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These Heroines of Health are inspiring the next generation of global health workers 

At the World Health Assembly this year, GE Healthcare and Women in Global Health, a movement that strives for greater gender equality in global health leadership, are joining forces to honor and celebrate women in global health. 2018 Heroines of Health, Professor Sabina Faiz Rashid and Professor Malabika Sarker are being honored this year for their work with vulnerable populations in Bangladesh. Both have strong academic backgrounds; Sabina is the first female Dean of the BRAC James P Grant School of Public Health, appointed in 2013, and Malabika is the first female Director of Research. Their partnership and collaboration is key to their leadership and is inspiring the next generation of global health workers. Their research has offered the world invaluable learning on topics such as community health workers, sexual and reproductive health, non-communicable disease, urban health, health systems, HIV – and beyond. 

Tell us more about the work that you do with your organizations

Sabina: I head the BRAC School of Public Health in Bangladesh. We have transformed our Masters of Public Health (MPH) so that students learn first-hand in the community. My colleague and friend of over twenty years, Professor Malabika Sarker, shares my vision to transform public health advocacy for developing world needs. I have also focused on gender, sexual and reproductive health, and the health needs of people in urban slums. In 2008, I established a Centre for Gender and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights with seed funding from a UN organization, pushing for laws to stop child marriage; providing a safe space for LGBTQI communities and working to develop online resources on sensitive topics that bypass traditional gatekeepers such as parents and teachers. I also established the Centre for Urban Health and Equity in Dhaka, a city of 16 million with 5 million poor. Slum settlements remain invisible to the state – there is no comprehensive urban policy, and the poor lack housing rights, basic services, and suffer from the worst health indicators.

MalabikaI teach, conduct research, and oversee research activities as Director of Research. I coordinate and teach various modules, such as the implementation research and a reproductive health course. I also lead the Center of Excellence for Science of Implementation and Scale Up committed to evidence generation. As a member of the senior management committee, I also oversee the finance and human resource in partnership with the Dean of the school. I regularly mentor 27 researchers working with me on several research projects. For several years, I also worked as a public health physician in BRAC, the largest Non-Government Organization in the world. After completing my doctorate, I startedworking as a researcher/teacher which I’ve now been doing for 13 years.

How did you get involved in this work; what was your inspiration? 

Malabika: When I was 17, I got married. It was an arranged marriage. My husband and my father decided that I should go to medical school even though I was interested in studying Physics or Mathematics. After a year-long training as an obstetrician and gynecologist post-medical school, I started my career as a community-based reproductive health programmer.  One of my primary services was menstrual regulation (MR), which is what abortion is called in Bangladesh.  I was surprised by the number of women who came for MR given the availability of free contraceptives. I realized that the availability of a service does not ensure its acceptability, and I became interested in the social factors which determine health. I then joined BRAC where I worked on a community-based maternal mortality reduction project, and so my journey in public health started.

Sabina: When I was 23 years old I got a job at BRAC’s research division in a village called Comilla in Bangladesh. I’d never been to a village before and six months in that village changed my perception of the poor. They were kind and hospitable, welcoming me and my questions with humor and patience. They taught me that local practices were often pragmatic decisions, made with little money and with traditional home practices often the first line of healthcare. Solutions I’d read in books were not so easily applied in real life and I found that the actual needs and priorities in the community were not always heard. This was my motivation. Following this experience, I decided to do my Master’s in primary research on poor women who were using a type of female contraceptive implant in Bangladesh. Many remained uninformed of the implant, side effects and had to fight with doctors to have it removed.

Can you share a story that solidified why you got into this line of work?

Malabika: When I was working for BRAC in Bangladesh, they launched a ‘maternity waiting home’ (MWH) for pregnant women from the remote villages who were diagnosed with complications or thought to be at high risk. In 1993, Banu, a pregnant woman was admitted to the MWH. It was her ninth pregnancy and she had a history of abortion, stillbirth, and neonatal death. With four children, Banu was restless and kept talking about how her children would suffer without her. She left the waiting home after a day. Three days later, we got the news that Banu had been admitted to the hospital with obstructed labor. I ran to the hospital where I learned that the baby was dead and that Banu needed a craniotomy for delivery. Following the craniotomy, when Banu gained consciousness, she left the hospital and the nurses didn’t know where she was. We immediately went looking for her but by the time I reached Banu’s house, I received the news that Banu had passed away as she tried to walk the six kilometers. This was an extremely traumatic experience for me that made me realize the complexity and value of public health and how simply addressing the clinical need of a patient isn’t enough. 

Sabina: A life-changing moment for me that also solidified why I got into this line of work was when I spent 15 months conducting ethnographic research in slum settlements in Dhaka city, studying the lives of married and unmarried adolescent girls and their sexual and reproductive health needs. Adolescent women and their families there spoke of a constant worry that pervaded their daily lives and resulted in palpitations, insomnia, chest pains, fevers, and other ailments. I began to reflect on how their experiences challenge our dominant model of health interventions, which are biomedical and disease oriented. Do we often blame the poor for the lack of improvement in their lives, for not accessing appropriate services, or not being compliant about taking certain medications or for certain practices that are deemed as backward, without understanding their social worlds? I realized that public health needs to have a comprehensive approach to meet the needs of the most marginalized. I also learned very quickly that reproductive and sexual health for many of the urban poor adolescent women was much broader; it was the absence of social, economic and political rights that impacted created adverse health conditions. I returned to Bangladesh and joined BRAC School of Public Health. Their mission was in alignment with my growing passion to work in an institution that was committed to improving the lives of disadvantaged communities, especially poor women and children.

What’s the greatest piece of advice someone ever gave you?

Sabina: Whenever I felt intimidated by the brilliant and inspiring individuals who I met, my father, who was always very supportive of me, would say: “Sabina, 99% is aspiration, 1% is inspiration”.  Basically, that you don’t have to be brilliant to make a difference, just work hard, remain sincere, committed, and passionate about what you do, and your work will speak for itself. 

MalabikaBe curious, engage, and involve”.

Professor Sabina Faiz Rashid and Professor Malabika Sarker are two of nine women being recognized at this year’s World Health Assembly as part of the Heroines of Health honors. Learn more about the 2018 Heroines of Health here.

 

GE Healthcare and Women in Global Health are honoring nine women changing the face of healthcare

For the second year in a row, at the 71st World Health Assembly in Geneva, GE Healthcare and Women in Global Health – a movement that strives for greater gender equality in global health leadership – are joining forces to celebrate and honor nine women for their commitment and achievements in global health at this year’s Heroines of Health awards. 

Heroines of Health seeks to highlight women’s significant contribution to healthcare, as women continue to make up a comparatively small percentage of global health leadership, despite holding 70 percent of jobs in global healthcare1. Ministries of Health, particularly in developing markets, are looking to improve both access to healthcare and maternal and infant health outcomes and female leaders have been shown to be more likely to support the development of health facilities, antenatal care, and immunization programs, leading to outcomes as direct as improving infant mortality2

These awards highlight the significant contribution women have on healthcare by telling the stories of the women who work tirelessly every day to improve global health with tremendous dedication and passion.

Here are this year’s Heroines of Health:

1. She’s saving children’s lives in the face of war

Dr. Najla Al-Sonboli is the head of the Pediatric Department of Al-Sabeen Hospital for Maternity and Children; the biggest tertiary referral pediatric hospital in Yemen, receiving patients from an area with nearly 4 million people, half of whom are displaced due to the war. Najla works tirelessly to provide essential medical care to save babies and children’s lives, organizing staff to provide voluntary services with minimal resources and being responsive to new challenges.
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2. Her work changed scoliosis treatment for all children in Ireland

Claire Cahill is the co-founder of The Scoliosis Advocacy Network in Ireland, supporting over 650 families whose children live with scoliosis. The aim is to ensure that children have access to timely assessments and care and to build a community for all children who live with scoliosis In Ireland. Claire has campaigned tirelessly to see the lack of timely care recognized as a children’s rights issue.
[Read More]

 3. Anne is fighting to scale up HIV services in South Sudan

Anne Kinuthia leads a team tasked with introducing and scaling up HIV services in South Sudan and has successfully rolled out HIV testing, prevention of mother-to-child transmission, and HIV treatment services in different regions of the country. She has also supported the Ministry of Health and the South Sudan AIDS Commission to develop the necessary guidelines and strategic plan to inform HIV programming in the country.
[Read More]

4. After 30 years in global health, this woman is ensuring the future is in good hands

Professor Rose Leke’s ground-breaking research encompasses broad areas of immunology, parasitology, and global health, with a particular focus on Malaria. She has also significantly contributed to polio eradication in Africa. Rose has shown tremendous leadership in advancing gender equality and empowering women in the field of public health, science, and research.
[Read More]

5. This nurse in Kenya is making sure all families in her community get access to quality care

Christine Mataza has been the nurse in charge for Kilifi sub-county, Kenya for the past 15 years, playing a key role in Kenya’s public health system. Her supportive supervision, drive, and tireless dedication to ensure that basic care is available to those who cannot afford access to private care is a source of inspiration in her community.
[Read More]

6. Her own story of strength is helping transform the lives of women and girls

Margaret Nakanjakko is often called “mummy” in her community for the tremendous support and dedication she shows to anyone needing her help. For nearly two decades, Margaret has worked with Reproductive Health Uganda, helping to improve the lives of thousands of young Ugandans by giving them the tools they desire to avoid unintended pregnancies, stay in school and live healthy, productive lives.
[Read More]

7. One hearing aid at a time, this woman is changing the lives of thousands

Audra Renyi founded earAccess; a social enterprise that is disrupting the hearing aid industry, providing hearing services (testing for hearing loss and hearing aids) that are significantly cheaper than comparable options. earAccess has been helping provide an affordable solution to hearing loss and hearing aids for the world’s most remote communities. Audra also helped grow World Wide Hearing, an NGO focused on helping children with hearing loss.
[Read More]

8. Meet the two professors working with vulnerable populations in Bangladesh

Professor Sabina Faiz Rashid and Professor Malabika Sarker are being honored as a pair for their work with vulnerable populations in Bangladesh. Both have strong academic backgrounds; Sabina is the first female Dean of the BRAC James P Grant School of Public Health and Malabika is the first female Director of Research at the school. Their partnership and collaboration is key to their leadership and is inspiring the next generation of global health workers. Their research has offered the world invaluable learning on topics such as community health workers, sexual and reproductive health, non-communicable disease, urban health, health systems, HIV – and beyond. 
[Read More]


 

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BRAC recently organised an international level training for the transport drivers of the Bangladesh Navy, focusing on awareness building and behavioural change for safe driving. 22 drivers of the Bangladesh Navy participated in the three-day-long training at BRAC's driving school in Uttara in the capital, starting on 22 April 2018.

The course appropriately combines hands-on training and theoretical knowledge with a special focus on the former.

BRAC undertook the training titled 'Road safety and safe driving training', in short 'Surokkha', in 2014, realising that raising awareness and capacity building are critical in reducing the extremely high rate of road crashes in Bangladesh. In this initiative, BRAC has partnered with Hubert Ebner Ltd, an internationally acclaimed organisation specialising in automobile driving training and road safety issues.

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Trainees are exposed to lessons related to safety measures on the road, techniques on self-protection while driving, and desired behavioural change. For the practical competency part of the training, drivers are tested on their ability to operate safely through the ‘P-Drive’ technique.

Under BRAC's road safety programme, BRAC Driving School similarly trained over 1,200 individuals so far. It has been observed that drivers who underwent the 'Surokkha' training were reported to have displayed considerable change in their behaviour in adapting to safe driving techniques.

Bangladesh Road and Transport Authority (BRTA), Dhaka Metropolitan Police and Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority in a recent news report attributed over 90 per cent road crashes to rash driving. Experts stress awareness raising and capacity building for skilled, safe and responsible driving to reduce the excessively high rate of road crashes.

A discussion session also took place during the training in which Lieutenant Commander Sanjida Hossain and Lieutenant Commander M Enayet Hossain were present. The speakers at the discussion emphasised that the drivers should mindfully apply their learning in the training while behind the steering wheel.

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Every year in Bangladesh, 31 million people confront with legal challenges. A majority of these challenges occur when dealing with neighbours, and the most complicated ones arise when dealing with land related issues. This was among the findings presented at the launching event of the report titled ‘Justice Needs and Satisfaction in Bangladesh 2018’ at the capital’s BRAC Centre today on Wesnesday (May 9, 2018).

This research was conducted and published in collaboration between Netherlands based nonprofit The Hague Institute for Innovation of Law (HiiL), the Government of Netherlands, and BRAC. The framing questions for the research included what kind of legal dilemmas people face in Bangladesh, how they deal with those issues, who or which institutions they seek for help to resolve their concerns, and the level of responses they receive.

The study was conducted through in-depth qualitative interviews of around 6000 respondents who have randomly selected in 64 districts of the country. The study was conducted in August and September of 2017.

The chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Kazi Reazul Hoque, was present at the event as its chief guest. Also present as special guests were the head of Measuring Justice for HiiL, Dr Martin Gramatikov, and the quantitative justice data analyst of the same organisation, Martin Kind. Programme Head of BRAC's Human Rights and Legal Aid Services (HRLS) Sajeda Farisa Kabir moderated the ceremony.

The key highlights that came out from the study include: 31 million people face legal dilemmas every year. The major types of legal issues they face include, among others, issues with neighbours (40%), land disputes (29%), criminal offences (21%), family disputes (12%), money related issues (12%), social welfare (11%), consumer problems (9%), and accidents and personal injury (8%).

In terms of the severity of the issues, land related legal disputes come out on top of the rest. The severity of the problems as reported by percentage: land disputes (25%), neighbours (22%), crime (12%), family disputes (7%), money (7%), social welfare (5%), housing (4%), and accidents and personal injury (4%).

To ensure more effective dispute resolutions and ensure better justice mechanism a number of recommendations were drawn in the report, which include among others: prioritisation of legal problems to solve them, improve information delivery, design and provide affordable and accessible justice journeys for all, explore the full potential of hybrid justice mechanisms, justice innovation and digital innovation.

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Involvement of women in information and communication technology will significantly strengthen their social and economic empowerment. It will in turn have important contribution in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals particularly the SDG-5. However, the effort to meaningfully expand women's engagement in the ICT sector entails tackling a number of challenges including social and family hurdles, lack of required knowledge and skills, lack of inspiration and fear about security in the virtual space.

These observations were made today on Wednesday (25 April, 2018) in a study presentation on the obstacles for women's participation in the information and communication sector. It was presented at a discussion organised at the BRAC Centre in the capital. Shahid Uddin Akbar, chief executive officer of the Bangladesh Institute of ICT in Development (BIID), delivered the presentation. BIID conducted the study for which 164 female students studying in different universities were interviewed.

Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, speaker of Bangladesh Parliament, was present at the event as the chief guest at the event with Zunaid Ahmed Palak, state minister for ICT and lawmaker, attending as special guest. BIID, BRAC, Plan International Bangladesh and Preneurlab jointly organised the programme on the occasion of International Girls in ICT Day to be observed on 26 April.

Tania Nusrat Zaman, head of child protection, Plan International Bangladesh, gave the welcome speech. KAM Morshed, director of Advocacy for Social Change, Technology and Partnership Strengthening Unit, BRAC, and Rabiul Alam Chowdhury, head of IT, Plan International, forwarded the recommendations to widen the scopes for women's participation in the sector.

The study observes that if women's participation in the ICT sector can be increased from the current 33.7 per cent to 82 per cent, it will result in 1.6 per cent more GDP growth. This achievement would help the country make stronger strides towards its SDG targets.

In this interview-based study three major challenges for ICT education for young women have been referred which are, bringing change in the perception of young women about ICT education, lack of knowledge and skills in ICT and lack of required skills to engage in the sector.

Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury said in her speech stressed three areas of work to strengthen women's participation in ICT sector which are, undertaking focused effort to popularise the sector among women, recognise ICT as a specialised sector requiring specialised human resources and spread the message that it is a sector that will reconstruct the future.

"The government targets to ensure equal stake of men and women by 2030. To achieve the target the government has undertaken digitalisation initiatives with equal emphasis on the rural and urban areas, which will continue in future," he further said.

Emphasising IT education she suggested that 'IT scholarship' may be a convenient motivation to create awareness among students.

Zunaid Ahmed Palak said that to boost youth employment in the ICT sector the Bangladesh government will train 300 thousand youths, both men and women, by 2021. "We have reserved 20-30 per cent quota for women trainees in this initiative," he further said, pointing out that two million youth enter the country's job market every year.

Participants in the open discussion stressed updating of curriculums for ICT and digital technology education to broaden the equal opportunity space, motivating more women to actively participate in the sector and establishing women-friendly workplace.

High officials from the government and international organisations and representatives from the NGOs were also present at the event.

The International Telecommunication Union in collaboration with the United Nations has been celebrating the day on the fourth Thursday of April for some years now. Since 2011 more than 30 thousand women have been celebrating the day in 166 countries across the world.

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Press conference on World Malaria Day held

Three districts, Bandarban, Rangamati and Khagrachhari, are in considerable risk of malaria despite much has been achieved in checking the menace of the mosquito-borne disease. According to the National Malaria Elimination Programme (NECP), currently 93 per cent of the country's 29 thousand and 247 malaria patients are from these three districts. The major reasons for these districts to have most malaria patients are their hilly frontiers, profuse rain, large forest area, inadequacies in healthcare system and problems faced while reaching treatment and other healthcare services.

Experts revealed this information at a press conference today on Tuesday (24 April 2018) organised at the National Press Club in the capital. The government National Malaria Elimination Programme and BRAC organised the event on the occasion of World Malaria Day 2018 observed on 25 April.

The press conference was arranged to disseminate information on the future activities required to eliminate malaria, challenges in risk mitigation and recommendations as well as public awareness messages.

Director-general of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) Professor Dr Abul Kalam Azad spoke as the chief guest of the event. Director of the government Disease Control unit and also line director of Communicable Disease Control unit Prof. (Dr) Sanya Tahmina, director of BRAC's Communicable Diseases, WASH and DMCC programmes Dr Md Akramul Islam, and head for its communicable diseases and WASH programmes Dr Moktadir Kabir also spoke among others.

DGHS epidemiologist Dr Md Mosiqure Rahman moderated the press conference.

DGHS deputy programme manager for malaria and Aedes transmitted diseases Dr MM Aktaruzzaman delivered the keynote presentation, highlighting the country's success in eliminating malaria.

The speakers pointed out that malaria, being one of the major public health problems of Bangladesh, plague its 71 upazilas of 13 districts, namely Rangamati, Khagrachari, Bandarban, Cox's Bazar, Chattagram, Sunamganj, Moulvibazar, Sylhet, Habiganj, Netrokona, Mymensingh, Sherpur and Kurigram.

It also mentioned that malarial deaths have much reduced lately, thanks to the collaborative efforts and effective measures by the government and non-governmental actors. While in 2014, 45 patients succumbed to the infection, in 2015 the number fell to only 9 (nine). However, 2016 saw a little rise in the number of deaths at 17, to drop again in 2017 to 13.

Professor Dr Abul Kalam Azad said, "Our goal is to eliminate malaria completely from Bangladesh by 2030. To achieve this goal we are working to prevent the disease from occurring in eight among the 13 vulnerable districts, while make sure that 51 districts are entirely free from malaria."

Prof.(Dr) Sanya Tahmina said, "We have already produced a guideline for the travellers to the hilly regions that will help reduce their risk to contract malaria." The government has also undertaken an initiative to distribute 333 thousand mosquito nets to the hilly regions and among the Rohingya people who have taken refuge in Cox's Bazar after being forcibly evicted from Myanmar, she further said.

Dr Md Akramul Islam said, "As the world's largest non-governmental actor BRAC is resolutely extending the malaria elimination programme in the camps sheltering the Rohingyas."

The keynote presentation also highlighted some of the major challenges for malaria elimination: Shortage of physicians and healthcare professionals in the remote areas limiting the capacity for treatment and healthcare service delivery, people's increased mobility, increased risk of malarial infection in the border areas and climate change impacts.

To observe World Malaria Day 2018 a parade will be organised tomorrow on Wednesday, starting from Zero Point in the capital to end at CIRDAP. A discussion session will follow at 11am at the CIRDAP auditorium. Health and family welfare minister and lawmaker Md Nasim will be present at the discussion as the chief guest.

The theme of World Malaria Day 2018 is "Ready to beat malaria".

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The BRAC Migration Media Award, held on 18 April, recognised the contributions made by journalists in protecting the rights of migrants and their families. The award ceremony was held in BRAC Centre, announcing winners under six categories, including national and local print newspapers, television, radio, online news sites and photography.

In the national newspaper category, the first winner was Abu Jar Ansar Uddin Ahammed of Samakal. The second prize was awarded to Adil Sakhawat from Dhaka Tribune, and the third to Muhammad Wasim Uddin Bhuiyan from New Age.

In the local news category, the winner was Md Kamrul Islam of Dainik Jalalabad. In television reporting, the first winner was Ashish Kumar Sarkar of Somoy Television, and the second winner was Jhumar Bari of Ekattor TV, and the third winner was Mashreq Rahat of Masranga Television.

In the radio category, the winner was Saleh Noman of Radio Today.

In the online news category, the first winner was Md Fazlur Rahman of Dhaka Tribune. The second winner was Md Kawsar Azam of thereport24.com, and the third winner was Jasmine Akhter of Bannernews.

For the first time, we introduced the category of photography to recognise the contribution of photojournalists. The first winner was Saiful Islam Ronny, and in second was Abdus Salam of Prothom Alo. The third winner was Mahmud Hossain Apu of Al Jazeera and Dhaka Tribune.

The Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister, Md Nurul Islam was the chief guest at the event, while writer and journalist, Anisul Huq joined as the main speaker. BRAC’s executive director, Dr Muhammad Musa, deputy country representative of IOM, Abdusattar Esoev, director general of the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET), Md Selim Reza, BRAC’s senior director, Asif Saleh, and head of BRAC’s migration programme, Shariful Islam Hasan were also present at the event.

The minister of Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment said, "BRAC's work in the migration sector is commendable. All the information we receive come from these journalists. This is an exceptional initiative to recognise the efforts of those journalists who cover the most urgent issues on migration. We are all working so that people can go abroad safely and properly.”

Journalist and writer Anisul Haque said, "Today there are more than one billion people abroad. More people will go abroad in the next few years. Expatriate income is now the biggest driving force in the economy of Bangladesh." Regarding the role of journalists, he said, "The media is working towards creating awareness, as well as contributing towards reshaping policies."

The director general of BMET, M Selim Reza said, "We are now focusing more on the skills of migrants. The demand for Bangladeshi workers abroad is also increasing.”

The deputy country representative of the International Organisation of Migration, Abusattar Esoev said, "We are working in cooperation with the government and non-government organisations, such as the United Nations immigration agency. This cooperation will continue.”

Asif Saleh, BRAC’s senior director said, “We can ensure good governance in this sector if the government and non-government organisations work together in alliance. We can send people abroad in a safe and efficient way.”

Presenting the keynote paper on the role of media in protecting the rights of immigrants was Shariful Islam Hasan, head of BRAC’s migration programme.

Professor Robayet Ferdous of the Mass Communication and Journalism Department of Dhaka University was present on this occasion, along with KM Ali Reza, deputy head of Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry; Shahnaz Munni, chief news editor of News24; photojournalist Pavel Rahman, and Sarwat Binte Islam, senior programme manager of Manusher Jonno Foundation.

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Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder and chairperson of BRAC, has been awarded the prestigious 2018 LEGO Prize in recognition of his extraordinary contribution towards improving children's lives and their opportunities to play, learn and develop.

Thomas Kirk Kristiansen, chairman of the board of Lego Foundation, handed over the prize to Sir Fazle at an event last evening (Tuesday 10 April 2018) in Denmark.

The LEGO Foundation, a Danish corporate foundation, has been awarding this prize since 1985 to individuals and organisations who are committed to the lives of children and are champions of learning through play.

The prize is accompanied by a cash award of USD 100,000, which will be used to strengthen BRAC’s support for children living with neuro-developmental disabilities and their families.

From the beginning of his career and the establishment of BRAC, Sir Fazle has viewed education as a crucial catalyst for change. He firmly believes that it is about more than just schools and books, and constant innovation is a cornerstone of BRAC’s approach. Since launching its non-formal education programme in Bangladesh in 1985, more than 11 million children have graduated from BRAC’s primary and pre-primary schools.

BRAC has set up more than 1,400 play-based early childhood development centres across Bangladesh, Tanzania and Uganda, where close to 40,000 children aged 1 to 5 years are presently enrolled. Of these, some 1,200 centres known as 'Khelar Jogot' (‘World of Play’ in English) are in Bangladesh. In these centres, pre-school children have access to age-appropriate play materials, a play-based curriculum, and play spaces that ensure their holistic development.

“It is an honour to receive the esteemed LEGO Prize. Every child deserves the opportunity to grow and develop. This generous financial contribution will support the holistic development of an underserved group of children in Bangladesh with special needs,” said Sir Fazle Hasan Abed.

“At BRAC, we pride ourselves on taking an innovative approach to early childhood development and education and share the LEGO Foundation’s passion for learning through play. Through our Play Lab programme, we have seen first-hand the power it can have in a child’s development,” he added.

Finnish educator and scholar Pasi Sahlberg, educationist and president of Reggio Children Carla Rinaldi, and founder of Right To Play International Johann Koss are among the earlier winners of the LEGO Prize.

In addition to its early childhood development centres, BRAC operates some 10,000 pre-primary schools, 3,200 non-formal primary schools, 8,700 primary schools, and a university. BRAC also provides technical support to 3,846 primary schools.

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Focus on building skills workforce to achieve SDG target

Nearly 87 percent of the country’s total workforce are involved in farming, small businesses and other forms of informal occupation. A large segment of the workforce is not being properly utilised in the skilled sectors. Many of these people are unable to enter the formal employment sector due to a lack of demanded professional skills and knowledge. This is a considerable barrier for the entire country in terms of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.

These insights were revealed at the inauguration ceremony for BRAC Institute of Skills Development held in the capital’s Uttara area today, 10th April 2018. The Honourable Minister of Education, Nurul Islam Nahid MP inaugurated the event as the chief guest.

Among the other guests present were Alfaz Hossain, Project Director at the Bureau of Non-Formal Education, ABM Korshed Alam, Chief Executive Officer of National Skill Development Council Secretariat, Beatrice Kaldun, Head of UNESCO Dhaka Office, Dr. Muhammad Musa, Executive Director of BRAC. BRAC’s Senior Director for Communications, Strategy and Empowerment, Asif Saleh, gave presentation on the skills context in Bangladesh.

It was mentioned in the presentation that more than 2 million people are entering the workforce every year in Bangladesh. The number of people readily seeking employment is estimated to rise up to 76 million by the year 2025 in Bangladesh. With almost 60 percent of the current population entering the workforce being 30 years and younger, close to 40 percent of these young people are being left unskilled and unemployed. To tackle these issues with innovative and impactful interventions, BRAC launched the Skills Development Programme in 2015. BRAC Institute of Skills Development is starting its journey as an extension and scaled up model of the programme.

BRAC-ISD provides market driven skills training covering a wide range of sectors – from information technology to hospitality and tourism. Learners receive certification that is nationally accredited by the Bangladesh Technical Education Board as well as internationally by City & Guilds. After graduating, BRAC-ISD also supports its learners to secure full-time employment.

Outside of Dhaka, BRAC-ISD operates training centres in Narayanganj, Pabna, Manikganj, Rangpur, Magura, Cumilla, Cox’s Bazar and Chattogram.

Nurul Islam Nahid MP said, "education is our utmost priority. But technical skills education also needs considerable attention. However, a big challenge in this field is changing social perceptions surrounding it. Most of our people strongly hold the belief that acquiring a higher education degree is the gold standard to landing decent employment. Some of the other barriers to proliferation of skill based education include interest from women to get involved and shortage of trained instructors."

He also added, "currently we have 49 polytechnic colleges across the country that offer four-year long programmes. With the aim of enhancing skilled workforce, the Government is also planning to establish 38 more polytechnic institutes." The Minister stressed on the fact that institutional training should focus more on modern methods instead of outdated practices.

Beatric Kaldun stated, "A significant emphasis is being placed on creating long-term decent employment opportunities to meet the targets set in SDG 8. From today's discussion it is clear to me that a large portion of people in Bangladesh entering the workforce are below 30 years of age. It is not enough to just give them skills training, but rather to ensure that the training given fulfills the needs of the market."

Dr. Musa also emphasised on improving the skills development scenario and better quality training to ensure greater opportunities both locally and abroad.

To know more about BRAC ISD click here.

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BRAC received a contribution of USD 1.5 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in November 2017 to build its preparedness and emergency response capacity in BRAC International’s head office, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Myanmar. BRAC will employ a community-based approach to assist women, children, youth and local government representatives to build resilience against disasters.

 

Sir Fazle Hasan Abed shared that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been a key partner in building the emergency response capacity of BRAC. The partnership becomes stronger with this fund commitment. He also mentioned that right now, we are facing the greatest conflict around the world since the Second World War: the crises in Syria and South Sudan require large-scale humanitarian responses, so we have to work not only for Bangladesh, but also for other countries. BRAC International is now focusing on building capacity and preparedness in order to be able to respond effectively in humanitarian emergencies.

 

BRAC has developed the capacity of staff working in Bangladesh for the last 10 years, providing rapid humanitarian assistance to help more than 2 million people around the world recover from disasters. As Sir Fazle Hasan Abed said, “As we live and work in disaster-prone environments, we need to build our capacity to understand the nature of disasters and how to act in emergency situations, keeping BRAC’s principles and values in mind, and act accordingly".

 

Researchers have shown that a dollar invested in building local preparedness reduces at least eight dollars in losses from disasters. Studies have shown that the preparedness approach is highly effective and has positive long-term impacts. The funding will allow BRAC to develop a model of disaster preparedness in Sierra Leone, Uganda and Myanmar to strengthen localisation, an approach that focuses on community ownership. The localisation agenda was recognised at the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) in 2016 and received funding commitments from development partners, foundations, international organisations, UN and philanthropists. BRAC aims to build the resilience capacity of six local governments, six schools and six communities using this model and plans to replicate it in other countries.

 

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