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.
Accident survivors with disabilities will receive faster and subsidised treatment
We want to establish BRAC model in 8 medical colleges: Health directorate DG
Development organisation BRAC and the Sheikh Hasina National Institute of Burn and Plastic Surgery (SHNIBPS) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) today on Saturday (27 August) at the SHNIBPS conference room in the capital. The public-private partnership agreement will enable the two organisations to give faster and affordable treatment to the patients who have lost limbs in accidents.
Organisers said under this MoU, low-income patients will be able to get international quality treatment at an affordable cost (expenses will be up to 50% subsidised). In December 2021, BRAC and SHNIBPS jointly opened a new unit of Limb and Brace Center on the premises of SHNIBPS to run on a pilot basis, under the planning and operation of BRAC Limb and Brace Center (BLBC). So far, the unit gave subsidised rehabilitation care to over 450 patients. Under this MoU its services will see sustainable enhancement from now on.
Established in 1972, BRAC, now the world’s one of the largest development organisations, has been working for people’s socio-economic development including health and nutrition. Road traffic accidents (RTA), diabetic gangrene, burn, burger’s disease, cancer and congenital anomalies were reported to be some of the major causes of disability in Bangladesh. The BRAC Limb and Brace Center (BLBC) was established with a vision to support persons with disabilities, particularly from low-income communities. It provides patients with low cost, quality and user-friendly customised Prosthetics and Orthotics (P&O) services along with physiotherapy, counselling and rehabilitation services.
The event was attended by Professor ABM Khurshid Alam, director general, Directorate General of Health Services, Asif Saleh, executive director, BRAC, Professor Dr Md Abul Kalam, director, SHNIBPS, Dr Samanta Lal Sen, national coordinator, SHNIBPS, and Dr Morseda Chowdhury, director, BRAC Health Nutrition and Population Programme.
BRAC ED Asif Saleh and SHNIBPS director Professor Dr Md Abul Kalam signed the MoU on behalf of their respective organisations.
DGHS director-general Professor ABM Khurshid Alam said at the signing ceremony, “I thank BRAC for this great initiative. A large number of patients will benefit from this Limb and Brace Center. We have to make sure smooth operation of this Center. I want to replicate BRAC model to eight more medical colleges in the country. I would ask BRAC to come up with plans on which we will collaborate. You stood by the people during COVID-19, you are there now too. I do thank you, BRAC.”
BRAC ED Asif Saleh said, “Our founder Sir Fazle Hasan Abed was a social entrepreneur. Until his death he emphasised that BRAC will have to continue innovating solutions for new social issues, or else it would become irrelevant to the society. Following his guidance, BRAC continues its work to innovate models for pressing social problems. Through the model that we are launching today we are trying to give a much-needed service to people using the government infrastructure, where we have been successful in making it easily accessible and affordable. We had started the piloting with a positive mind upon receiving a proposal from the government to work in this area. Now we want to replicate this model. I am very hopeful about this sector because both you and we are eager to work collaboratively.”
He further added, “We have to think more on transforming it to a holistic system and bringing private sector organisations in this effort. We need strong collaboration for future success. Alongside, we would have to work to prevent road and all other forms of accidents. I am hopeful that in future this model will act as an exemplary partnership model for others to follow.”
BRAC HNPP director Dr Morseda Chowdhury said, “We are part of this PPP because we are earnest in our effort to serve the poor. Beforehand, an injured patient will have to visit different places for different kinds of healthcare. Now we are trying to bring all kinds of treatment and healthcare services under the same umbrella for them.”
SHNIBPS national coordinator Dr Samanta Lal Sen said, “I consider myself fortunate to have this Limb and Brace Center of BRAC operating here. We will now be able to give treatment services to many more patients. We will also be able to bring more such patients using BRAC’s network to give them treatment.”
SHNIBPS director Professor Dr Md Abul Kalam said, “Every year many people become disabled from electrocution. We give prosthetics services to 300-350 patients every year. BRAC’s proposal was important for us. We have been able to give services to over 450 people in just last eight months. We therefore heartily thank BRAC.”
The ‘Made in Bangladesh’ brand in the readymade garments sector is largely the contribution of its millions of workers. A large market of other commodities and services has grown in the country to cater to the demands of the RMG workers. But the country has yet to develop a robust system to ensure the much-needed welfare of the RMG workers even after four decades since the establishment of the industry in the early 1980s. A large section of these workers work for meagre wages due to lack of skills. Many women leave jobs to take care of their newborns in absence of daycare centres, while many pregnant workers leave jobs due to lack of proper care. The country’s RMG sector will secure more sustaining growth once we can ensure basic services, skills training and opportunities and services for the workers.
Currently, the RMG sector contributes 16% to the GDP of Bangladesh, which constituted 83% of the country’s total export earnings in 2021. Bangladesh, second among the world’s readymade wear exporting countries, engages nearly 4.4 million people, 60% of whom are women. At present, this industry brings over 32 billion dollars every year.
These observations and information were shared at an event titled ‘National consultation on the wellbeing of RMG workers’ organised at the BRAC Centre in the capital today (Thursday, 25 August). BRAC, the one of the world’s largest development organisations, hosted the programme with Bangladesh’s commerce minister and lawmaker Tipu Munshi in chair. Special guests at the event were labour and employment secretary Ehsan-E-Elahi, director-general of Health Economics Unit under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Dr Md Enamul Haque, and BGMEA vice president Md Shahidullah Azim. Professor of the Institute of Health Economics at the University of Dhaka Dr Syed Abdul Hamid and Centre for Policy Dialogue research director Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem were present at the discussion panel. Sk Mojibul Huq, programme manager, BRAC Urban Development Programme, presented BRAC’s one-stop service centre model. The event was moderated by the director of BRAC Urban Development Programme and BRAC and BRAC International Climate Change Programme Dr Md Liakath Ali.
The findings of a survey on the effectiveness of the services rendered by the one-stop service centre model were also presented. BRAC and research organisation Lightcastle Partners conducted the study. Lightcastle Partners director Jahedul Amin presented the findings.
Tipu Munshi, minister, Ministry of Commerce, said, “The government has taken various initiatives to ensure the workers’ salary, quality of life and basic services. The prime minister has been giving her full support in this regard. BRAC has set the example of a quality service. This model will ensure the welfare of workers.”
Md. Ehsan-E-Elahi, secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment, said, “We have two funds - a central fund which is solely dedicated for RMG workers, another one is Shramajibi Kallyan Foundation. With these two funds, I have been mitigating payments to thousands of workers with one-off payment for healthcare, in case of injuries or death, and also for their children's education. We will consider implementing this model of BRAC if they share it with our ministry.”
Dr Syed Abdul Hamid, professor, Institute of Health Economics, University of Dhaka, said, “BRAC has created a 360 degree-model. However, the government’s action is needed here.”
Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem, research director, CPD, said, “There were many projects that never saw the light of day. With the help of the government, NGOs can come forward and implement such an initiative.”
Md Shahidullah Azim, vice president, BGMEA, said, “To keep up with the new world, we have increased the use of advanced machinery. As a result, we do not require as much manpower as we did in the past. Thus the number of women in the work force is decreasing.”
Md Liakath Ali, director, Climate Change Programme, BRAC and BRAC International, said, “This initiative of ours was small, it will end this year. By doing the pilot programme, we were able to show that this model works.”
The presentation on the research findings informed the audience that BRAC UDP is implementing a 5-year pilot titled “Empowering the RMG workers living in urban slums of Dhaka” (2017-22). Under this project three one-stop service centres have been established in Tongi, Gazipur and Savar, following an innovative OSCC model of BRAC to give coordinated services to garment factory workers. So far, 60,000 people of low-income families have received services including quality healthcare, legal aid, skills training, daycare service for children, financial inclusion services of deposit pension scheme and micro health insurance, and citizen rights awareness. According to the findings, the ERMG project also helped promote work-friendly environment in these areas through connecting the factory owners and workers.
Bangladesh is also among the countries facing a power shortage due to the ongoing fuel crisis in the world. To tackle the situation the government has called on the people to proactively save electricity and fuel. Responding to the call, BRAC has initiated a number of measures to reduce fuel and energy consumption at its head office and offices and settings across the countries. These measures will be effective from 1 August, 2022.
BRAC is doing this by a rigorous reinforcement of its policy measures maximising the use of natural light and air and through following fuel-efficient rules while using BRAC’s vehicles.
BRAC expects the following measures will help save electricity and fuel by at least 25 percent every month:
All BRAC field offices and facilities across the country have been instructed to actively save fuel and energy by following similar measures.
BRAC has been actively engaged with the local administration since the flood situation began deteriorating in the country. The organisation has already distributed emergency flood relief of BDT 3 crore allocated from its own funds to 59,000 families. From next 30 June BRAC will further initiate the distribution of cash assistance of BDT 7.50 crore to another 50,000 flood affected families. Under this initiative, each family will receive BDT 1,500. The relief operations are being carried out in 12 upazilas of Sylhet and Sunamganj, severely affected by the flood.
Animal feed is also being distributed among the affected ultra-poor families in the flood-hit areas. Every family is getting 40kg of animal feed. ACI, a reputed industrial organisation of the country, has come forward in this effort they have sold a total of 203 metric tons of animal feed to BRAC at its production cost. Besides, BRAC Nursery has donated 222 metric tons of silage.
Meanwhile, World Food Program (WFP), has joined BRAC’s relief effort, donating 85 metric tons of high energy biscuits. BRAC's humanitarian staff are delivering these to the flood affected families in remote areas, with each family receiving 50 packets [2.5kg] of biscuits.
As always, priority is being given to the women-led households, and those with elderly, pregnant and lactating women and people with physical and mental disabilities. Even after the floodwaters recede, BRAC will continue supporting the people in the flood-hit areas with necessary healthcare services, housing repairs, and restoring their lives and livelihoods.
BRAC's humanitarian initiative, 'Dakche Amar Desh’, is raising funds for the relief effort. So far, this initiative has been able to raise BDT 17 crore.
In response to BRAC's call, the following organisations have joined its relief effort: World Food Program (WFP), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, BRAC Bank, HSBC Bank, BRAC University. Besides these organisations, numerous individuals have joined this initiative with personal donations.
Asif Saleh, executive director of BRAC, has called on all sections of the society to come forward in this effort and stand beside the vulnerable communities in the flood affected areas.
Details of public donations are available on this website: 'Dakche Amar Desh': https://brac.net/dakcheamardesh/. Donations can be sent via this bKash number (merchant number): 01730321765.