the whole of Bangladesh by 2020.

A simple 20 minute operation costing only £20 can change a person’s life forever.

Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, Founder & Chairperson, BRAC comments: “I am so pleased to announce today the start of this innovative campaign that brings together BRAC, Sightsavers, and Britain’s leading Asian restaurants and their customers to eliminate avoidable blindness in Bangladesh by 2020.”

Dr Caroline Harper OBE, Chief Executive, Sightsavers said: “On behalf of Sightsavers, let me say how pleased we are to partner with BRAC on Vision Bangladesh to eliminate preventable blindness in Bangladesh. I am delighted to meet some of our country’s leading restaurateurs here tonight and admire your commitment to this important programme.”

The campaign will run from October 3rd for up to eight weeks in restaurants around the country. The national committee meeting was attended by Vision Bangladesh’s British-Bangladesh regional representatives covering England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Each regional representative reported on how many restaurants had signed up for the campaign in their area. To date, the campaign has secured commitments of up to 300 restaurants with more expected to join up in the next week.

Customers at participating restaurants will be given the option of donating £1 per table at the end of their meal. Those not wishing to take part can easily opt out. It is expected that each participating restaurant will be able to raise £1,000 during October and November. 95% of funds raised will go directly to deliver the Vision Bangladesh programme in Sylhet Division, Bangladesh.

Members of the publicn in UK can also donate online at: or by a simple text message. Text BRAC20 and the amount you wish to donate (up to £10) to 70070 (e.g your text could read BRAC20 £10).

In the photo:
Back row from left to right:
Councillor Prince Sadik Chaudhury
Mokhtar Hossain Khokon
M. R. M. Choudhury
Shabbir Ahmed Choudhury
Syed Siddik Ali
Tipu Rahman
Dobir Miah
Abdus Salam
Dr. Wali Tasar Uddin
Ruhi Ahad
Rtn. Abdul Latif JP
Naz Islam
Manchob Ali JP
Councillor Abdul Harid
Azizur Rahman
Muzahid Khan
Mr. Hasan
Mr. Muzahid
Surrey replacement
Akikur Rahman
Hafizur Rahman
Shah F. Athar
Abdul Malek
Rokib Ali
Jessica Merton

Front row from left to right
Penelope Mawson
Susan Davis
Caroline Harper
Sir Fazle Hasan Abed
Simone Sultana
Mary Garvey
Tanha Habib
Tanvir Ahamed

Wednesday, 18 January 2012 18:00

Coming Soon: Book on BRAC's TB Program

Now available: Buy The Book from amazon

Like many of BRAC’s programs, its community-based model for TB has garnered much praise: it’s been profiled in articles in the New York Times, documented in Harvard Business School case studies, received the Stop TB Partnership Kochon Prize, and hosted dozens of distinguished visitors.  Some of its methods have brought them under fire, within conservative communities, with the public sector, and international donors—it was one of the first to treat patients with lay volunteers (called shasthya shebikas), all women, in the community.  And while medications have always been provided for free by the government, BRAC requires patients to hand over a small deposit prior to beginning treatment that’s returned only when the patient completes the six months of treatment (this can be paid by the community or waived when necessary). Shasthya shebikas watch the patients take their medications every day (a strategy now called directly observed therapy, short-course or DOTS) at their homes, receiving a small payment upon treatment completion.When pressured to change its delivery strategy, BRAC has refused, with one argument amply supported by program data and rigorous research studies: this model works.  With adherence as an Achilles’ heel for treating infectious and non-communicable disease alike, BRAC found a way to engage patients and motivate them to continue the full course of treatment, defended it, and then scaled up to one of the largest programs in the world.  Now a critical member in a national partnership with the Government of Bangladesh, over 40 other non-governments organizations, BRAC treats close to 100,000 patients a year with a success rate of 92%, defying the assumed trade-off between quality and scale.  These achievements reflect significant contributions from many, including technical expertise from the World Health Organization and the Japanese Anti-TB Association, and resource mobilization by the Country Coordinating Mechanism, and transcend national borders.Internationally, BRAC has begun to adapt the model to new contexts.  BRAC Afghanistan has worked with the government to make community-based TB treatment options part of the standard package of health services offered nationally.

Since its first write-up in a scientific newsletter in 1991, BRAC has published several academic articles on its successes in tuberculosis.  It has even written chapters on the program in Tuberculosis: an interdisciplinary perspective and more recently, in From One to Many, a collection of programmatic experiences in scale up edited by BRAC.  Ian Smillie dedicates a chapter of his book on BRAC, Freedom from Want, to tuberculosis control.  But a thorough, reflective documentation, one capturingthe broader elements of the history, collective insights, support systems, strategic thinking, and overall, the story of what had built the program, written by its veteran leaders and staff, was absent.  Finally, in Making Tuberculosis History: Community-based Solutions for Millions, we have achieved just that.  The book offers a complete account of the program: how it was conceived, piloted, refined, scaled, managed, and ultimately adapted for new contexts, including Bangladesh’s rapidly growing citiesand Afghanistan’s remote mountainous regions.  Summarizing past successes and current dilemmas, the book’s ultimate aim is to advance efforts to eliminate poverty and disease globally.  The public health challenges facing the world today demonstrate the critical need for large-scale thinking; lessons from BRAC’s TB program can inspire others to think creatively about health delivery and advancing towards health for all.

Making Tuberculosis History will be formally launched on October 27th at the 42nd Union World Conference on Lung Health.  All conference participants are welcome to attend.  BRAC plans to hold additional book launch activities in Dhaka, New York, Boston in the coming months.  Those interested in purchasing the book can find information at the University Press Limited website.

Buy The Book
from amazon

BRAC Livelihood Conference 2011

14 September 2011, Dhaka. ADP trained 500 adolescents on facial, hair cut, bridal make up and other beauty enhance activities so that they can start beauty parlor business from their home. Among them seventy successfull adolescents were invited in this conference to enrich their knowledge in this business. Kaniz Almas Khan - Managing Director of Persona took a session where she gave them tips on how to run business. Mamun Rashid – Professor of BRAC Business School talked on how to attract new customer  and work on experienced employee retention. Asif Saleh – Director of BRAC Communications and Shameran Abed - Programme Head of BRAC Microfinance Programme discussed with them about financial need and support. Rashida Parveen - Programme Manager of BRAC Adolescent Development Programme took an interactive session where girls shared their work related experiences and asked for guidance. Rokeya Afzal Rahman, Chairman- Bangladesh Federation of Women Entrepreneurs mentioned that girls can do multitasking very well. Besides building career, family should be first priority in a girl’s life. Dr. Mahbub Hossain - Executive Director of BRAC mentioned that without economic development of women, our country cannot move forward.

BRAC Livelihood Conference 2011

 Lady Sarwat Abed - Director of CFL BRAC University, Dr. Safiqul Islam – Director of BRAC Education Programme, Md. Monowar Hossain Khondakar - Programme Coordinator of BRAC Education Programme, Dr. Obaidur Rob Chowdhury - Chairperson of UCEP, Munni Saha - Chief Editor of ATN News channel were also present in the event. At the end of the event all participants received certificates.

Sunday, 18 September 2011 18:00

BRAC Chair speaks at Clinton Global Initiative

Tune in on Thursday, September 22, 2011 at 12:15 pm (ET) to see BRAC Founder and Chairperson Sir Fazle Hasan Abed speak on the "What to Scale, When to Scale" panel at the 2011 Clinton Global Initiatives.

Have something to say? Join the conversation on Twitter by including @bracusa and #cgi2011 in your tweets, or leave a comment on our Facebook page.

17 September 2011, Dhaka. BRAC’s Human Rights and Legal Aid Services (HRLS) Programme in association with partners Ain o Shalish Kendra (ASK), Bangladesh Legal Aid Services Trust (BLAST), Nijera Kori, and Action on Disability and Development (ADD) organised a roundtable discussion titled ‘Vagrants’ and Shelterless Persons (Rehabilitation) Act 2011 to address and protest the gaps that the current law comprises especially in light of upholding human rights of this vulnerable community.

The event was held at the Reporters’ Unity at Shegunbagicha, Dhaka and was presided over by Chief Guest, Dr. Mizanur Rahman - Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). The Chair of the session, Khushi Kabir - coordinator of Nijera Kori, along with distinguished panelists presented a set of recommendations to revise the current rehabilitative law which will be submitted to the parliamentary standing committee responsible for reviewing the Act before presenting it to Parliament.

As one of the esteemed panelists during an open discussion at the Roundtable, Dr. Faustina Pereira - Director, HRLS Programme expressed her concern for both the process through which this Act has been passed and its content which is disgraceful and humiliating for deprived and dispossessed sections of citizens. Along with this, she urged that the law be accessed through initiating consultations with affected persons, practitioners and agencies involved in providing support to the poor.

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