BRAC Community Empowerment Programme (CEP) aims at achieving socio-political empowerment of the rural poor, particularly women, by enabling them to build, secure and use socio-political assets to improve their wellbeing, exercise their rights, take advantage of new opportunities and play a more active role in public life. We are directly reaching nearly one million rural women through a set of programmatic interventions in the areas of:
We organise rural communities through democratic grassroots institutions called polli shomaj (a ward-level institution of poor women). Through these platforms, we create awareness and build capacity for women's political participation and collective action against social injustice and exploitation. We use community media such as popular theatre and community radio to disseminate information to rural communities and mobilise them on a wide range of issues that affect their lives. At the same time, we engage with the local government to improve local governance through capacity building and institutional strengthening, gender sensitising, establishing forums of elected representatives who are women, and advocacy initiatives. Our objective is to help the local government become more transparent and responsive to the needs of the poor. We address violence against women through awareness raising andsupport services for victims. We increasingly emphasise on the engagement of men in the process of women's empowerment and to prevent violence against women.
In 2011, HRLS partnered with Omidyar Network, a philanthropic investment firm and BRAC USA to pilot a new property rights initiative (PRI). In this project, we have so far developed a revised human rights and legal education curriculum which shifts the paradigm from a purely legal literacy focus to one of rights articulation, centred on property rights. We have also trained 192 land measurers, or land entrepreneurs, who provide services in the form of boundary determination, possession confirmation, partitioning, and small plot assessments. The Property Rights Initiative is now being scaled up in four more districts across Bangladesh.
Ministry of Women and Children
Citizen’s Initiatives Against Domestic Violence
In 2010, HRLS joined The Citizen’s Initiatives against Domestic Violence, a group of like-minded organisations responsible for the drafting of the Domestic Violence (Protection and Prevention) Act, 2010. The rules will also apply to the implementation of this Act in 2011. This is an on-going process which has progressed to the drafting and consultation process of the above law and Rules.
Membership to Distract Legal Aid Committees (DLAC) and National Legal Aid Services Organisation
In 2011, HRLS joined the network of the government administered District Legal Aid Committee (DLAC) through the National Legal Aid Services Organisation (NLASO). HRLS currently holds a combined membership and observership status to this committee across Bangladesh. Through this role, the programme will assist the government to enhance its capacity in providing legal aid services in Bangladesh’s 61 districts, which comprises HRLS coverage areas. HRLS collaboratively engages itself in the promotion of this committee’s work via various communications materials.
Improvement of the Real Situation of Overcrowding in Prisons (IRSOP)
Ministry of Home Affairs
In February 2009, the HRLS programme, as an implementation partner, piloted a project on the criminal justice system and prison reform, designed to help overcome the problem of overcrowding in the Dhaka Central Jail and Kashimpur Central Jails part two and three, through a paralegal advisory model. This project is authorised by the Ministry of Home Affairs and receives financial and technical assistance from The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. Since May 2010, HRLS has received supplementary support from AusAid’s Direct Aid programme towards providing legal aid services to under trial prisoners. This project’s duration is until February 2014.
BRAC Research and Evaluation Division
HRLS hosted a presentation and discussion on 19th July 2012 based on the findings of a study to discern the root causes behind parental or familial decisions to send children into domestic work. The study was conducted by BRAC’s research and evaluation division. This alliance is part of a broader project based on spreading awareness on, and upholding the rights of child domestic workers across Bangladesh funded by Gift2Asia.
Acid Survivors’ Foundation
HRLS provides support to survivors of acid-throwing. We ensure legal counselling, fact-finding investigations, and case processing with the aid of panel lawyers across the country, in association with our partner, the Acid Survivor’s Foundation.
Safety in the Workplace
The Safety and Rights Society is an implementation partner of HRLS, who funded an initiative related to deaths and injuries of construction workers and their families in the Labour Court. HRLS’ role is to ensure on-site investigation and reporting via family contact to help file compensation claims in the interest of these families.
Migrant Workers' Rights
In October 2013, BRAC HRLS programme and the BRAC Migration programme began a partnership after signing an official memorandum of understanding. Under this agreement, HRLS will make their services available to 123 migrant workers, whose cases will be referred to HRLS’s legal aid clinics across 17 districts in Bangladesh. Providing these services is part of HRLS’ agenda to protect and preserve the rights of migrant workers in the face of exploitation from devious brokers. The initiative is funded by the BRAC Migration programme and will extend until April 2015.
Global Human Rights Defence
In July 2013, BRAC HRLS began a partnership with Global Human Rights Defence (GHRD), an international human rights NGO based in The Hague, Netherlands. The organisation promotes and advocates human rights for minorities and marginalised groups that face human rights violations. As per its Legal Assistance Fund, GHRD has given HRLS a grant to provide legal aid support in at least 10 cases involving GHRD’s target groups. These guidelines include indigenous groups and those marginalised for their religion, sexual orientation, as well as human rights defenders whose rights have been violated. HRLS will carry out periodic updates regarding case proceedings and the agreement is based on a six-month trial period, which is expected to end in December 2013.
BRAC HRLS joined Aarong’s Artisans Development Initiative in November 2012. The initiative is part of a combined BRAC-wide effort to provide comprehensive services to Aarong artisans in production centres across Bangladesh. HRLS will provide legal literacy services to artisans, including other grassroots women, so that they can protect themselves in the face of discrimination and exploitation within their communities. Services will be provided as per each individual case and thus far, the project has been scaled-up across eight districts.
Project background: Creating access to property rights requires not only a clear understanding of statutory and customary laws that govern claims, but also the ability to navigate social constructs and dynamics that create incentives or disincentives for poor and vulnerable populations especially women. Thus, the ‘property rights initiative (PRI)’ has been designed to develop linkages between laws and rights by helping poor communities identify their entitlement to property rights and supporting them in accessing their claims.
First phase: The pilot phase of PRI was implemented in two northern districts (Rangpur and Gaibandha) of Bangladesh.
Second phase: After successful implementation of the 11-month pilot, PRI scaled up to four other northern districts (Dinajpur, Rajshahi, Natore, Naogaon) on July 2013. This initiative reached a total of 54 sub-districts, 491 union councils, 10,935 villages, 1.8 million households and 7.4 million people.
• Ensuring access to property rights for poor and vulnerable people, particularly women in Bangladesh
• Enable transformative behaviour change amongst poor and vulnerable members of the society, focusing mainly on women to understand and claim their rights on property and land
• Develop outreach strategies to address procedural and social barriers in accessing property rights and convert latent claims for rights into actionable claims
• Create a scalable model of rights awareness and focused engagement to ensure access to property rights with tangible outcomes
• Local community leaders’ workshops
• Training local community leaders
• Training land entrepreneurs (LE) and engaging them in social enterprises
• Courtyard sessions with community people
1. A team of researchers from the Cambridge University’s Judge School of Business has been following the course of the initiative from its inception. They have developed a report on their findings titled ‘Motivation and performance of the land entrepreneur’. A seminar was organised to disseminate the findings on 31 March 2014.
2. The Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh conducted a study titled ‘Socioeconomic costs of property disputes: An empirical examination from Bangladesh’, which was disseminated on 11 August 2014.
3. Dr Ferdous Jahan, Professor, Department of Public Administration of the University of Dhaka conducted a research on social and intergenerational factors that create barriers for women and marginalised to access their right to land and property. Her research findings were disseminated on 15 June 2015.
4. Mr Abdul Mannan, Former Director General of Directorate of Land Record and Survey did a study on institutional barriers for women and marginalised communities to access land and property rights which was disseminated on 15 June 2015.
BRAC has won the Global Justice Innovation Award 2014 in the ‘Successful Innovations’ category for the property rights initiative.
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.