Legal Aid Clinics
In 1998, HRLS instigated its Legal Aid component in order to provide legal support and make the government courts accessible to the poor and destitute. Through its 400 plus nationwide legal aid clinics, which is the first port of call for those seeking legal redressal, HRLS's legal aid initiative has nurtured an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanism. It has worked towards making legal offices, courts, and counsels, more transparent in the delivery of equitable justice, spread gender awareness, and promoted a unique human rights based culture for its clients. In this way, our programme has harmonised its legal aid component with the legal literacy module to create the momentum to improve legal legislation and the judicial system.
Under the leadership of dynamic field personnel, the HRLS programme utilises a vast network of communities and proactive partners to detect, handle, and report, human rights violations. Today HRLS continues to provide holistic legal aid and support services across the country.
Fostering Human Rights Lawyering
Human Rights and Legal Education (HRLE) course
The 22-day curriculum for the HRLE class has been updated and shortened to a 12-day course. It is presently being implemented with a paradigm shift from legal literacy to one of rights articulation. The HRLE module aims to improve understanding of the judicial system and will ultimately influence mass awareness.
Odhikar Bastobaiyon Committees (OBCs)
Following the HRLE course, three graduates are chosen from each class to form an Odhikar Bastobaiyon Committees (OBC). By acting as observers in the community, these representatives help in conflict mediation and ensure access to legal resources. The OBC further raises awareness about legal rights and seeks to inform village courts of existing laws.
Shebikas (known in English as volunteers) or ‘Barefoot Lawyers’ impart legal literacy to women across multiple villages by teaching the HRLE course. Shebikas establish social networks within the community; they function as crucial leaders and access points making it easier for them to make legal referrals by supporting and rescuing survivors of human rights violations. Hence, the barefoot lawyers ensure sustainable legal representation. Their empowering work earns them respect within the community. With increased points of contact via the shebikas, rural women can stay connected to the legal system and move one step forward to pursuing formal and informal legal services on their own accord. They operate on a 3P model of ‘Prevent-Protest-Protect’ and are usually the initial contact points in their communities when human rights violations occur.
Odhikar Shebis are trained community leaders who work on a broad scale to deflate the legal process and make it easier for clients to attain justice. These cadres of shebis primarily assist clients in affirming birth, death, marriage, and divorce registration and are also trained in land measurement with theoretical know-how on land surveying. Therefore, this knowledge equips them with a source of income and the insight to help poor and underprivileged people in land related conflicts.
BRAC’s human rights and legal aid services programme is dedicated to protecting and promoting human rights of the poor and marginalised through legal empowerment.
The blend of legal literacy initiatives with comprehensive legal aid services throughout the country helps spread awareness needed to mobilise communities to raise their voices against injustices, discrimination and exploitation – whether at the individual or collective level. Our programme creates an enabling environment for the poor and marginalised to seek equitable justice through formal and informal systems.
Our grassroots volunteers are drivers of our rights awareness raising efforts countrywide.
HRLS operates over 400 legal aid clinics in 61 of 64 districts across Bangladesh and is the largest NGO-led legal aid programme in the world. Our work is premised on a rights based approach to human development.
The programme’s activities include legal education, legal aid service provision via Legal Aid Clinics, which includes an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanism, rescue operational support, counselling, and legal referrals, staff training and capacity building.
Our ‘Barefoot Lawyers’ impart legal literacy and spur sustainable social change by raising awareness and informing people of their rights. They operate on a 3P model of ‘Prevent-Protest-Protect’ and are usually the initial contact points in their communities when human rights violations occur.
Networking and strengthening partnerships is amongst our core areas of work. Alongside providing direct service, with partner support from like-minded legal aid and human rights institutions, HRLS is able to assist in the conduction of Writ Petitions, and Public Interest Litigations (PILs). In addition, we also engage in knowledge-generating sessions to collaboratively achieve mutual strategies that directly impact the lives of vulnerable communities.
"BRAC’s work in human rights and legal aid services is one of the most impressive large scale legal aid programmes in the world today. A passion for justice is felt throughout the BRAC team. But most importantly, when travelling with BRAC, you realise that clients trust BRAC completely as a professional organisation: they share their stories readily without fear of reprisal, and while expecting that their grievances will finally be heard. Not only are they heard, but these cases are mediated and adjudicated".
- Stephanie Cohn Rupp
Investments Omidyar Network
Resolving judicial issues
BRAC plans to initiate a countrywide Safe Women Migration programme. BRAC’s future plan also includes intensive safe migration facilitation and advocacy initiatives at all 64 upazillas to ensure migration friendly environment as well as long term benefits for the migrant workers.
The goal of this programme is to ensure improved livelihood of Bangladeshi migrant workers and their family members through human rights promotion and protection.
• To ensure safe migration of Bangladeshi migrant workers through awareness building and education
• To reduce social vulnerabilities of migrants and their family members through increased access to essential information and services
• To facilitate socioeconomic reintegration of returnee migrant workers
• To influence migration policy and procedures through advocacy, networking and media mobilisation
• To promote innovation and best practices for improving safe migration from Bangladesh
Development of hybrid crop varieties
Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world where the demand for food is increasing every day. The agricultural land is decreasing due to various reasons such as urbanisation, industrialisation, rural housing, river erosion, etc. To achieve food security, we seek to increase food production through the development and cultivation of hybrid varieties of different crops.
BRAC has initiated research and development activities on hybrid rice and maize since the inception of hybrid rice research and development activities in Bangladesh. It has also introduced parent materials from China and evaluated it under Bangladesh’s conditions. Until 2010, BRAC has released six hybrid rice varieties: HB 09, Jagoran, Shakti, Shakti 2, Alloran and Sathi. In addition, three hybrid maize and eight vegetable varieties were also developed and approved for commercial cultivation by the National Seed Board. Out of the three hybrid maize, one is the quality protein maize (QPM). Hybrid seeds development programme will continue under AFSP. Due to the rapid development of poultry and fishery industries in the country, the demand for maize cultivation has escalated sharply. This demand can be fulfilled by growing hybrid maize. The potential yield and production of hybrid maize is much higher than that of rice and wheat. Currently, government organisations and NGOs are producing over 1.3 million tons of maize every year, and most of the hybrid seeds are produced from the imported parent materials from abroad.
Development of inbred crop varieties
Elite germplasm of cultivated crops having special characteristics of agronomic interest are collected from the relevant technology centres of the world to be preserved. Observational agronomic trials are being conducted on the germplasm evaluation and after screening, only the promising lines with specific agronomic traits are identified as genetic resources. These will be used for hybridisation to develop new varieties. Cross-breeding programmes will be continued to create promising varieties with specific agronomic traits of interest such as potential for high-yield and resistance to biotic and abiotic stress conditions.
Huge numbers of variability are going to be created through hybridisation and/or induced mutation breeding techniques using gamma irradiation or chemical mutagens like ethyl methane sulphonate (EMS) or sodium azide. Early maturing and stress-tolerant (salinity, drought and submergence) lines are going to be selected to develop early maturing varieties (100 days) with moderate to complete resistance to pest and diseases along with high-yield potential.
Routine observation yield trial (OYT), advance yield trial (AYT), zonal yield trial (ZYT) and rapid generation advance trial (RGAT) will be conducted through farmers' participatory approach in the farmers' fields. New genotypes or advance lines will be tested. Varieties of selections will then be done on the basis of demand and location.
Plant biotechnological research
BRAC has a sophisticated plant biotechnology laboratory to produce disease-free plantlets through micro-propagation of various crops, using tissue culture, anther culture and other advanced techniques for rapid multiplication. The laboratory is associated with six green houses for hardening in-vitro plantlets before distributing the seedlings in the field, as well as for off-season seedling production to fulfil the increasing demand. At present, the laboratory is being used for producing plantlets of potato, banana, medicinal plants, fruits and some other ornamental plants like flowers and cacti.
Low-cost technologies are being developed for the establishment of protocol for micro-propagation of crop plants. This is for the purpose of rapid generation advance (RGA) of crops like vegetables, potato, banana, grape, papaya, stevia, flowers, cacti etc. with specific characters, through tissue culture, anther culture and other advanced bio-technological approaches.
On-farm conservation of biodiversity
Local and exotic varieties with special premium quality and nutritional characteristics (fine and coarse grain) and resistant to biotic and abiotic stresses of different crops are going to be grown and maintained under field conditions. For the purpose of long-term conservation of the biodiversity of genetic resources, on-farm trials are going to be conducted with the high profile elite lines. Steps will be taken through the implementation of the project for the following reasons:
Approximately 113 aromatic and 68 non-aromatic rice varieties are maintained for rice biodiversity conservation at BRAC’s agriculture research and development centre in Gazipur. This has also increased the diverse genetic pool for future genetic gain from these varieties.
Conducting agronomic experiments
Agronomic experiments and other field trials are going to be conducted for evaluation, generation advancement and stabilisation of selected lines/varieties of crops. Experiments will be conducted at different agro-ecological zones of Bangladesh to evaluate agronomic performance in terms of yield and other relevant traits of interest. Reaction to diseases and pest incidences with the varieties/advance lines will be properly addressed at the time of the evaluation trials. Experiments will also be conducted to validate and scale up the agricultural production technologies at farmers' fields.
Innovative research on agronomic management of different hybrid and inbred varieties will continue to advance the extension of hybrid and high-yielding varieties in unfavourable environments.
Aquaculture in gher and seasonal floodplains
Gher, or fish enclosures are predominantly used in polder areas of south-western parts of Bangladesh for aquaculture. BRAC is implementing development activities to improve the productivity of gher through better management of resources. Improved production packages are extended to participants through participatory demonstration and training. Diversified use of the gher through rice-fish culture, dyke farming (cultivating vegetables and fruits on each side of the gher) is also demonstrated to maximise the profit and improve livelihood. The year-round activities in gher aquaculture are now gaining popularity in small households in the polder areas of Bangladesh.
BRAC has taken the initiative to utilise large, seasonal floodplains for fish production through a community-based approach. This is aimed at bringing the large proportion of fallow waterbodies under production, fingerlings stocking of indigenous and exotic species at appropriate densities, meeting the protein demand, and engaging communities towards a sustainable production system. People from areas adjacent to a water body have been encouraged to form a group, which will be responsible for fisheries. This approach has been proven as socially acceptable and economically profitable, helping to boost household income and fish consumption.
Similarly, indigenous fish species, particularly the smaller ones, are on the verge of extinction due to various natural and man-made interventions. BRAC took initiatives to conserve the small, indigenous fish species through community-based fisheries in the seasonal floodplains of Bangladesh.
Performance of DT-NERICA and GSR
Performance of hybrid and inbred rice
Performance of newly bred IRRI Hybrid Rice
Performance of Sub Tolerant Rice
Guidelines for Dry Seeded Rice (DSR) in Bangladesh (English)
Guidelines for Dry Seeded Rice (DSR) in Bangladesh (Bangla)
Technology validation and extension:
AFSP is trying to bring available and newly developed agricultural technologies to the farmers’ fields. Our approach is to disseminate agricultural technologies through large-scale block demonstration involving farmers’ participation. Our technology dissemination strategy is to convert single-crop areas into double to triple-cropped areas, introducing stress-tolerant crops and fish varieties to the cropping systems, and accommodating high-value non-rice crops in the rice-based cropping systems using shorter maturing rice varieties.
We organise groups of 40-50 marginal farmers and provide them partial grants to cultivate and use modern varieties of crops and fish along with new production technologies and practices. Our extension staff provides them with adequate training and up-to-date information on achieving better production. Presently, we are operating our extension activities at 51 sub-districts of 12 districts in Bangladesh. Most of the operational sites are disaster and stress-prone areas of the country. We have reached out to 88,000 farmers with improved technologies by the year 2015.
Agricultural extension services are provided through our trained extension personnel, comprising a diverse group of agronomists, technical assistants and aquaculture experts. We also take advice and expertise from government-owned research and extension institutions to achieve our objectives of technology extension to the farmers’ fields.
Every year in Bangladesh, agricultural land is reduced by one per cent, while the population increases by 1.9 million. In addition, the country suffers from consistent climate threats, such as cyclones, floods, rising water levels, drought and river erosion. This results in damaged harvests and more landless and unemployed people, contributing to the rise of food prices and creating challenges in ensuring food security. We address these challenges in accordance with the government’s national agriculture policy. Our work directly addresses the sustainable development goals of ending hunger by achieving food, security, improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture. Our work directly links to the goal of combating climate change and its impacts.
BRAC’s agriculture and food security programme is working with agricultural research, development and extension activities. BRAC’s value-chain approach to agricultural development stands as a successful example, and is now being replicated in other developing countries. It plays an important role in attaining self-sufficiency in food production in Bangladesh. The ultimate goal of the programme is to enhance food security, improve nutrition and livelihoods. This is done through agricultural research and development, technology validation and adoption of appropriate climate-resilient agricultural technology. The programme has created significant impact to increase crop and fish production by research and extension activities in the northern and southern parts of Bangladesh. It has also promoted integrated agricultural practices in gher, or fish enclosures, and community-based culture fishery in seasonal floodplains to maximise the profit and improve livelihood, meet the protein demand, and to engage communities towards a sustainable production system.
Two agricultural research and development centres at Gazipur and Bogra have been established. Applied research to develop high-yielding varieties and better crop management are the key objectives.. Presently, the focus is on rice, maize, potato, pulse, oilseed and vegetables research including the development of inbreeds and hybrid varieties. Several advanced breeding lines of rice have been developed for quality grain, high-yield and short-growth duration and are ready to be released as new varieties. Newly developed genotypes are being demonstrated in the farmers’ fields in different drought, submergence and saline-prone areas of the country.
The combination of our efforts results in enhanced livelihood and increased food production in the country, which in turn ensures food security and progress towards achieving the sustainable development goals.
Directorate-General for International Cooperation (DGIS), Government of the Netherlands / Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (EKN)
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF)
Department for International Development (DFID), Government of the UK and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Australian Government under the strategic partnership arrangement (SPA)
The first phase of BRAC’s WASH programme, operating in 150 sub-districts (now 152, due to two sub-districts each being split in half in 2013), was funded by the government of the Netherlands government for five years. The second phase of the programme (WASH II), which targets more isolated populations in an additional 25 sub-districts along with the original 150, is funded by the Netherlands government, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Through the support of the SPA, the programme started work in 73 additional sub-districts in 2012.
In 2014, charity: water, a non-profit organization based in New York City, USA, started funding work in 250 secondary schools in rural areas of Chittagong and Khulna to provide separate boys’ and girls’ latrines and safe drinking water supply for the students. Also in 2014, Splash, an international NGO based in Seattle, USA, started working with BRAC WASH in urban schools to provide safe water, sanitation and hygiene education among the poorest children in Dhaka and Chittagong cities.
IRC is an international think-and-do tank that works with governments, NGOs, entrepreneurs and people around the world to find long-term solutions to the global crisis in water, sanitation and hygiene services. At the heart of its mission is the aim to move from short-term interventions to sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene services.
IRC has been a BRAC WASH partner since the programme began in 2006. The collaboration has evolved into a partnership based on mutual trust and respect between the two groups, their roles and input. IRC is currently contributing to several aspects of the BRAC WASH programme, including monitoring and documentation.
World Toilet Organization
Founded in 2001, the World Toilet Organization (WTO) is a non-profit committed to improving toilet and sanitation conditions worldwide. WTO empowers individuals through education, training and building local marketplace opportunities to advocate for clean and safe sanitation facilities in their communities. Breaking the silence on the sanitation crisis is at the heart of WTO's efforts. BRAC WASH and WTO became partners in 2013.
American Standard & RFL Plastics Limited
In 2013, the plumbing-fixture company, American Standard, joined forces with BRAC and other NGOs to research, develop, and distribute the SaTo pan – a pioneering sanitary toilet pan that is easy to use and inexpensive to produce. The aim of the project was to create a pan which incorporates local bathroom practices, and effectively reduces the transmission of diseases. The pans are now locally produced by RFL Plastics, and provided at a subsidized cost for BRAC WASH supported rural sanitation centres.
Toilet Board Coalition
BRAC is a member of the Toilet Board Coalition, which is a global, business-led coalition of leading companies, investors, sanitation experts and non-profit organisations who have come together to accelerate innovative market-based solutions that deliver sanitation at scale, to those who need it most.
BRAC WASH is member of several other alliances that are active in the sector:
National Sanitation Task Force (Bangladesh)
Policy Support Unit (Bangladesh)
Local Consultative Group Bangladesh (LGC)
WatSan Committee at district, sub-district and union levels
Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC)
Freshwater Action Network (FANSA BD)
Gender and Water Alliance (GWA)
Innovative activities have been undertaken to develop a sustainable and scalable model of operation that delivers cost-effective sanitation services and technology. BRAC WASH looks into new horizons and focuses on innovation and development of learning tools to further improve the effectiveness and efficiency of its activities. The programme has taken on several different action research projects in this regard.
Reuse of faecal sludge as organic fertiliser
All over Bangladesh pit latrines are filling up, and the waste is being dumped unsystematically. The WASH programme has taken on this challenge in order to avert a probable environmental issue resulting from it. A team from the programme has been exploring various ways to solve this matter. The most reasonable solution is reusing the pit content as organic fertiliser. The study has covered seven climatic zones of Bangladesh, and field trials have been conducted with vegetables and rice paddy to see if it is suitable for human consumption.
Microbiological analysis of the organic fertiliser was conducted in the laboratory to minimise risk of cross-contamination. In addition, essential nutrient elements have been tested in the laboratory to determine its quality and standard. Despite the lack of laboratory facilities in Bangladesh, the research team developed the testing protocol and overcame the challenges by meeting both national and WHO standards.
The key objective of this project is to identify and develop micro-entrepreneurship skills for the marketing of organic fertiliser from human faecal waste as a business model. To develop the compost business model, the project conducted surveys for market analysis to assess the entrepreneurial skills of people in rural areas and the demand for compost, in order to sell them to local farmers. Since national and WHO standards have been met, the project is going to start entrepreneurship upon approval from the concerned licensing authority.
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Feasibility study on the bioenergy project
An action research bio-energy project (Action Research on Commercially Viable Biogas System Using Fecal Sludge and other Agricultural Residues in Bangladesh) was carried out by Biosol Energy Limited on behalf of BRAC WASH. The objective was to test the commercial viability of producing biogas and organic fertilizer from faecal sludge on a large scale. Researchers tested the collection procedures for faecal sludge through the use of vacutugs in three different sub-districts of Bogra, in northern Bangladesh. It also piloted the collection of chicken manure and corn stovers. The study checked the feasability of producing 400kW of energy and estimated that it would be profitable to run a plant on that.
To ensure that customers have access to low-cost, good quality sanitation products in rural areas, especially the more remote ones, BRAC WASH undertook supply chain management. The main purpose of this chain is to facilitate better functioning of the RSCs. These are usually the primary sources of sanitation materials in rural Bangladesh. Sanitation entrepreneurs are provided with training, which emphasises on the quality of production, as well as building their capacity by focusing on book keeping, administration and marketing skills. Beyond that, much effort is taken to strengthen linkages between communities and RSCs as well as the local government institutions (LGIs).
The availability of sanitation entrepreneurs is crucial for an effective and sustainable programme. Thus supply chain analysis has been put in place to identify gaps, and to test current and future demands. It is a mechanism to check if the supply meets demand and prepare policies accordingly.
Qualitative information system
In order to see the real impact of the WASH programme, BRAC and IRC have jointly developed and applied the qualitative information system (QIS) to measure the progress achieved in terms of outcomes. QIS quantifies qualitative process indicators, such as participation and inclusiveness, and outcome indicators, such as behavioural change, with the help of progressive scales (or ‘ladders’). Each step on the ladder has a short description, called a mini-scenario, which describes the situation for a particular score. The data is collected on smartphones by trained quality controllers. Further information on QIS is available here.
WASHCost is a way for BRAC WASH to analyse expenditures, service delivery, and the outcomes achieved as a result of those services. It allows for a financial sustainability check by taking into account all aspects of a service, from initial construction to ongoing maintenance and eventual replacement. This approach helps to improve targeting future investments by assessing past performances. Moreover, it is a way to monitor the services delivered over time, thus resulting in a better value for money. Life cycle cost approach (LCCA) is a part of WASHCost project; it helps to calculate the life span and a better understanding of each service.
Identifying the sustainable and affordable water source(s) is one of the main objectives of this study. Water collection is one of the major challenges due to the distance of water source. Since rural areas are rapidly adopting an urban setup, the necessity of safe drinking water is also increasing. It has therefore, become an urgent need to understand the true costs (capital expenditure, recurrent expenditure, capital maintenance expenditure) of existing water sources.
Ensuring proper sanitation in rural schools is still a challenge. Access to safe water and provision of proper sanitation in schools are as important to acquire a quality education as books and pencils. Moreover, schools are an excellent platform for hygiene education and the learning of overall proper hygiene practices, such as handwashing, drinking safe water, and using hygienic latrines. BRAC WASH promotes hygiene education in all the schools in the programme’s areas. Additionally, the programme helps provide separate latrines for girls in secondary schools, since most girls reach their menstruating age during this time. For better management and maintenance of the facilities, school WASH committees and student brigades work in more than 5,600 secondary schools. Additionally, the schools are encouraged to create a fund to meet water and sanitation-related expenses.
Separate sanitation facilities for girls
The lack of separate latrines for girls and menstrual hygiene facilities in secondary schools were major factors in disproportionate rate of absence and dropout of adolescent girls. To address this issue, WASH aims to convince the secondary school authorities to provide separate latrines that have adequate water and waste disposal facilities for girls. As a result, more than 5,600 secondary schools throughout Bangladesh have constructed separate toilet facilities for girls since 2008. These schools have two toilets and washbasins which were installed through a cost-sharing basis.
Teachers at these schools hold regular sessions on menstrual hygiene, which were initially conducted by the programme staff. Sanitary napkins are now kept in schools in case of emergencies and girls can use them whenever necessary. They can also purchase BRAC’s sanitary napkins from their teachers, at a much lower cost than the commercially branded products. Moreover, aside from the cost difference, BRAC has found that many girls are more comfortable with buying napkins from the school rather than at the market.
Boys’ latrines and other new initiatives
Identifying the need for boys’ latrines in schools as well, BRAC WASH recently started providing separate latrines for boys along with pipe water systems in schools in rural areas. The programme has also started working in 71 urban schools to provide safe water, sanitation and hygiene education for the poorest children in the cities of Dhaka and Chittagong.
School WASH committee
To ensure sustainability of the WASH facilities in schools, school WASH committees comprised of 14 members are formed in each school, with the headmaster as chairperson and a female teacher as member secretary. In order to represent all stakeholders, members include teachers, parents, representatives from the school management committee, and the school cleaner. The committee meets on a monthly or a bimonthly basis to review activities, including latrine use and maintenance. The overall responsibility of the committee is managing, maintaining and mobilising funds for the school’s sanitation.
In addition to the school WASH committees, student brigades are established in these schools for better management and maintenance of the facilities. Each student brigade consists of 24 students, selected from classes 6 to 9. They receive a three-day long residential training along with their teachers. Student brigades are responsible for proper usage and maintenance of latrines as well as the overall cleanliness of the school premises. They also carry out WASH promotion activities with full participation from other students.
Training of teachers and hygiene lessons
In order to sustain good hygiene practices, WASH conducts hygiene sessions through school teachers on a monthly basis. One male and one female teacher from each school are trained on WASH activities and teaching methodology. The teachers are provided with specially designed flip charts and posters in order to educate their students on health and hygiene issues. They develop an action plan for effective implementation of and follow-up on WASH activities, and are assisted by BRAC’s WASH staff when required.
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