September 10, 2015
Every year 4-5 lakh people leave Bangladesh for other countries to work as migrant workers. Currently 95 lakh Bangladeshis are working in different countries around the world. Many migrant workers after their return try to take up jobs and settle at home. But in many cases they face complications in pursuing their new jobs. The added problem for women returnees is that they often face social stigma and lack of respect from the community. They also struggle with discrimination as they try to get jobs. Many of them suffer from different physical ailments and mental stress. Many still lack clear knowledge about how to best utilise the money they earned abroad. The biggest difficulty in this regard, however, is that the government does not have a specific policy to guide the reintegration process of returnee migrant workers.
The keynote presentation sketched the plights of the returnee migrant workers at a workshop organised by BRAC today on Thursday in the capital. Supported by UN Women, the workshop titled ‘Lessons learned on establishment of reintegration and referral services for returnee migrant workers project’ was held at the BRAC Centre.
Md Hazrat Ali, additional secretary, Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment, was the chief guest at the event, while Shamsun Nahar, director general, Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training, and Christine Hunter, country representative, UN Women, were the chief guests. Sheepa Hafiza, director, Gender Justice and Diversity and Migration programmes of BRAC, moderated the session. Tapati Saha, programme coordinator, UN Women, and Aminul Islam, senior manager, migration programme of BRAC, gave the presentation.
Md Hazrat Ali in his chief guest’s speech stressed three points in this regard. He said there should be counseling services for those who went abroad with many dreams but had to return for some reasons, and now face difficulty in their job. There should be assistance for returnee migrant workers to help them reintegrate in the society. Assistance should also be there for those who are facing problem in employment.
Christine Hunter emphasised equal employment opportunity for all irrespective of their gender identity.
In her introductory speech Sheepa Hafiza described BRAC’s programme and planning for safe migration and proper reintegration of returnee migrant workers.
Sajjad Hossain Khan, assistant director, BMET, Hassan Imam, programme head of BRAC Migration Programme, Sadrul Hasan Mazumder, programme coordinator, Advocacy for Scoial Change, BRAC, Ishrat Shamim, programme coordinator, Centre for Women and Children Studies, Keramat Ullah Biplob, additional chief reporter, ATN Bangla, also spoke at the session.
On 13 September 2015, BRAC Afghanistan inaugurated a school building in Daulatabad district of Balkh province. The inauguration ceremony which took place in the new building premise was attended by representatives from the Ministry of Education, country representative of BRAC Afghanistan, Shura leaders, teachers, female students from the community and their parents.
A Shura leader mentioned that there is only one high school in this village. The officials from the Ministry of Education urged the community people to inspire their children to seek education.
The new building built on a land donated by the community consists of five classrooms, one office room, two latrines and one hand pump. The classrooms are well equipped with necessary academic materials and teaching supplies. Currently 90 female students attend the school.
On September 12, 2015 Saturday at 11.00 am, A national debate competition is going to be held in Bangla Academy Auditorium, Dhaka. Bitarka Bikash Grand Final, Debate competition is organised by BRAC, ATN Bangla and Debate for Democracy. ATN Bangla will telecast it live.
The main objective of this programme is to provide the students of rural secondary schools an opportunity to progress their presentation skill, communication skill and speaking ability as well as improve their logical thinking and self confidence.
BRAC started its involvement in the field of secondary education in 2001 by PACE (Post Primary basic and Continuing Education component of BRAC education programme) as a supplement to the government‘s effort in order to meet the target plan for the secondary school students. At first, initiative was taken for training the subject-based (Math, Science, and English) teachers. Later, it was observed that some major barriers, i.e., only training for the teachers is not sufficient to ensure an effective learning environment and students’ attendance, participation in classroom and internal examinations were not satisfactory. Students felt shy to ask questions in classroom and consult teachers for their problems and students had limited scope in school to engage themselves in co-curricular activities and in the classroom.
To address all these problems and to create a healthier learning environment in rural secondary schools, BRAC introduced Students’ Peer Mentoring Programme in 2006. Peer Mentoring programme aims to create and develop the quality of self-esteem, perceptiveness, self-discipline, attentiveness, partnering, sharing, leadership, imagination, and creativity among the students with a view to bring positive changes in the society. In this programme, some academically advanced and enthusiastic students are provided with proper advice, support and training to become Mentors. One of the core objectives of Peer Mentoring is to promote co-curricular activities among the students. In light of this objective, Students’ Mentoring has been arranging debate competition for Secondary Schools students and teachers since 2006.
30 August, 2015
The finale of BRAC Uganda’s Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescents (ELA) programme debate competition was held in Metropole hotel in Kampala on 25 August 2015. ELA uses debate as a technique to engage girls in critical thinking and problem solving in their communities.
At the beginning of the year, under the ELA programme, debate trainings were conducted where 8,310 girls competed within their clubs. From this, 1,385 girls went on to compete at the branch level, of which 282 proceeded to the area level. Eventually 21 girls made it to the regional level in which they were put in groups of three, each representing the seven regions in which ELA operates.
The two winning teams - Gulu region and Kampala-I region competed at the national level ELA debate tournament held at Kampala. With youth unemployment being a crucial factor affecting Uganda’s development, the topic of the debate was, ‘lack of skills is the main barrier to employment’.
Kyateka Mondo, the Assistant Commissioner for Youth in the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development (MGLSD) was present at the event on behalf of Minister Muruli Mukasa. He handed over the trophies, medals and prizes to the winners – Gulu region - and the runner-up team. High officials and staff members from BRAC Uganda, officials from the MGLSD, members of BRAC Uganda Advisory Board, representatives from UNICEF, UNFPA, Barclays Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, Makerere University and other organisations were present at the event.
27 August 2015, Dhaka. On 14 April 2015 during the pohela boishakh celebrations around 20 women and girls were sexually abused in Dhaka University's TSC and Suhrawardy Udyan gate areas. Similar kind of incidents took place in different parts of the country on the same day, stirring the entire nation. Practices like child marriage, dowry and violence against women and girls are issues that Bangladesh continues to struggle with.
A national survey carried out by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) in 2011, shows that as many as 87 per cent of married women reported having experienced both physical and psychological violence in the last 12 months.
BRAC expressed its stand against such incidents of violence and harassment and decided to organise a nationwide human chain, BRAC bondhon on every last Thursday of the month for 15 minutes starting from May 2015 until December 2015. People from other sectors and organisations, including onlookers, are also expressing solidarity by joining the BRAC bondhon. So far BRAC has organised four human chains with participation from 70,000 BRAC staff and BRAC’s affiliated community members including government officials, community leaders, parents, students, teachers in all of 64 districts, and in an average of 2,326 spots around the country.
BRAC has been working to promote women’s empowerment and gender equality since its inception. The organisation takes an active stand against harassment and sexual violence on women and children.
26 August 2015, Dhaka. Interpersonal contact between healthcare workers and mothers have produced a large scale improvement in infant and young child feeding programme and in hand washing habits, said speakers at a seminar yesterday.
Referring to a baseline and an endline survey conducted in 2010 and 2014 respectively in 50 sub-districts where community-based Alive & Thrive programme was implemented by BRAC, they said exclusive breastfeeding went up to 88 per cent from 48, and the percentage of mothers washing hands before feeding young children improved from 23 per cent to 31.
They were addressing a dissemination seminar on Alive & Thrive programme, lessons learned and evaluation results on infant and young children feeding practices in Bangladesh, held at BRAC Centre Inn in the capital.
The Bangladesh part of the project had been implemented by BRAC from 2009 to 2014 with a strong emphasis on community engagement by using its existing healthcare platforms and a cadre of frontline community health workers.
"People in Bangladesh are very receptive," said Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, speaker in parliament, at the programme.
The chair of the event, BRAC’s executive director Dr Muhammad Musa noted that nutrition interventions are difficult to implement and the high success rate of Bangladesh proves the strength of BRAC’s engagement with the community.
Ellen Piwoz, senior programme officer on nutrition at the Gates Foundation’s Global Development Program, said: “We are looking forward to working in Bangladesh with government, BRAC, and all the partners in future with our new strategy.” She also added that the project on improving infant and young child feeding practices funded in three countries was the “most successful” in Bangladesh.
Launched in 2009 in Bangladesh, Vietnam and Ethiopia with funding from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Canadian and Irish governments, Alive & Thrive used advocacy, interpersonal communication and community mobilisation, mass media and strategic data to improve breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices and to reduce stunting and anaemia in young children.
Besides, BRAC and other international development organisations joined the initiative under the management of FHI 360, a US-based organisation.
Dr Tina Sanghvi, country programme director and senior technical advisor, Alive & Thrive said Bangladesh's improvement in breastfeeding was better than Vietnam and Ethiopia where the exclusive breastfeeding increased from 19 percent to 58 and 72 percent to 83 respectively.
Complementary feeding with diet diversity increased in Bangladesh from 32 per cent to 64, she said.
28 July 2015, Dhaka. At the seminar on ‘Way forward to stop child marriage’, experts demanded that the minimum age for marriage should be kept18 years. The seminar, organised by BRAC on 28 July 2015, was attended by government representatives, local representatives, Nikah registrars (kazis), religious leaders (Imams), and representatives from human rights organisations, non-government organisations and media.
Sheepa Hafiza, director of BRAC’s gender justice and diversity and migration programmes, presented the keynote paper. The major findings of the keynote paper included opinions and recommendations collected from the workshops held in 19 sub-districts of Bangladesh. A total of 1,294 people participated in these sub-district workshops, including representatives from local government, civil society, NGOs, and religious leaders.
State minister for Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MoWCA), Meher Afroz Chumki said, “There is no scope for confusion on the minimum age for marriage. It remains 18. Our government is a women-friendly government and will not take any step that will affect women’s overall welfare.”
During the open discussion the religious leaders, local government representatives and speakers suggested using voter ID or birth certificate to confirm the age of girls and boys; stop illegal appointments of sub-kazis, and holding regular discussions to raise awareness on this issue during various social and religious gatherings.
Present as a special guest, Dr Rasheda K Chowdhury, executive director of CAMPE said, “We have to strengthen the birth registration offices, so that no one can change the original birth date.” She added, “Girl child drop out from school is one of the major reasons for child marriage. It has been observed that a major drop outs happen when stipends are stopped due to less than 80 per cent attendance for girls. Sanitation is a major factor here influencing girls’ attendance. So the government needs to ensure sanitation at schools as well.”
The seminar was chaired by BRAC’s executive director, Dr Muhammad Musa. In his concluding speech he said, “Along with enforcing the law, we have to create a social movement to prevent child marriage. We need to bring a change in our patriarchy-based social psyche”.
Present as guests were chairperson of Jatiyo Mahila Parishad, Ayesha Khanam, former chairperson of Women and Gender Studies Department of Dhaka University, Professor Nazma Chowdhury, DIG of Police, Mili Biswas, country representative of DFID Sarah Cook, and Farzana Rupa from Channel 71.
Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, BRAC’s founder and chairperson, was announced as the winner of the 41st annual World Food Prize on 1 July 2015. Sir Fazle has been recognised for his outstanding contribution to enhancing the world's production and distribution of food to those most in need.
Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn, President of the World Food Prize Foundation, announced this year’s winner at a ceremony at the State Department in Washington, DC. The Prize, which includes an award of USD 250,000, has been referred to as the Nobel prize for food and agriculture.
“Being selected to receive the 2015 World Food Prize is a great honour,” said Sir Fazle in a statement. “I thank the Foundation for its recognition of the work of BRAC, which I have had the privilege to lead over the last 43 years.”
“The real heroes in our story are the poor themselves and, in particular, women struggling with poverty. In situations of extreme poverty, it is usually the women in the family who have to make do with scarce resources. When we saw this at BRAC, we realised that women needed to be the agents of change in our development effort.”
Announcing Sir Fazle’s name as the Laureate, Ambassador Kenneth Quinn said, “At a time when the world confronts the great challenge of feeding over nine billion people, Sir Fazle Abed and BRAC, the organisation he founded and leads, have created the preeminent model being followed around the globe on how to educate girls, empower women and lift whole generations out of poverty. For this monumental achievement, Sir Fazle truly deserves recognition as the 2015 World Food Prize Laureate.”
At the ceremony, the U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, “I offer my sincerest congratulations to Sir Fazle and appreciation for the progress he has made in improving people’s lives, alleviating hunger, and providing pathways out of poverty. Sir Fazle’s and his organisation’s recognition that engaging women in STEAM fields—science, technology, engineering, agriculture, and math—benefits our local and global communities is a vision that we share at United States Department of Agriculture. It is my honor to participate in this event today with people who see the need for innovative approaches to feeding our rapidly growing population”.
BRAC is widely credited as a major contributor to Bangladesh's achievement in halving poverty and hunger* levels since 1990, in line with the UN's Millennium Development Goals, through its sustained efforts in the fields of poverty and hunger eradication and food security. By focusing on scalable solutions, BRAC’s food programmes have turned into sustainable social enterprises that provide inputs and access to stable markets for the rural poor.
BRAC's agriculture and food security programmes are part of a larger set of poverty eradication interventions working in 11 countries, empowering the poor, especially women and girls, using tools such as microfinance, education, health care, legal services, community empowerment, social enterprises, and a full-fledged university, BRAC University, in Dhaka.
Download the 2015 Laureate Announcement
BRAC has made significant contributions in attaining Millennium Development Goal (MDG) that have been set to achieve by 2015-said speakers at BRAC’s annual report 2014 launch. The event was held on 23 June 2015 at BRAC centre at Mohakhali.
Bangladesh is on track in achieving the 5 of the 8 MDGs. The country has made remarkable progress in the areas of poverty alleviation, primary school enrolment, gender parity in primary education, lowering the infant and under-five mortality rate and maternal mortality ratio.
Highlighting BRAC’s achievements executive director Dr Muhammad Musa said, “99.97 per cent out of 43,843 BRAC primary school students passed the PSC exam in 2014. Around 61.17 per cent of these students are girls and their pass rate is 99.9 per cent.
In health sector, BRAC has achieved 91 per cent immunisation coverage in its working areas across 64 districts. The TB treatment success rate is 95 per cent.
Dr Musa also stressed that significant improvements have been made in alleviating ultra poverty. Since 2002 BRAC’s ultra poor programme covered 1.6 million people and 95 per cent of this population have been able to come out of ultra poverty. In addition to that BRAC’s water sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programme has distributed 32 million sanitary latrines in 250 sub districts.
Explaining BRAC’s future direction Dr Musa added, “BRAC is extending its services to manage urban challenges, youth skills development, climate change resilience and violence against women”
BRAC and BRAC International’s senior director Asif Saleh moderated the event. Country Head of Department for International Development (DFID) Sara Cooke, Counsellor (Development Cooperation), Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) Priya Powell and BRAC senior management and representatives from media also attended the event.
At the closing session, BRAC launched its new ‘augmented reality’ app to complement the content of its annual report. Smart phone users can access additional features using this app. This is the first app of its kind in Bangladesh which is also developed by BRAC staff.
Dr Muhammad Musa has been appointed as the new executive director of BRAC, the largest development organisation in the world.
Dr Musa is a veteran development practitioner whose career spanned in different parts of the world in Asia, Africa and North America over a period of 32 years. Immediately prior to joining BRAC, he was the CEO of CARE India and represented the country at the global board of CARE International.
Dr Musa has a masters in public health (MPH) from Johns Hopkins University, USA, post graduate diploma from The Netherlands Universities Foundation for International Development, and an MBBS from Chittagong Medical College, Bangladesh.