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Monday, 11 December 2017 00:00

BRAC's statement on news published

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BRAC's attention has been drawn to the news published by some media houses, alleging that the Government of Pakistan has ordered closure of BRAC's development operations in that country. While this news is not based on any fact, the statement below will explain the real situation on this issue.

BRAC has been implementing development programmes in Pakistan since 2007 under the entity 'BRAC Pakistan' which is locally registered. Recently, BRAC undertook an initiative to register an international development entity called 'BRAC International' to operate in that country. Accordingly, an application was filed with the Pakistani ministry concerned. The ministry, however, rejected the application, while advising to resubmit papers within 90 days for reappraisal. 

In this context, the development programmes being run by BRAC Pakistan have no connection with the application for registration of BRAC International or the process involving it.

We, therefore, clearly state that the news published alleging the suspension or closure of BRAC programmes in Pakistan is entirely baseless.

Sunday, 10 December 2017 00:00

Investing in a productive workforce

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BRAC in Pakistan organised their the first Annual Performance Awards 2016 to recognise top performing credit officers in the microfinance programme from all the six regions. The awards ceremonies were held in Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Sahiwal, Rawalpindi and Hyderabad, ending in July 2017. The top 36 performers were awarded with cash prizes based on outreach, number of clients, the quality and amount of portfolio achieved, and adherence to BRAC’s core values of integrity, innovation, effectiveness and inclusiveness.

The microfinance programme provides access to the financial support needed for people living in poverty, particularly women, to improve their livelihoods. BRAC uses an inclusive and client-focused intervention to extend financial and non-financial services across a wide number of underdeveloped areas in Pakistan. The loans are delivered at clients’ doorsteps through female agents.

BRAC is currently providing financial assistance to 55,000 borrowers through microloans, small enterprise loan and agriculture loan products. The microfinance programme is operational in 13 districts through 66 branch offices and six regional offices in Sind and Punjab province of Pakistan.

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Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, Founder and Chairperson of BRAC, one of the world’s leading non-governmental organisations, has received the prestigious Laudato Si award during a ceremony at the Vatican City. The award recognises BRAC for its innovative approach to creating opportunities for millions of people living in poverty, achieving significant impact in Bangladesh and ten other countries.

BRAC was founded in Bangladesh in 1972 by Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, and today is a global leader in developing cost-effective, evidence-based poverty innovations in extremely poor, conflict-prone and post-disaster settings. These include programmes in education, healthcare, microfinance, girls’ empowerment, agriculture, human and legal rights, social enterprises, a bank, a university, and the world’s largest mobile money platform. The organisation is known for its business approach to helping people in poverty, with 16 socially-minded businesses that enable the most marginalised people to access financial services and livelihoods. In addition, BRAC’s celebrated graduation programme helps the poor ‘graduate’ out of destitution, resulting in an income boost of up to 37 percent. Research has shown that it has the potential to help achieve Sustainable Development Goal 1 by uplifting the poorest people and eradicating the most severe forms of poverty.


Laudato Si’

In 2015, Pope Francis wrote “Laudato Si’ meaning, “On care for our common home,” in which he calls for an international dialogue about how to approach and act upon an ecological crisis. In essence he explains that caring for our common home, and bettering our communities, means also addressing how international business practices have contributed to climate change, which effects the most marginalised people. The Laudato Si’ Challenge 2017 is developing and accelerating transformative, scalable, profitable businesses that have solutions to the most intractable problem of our time: climate change and human migration.

As part of the inaugural challenge, The Laudato Si’ awards recognise the innovators whose contributions are uniting humanity and transforming the way we approach impact and enterprise. The Laudato Si’ awards are a set of three prizes honouring those who are committed to answering Pope Francis’s clarion call.  Other award winners include Huda Abuarquob in the individual category and Sarara Camp in the enterprise category.

Sir Fazle expressed his gratitude for the award. “Forty-five years ago, I set out to change the conditions of my native Bangladesh permanently, by giving poor people the power to control their own lives and destinies. I founded BRAC based on the belief that poor people, if given the means to organise themselves, can change the course of history.

“We have achieved much, but there is more to be done. For the first time in history, the eradication of extreme poverty from the face of the planet is within our sight. Like His Holiness Pope Francis, I believe that proper care for the planet means proper care for the people who live on it, including the most vulnerable among us. My vision is of a world where even the poorest have the opportunity to lead lives of purpose and dignity.”

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BRAC in Sierra Leone was awarded the ‘Best NGO for Women’s Empowerment' for 2017 by the Council of Chief Executives, a leading association of business leaders in Sierra Leone that is committed to sustainable economic growth and human development.

The award comes in recognition of BRAC’s role in empowering women through its programmes, management systems and innovations.

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The award was accepted by the country representative, Rakibul Bari Khan, on behalf of BRAC in Sierra Leone. He described the award as "a great honor and recognition of our determination to empower the lives of women in Sierra Leone. Ultimately, we want to help the country achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly the goal of attaining gender equality." He further noted, "In turn, the empowerment of women will help remove inequality and contribute to the eradication of poverty in all its forms."

80% of BRAC staff in Sierra Leone are women and over half of the programmes are run by women. The Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescents (ELA) programme is completely run by women while all community health workers under the health programme are women; 95% of microfinance staff and clients are also women.

BRAC opened its offices in Sierra Leone in 2008 and currently reaches 2.3 million people through programmes in health, adolescents’ empowerment, agriculture and microfinance. It follows an integrated approach to development, implementing programmes through 30 branches in 11 districts across the country.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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Lack of healthy diet puts more people at risk of death and diseases

Lack of healthy diet puts more people at risk of death and diseases in developing countries than things like air pollution, smoking and drug abuse. It has been reported that as a result of poor nutrition conditions, there was an estimated 11 percent drop in GDP of countries across Africa and Asia.

This, along with other insights, come from the new report on 'Healthy Diets for All: A Key to Meeting the SDGs' that was launched at this year's Global Panel meeting at a hotel on today in the capital. Zahid Malek, MP, Honorable State Minister from the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, was present at the launching as the chief guest.

Panel members at the meeting included the Director of BRAC, Health, Nutrition and Population Programme, Dr Kaosar Afsana, Global Panel member Emmy Simmons, Global Panel Technical Advisor Professor Patrick Webb, Department for International Development (DFID) country director Jane Edmondson were also spoke at the meeting, BRAC, and Global Panel in collaboration with International Food Policy Research Institute and Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) hosted this year's meeting in Dhaka on Monday, 20 November, 2017. The central agenda of the meeting was to engage policymakers at all levels and help them recognise the role of healthy diets in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The report presented six evidence-based recommendations, aimed at policymakers in low and middle-income counties, showing how 'diet quality' can be the key to help them unlock and accelerate progress on meeting their Sustainable Development Goals.

These six areas of focus include – paying attention to diet quality in developing SDG plans; adopting food systems approach to meet the SDGs; focusing on improved diet for infants, young children and women; addressing barriers and shocks impeding access to healthy diets; widening national policy approach to ensure well-functioning food systems; boosting efforts to collect and report data on diet quality.

Zahid Malek MP stated, "this is a country of 160-170 million people. Despite few natural calamities and man-made disasters, Bangladesh has maintained its sustained economic growth. We are turning from lower middle income to middle income by 2021 or earlier. Even then, 45 million people live in absolute poverty, 40 million are suffering food insecurity, 7.3 million children are stunted, only three-fourths of under two children accessed minimal acceptable diet and 70% of our diets are cereal based."

He emphasized on five points to solve these problems; urge all relevant ministries to act in their own jurisdiction for improved nutrition and healthy diets for all with a multi-sectoral approach, propose a minimal healthy diet affordable to the people, rigorous advocacy and mass campaign for healthy diets, continuous and serious dialogue with commercial markets to make them pro-people, nutrition-sensitive and supportive for healthy population and all stakeholders – government, NGOs, UN and private sectors must work together for community mobilization.

The consensus at the meeting was that one critically important policy area that connects many of the SDGs, is the provision healthy diets for all. Invisible in terms of SDG language and not mentioned among the many targets, healthy diets are a foundation underpinning successful progress toward targets in health, agriculture, inequality, poverty and sustainable consumption.

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Community radios to commence unique two month long campaign.

As part of the efforts to raise awareness on the issue of child marriage, community radios will start communicating a unique campaign from November until December. A total of 17 community radios nationwide will be responsible for disseminating critical information on 11 topics surrounding child marriage in various native languages.

A thought sharing session was held today, titled “Increasing Awareness to Prevent Child Marriages,” at the National Press Club where the campaign announcement was made. The participants at the event included Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Information, Md. Mosharraf Hossain, Programme Coordinator of Gender Justice and Diversity at BRAC, Nishath Sultana, and Director of Community Empowerment Programme, Gender Justice and Diversity, and Integrated Development Programme at BRAC, Anna Minj.

It is revealed through the event that the topics covered by the community radio shows will include: child marriage, father’s role in child marriage, role of teachers and community leaders, community engagement, role of local government, role of social media, role of NGOs, involvement of boys and sexual harassment among others.

The development of the magazine shows, necessary skills building and promotion related activities will be carried out in collaboration among BRAC’s Gender Justice and Diversity and Community Empowerment Programme along with Bangladesh Community Radio Association.

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Dr Chowdhury honoured for work in public health globally.

Dr Mushtaque Raza Chowdhury, Vice Chairperson of BRAC, was nominated by the American non-profit Ronald McDonald House Charities for its ‘Medical Award of Excellence 2017’ along with a grant of USD 100,000. The award was given in recognition of Dr Chowdhury’s outstanding contributions in the field of primary health care and community-based education across developing countries. The ceremony was held on 11th November, 2017, in Illinois, U.S.

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Among his vast body of achievements, Dr Chowdury is known for leading BRAC’s Oral Therapy Extension Programme that successfully stemmed deaths from childhood diarrhea by training mothers on oral rehydration solution (ORS) preparation. In addition to his role at BRAC, Dr Chowdhury is also the Professor of Population and Family Health at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and has implemented projects in countries like Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand, China and Ethiopia.

Dr Chowdhury has worked as Senior Adviser and acting Managing Director for Health at the Rockefeller Foundation, where he played a critical role in setting up several institutions in the South-East and South Asia regions. These include the establishment of the Department of Public Health and Informatics at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, forming the Mekong Basin Disease Surveillance (MBDS) network, and setting up of a center on non-state sector studies in Vietnam.

Past recipients of the Award included former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Health Minister of Rwanda Dr Agnes Binagwaho and Queen Noor of Jordan among others.

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BRAC’s executive director, Dr Muhammad Musa said, “For education to be able to serve the future of our communities, we need to empower teachers, methodologies, practitioners and more importantly mindsets, in order to solve real problems with simple, frugal solutions, that include the under-privileged communities of the present world,” today on Saturday at the closing day of a 3-day international event on educational innovations organised at Savar, Dhaka.

Focusing on scaling up quality education, BRAC organised the programme titled ‘Frugal Innovation Forum 2017’ in 9-11 November 2017 at Savar CDM. The first day of the event was spent in the field, while discussions comprising 17 sessions were held in the next two days.

Primary and mass education minister, Advocate Mostafizur Rahman MP inaugurated the discussion sessions on Friday, which primarily focused on the potentials of different kinds of innovations to ensure quality education across the world. Educationists and innovators from Bangladesh, Australia, India, Nepal and South Africa presented 11 innovative models of quality education. Over 200 development activists, social entrepreneurs, educationists and researchers participated in discussions on the innovative approaches and projects adopted in the education systems of different countries around the world.

A special session on the education of refugee children titled ‘The displaced demographic: Classrooms for every child’ was held on the closing day. Abdul Moktader, Project Director, Save the Children Bangladesh; Jacqueline Strecker, Learn Lab Manager, UNHCR, and Mohammad Mohsin, ECD Specialist, UNICEF Bangladesh, were the speakers of the session.

Later on the closing day executive director of BRAC, Dr Muhammad Musa attended a session titled ‘Future of Education’. Dr James Tooley, professor of education policy at the University of Newcastle and Anir Chowdhury, policy adviser to the Access to Information (a2i) Programme at the Prime Minister’s Office, also spoke at this session.

Yesterday’s (10 November 2017) discussions focused on the changing trends in the education systems across the world. Dr Safiqul Islam, director of BRAC’s education programme, Ian Attfield, senior education adviser of DFID Education Policy Team, and Fathima Dada, global managing director of English and Schools, Pearson, were the speakers at this session titled ‘Shifting sands in global education across the world’.

Another important session from the second day called ‘Public private partnership in education - Lessons learnt from the region’ included Aashti Zaidi Hai, director of Global Schools Forum, Lee Crawfurd, head of research and evaluation of Ark Education Partnerships Group, Md Afzal Hossain Sarwar, policy specialist for educational innovation at Access to Information Programme at the Prime Minister’s Office, Bangladesh, and Shweta Anand Arora, director of The Education Alliance, as the speakers.

Asif Saleh, senior director for strategy, communications and empowerment of BRAC and BRAC International, gave the closing remarks of the event.

The BRAC Social Innovation Lab (SIL) has been organising Frugal Innovation Forum for the last four years (since 2013) with focus on pressing social issues. This year, the Bangla daily, Prothom Alo was the associate partner of the event while Global Schools Forum acted as the knowledge partner.

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According to Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), buses are responsible for 23% of all road crashes in Bangladesh. This is further evidenced by Accident Research Institute (BUET) led research which showed that 47% of road crashes in Bangladesh is caused by buses, truck and other heavy vehicles.

To address the situation, BRAC Driving School (an initiative of BRAC Road Safety Programme) has launched a road safety and defensive driving training for in-service bus and truck drivers called 'Shurakkha'. It focuses on modifying the attitude and behaviour of drivers towards road safety and driving.

Earlier in April this year, ENA had sent its first batch of 200 drivers to BRAC Driving School to undergo the training. Mr Khandaker Enayet Ullah, owner of ENA and General Secretary of Bangladesh Road Transport Owners' Association had pledged to send another 200 drivers. Today (November 5 2017), ENA enrolled another 200 of its drivers to undergo the training.

Director of BRAC Road Safety Programme Ahmed Najmul Hussain informed that the training course 'Shurakkha' has been developed by BRAC with support of Hubert Ebner which specialises in drivers training. The drivers not only become safer drivers, they also reported a reduction of 30% on repair and maintenance costs. 'Shurakkha' is provided in two formats - i) three-day-long residential training focusing on road safety, defensive driving, attitude and behaviour; ii) two-day-long residential and one day for driving test using vehicle mounted P-Drive system that grades drivers of their safety, driving, attitude and behavioural skills. ENA in this case chose to give their drivers the three residential ‘Surakkha’ training opportunity to amend their driving skills at BRAC Driving School.

Research on this training has found that as much as 90 per cent of ‘Surakkha’ trained drivers have experienced change in their mindset when driving. 95% of these drivers claimed that they mantain a safe following distance from the next vehicle in front while driving.

 

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