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Bridge Schools show promising results in the time of pandemic but there is still learning loss in children’s education

On Thursday, 23 June 2022, BRAC organised a research dissemination event, “Learning Loss Study and Bridge School Evaluation” at BRAC’s head office in Mohakhali. In this event, findings of two studies on BRAC Bridge Schools and learning loss were presented.

BRAC firmly believes that everyone has the right to education. The organisation is moving forward in leaps and bounds to ensure access to primary education for every child. BRAC Education Programme has launched an innovative model called "Bridge School" in 2014. Children from marginalised communities get left behind when it comes to education. With that in mind, the non-formal primary education (NFPE) model was initiated for children who have never been enrolled in any school or have dropped out of primary school at an early stage. Children who have some literacy, knowledge in numeracy and have dropped out of school are included in a bridging course and then they are enrolled in either Class 2 or Class 3 as per their learning qualifications. In the Bridge model, a five-year course of primary education is followed in an intensive method so that children can gather knowledge in a short period of time. In the Bridge model, a four-month bridge course is conducted for Class 2 students. The goal of this course is to overcome students' learning loss and improve their primary knowledge.

A study was conducted to understand how effective this course is. Under BRAC’s supervision, a team of international researchers used Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) tools to evaluate the learning of BRAC Bridge School students. According to their data, it was found that BRAC Bridge School students were ahead in Bangla and Mathematics compared to their Indian counterparts. This assessment was completed in 2021, when Bridge School students – like others from around the world – were at a risk of severe learning loss (due to prolonged school closures since 2020).

Some notable findings of the evaluation of BRAC Bridge Schools include:

  • Bridge School students have better skill in reading short stories compared to Indian students (53% relative to 50%)
  • Bridge School students are more competent in division math compared to Indian students (63% relative to 28%).
  • A significant difference was found when Bridge School students’ short story reading and division math skills were compared to their counterparts from different upazilas/thanas (story reading skill 34% to 85% and division math skill 35% to 89%)
  • The performance of urban school students in division math is significantly weaker than those of rural students

The study was led by Stephen Heyneman, emeritus professor at Vanderbilt University, USA; John Richards, professor of public policy at Simon Fraser University, Canada; and Shahidul Islam, a doctoral student at Queen’s University. They all gave a  presentation at the event titled, “BRAC Bridge School Evaluation”.

John Richards said, “The Bridge model is targeting children who have dropped out of a government school or have never been enrolled. Most of the children are from low-income families. At present, about 20% of children never finish primary school. One important success of Bridge Schools is that they probably have better reading and math results than the average government schools.”

Stephen Heyneman said, “I have worked in 65 countries and seen many schools. I can say that Bridge Schools were clean, colourful and provided a happy learning space. Children wanted to be there. Learning should be joyful; and these schools had all the materials. We noticed that the teachers all used innovative techniques to connect with parents who used their phones and learned how to monitor their children’s learning. I have not seen that level of control and contact anywhere.”

Shahidul Islam said, “The four-month bridging course that BRAC’s Bridge School model offers to dropout children to put them back on the education track, helps them progress toward graduation that is unique in the world. This model has huge potential for replication in resource-poor settings/countries. It can immensely help in achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 4 in countries where school dropout is a major challenge.” 

Another study was conducted to evaluate the learning loss of children in Bangladesh where Samir Ranjan Nath, programme head of BRAC IED, conducted the ‘Literacy Test’. In this study, Nath found that the enrollment rate in pre-primary schools was 62.7% in 2020, which has come down to 49.6%. Although 96.2% students participated in primary in 2020, it has come down to 93.6% in 2021. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the rate of female student participation was higher than that of male student participation in pre-primary – which has now declined. After schools reopened, 79.7% students participated of whom 78.6% were in primary and 80.6% were in secondary schools. The attendance rate was found higher for girls than for boys. In rural areas it was 80.9% but in urban areas it was 77.5%.

Samir Ranjan Nath presented his findings on learning loss at the event. He added, “Learning loss is a reality. The question is how fast can we recover from it. This can start with assessment of learning levels of all students, categorise them and prepare recovery strategies as per students’ needs. Parents, peers, retired teachers and temporary teachers can be utilised -- keeping the regular teachers at the centre. Follow-up assessments of students can help understand the progress and take necessary actions.”

Prof Md Farhadul Islam, Chairman, National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) was a special guest at the event. He said, “We who work in the education sector - we believe in working collectively. Research is very important to evaluate the situation of our education. We will request BRAC to share their findings so that we can use their learning and gather information from them. We will go forward collectively. We are working on a plan to reduce learning loss. In this case, collaboration is necessary.”

Md Nuruzzaman Sharif, Director (Joint Secretary), Bureau of Non-Formal Education (BNFE), Ministry of Primary and Mass Education, was also present at the event. He commented, “The findings are very important for all of us who are working in the education sector. With the recommendations of the two presentations, we will work together with BRAC and others, and learn from their suggestions; and with that we will complete our two running projects.”

Mr Md Muhibur Rahman, Additional Secretary (School) at the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education was present at the event as the chief guest. He said, “The Bridge School Evaluation presentation was done on a BRAC school programme. I don’t have much to comment on it. Our education system is suffering from multifaceted problems. I will put emphasis on the recent problems: school closures and learning loss. It is still too early to comprehensively evaluate these, we are at an early stage. But I believe we can find a solution together if we all work collectively and share our learnings to go forward.”

Asif Saleh, Executive Director of BRAC Bangladesh, was the chair at the event. He said in his closing note, "The impact on learning caused by the school closure during the pandemic is profound. We need to collectively work together to recover the loss of learning and get the education of both children who have dropped out and children who may potentially drop out back on track, especially girls, children with disabilities, and children from ethnic communities. The learnings from our proven Bridge School model along with the findings of BRAC IED's learning loss study will benefit policymakers and practitioners on ways to accelerate learning and build our education systems back better."

BRAC allocates BDT 3 crore for emergency relief to 52,000 families affected by flood

Calling everyone to come forward to deal with this humanitarian crisis

The non-governmental organisation BRAC has been working alongside local government since the beginning of the recent flood situation in the country. The organisation has allocated BDT 3 crore from its own funds for emergency flood relief. The money will be used to provide dry food, safe drinking water, oral saline, matches, candles, essential medicines and other services to people affected by flood. The money will also be used to rescue people trapped in the flood. Initially, the relief will provide support to around 52,000 families.

According to the Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre, the flood situation in northeastern Sylhet, Sunamganj and Netrokona could worsen in the next 24 hours. Meanwhile, about 80 percent of the areas in Sylhet and Sunamganj districts have been inundated.

According to official sources, floodwater has inundated seven upazilas of Sylhet district and five upazilas of Sunamganj.

For the relief effort, priority is being given to the women-led households, elderly, pregnant women and people with physical and mental disabilities. BRAC has also decided to temporarily suspend loan recovery from borrowers in the flood affected areas until further notice. 

An estimated BDT 25 crore will be required for emergency support and rebuilding  efforts.  BRAC has launched a public appeal for humanitarian aid. Asif Saleh, executive director of the organisation, has called on all sections of the society to come forward and stand beside the vulnerable communities in the flood affected areas. Details of public donation are available on this website:  'Dakche Amar Desh': https://brac.net/dakcheamardesh/

BRAC Golden Jubilee: Assisting the disempowered home and abroad to realise potential

For the last 50 years BRAC has been with the people, particularly with those left behind, and will remain so in future. The work it is doing to assist the underprivileged to become self-dependent not only in Bangladesh, but also in nine other countries, will be reinforced. As ever, BRAC will continue its future actions following the development philosophy of its founder Sir Fazle Hasan Abed that “never lose sight of the mission to extend a hand to those who need it the most”.

BRAC leadership made this pledge at its golden jubilee celebration event today on Monday (21 March). An elaborate programme was organised to observe the occasion at the Bangabandhu International Conference Center (BICC). The whole programme was divided in two sessions, the first of which was attended by the present BRAC staff along with the former ones. The second part of the event in the evening was attended by distinguished guests – high officials from government and private organisations and eminent personalities from education, health, sports, entertainment and media sectors. Discussions, display of audio-visual materials on a host of BRAC programmes and cultural performances comprised the programme of the day. Besides Dhaka, the day was celebrated at BRAC’s divisional offices also.

At the programme, honourable foreign minister Dr AK Abdul Momen read out the message from the honourable prime minister sent on the occasion of the golden jubilee.

Every year the organisation observed its founding anniversary styled “BRAC Day”. The golden jubilee celebration, however, has been observed in a much more festive mood. As a part of the celebration, 16 members of BRAC staff have been honoured with Sir Fazle Hasan Abed Values Award for their outstanding contributions.

Asif Saleh, executive director, BRAC Bangladesh, said while addressing the audience, “Our founder would say he had seen men to be defeated but never had he seen women to be beaten. That is why empowerment of women is one of the most important driving forces of social progress. BRAC has always remained focused on this.”

He further said, “An organisation sustains through proving its relevance. As such, BRAC will successfully tackle the challenge of proving its relevance at present and in future as it did in the past.”

One of the world’s largest non-governmental development organisation BRAC was founded in 1972 in Sulla, a remotest corner of Sunamganj, to assist the refugees repatriating from India to rebuild their life. Later on, BRAC extended its programmes for other marginalised communities elsewhere with a goal to assist them achieving self-dependence through socio-economic empowerment. Long-term programmes have been designed and implemented based on cottage industry, microloans, health, education, agriculture and food security, human rights, road safety, migration, and urban development.

The first NGO from the global south to have international operations, BRAC now operates in 10 countries in Asia and Africa, engaging with over 100 million people.

In the 1980s, BRAC’s massive army of field workers trained mothers literally in every household of Bangladesh in preparing oral saline with kitchen ingredients. Followed the government’s child vaccination campaign, under which BRAC covered nearly half of the country. These two campaigns contributed to the dramatic decrease in child mortality.

BRAC piloted its innovative school model for children deprived from education. The non-formal primary education model later scaled up across the country and beyond. Till now, in Bangladesh 140 million children graduated from these schools to continue their education. In 2001, BRAC Bank and BRAC University were founded.

Next year (2002) the famed Ultra Poor Graduation model was launched. BRAC International began its journey to spread this model worldwide.

Aligned with the changing needs of the nation, BRAC in Bangladesh now is focused more on urban poverty alleviation and skills development and employment of the underprivileged youths. Further, we partner with the Bangladesh government as the largest non-government service provider in the ground tackling the Rohingya crisis and Covid-19 pandemic. BRAC’s engagement with the Bangladesh government has deepened in the process of formulation of socio-economic policies and strategies.

All the programmes, activities and models of BRAC, the BRAC brand itself, have been built around the empowerment of women. Unrelenting, we pursue the goal of creating opportunities for women to realise their full potential.

BRAC will deeply engage with the marginalised people, government and other development partners to identify future issues and find solutions, and will continue to do so in future, said the organisers.

BRAC Turns 50: Igniting hope from Bangladesh to the world

BRAC was born to serve the people of the newly independent Bangladesh, assisting them in the struggle of their self-development. For the last 50 years the organisation has stood by the people, the marginal communities in particular, and will continue to do so in the future. It will continue designing and implementing programmes and solutions following the development philosophy of the organisation’s founder Sir Fazle Hasan Abed that we have to reach them first who need it the most. 

This was expressed by the members of the senior management of BRAC as they briefed on the organisation’s future path at a press meet organised on the occasion of its 50th founding anniversary.

The press event was organised today on Monday (14 March 2022) at the BRAC Centre at Mohakhali in the capital. Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman, chairperson, BRAC Bangladesh Governing Body, Irene Khan, chair, BRAC International Supervisory Board, Asif Saleh, executive director, BRAC Bangladesh, Tamara Hasan Abed, managing director, Enterprises, BRAC, and Shameran Abed, executive director, BRAC International, were present at the programme. Moutushi Kabir, director, Communications, Learning and Leadership Development, BRAC, moderated the media event.

At the first session of the programme, the senior management members briefed on the organisation’s activities and programmes, and shared experiences and future planning, while at the second session they answered questions from the press.

Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman, chairperson, BRAC Bangladesh Governing Body, said, “Our founder is no more with us physically, but his ideology and philosophy are guiding us in all that we do. We believe as he himself believed that development is strengthened through empowerment covering all the aspects of financial, social, knowledge and skills. In the coming years, we aspire to play an effectively catalytic role at an even greater level, in the international periphery, aimed at building stronger relations between the state and social entities.”

Having described BRAC as “an entity combining ideas and risks,” Irene Khan, chair, BRAC International Supervisory Board, said, “The world is facing a number of crises in the last several years. A hundred million people slipped down to extreme poverty during the pandemic of Covid-19. The Ukraine war will create a food crisis. Furthermore, there’s the wide impact of climate change. This is a situation where BRAC will have to continue its work in Bangladesh and elsewhere in the world by combining ideas and risk factors.”

Asif Saleh, executive director, BRAC Bangladesh, said, “BRAC and Bangladesh are almost synonymous. BRAC wouldn’t have been born in the first place if the nation of Bangladesh wouldn’t have emerged. At the same time, the progress and development of Bangladesh might have been more unequal if BRAC was not there with its massive interventions. And, BRAC could never do such volumes of work if the government was not with us. We sincerely thank the Government of Bangladesh and the entire nation for standing by us.”

Tamara Hasan Abed, managing director, Enterprises, BRAC, said, “It’s not financial profits, but the empowerment of the poor is what BRAC’s business enterprises aim to achieve. Our social enterprises create direct employment opportunities for the poor communities on one hand, while on the other we channel the surplus from these businesses to our social development programmes. We didn’t retreat when we were faced with constraints while attempting to solve a problem. Rather we had built yet new initiatives as solutions to those new problems. We worked with the deprived communities to create solutions.”

Shameran Abed, executive director, BRAC International, said, “BRAC International (BI) started its operation in 2002 through its interventions in Afghanistan. In the last 20 years, BI ran programmes in 13 countries altogether, and currently has direct operations in nine countries. We are making effective use of our experiences in Bangladesh in finding solutions in those countries, while at the same time we are bringing back lessons from those countries to create solutions in this country. BI currently engages over 15 thousand employees and volunteers covering all its programmes including health, education and microfinance.”

In recent times BRAC has assisted the government as one of its large development partners to tackle the Rohingya refugee crisis and Covid-19 pandemic through mobilising all its resources within the least possible time. The organisation has established a unique example of reaching services and assistance to the affected people having mobilised its human, financial and other resources within an extremely constrained time period.

Sir Fazle Hasan Abed founded BRAC in 1972 in Sulla, a remote upazila of Sunamganj, to assist the repatriating refugees in rebuilding their life. BRAC has since been expanding its programmes, services and ventures to form a unique brand ecosystem. Apart from the world’s largest development organisation, the brand in Bangladesh now includes among others, a bank, a university and social enterprises. BRAC now operates in 10 countries altogether in Asia and Africa.

At present, BRAC engages with over 100 million people across the world, steering their empowerment and development to realise their potentials. It also continues achieving the status of the world’s Number One NGO for the last seven years in a row.

Robust referral system, other supports must for survivors

Observing International Women's Day 2022, BRAC Bangladesh organised a dialogue on ‘Reporting and referral for gender-based violence: Lessons from the AR NA pilot project and Shongjog service mapping’ on 7 March 2022, at the capital’s BRAC Centre.

Gender-based violence is a key driver of gender inequality. Seven out of 10 married women in Bangladesh face some sort of intimate partner violence. The type of support that these survivors most commonly need are legal support, social protection and psychosocial counselling. In a country of almost 80 million women and 65 million children, this support is inadequate. To address this gap, BRAC launched two initiatives during the event.

The Shongjog mobile application connects survivors of gender-based violence with support services through a digital platform. Another mobile application, under the AR NA project, has digitised the reporting mechanism that connects case managers with survivors.

HE Robert Chatterton Dickson, British High Commissioner in Bangladesh, said, "We have to increasingly use modern technology to tackle violence against women. It certainly brings a positive note as the government, NGOs and women rights activists meet today to discuss these issues. We had worked together in the past and we are pledged to continue doing so in the future to tackle this challenge.”

Kate Sangster, First Secretary, High Commision of Australia, stressed the importance of combating gender-based violence as a development priority for Australia’s strategic partnership with BRAC.

Asif Saleh, Executive Director of BRAC, stressed the importance of developing integrated support services and collaboration between the government and non-governmental actors to aid the survivors of violence to recover from trauma. “It’s imperative to have correct databases and information on gender-based violence. The picture of violence that our army of field-level staff have gathered is worrying. We have to provide all the necessary support to the survivors of violence.”

Nobonita Chowdhury, Director of BRAC’s gender justice and diversity programme and preventing violence against women initiative, said “Through the AR NA pilot project, BRAC trained over 800 frontline workers in northern Bangladesh, to digitally report incidents of violence against women and girls through the AR NA web app. Once a report is filed, a team of case managers connect the survivors with required support services through a referral mechanism.”

Jenefa Jabbar, Director of BRAC’s safeguarding unit, briefed on Shongjog, a user-friendly web app BRAC has developed to provide comprehensive information of state and non-state support services for survivors of gender-based violence. The platform was built following a service mapping initiative in 61 districts, covering 435 sub-districts in Bangladesh. One can find support services down to the sub-district level in various categories, including, healthcare, legal aid, psychosocial support, safe/shelter homes and police stations.

Taqbir Huda, Advocacy Lead, GJD, BRAC highlighted the lessons from the cases reported through the AR NA pilot project. “Although the required support services are available for free, survivors often do not have the means to afford the transportation cost needed to reach the service provider. For this reason, survivors need an efficient social protection mechanism which supports them with immediate cash transfers in the short term, while providing them with means of economic empowerment in the long term.”

Dr Azmeri Haque Badhan, actor, emphasised the need for support for survivors of gender-based violence, particularly from their own family. She shared her own experience as a survivor of domestic abuse, and the critical role a prize money from a beauty pageant had played in helping her re-enrol in university and reconstruct her life.

Kollol Nag, Member of BRAC Technology, highlighted the inclusion of Shongjog under the ‘Suggestions’ tab of bKash mobile app, so existing users of bKash can have direct access to a mobile-friendly version of the app.

Shireen Huq, leading women’s rights activist and member of Naripokkho, said, “The survivors should never lose their mental strength and continue their fight. We appreciate BRAC for its effort to collect information from the grassroots level, and for the services it provides.”

Dr Sheikh Muslima Moon, Additional Director (Deputy Director), Department of Women’s Affairs, Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, discussed the government’s role in supporting the rehabilitation and social reintegration of survivors of violence. Mohammad Kamrul Islam Chowdhury, Director (Institution), Department of Social Services, Ministry of Social Welfare, discussed the existing social safety nets for women facing gender-based violence. AKM Mofizul Islam, Director (Poverty Alleviation), Department of Youth Development, Ministry of Youth and Sports, spoke about the scope of skills training for young women and girls facing gender-based violence.

UNDP ties up with BRAC for accelerating poverty reduction in Bangladesh

Dhaka, 20 February 2022: The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and BRAC have partnered and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to enhance the effectiveness of poverty eradication and make these efforts more impactful to ensure inclusive growth for Bangladesh.

Mr. Sudipto Mukerjee, Resident Representative, UNDP Bangladesh, and Mr. Asif Saleh, Executive Director, BRAC, signed the MoU on 20 February on behalf of their respective organizations at UNDP Office, Dhaka.

Under this partnership both the organizations will work together to enhance the effectiveness of poverty eradication effort for fostering inclusive growth in Bangladesh. Evidence based policies and programmes will be designed and a platform will be created to further strengthen the social protection systems in Bangladesh to make sure no one is left behind.

Signing the ceremony, Sudipto Mukerjee said, “The partnership will assist the government of Bangladesh to effectively identify and transfer social protection benefits to people living in extreme poverty. It will also pilot and develop holistic livelihood programmes collaboratively with different ministries of Bangladesh to ensure the access to social safety net programme, and help the government in attaining the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

“A timely and much required partnership to assist the Government of Bangladesh in bridging the gaps to achieve poverty eradication and sustainable livelihoods for people living in extreme poverty by 2030”, said Asif Saleh. He further emphasized, “This partnership will help strengthen ongoing efforts and design new joint initiatives for social protection and resilience building as we recover and try to build back better from COVID related shocks."

BRAC and UNDP have a long history of successful partnerships at both the national and global level in the field of poverty eradication and human development, and are committed to support the Bangladesh government in its effort to ensure inclusive growth.

Panel with celebs Bappa and Badhan Judge BRAC’s cultural stars

BRAC, the world’s number one development organisation, will reach its 50th birthday in March this year. To celebrate the anniversary the organisation has organised a contest styled “I am BRAC – Apon Tara” to find out and inspire the cultural talents hidden in its thousands of employees across the country.

Open to all of its over 67 thousand members of staff, the competition had its final round organised today on Tuesday (15 February) at the BRAC Centre auditorium at Mohakhali in the capital. A star-studded panel with famed singers Bappa Mazumder and Miftah Zaman and celebrated actor Azmeri Haque Badhon judged the winners of the final round at the gala finale, who also opened the competition on 21 November last year.

The winners of the contest held in three categories – music, poetry recital and acting – are: … in music the first prize goes to Akhi Palit (SELP programme), second prize to Md Razibul Hasan (Finance and Accounts) and third prize to Opu Chandra Gope (Aarong). In the poetry recital and acting categories only one prize has been given for each. Munmun Khan (GJ&D programme) was the winner in poetry recital and Mohammad Ashibuzzaman won in the acting category. All the winners were handed over crests.

Tamara Hasan Abed, managing director of BRAC, said on organising the contest, “BRAC was born about the same time Bangladesh was born as a sovereign nation. As part of our celebration of our golden jubilee we had initiated this contest to find the hidden talents of our organisation. We are truly grateful for the spontaneous support we have received from the contestants and judges, from each and everybody while organising this event.”

Singer Bappa Mazumder said, “BRAC and I are of the same age. I am honoured to have this opportunity to be present in this golden jubilee celebration. I request BRAC to take initiative for the publicity of these talents we have discovered through this contest across the country.”

Actor Azmeri Haque Badhon said, “I have been deeply touched by all these great arrangements and your performances today. I believe all organisations should take such initiatives for their staff.”

Designed in three episodes namely primary, divisional and final, the primary round was held through online submission. Participants submitted a total of 1,383 video clips of their performances which were judged by a 32-strong panel to select 160 participants for the divisional level.

The divisional episode was held in person in six districts – Dhaka, Rangpur, Rajshahi, Jessore, Moulvibazar and Chittagong. A 3-member expert panel for each category judged the performances to select 20 participants in each to move to the final round.

The 3-month long competition spread the vive of the golden jubilee celebration across the BRAC offices around the country. Contestants sent video clips of spirited song performances accompanied by harmonium and tabla right on the office premises. Some contestants recorded their routines at home aided by their family members. Some again recorded their full throated solo recitals on a riverbank or an open ground. Some highly enthusiastic contestants even arranged sets or a stage to create the proper ambience to act out their chosen monologues.

STITCH For RMG Global Innovation Challenge announces winners

Promoting innovations to transform the lives of women in RMG industry

BRAC, H&M Foundation, and The Asia Foundation have announced the six winners of the international competition titled “STITCH for RMG: Global Innovation Challenge”. The announcement was made last evening (Tuesday, 7 February 2022) at a virtual event organised by BRAC Social Innovation Lab, H&M Foundation, and The Asia Foundation.

The global competition was launched October last year (2021) to promote improved livelihood opportunities for the women working at the export-oriented readymade garment factories in Bangladesh, promote gender equality at the factory floors and increase factory performance.

The six winning teams of the competition are: Agroshift, iSmart, Jyoti, Quizrr, Sustify and ToguMogu. Faruque Hassan, president, BGMEA, Asif Saleh, executive director, BRAC, and Diana Amini, global manager, H&M Foundation, and Kazi Faisal Bin Seraj, country representative, The Asia Foundation, congratulated the winners.

Diana Amini, GM, H&M Foundation, said, ”I think we all have different roles to play, and for us, representing the philanthropic sector, our role is to be able to support early-stage ideas, methods, innovations, and also to be able to take risks that other actors cannot. And together with our partners, we can also co-create and validate solutions and invite others to play a part in helping us scale them.”

Asif Saleh, ED, BRAC, said, “Unlike how it is perceived elsewhere, we looked at innovation that is not necessarily driven by products, it can be about processes, it can be about simple solutions, and particularly, simplicity is the key toward scaling.”

Kazi Faisal Bin Seraj, CR, The Asia Foundation, said, “The thing that stood out for me in the pitches is that all the applicants used empathy to create their solution, that it is not just technology, rather how it is more appropriate in a context, in a gender sensitive manner. I think that empathy can be seen in all the programmes, in the global nature of it and the innovative nature of it”

Faruque Hassan, president, BGMEA, said, “We need more attention and investment in innovation, from businesses and state level, to upscale our capability and adaption. Global buyers are looking for sustainable manufacturing sources which resource efficient, without technology, optimum use of water, energy, and other resources cannot be ensured. So, we need to ensure 4th generation of technology in our supply chain.” 

A member of team Quizrr said on behalf of the winners, “We look forward to new collaborations through this network. We want to learn from each other, so we can further accelerate our solutions and provide better innovations to this industry and its workforce.”

The awards for the winning teams come with grants up to USD 30,000 to pilot the solutions. The winners also will have opportunities for bootcamp training with mentors, incubators, and accelerators.

The solution focus of the winning teams are as follows.

  • Agroshift is creating demand driven digital grocery platform for RMG workers;
  • i-SMART is developing a standardized skill matrix for women sewing workers;
  • Jyoti is removing the barriers of access to sanitary pads for RMG factory workers improving menstrual hygiene;
  • Quizrr is building female RMG role models through skill and leadership development training;
  • Sustify is building capacity through gamified microlearning for female factory workers in Bangladesh; and 
  • ToguMogu is supporting female RMG workers through a health and wellbeing platform making their parenthood stress-free.

The competition started with a “concept round” in which 220 applications were received and 50 applications were shortlisted for video submissions in the “pitching round”. A total of 12 teams won to move to the final round that organised a virtual marketplace, offering opportunities to partner with RMG factories. Through a tough competition the winning teams secured opportunities to incubate their projects in these factories that had volunteered to provide time, space, and other resources for the purpose.

The Marketplace Round was a unique opportunity for the competitors both from Bangladesh and beyond to discuss their ideas with factory owners and representatives, through which they were able to understand the probable demand and feasibility of their solutions on the ground. It was a matchmaking process where the factory owners jointly showed interest in developing the business together with the team they got matched with.

The competing ideas and solutions covered a range of themes from health, to skill development, security, sustainability and others. In total nine teams moved forward with factories based on the overall practicality of their solution. Of them, six teams topped the competition.

The “STITCH for RMG: Global Innovation Challenge” is part of the STITCH for RMG pilot project undertaken by BRAC, H&M Foundation and The Asia Foundation. The goal of the project is to create an environment that advances welfare and livelihood of the women in ready-made garments sector of Bangladesh as well as boost Bangladesh’s performance in the RMG industry.

BRAC, Embassy of Denmark sign MoU to implement rainwater harvesting project in Mongla

BRAC signed a memorandum of understanding with the Embassy of Denmark (EoD) in Bangladesh this morning (Thursday, 27 January) at the Danish ambassador's residence to implement a project titled ‘Enhancing Safe Drinking Water Security and Climate Resilience through Rainwater Harvesting’ in Mongla Upazila of Bagerhat District. The Danish embassy in Bangladesh will provide the total budget of the project at 29 million DKK over three years of project period to reach 67,300 climate vulnerable people with access to safe drinking water.

Mongla is one of the most climate-vulnerable areas in Bangladesh, particularly in terms of salinity intrusion. More than 60% of its inhabitants have no access to safe drinking water and are suffering from health and income loss. Women and girls are disproportionately affected due to the overburden of domestic work and social insecurity.

Winnie Estrup Petersen, ambassador of Denmark to Bangladesh, said at the signing ceremony, “We are very happy to take this step to deliver on the talks of COP 26. By 2023, Denmark will provide at least 500 million USD per year globally in grant-based climate finance. Bangladesh is amongst the world’s most climate vulnerable countries and should of course benefit from our strong climate commitment. This partnership signals first of several Danish commitments to climate adaptation and mitigation programmes for Bangladesh starting 2022.”

Highlighting the importance of adapting climate-adaptive measures for the people of the coastal belt of Bangladesh, Asif Saleh, executive director of BRAC said on the occasion, "No one should walk 2 km to fetch drinking water. However, climate change is driving an acute drinking water crisis in coastal Bangladesh. BRAC has been working persistently to ensure this basic human right of getting safe drinking water.  We appreciate very much the support of the Embassy of Denmark in this endeavor. Together we will work towards developing a holistic and sustainable model of providing water at the last mile for every single Bangladeshi."

The project’s goal is to improve the wellbeing of the most climate-vulnerable population of the upazila by creating access to a nearby source of safe drinking water, a solution which can be replicated in other similar localities. In line with the Danish Development Strategy “The World We Share”, the project will enhance climate resilience following a community-centric locally-led approach, while coordinating with the government and other non-governmental actors.

BRAC Global is pleased to announce that Jerome Oberreit has been appointed as its first Executive Director, effective 10 January 2022.

BRAC is an international development organisation founded in Bangladesh in 1972 that partners globally with over 100 million people living with inequality and poverty to create sustainable opportunities to realise their potential. BRAC Global was established in 2019 by BRAC’s founder, the late Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, to promote policy and programmatic lessons from BRAC among the global development community, and to provide coordination and coherence across all of BRAC’s entities. The OneBRAC family includes two operational entities – BRAC Bangladesh and BRAC International; and two fundraising entities – BRAC UK and BRAC USA. BRAC Global is distinct from BRAC International which implements BRAC’s development programs on the ground in all countries apart from Bangladesh.

As Executive Director of BRAC Global, Jerome will, together with the leaders of other BRAC entities, play a critical role in advancing BRAC’s global strategy, resource mobilisation and organisational development. Jerome will guide the development of key cross-cutting issues, including risk management and safeguarding, human resource, financial management, communications, monitoring and learning.

“The Board of BRAC Global is delighted that Jerome Oberreit brings to the OneBRAC family a range of relevant experience and skills from his distinguished career with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), and is confident that Jerome will provide the kind of facilitative leadership to the OneBRAC family that BRAC Global is committed to,” said Marty Chen, Chair of the BRAC Global Board.

“As BRAC turns 50, its achievements as a truly person-centric organisation are humbling. I am both honoured and excited to be the Executive Director of BRAC Global. We remain in a world of great uncertainly as the pandemic, climate change, global inequalities, and the continued unprecedented displacement remind us. These uncertainties reinforce the need for all of us, individually and collectively, to be socially enterprising. With a deep understanding of poverty reduction, BRAC has shown, through a supportive and inclusive approach with each individual, community and national partnership, how empowerment can create the necessary opportunities to turn lives around in the most challenging environments. BRAC is critical to reducing poverty and paving the road to social justice in our fast-changing world. I very much look forward to being part of this incredible journey,” said Jerome.

From 2012 to 2018, Jerome was the Secretary General of Médecins Sans Frontières International having been the Director of programmes from 2006 to 2012. He was instrumental in coordinating complex organisational systems in a multi-centric organisation focused on providing health services to the most neglected in resource-limited environments. In this role he led global positioning efforts and defined strategies and systems for securing resources (financial, human, and technical), ensuring both internal and external accountability. He also has country-level experience with MSF in several African countries and in the Middle East.

From 2019 to 2021, Jerome took part in the development of the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership (GARDP), a new initiative launched by the World Health Organisation and Drugs for Neglected Disease Initiative, where he held the position of Senior Advisor to the Executive Director.

Jerome is fluent in French and English, holds a master’s in geography, and a bachelor’s in politics and geography.

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