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National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) chairman Kazi Reazul Hoque said the government is seriously considering the importance increasing facilities in different areas for the persons with disabilities. But the real challenge lies in the implementation. It is true to all the underprivileged communities of the country as mainstream development opportunities still largely eschew them. Their merit and potential must be put to full use for national development. Enhanced ability for safe mobility is crucial for the development of every disabled person, which is why the metro-rail system that will be introduced in the capital in the coming years must integrate features facilitating safe commuting by people with disabilities.

The NHRC chairman made these observations in his speech today on Sunday (2 December 2018) at a stakeholder consultation event organised at the BRAC Centre in the capital. He was present at the programme as the chief guest. BRAC and NHRC organised it on the occasion of National Disability Day observed on 3 December.

A memorandum of understanding was signed at the event between the two organisations with the objective of increasing facilities for the disabled people in metro rail. Hiranmaya Barai, secretary, NHRC, and Dr Muhammad Musa, executive director, BRAC, signed the MoU on behalf of the respective parties.

Under this MoU the two organisations will jointly work with the aim to ensure increased access of the disabled people to the metro rail and other public infrastructures, while also work for digitalisation to the benefit of cross sections of people.

NGO Affairs Bureau director general KM Abdus Salam, attended the event as the special guest. NHRC secretary Hiranmaya Barai, Australian deputy high commissioner Penny Morton, BRAC executive director Dr Muhammad Musa, Dhaka Mass Transit Company Limited managing director MAN Siddique, Women with Disabilities Development Foundation (WDDF) founder Ashrafun Nahar Misti, BRAC Advocacy for Social Change director KAM Morshed spoke among others at the programme.

Dr Muhammad Musa said that this MoU is not merely an agreement, but a pledge also. He stressed that BRAC is and will always stand by the disabled people.

He further said, It’s true that we are now progressing with a growth rate of over 7 per cent. The nation is advancing through the realisation of the dream we had dreamt as we fought for our national liberation. In spite of this remarkable progress our economy has a setback. It is because not every citizen is benefiting from this fruit of development. Having kept this reality in mind, we have signed this agreement so that we can work together to ensure that they have better access to facilities.

Thursday, 29 November 2018 00:00

Dr Muhammad Musa


Executive Director, BRAC International

Dr Muhammad Musa is the executive director of BRAC International. He has an extensive background in leading humanitarian, social development, and public health organisations in international, cross-cultural settings. A medical doctor and public health specialist, he has a specialised training in maternal and child nutrition, and disaster management.

Before joining BRAC Bangladesh as its Executive Director in 2015, he worked for 32 years with CARE International as one of its senior international management professionals. Twenty of those years were spent working in Ethiopia, Uganda, Sudan, Tanzania, Thailand, India, Bangladesh and Asia region.

During his tenure as Executive Director of BRAC, Dr Musa has succeeded in maintaining BRAC’s focus on the many dimensions of poverty in Bangladesh. Under his leadership, BRAC launched the Humanitarian Crisis Management Programme in Cox’s Bazar in August 2017, which has given us a strong foundation to stand beside people in crisis anywhere in the world.

He has long experience in strategic leadership, governing board management, executive-level management of large-scale operations, and humanitarian and social development programme management. He specialises in people management, leadership development, conflict resolution, and organisational change management. He also has a proven track record in effective external relationship management, marketing, brand-building, communications, and fundraising for humanitarian and development projects. He has been successful in bringing about convergence of philanthropic approaches and entrepreneurial methodologies to create sustainable development programming that achieves impact on a large scale.

In the professional field, Dr Musa has established a reputation for leading complex organisational change processes in multicultural settings. In addition, he is known for his unique ability to attract and develop young professionals into humanitarian and social development leaders. He is also an internationally recognised senior management trainer and an experienced coach.

 

Wednesday, 28 November 2018 00:00

Urban Innovation Challenge: Five teams awarded

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Five teams won awards in four categories for innovating effective solutions for a number of urban problems such as healthcare, housing and renewable energy at the grand finale of Urban Innovation Challenge.

Winners are Nirvana and City Bird in renewable energy category, Jotno Healthcare in healthcare category, Onushongo in low-cost housing and Drinkwell in water sanitation and hygiene categories. Responsive Urbanist received honourable mention from WASH category.

BRAC launched the Urban Innovation Challenge consecutively for the second time this year, which was themed on 'Our cities. Our solutions.' The grand finale of the competition was organised at the BRAC Centre today on Tuesday (27 November 2018). Additional secretary of the environment and climate ministry Dr Atiqur Rahman was present as the chief guest at the event.

Also present at the event were eminent environment scientist Dr Ainun Nishat, BRAC's senior director for strategy communications and empowerment and jury board member of the competition Asif Saleh, advisor to the Startup Project of the information and communication technology ministry Tina Zabeen, coordinator for the youth programme of Prothom Alo Munir Hasan, director of EMK Center in Dhaka Naveed Akbar, chief executive of Green Delta Life Insurance Farzana Chowdhury, programme head of BRAC Urban Development Programme Hasina Mushrofa and representatives from a number of non-governmental organisations.

With the objective of engaging the young people to find innovative, low-cost and effective solutions for urban problems BRAC organises this competition. This year the competition began on 24 July to receive 300 ideas at the first stage. A total of 13 ideas were selected to compete at the final stage. Although ideas were invited in five categories namely, housing, healthcare, WASH, renewable energy and climate change, no submission was made for climate change.

The winning teams will receive grants of up to Tk 5 lakh each. In addition, BRAC will assist them to work on their innovations and make it ready for practical implementation.

Dr Atiqur Rahman appreciated BRAC for its initiative to engage young people in innovative work, saying that such competitions, while bring youths opportunities to sharpen their ideas and develop their merit, help find practical solutions to many social issues.

Dr Ainun Nishat observed that there is no alternative to find innovations to ensure social progress. He also urged to find ways to effectively market rural products in the urban consumers.

Asif Saleh said BRAC puts high importance on building fruitful partnership for successful implementation of SDG. He also said, understanding a problem inside out is the most important part of any innovation exercise. For that it requires a team to be adequately dynamic and develop an efficient business plan as well, he added.

To know more about the BRAC Urban Innovation Challenge, visit http://uic.brac.net/

For observing the World Day of Remembrance this year BRAC has engaged school students and arranged a rally with banners and posters showcasing the theme of #Roadshavestories and #WDoR2018. Approximately, 50 students of Shaheen school, Gazipur attended the rally holding placards while attracting the attention of local community, law enforcers and other road users. The principal and other school teachers holding banner initiated the rally. Through this rally the students displayed road safety messages to the people while remembering those who lost their lives in road crashes. #Roadshavestories #WDoR2018

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Noor Mohammad a former truck driver; now a community traffic police and road safety advocate

Noor Mohammad used to be a truck driver until he crashed into a van and ended up with multiple fractures on his feet. Being a driver he could not afford the costly treatment. Ultimately, his family became poorer and children had to stop schooling. Due to overconfidence, unsafe driving, and the crash his family suffered and it took him two years to recover mentally and physically. Currently he uses a crutch to walk. Noor Mohammad now works as a community traffic police and road safety advocate motivating other drivers to drive safely and defensively.

 


Students demanding safer roads

Rally participated by teachers and students

Students showcasing the posters for WDoR-2018

Students showcasing the posters for WDoR-2018
Tuesday, 13 November 2018 00:00

BRAC organises mental health conference

 

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Experts at a conference observed that the government and private initiatives and resources need to better consolidate and coordinate to ensure sound mental health for all, children and adolescents in particular.

The urge came today on Monday (12 November 2018) at the concluding session of the 2-day event titled 'Let's talk and listen', organised at the BRAC CDM at Savar. BRAC Institute of Educational Development (BIED) arranged the event attended by national and international experts. The main purpose of the conference was to provide a platform to share expert knowledge, discuss successful models implemented to support mental health and promote conversations about mental health in Bangladesh.
 
Four sessions with four separate mental health issues were held in the conference, namely, 1. Mental health and psychosocial support in fragile settings 2. Maternal and infant mental health 3. Child mental health and 4. Adolescent mental health. Dr Nishat F Rahman, Dr Nahama Broner, Mohammad Abul Kalam NDC, Dr Helal Uddin Ahmed, Dr Jena Hamadani, Lilian Mafole, Dr Anne Glowinski, and Dr Eram Mariam spoke at the sessions.

mental-health-conference-brac-2The first session's focus was alternative methods for mental health support in fragile situation. The four-tier model developed by BIED with which BRAC is providing psychosocial support to thousands of Rohingya people in Cox's Bazar was presented in this session. Second session focused on maternal and infant mental health, highlighting the importance of mother's mental wellbeing to ensure healthy upbringing of children.

Speakers in the third session discussed the role of play in ensuring sound child mental health. BIED’s Play Lab Model was presented in this session, which is at present being implemented in three countries, Bangladesh, Uganda and Tanzania. Representatives from these countries shared their views and experience regarding implementation of this model in their respective environments.

The fourth session stressed high importance to the mental wellbeing of the adolescent people, calling attention to the reality that while they have many emotional issues they are often overlooked and go unheard. The session comprised case studies, narratives and interactive discussions.

 

Thursday, 01 November 2018 00:00

BRAC observes Financial Inclusion Week

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Bangladesh should strengthen its effort to build an inclusive financial system to provide safe, quality and appropriate financial services to all people, those living in poverty and remote areas in particular. This comprehensive system should be able to ensure access of financially capable clients to a range of quality financial services at affordable prices, with convenience, dignity, and consumer protections, delivered by a range of providers in a stable, competitive market.

Speakers expressed these views at a discussion session today on Wednesday (31 October 2018), organised at the BRAC Centre in the capital. BRAC arranged the event to observe Financial Inclusion Week, introduced and coordinated by the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion (CFI), a Washington DC based non-profit think tank.

Themed on 'getting inclusion right' the timeline for Financial Inclusion Week 2018 is from October 29 to November 2.

Shameran Abed, director, BRAC Microfinance, Maria A May, programme officer, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Ashraful Islam, country project coordinator, SHIFT SAARC, Bangladesh at United Nations Capital Development Fund, and Feisal Hussain, team leader, Business Finance for the Poor in Bangladesh, Nathan Associates, spoke at the discussion. Rakib Ovi, programme manager, Social Innovation Lab, BRAC, moderated the session.

The speakers mentioned that at present in Bangladesh 50 per cent of the population aged 15 years or more do not have any individual or group account in any bank or financial institutions. For women of this age group the percentage is as high as 64 per cent. They said to build an appropriately inclusive financial system we have to first identify the factors preventing a very large number of people from accessing institutional financial services.

"Having full inclusion means creating access to finance that people actually need and the goal should be to give everyone access through a financial institution. But the reality is, traditional banks are not interested about financial inclusion," said Shameran Abed.

Women are not fully in charge of financial management in the household and so huge gender gaps exist in financial inclusion in Bangladesh, said Maria A May, stressing adequate initiatives should be undertaken to address the issue.

The draft of the national financial inclusion strategy is almost ready, Feisal Hussain informed the audience, saying that financial service providers and digital ecosystems are two key themes of the strategy.

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BRAC has won the 'AGFUND International Prize for Pioneering Human Development Projects' for 2017 for its non-formal primary education model especially designed for children who have dropped out of or never gone to school.

BRAC vice-chairperson Dr Ahmed Mushtaque Raza Chowdhury received the award from Prince Abdulaziz bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, special representative of AGFund, at a ceremony at the United Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland on Wednesday (17 October 2018). Queen Sofia of Spain, member of AGFUND prize committee, was also present at the event.

AGFUND International Prize is awarded by the Arab Gulf Program for Development (AGFUND), founded in 1980 by Prince Talal Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud with support from Gulf Cooperation Council Countries. Working with a strategic focus on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the organisation introduced the AGFUND International Prize in 1999.

The prize committee selected two orgaisations and one individual as winners for the 2017 award themed on “Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning". A total of 76 projects competed for the prize.

BRAC has won the First Category Prize, awarded for projects implemented by UN, international or regional organisations, for its non-formal primary education model. The award comes with prize money worth US$ 400,000.

Nepalese organisation Jeevan Bikas Samaj has won the Second Category Prize for its 'Accelerating sustainable solution for quality education' project, which comes with US$ 300,000 prize money. This category is reserved for national level non-governmental organisations.

Sunitha Krishnan, an Indian anti-trafficking champion and co-founder of Hyderabad-based Prajwala, won the Fourth Category Prize, reserved for projects implemented by individuals. The money worth of the prize is US$ 100,000.

The Third Category Prize allocated for projects by government agencies has been withheld for failure to meet the award criteria, according to the AGFUND website.

Theme of AGFUND Prize 2018 is 'Eradication of Poverty', goal 1 of SDGs 2030.

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Climate change is increasingly making it difficult to implement sustainable water sanitation and hygiene programmes in the coastal and haor regions. Increasing water salinity along the coast, increase in arsenic level, rising bacterial contamination and lack of land suitable for digging pits to install sanitary latrines are the main problems in this regard. The added problems in the hilly terrains and hard-to-reach localities are intense water shortage and unavailability of cost-effective and sustainable WASH technologies. Effective solutions to these problems must be put in place through strengthening mass awareness and integrated initiatives to reach the SDG-6 of ensuring universal access to safe water, improved sanitation and hygiene practices.

Speakers revealed this alarming scenario at a workshop titled "Sustainable WASH: Grassroots experience and way forward" organised today on Wednesday (17 October 2018) at BRAC Centre in the capital. BRAC organised this event to forward recommendations to strengthen the WASH programmes focusing on these regions.

Peter De Vries, first secretary to the Dutch Embassy, Dr Khairul Islam, country representative of Water Aid, SMA Rashid, Executive Director, NGO Forum for Public Health, Md Shofiqul Alam, specialist of WASH at the UNICEF, Bangladesh, Mohammad Golam Muktadir, executive engineer of Department Public Health Engineering, and Dr Md Akramul Islam, director of BRAC's Communicable Disease and WASH Programme, were present at the workshop as guests of honour and panel speakers.

Dr Muhammad Musa, executive director of BRAC, gave the welcome speech at the programme. Dr Muktadir Kabir, programme head of BRAC's WASH and malaria programmes, gave the keynote presentation.

Adequate number of cleaning staff is essential for the places and establishments where there are public gatherings to keep environment hygienic, Dr Khairul Islam observed, saying that, "But cleaning staff in Bangladesh has a high rate of dropping out. We have to give more effort and increase spending to retain cleaning staff."

Peter De Vries said, "We understand that this sector is in need of an investment boost. My government's investments will continue in this sector. But we are more interested in investing in innovative solutions, capacity building and effective management."

Dr Muhammad Musa in his speech thanked the Dutch government for its financial support to BRAC's WASH programme. Stressing priorities for Bangladesh to achieve SDG-6, he said, "Introducing sustainably effective solutions to the WASH sector in the hilly and remote areas is a high priority. Strengthening collaborations between the government and NGOs, reinforcing WASH activities at both primary and secondary schools and stepping up advocacy campaign both at the grassroots and policymakers must also be in the high priority list."

The speakers put forth a number of recommendations which include: Strengthening collaboration among stakeholders to speed up the tackling of SDG-6 challenges, involving local civil society to strengthen public awareness campaigns, creation and promotion of more private entrepreneurs to boost sanitation facilities, increasing national budget allocation to improve hygiene and faecal sludge management, intensifying WASH activities in schools and healthcare facilities across the country.

BRAC began its water, sanitation and hygiene programme in 2006. At present this programme has expanded to 289 upazilas in 54 districts. So far, under this programme BRAC has provided access to safe drinking water for 20 lakh and 46 thousand (2.46 million) people and sanitary latrines for 4 crore 27 lakh and 60 thousand (42.76m) people. Besides it, BRAC has also installed 1,619 tube-wells till September this year in Cox's Bazar for the forcibly displaced Rohingyas of Myanmar.

Sunday, 07 October 2018 00:00

Innovative Justice Challenge in Dhaka

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Aniket Doegar, a young innovator from India, through innovative use of technology has designed a new way to reach important messages to the poor and ultra poor communities. The common theme of the messages is that the measures the government has taken to ensure justice for them. Gautami Raiker, also an Indian, has a different initiative which helps startup businesses in legal matters. Lipi Rahman from Bangladesh has come up with her technological initiative to provide assistance to her clients in land matters. The idea of Cho Chan Myei, a Myanmar citizen, builds on the theme of ensuring women’s safety through using technology.

These innovative ideas were showcased at the Asia region grand finale of ‘Innovative justice challenge’ organised today on Saturday (6 October 2018) in the Dhaka city. The objective of the competition was to facilitate innovations that would help distressed people access justice easily and effectively. BRAC’s Human Rights and Legal Assistance (HRLS) programme and Netherland-based HiiL organised the Asia region’s final round of the competition at the BRAC Centre.

Aniket Doegar, selected winner by the jury panel, will be awarded the honour of ‘Justice Accelerator’ by HiiL and receive a grant of € 20 thousand in four instalments in one year. HiiL will also provide him with entrepreneurship training.

Former adviser to the Caretaker Government and founder of Power and Participation Centre Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman attended the event as the key speaker. Also present were HiiL representative Martain Kind and Nathalie Dijkman and HRLS associate director Sajeda Farisa Kabir.

Jury members lawyer Kanan Amal Dhru, lawyer Junaid Ahmed Chowdhury and BRAC Dairy and Food Project director Md Anisur Rahman were also present at the event.

Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman said, “Innovations are urgently needed to take justice at the doorstep of the ultra poor people. While it is natural that some innovations will win since it is a competition, but that does not at all mean that other innovations are failures. All the innovations are important to promote welfare of the society. So it is very important that everybody will proceed further with their own ideas and initiatives.”

The organisers said every year around one billion people around the world fall victim to injustice. Of these acts 82 per cent are left with no remedy. Around 30 per cent of the victims consider themselves too weak to seek the course of justice. Organisations and activists who work worldwide to promote justice call for an urgent improvement of the process of accessing justice. They also feel that this will need innovative solutions that will be both easily accessible and cost-effective.

HiiL, since 2005, is dedicatedly working to promote innovations to improve access to justice worldwide. Innovative Justice Challenge is one of their initiatives to this end. This year 430 ideas were submitted in the competition.

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The two-storey structure, made mainly of bamboo and other natural ingredients, stands two feet above ground, which means rainwater won’t stand. The architecture follows indigenous Rohingya building traditions, allowing better resilience to extreme weather, ventilation and best utilisation of space. From yesterday (Wednesday) 240 Rohingya children are taking lessons in this centre.

This first two-storey temporary learning centre (TLC) for the Rohingya children has been on a pilot basis in the extension area of Camp-4 in Kutupalong of Ukhiya in Cox's Bazar. BRAC and the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) have jointly built the structure with support from the Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commission of Bangladesh government. The learning centre was inaugurated by the refugee, relief and repatriation commissioner (RRRC), Mohammad Abul Kalam, ndc, on Wednesday (3 October 2018).

The learning centre was designed by the architecture department of BRAC University. Standing 38.6 feet high and 25 feet wide, each floor accommodates up to 40 students in one shift. Like all other TLCs of BRAC, this centre will also run on three shifts, six days a week. The entire structure is temporary, so it could be relocated anytime.

RRRC Mohammad Abul Kalam, ndc, said: “The Rohingya children will be taught English and mathematics besides Burmese language.” Nesar Ahmed, joint secretary to the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education of Bangladesh, praised the initiative and also BRAC’s role as partner to the government. Describing it as a cooperative and fruitful initiative, acting head of operations at UNHCR’s Cox’s Bazar sub-office, Bernadette Castel-Hollingsworth, said they were looking forward to doing more such work in future. UNICEF’s head of education, Pawan Kuchias wished best of luck to the initiative.

D. Safiqul Islam, director of BRAC Education Program, said every child is a goldmine of dreams and possibilities and education plays an important role in realising those. BRAC has taken this initiative in order to accommodate maximum number of children in limited space.

The ground floor is for pre-primary level, and the first floor for primary. BRAC’s target for 2019 is to enroll 100,000 Rohingya children in its learning centres. Currently, more than 500,000 children are living in the Rohingya camps, of which only 31% are attending the learning centres operated by BRAC and others.

BRAC is running 317 temporary learning centres in the camps, with more than 31,000 children enrolled. These learning centres focus on early-grade learning, basic literacy, numeracy, life-saving information, psycho-social support and life skills.

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