21 August 2008, Dhaka. BRAC Human Rights and Legal Aid Services Program (HRLS) together with the Center for Reproductive Rights (the Center), New York, is organizing a workshop themed ‘Reproductive Health, Litigation and Human Rights’ in Dhaka on August 28th 2008, at the BRAC Center, where activists, health rights advocates and experts in reproductive health and human rights will come together to discuss legal strategies for addressing key reproductive health issues in Bangladesh.
Women’s reproductive health in Bangladesh is a matter of concern for human rights advocates in Bangladesh and around the world. An estimated 12,000 women die annually from pregnancy-related causes, and although there has been a significant increase in contraceptive use since the late seventies, access to family planning services and information is unequal, leading to a higher incidence of adverse reproductive health outcomes among low-income and adolescent women and girls.
BRAC, together with the Centre and other Bangladeshi activists, will discuss legal strategies undertaken in other parts of Asia and Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe such as fact-finding, documentation, litigation and legal advocacy, and how these may serve to address reproductive health issues and to promote access to justice for victims of reproductive rights violations in Bangladesh. This discussion will determine a future course of action for health and reproductive rights in Bangladesh.
02 August 2008, Dhaka. Visiting Indian politician and member of the Indian Parliament Rahul Gandhi, along with his 8-member delegation, visited several BRAC programmes in Gazipur district on Saturday. He was accompanied by BRAC Executive Director Dr Mahabub Hossain and other senior officials.
Gandhi began his day by visiting a microfinance group in Lahuri village of Kapasia sub-district and observed microfinance activities. He enquired about the range of loan sizes, how they are used by the women and the means of repayment. He interacted with the women and enquired about their economic condition after obtaining loans from BRAC. He learnt about various other income generating activities by the borrowers and paid a visit to a borrower’s household to see her cattle-rearing enterprise.
He then visited a BRAC pre-primary as well as a BRAC primary school. He observed classes in progress and watched the students engage in various extra-curricular activities. He also visited a BRAC community library and a BRAC Kishori Kendra (Adolescent Development Centre).
Gandhi then visited BRAC health programmes in Kapasia sadar and discussed health issues with BRAC Shastho Shebikas (health volunteers). He observed first-hand the role played by BRAC health volunteers in providing health education and treating basic ailments. He also visited an Ante-Natal Clinic conducted for pregnant women.
In the afternoon, Gandhi saw a BRAC’s human rights classes for rural women in progress. He also visited a BRAC training centre.
On his return to Dhaka, Gandhi and his team sat for exclusive talks with BRAC chairperson Fazle Hasan Abed for an hour and a half at the BRAC Centre. He was later expected to attend a dinner hosted in his honour by the BRAC chairperson.
30 June 2008, Dhaka. The European Commission (EC) will provide a grant of 13 million euros to Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (Brac) in support of sustainable recovery and rehabilitation of agriculture-based and non-agriculture-based livelihood in cyclone Sidr-affected coastal areas.
The delegation of the European Commission to Bangladesh signed a grant agreement with BRAC to this effect yesterday, said an EC press release.
Brac Executive Director Mahabub Hossain and Dr Stefan Frowein, Ambassador of Head of delegation of the delegation of the European Commission signed the contract.
This action will help to link the relief phase, for which ECHO already provided 20.425 million euro with the longer term reconstruction and development of the affected areas.
This new EC support under the instrument for stability will provide much needed interventions to boost rehabilitation of agriculture-based and non-agriculture-based, livelihoods in severely cyclone Sidr affected areas of Bangladesh.
The action is designed to build upon previous and ongoing ECHO emergency intervention and link with ongoing DIPECHO disaster preparedness activities and the longer term EC development support for disaster risk reduction and food security.
A Joint Damage Loss and Needs Assessment, financed through the instrument for Stability, estimated the total amount of damage and losses caused by the cyclone at over 1.1 billion euro, equivalent to 2.8 percent of Bangladesh's GDP. More than two-thirds of this was physical damage and one-third economic loss.
Ambassador Frowein stated, "This additional support from the European Commission underlines the solidarity which the European Union has expressed with the government and the people of Bangladesh in the wake of this terrible natural disaster."
Ambassador and Head of Delegation of the European Commission Dr Stefan Erowein, second from left, and Executive Director of Brac Dr Mahabub Hossain shake hands at a ceremony in the city yesterday after signing a deal worth 13 million euros to support the sustainable recovery and rehabilitation of agro-based and non-agro-based livelihoods in Sidr-hit coastal areas
20 June 2008, Dhaka. “The future of Bangladesh is very bright if everybody is getting the education [BRAC school students] are getting!”
UK Minister for International Development, Shahid Malik, visited a BRAC primary school located in the Korail slum area of Dhaka city on Thursday, as part of a three-day tour to Bangladesh. The minister spent time talking and interacting with the students and also enjoyed a lively song and dance performance by them.
Following the visit, the minister expressed his appreciation of BRAC’s education programme. “The future of Bangladesh is very bright if everybody is getting the education that these children are getting,” he said. “And the good thing is that over 93% of children who go to BRAC schools end up going into the state sector, so it’s a really positive initiative,” he also added. The Minister expressed his strong belief that if the Government of Bangladesh continues to work closely with civil society organizations such as BRAC in the education sector, Bangladesh would be able to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in education.
During his visit to the school, the Minister was accompanied by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) South Asian Division Director Jim Drummond and senior officials from DFID Bangladesh. BRAC Deputy Executive Director Aminul Alam and Education Programme Director Safiqul Islam were also present.
The Korail North primary school which the Minister visited is one of 11 BRAC primary schools in Korail, providing BRAC’s groundbreaking non-formal primary education services to nearly 400 underprivileged children living in the slum. In addition to primary schools, BRAC Education’s Adolescent Development Programme also runs an adolescent centre in Korail. Over 37,500 non-formal primary and 24,000 pre-primary BRAC schools provide education to nearly 2 million children across the country.
Shahid Malik is the UK Member of Parliament for Dewsbury, West Yorkshire and was elected in May 2005. Within a year, he was appointed to the influential Home Affairs Select Committee and served as a PPS to Schools Minister Jim Knight. In 2007 he was appointed Minister for International Development in Gordon Brown's first government.
09 June 2008, Dhaka. BRAC University’s James P. Grant School of Public Health (JPGSPH) recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Nagasaki University of Japan to work together improve health education and research and build capacity of human resources in the health sector. Both universities agreed to develop collaborative activities in academic areas of mutual interest, on the basis of equality and reciprocity. These activities will include exchange of students, faculty, researchers, and other research and administrative staff, implementation of collaborative research projects, lectures and symposia, exchange of academic information and materials.
This Agreement was signed by Professor Hiroshi Saito, President of Nagasaki University and Professor A Mushtaque R. Chowdhury, Dean of the JPGSPH.
This agreement is one of many partnerships that the JPGSPH has developed with other leading schools of public health, including the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (UK), University of Amsterdam (Netherlands), Karolinska Institute (Sweden), and Columbia University, Harvard University and Johns Hopkins University (USA).
06 June 2008, Dhaka. BRAC strongly believes that it is the responsibility of the state to ensure quality primary education for all. BRAC does not believe in the privatization or commercialization of primary education. In response to recent reports and articles in the media regarding the pilot programme initiated jointly by the Government of Bangladesh and BRAC, we would like to clarify that the aim of the programme is to improve the standard of education at selected government and registered non-government primary schools. BRAC has not been given any control over the management of these schools.
The objectives of the pilot programme are to increase attendance, reduce high drop out rates, raise course completion rates to over 80% and improve overall quality of teaching and learning at government and registered non-government primary schools in 20 sub-districts of 9 districts. This will be done by providing teachers with skills training, making school management committees more active, organising periodic parent-teacher meetings as well as regular head-teacher-led discussion forums for all teachers. All activities under this programme will be carried out with the full involvement of the management and teachers of the schools. It may be mentioned that BRAC has, over the past three years, conducted an experimental programme to improve the capacity of government primary schools in 6 subdistricts of Sherpur district. In light of the significant experience gained through this programme, the current pilot programme is being undertaken.
In the 36 years that have passed since its inception in 1972, BRAC has established itself as one of the largest and most successful NGOs in the world. BRAC’s groundbreaking interventions in poverty alleviation and empowerment of the poor have been successful in bringing about significant changes in the socioeconomic landscape of Bangladesh and beyond.
BRAC’s education programme has played a significant role in supplementing and reinforcing the formal education system by creating access to schooling for disadvantaged children who have dropped out of or have never enrolled in formal schools. More than 1.2 million children are currently enrolled in the 37,500 BRAC primary schools across the country and over 3.8 million students have already graduated, over 90% of whom have moved on to formal schooling at the secondary level. In 2007, the pass rate of BRAC school students in the government conducted class 5 completion exam was over 95%.
We hope that the experience and knowledge gained from the aforementioned pilot programme will be helpful in improving the overall quality of education in Banlgadesh.
30 May 2008, Dhaka. A group of three British MPs visited several BRAC projects in Gazipur and Dhaka city as part of a week-long study tour to Bangladesh to learn about efforts to combat tuberculosis (TB) and poverty. MPs Annette Brooke, Liberal Democrat – Mid Dorset & North Poole, Kerry McCarthy, Labour – Bristol East, and Marsha Singh, Labour – Bradford West, visited a birthing hut operated by BRAC’s Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health programme in Dhaka city’s Korail slum on Thursday.
The MPs also paid a visit to a BRAC school in Korail where they spent time talking to the students and teacher. Following her visit to the Korail BRAC school, MP Kerry McCarthy said, “I was struck by the scope and extent of BRAC’s work and particularly enjoyed my visit to the BRAC school…the children were delightful and very keen to demonstrate their English language skills! I would like to congratulate BRAC and their work to alleviate poverty in Bangladesh.”
On Wednesday, the MPs also visited a BRAC village organisation in Gazipur, where they observed BRAC’s microfinance activities and met with a BRAC health volunteer. The MPs then visited a BRAC community health forum and an antenatal care clinic and was able to observe various activities under BRAC’s groundbreaking TB Control Programme, including Directly Observed Therapy – Short Course (DOTS) for TB by a health volunteer, a TB outreach smearing centre and TB and external quality assurance laboratories. “The success of the TB programme in Bangladesh is impressive and must be maintained. It is a model that could be translated and implemented effectively by other countries,” observed MP Annette Brooke.
“This is my first visit to Bangladesh and I have been inspired by the energy, dynamism and optimism of the Bangladeshi people, including the poorest of the poor” said MP Marsha Singh, “Bangladesh faces many daunting challenges but in BRAC has a national NGO to be proud of. The scope, extent and reach of BRAC is staggering and its grassroots work is so impressive and effective”. He added, “I will leave Bangladesh with a feeling of immense hope”.
23 May 2008, Dhaka. BRAC Founder and Chairperson, Fazle Hasan Abed, was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws by Columbia University in the United States for his comprehensive approach to fighting poverty, the powerful model of social change that he has introduced and his abiding commitment to serving the poorest and most vulnerable. Abed was conferred his degree by Lee C. Bollinger, the president of Columbia University, at its 254th commencement ceremony, held on Wednesday, 21 May in New York.
“One of the world’s most effective humanitarians, you have transformed the lives of millions through the work of your organization, BRAC. Your vision is audacious, the scale of your work inspires awe and the results you have achieved are a stunning example to the world of our potential to successfully fight poverty and save lives. You have been recognized by many organizations for your commitment to improving life on this planet; we are honored to acknowledge you again today.” reads his citation.
Columbia, one of the world's leading universities and a member of the Ivy League, was founded in 1754, making the University the fifth oldest institution of higher education in the United States.
Abed founded BRAC in 1972 to help rehabilitate returning refuges from India to newly independent Bangladesh. Later, BRAC changed its focus to long-term community development. Today, BRAC is the largest non-governmental organisation in the world and its programmes in education, health, economic and social development and human rights and legal services cover a population in excess of 100 million. In addition to numerous national and international awards, Abed was previously awarded degrees of Doctor of Laws by Queen’s University in Canada, Doctor in Education by the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom and Doctor of Humane Letters by Yale University in the United States in recognition of his work with BRAC.
15 February 2008, Dhaka. BRAC celebrated its 35th anniversary on Friday, 15 February 2008, through an evening of music and entertainment at the Dhaka Army Stadium in Bangladesh. Nearly 15,000 members of the BRAC family traveled to Dhaka from around the country to take part in the festivities.
BRAC Founder and Chairperson, Fazle Hasan Abed, inaugurated the event. Highlights of the festivities included performances by popular artists including Runa Laila, Momtaz, Kumar Biswajit, Syed Abdul Hadi, Samina Chowdhury and Salma. The event also included dance choreography by Lubna Mariam and dance performances by Ria and Sohel. Popular television personality Abdun Noor Tushar hosted the event as the master of ceremonies. Specially designed interactive games and raffle draws were included to engage the audience.
The event was organized to pay tribute to the commitment and decades of hard work of BRAC’s staff in poverty alleviation in Bangladesh. Due to space constraints, only the oldest of BRAC’s over 56,000 full-time staff, 60,000 schools teachers and 70,000 health volunteers were invited. Originally scheduled to be held on December 15, the 35th anniversary celebrations were postponed in order to pay tribute to the victims of Cyclone Sidr and because some 3,000 BRAC staff members were dedicated to full-time post-Sidr relief and rehabilitation efforts.
02 January 2008, Dhaka. Speakers at a view-exchange meeting on Thursday stressed the need for setting up a ‘centre for journalism’ in the country to provide training and education to working journalists and to carry out research.
The meeting on opening of ‘centre for journalism’ was held at a city hotel where BRAC University officials and local journalists from both print and electronic media were present. Golam Kibria, Manzur Elahi Shibli and Zahid Hossain of BRAC University briefed the local journalists on various issues such as in-depth and investigative reporting. USAID has initiated a four-year project styled ‘Promoting Governance, Accountability, Trans-parency and Integrity’ designed to assist Bangladesh to combat corruption.
Under the project, Institute of Governance Studies and BRAC have been selected to set up the ‘centre for journalism’ in Bangladesh based on a thorough assessment of 16 local organisations. The officials suggested imparting training on issues like investigative reporting in print and electronic media, reporting and modern technology, laws, regulations and ethics, budget and financial reporting and community radio. Issues relating to media report, research on journalism and working atmosphere, in-depth and investigative reporting and fee-based training, certificate, diploma and credit courses for undergraduates also came up at the meeting for discussion.
A non-partisan advisory board to provide long-term guidance to the centre would be formed through discussion with media managers, senior reporters and academics, the officials said. Local journalists also agreed with BRAC officials on the necessity of training, academic courses and researches and urged to assist the media houses in developing journalism outside Dhaka with ensuring congenial working atmosphere. They also stressed need for maintaining rules, laws and ethical values in journalism with objectivity and introduce online, basic and advance courses on journalism, information technology and English language for the journalists outside Dhaka, taking into account their academic, financial and professional limitations.