Planning minister MA Mannan said, "The main reasons for perpetuating poverty in the haors are injustice and discrimination. The influential and powerful elites who live in the cities are exploiting people in haor with illegal means. It's time to take stern action against them."
He also observed, "Elimination of extreme poverty from haors is difficult by any single organisation. It needs essential collaboration from all those concerned, in both public and private sectors." His views came at a national-level meeting BRAC organised on Wednesday, November 27, at the CIRDAP auditorium in the capital to exchange views on haor development.
Styled on the theme "Collaborative initiatives for haor development", the meeting was organised by BRAC's integrated development programme (IDP). BRAC’s executive director Asif Saleh presided over the event.
Designed especially for the haor region, the implementation of IDP began in 2013. With an integrated strategy of action, it formed 3,550 women-led village development organisations. Through these organisations, BRAC is implementing a series of programmes in the areas of education, healthcare, nutrition and water, sanitation and hygiene, preventing violence against women, improving living standards and alleviating ultra poverty through financial inclusion and information delivery. Currently, IDP is covering 900,000 people in four subdistricts of four haor regions - Baniachang of Habiganj, Dirai of Sunamganj, Itna of Kishoreganj and Khaliajuri of Netrokona.
In these four subdistricts, only 10 per cent of the families could access different essential services, while the coverage has increased to 75 per cent through IDP interventions. Since 2013, 96 per cent ultra-poor women who were covered by IDP graduated from extreme poverty. At the same time, sanitation coverage in the programme area has increased from previous 17 per cent to 72 per cent now. A total of 47,524 children are going to school, while 90 per cent of the inhabitants of the areas can access healthcare facilities. The programme participants also receive improved quality seeds, training on climate-resilient cultivation method, cattle and poultry vaccination, financial inclusion, family planning services, ante-natal and delivery care and information services.
A presentation was also given at the event on BRAC IDP's learnings from implementation of different initiatives in the haor. A special discussion titled "Future vision for integrated development in haor" followed, moderated by KAM Morshed, director, BRAC Advocacy for Social Change programme. Dr Ali Muhammad Omar Faruque, deputy secretary and deputy director, Department of Bangladesh Haor and Wetlands Development, Anna Minj, director, IDP, Community Empowerment Programme, and Gender Justice and Diversity Programme, Walter Mwasaa, chief of party, Souhardo-III of Care Bangladesh, Anjela Naumann, first secretary and head of aid, Australian High Commission, and Professor Siddiqur Rahman of Jahangir Nagar University, participated in the discussion, among others.
Discussants said the dwellers of the haor regions are troubled with multifarious setbacks. The regions suffer from regular natural calamities, perpetuating an intergenerational fear of instability. Their asset base of land, cattle and poultry and others is very low, while the natural disasters further strain whatever assets they have. Difficult physical communication prevents consistent and quality delivery of essential services including education, health and livelihood, causing perpetuation of poverty. The speakers said only a singular platform competently designed with custom-based services for haor areas can break through this chain of setbacks and bring development at the doorsteps of the haor inhabitants. They said to make that happen, all the government and private development bodies will have to act together.
They further observed that the government should increase the coverage of its social safety net programmes especially for haor areas. Opportunities for demand-based service delivery will also have to be much increased. To bring the haor people into the fold of mainstream development, well-designed, collaborative and integrated initiatives have to be taken for sustainably tackling natural disasters, creating employment opportunities and skilled manpower at the local level.
Sir Fazle Hasan Abed KCMG, Founder and Chair Emeritus of BRAC, has been decorated Officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau for his longstanding, dedicated and successful work in alleviating poverty especially of women and children.
Sir Fazle accepted today the insignia of the Royal Knighthood bestowed upon him by H. E. Mr. Harry Verweij, Dutch Ambassador to Bangladesh, on behalf of His Majesty King Willem Alexander of The Netherlands.
A brief ceremony took place at Sir Fazle's residence in Dhaka city in the evening. Sir Fazle's family members along with representatives from the Netherlands embassy were present at the event.
"On behalf of His Majesty the King it is my great honour and privilege to present to you the insignia of Officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau,” Ambassador Verweij said.
Sir Fazle expressed his delight at the acknowledgement by the Dutch Crown. "Being named an Officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau is an immense honour," he said. “The Netherlands has been a great friend and supporter to BRAC over the decades and our connection with the country has deepened since establishing the base of our international operations there 10 years ago. This recognition is a testament to that friendship. As BRAC expands globally, we look forward to working together to advance the causes of people living in situations of poverty and deprivation”.
The ambassador in his speech highlighted Sir Fazle's holistic vision and entrepreneurial approach to poverty alleviation and women’s empowerment. “Sir Fazle has always strived to uphold human dignity, resilience, integrity and inclusion - these values have been at the heart of the successful development of BRAC."
“The fact that, for BRAC, the empowerment of women is not a secondary aim but a guiding principle of all of its programmes and enterprises, is greatly appreciated. BRAC’s anti-poverty work is recognized across the world, including in The Netherlands,” the ambassador further stated. He also mentioned the long-standing and close connection between BRAC and his country.
The Order of Orange-Nassau is awarded for longstanding meritorious service to society, the State or the Royal House of The Kingdom of The Netherlands.
BRAC’s climate change programme organised an event titled "Youth convention on climate change" on Sunday, November 17, 2019, at BRAC Centre in the capital.
Thirty per cent of Bangladesh's population are youth who are already engaged in many different initiatives to promote and adopt sustainable solutions. A number of universities in the country have developed their own initiatives to address different climate change issues.
The youth will lead mankind in tackling the impacts of climate change. They will do it by spreading awareness on environment preservation and climate education, inspiring people about sustainable living and livelihoods, and adopting recyclable energy sources. The speakers expressed these views at the convention.
Dr Ainun Nishat, eminent environment expert, former vice-chancellor of BRAC University, and currently adviser to the Centre for Climate Change and Environmental Research, BRAC University, was present as the chief guest in the event. Dr SM Munjurul Hannan Khan, additional secretary to the environment, forest and climate change ministry, and Syeda Rizwana Hasan, executive director, Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers' Association, were present as special guests. Dr Md Liakath Ali, director of BRAC’s climate change programme, chaired the convention.
Students from eight public and private universities, namely Dhaka University, Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh University of Professionals, BRAC University, North South University, United International University, Ahsanullah University of Science, and Independent University, Bangladesh, attended the convention. Only 10 per cent of these participants had attended any climate conference beforehand.
Dr Md Golam Rabbani, fellow, Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies, presented the keynote report on the impacts of climate change in Bangladesh. Mr Abu Sadat Moniruzzaman Khan, head of BRAC’s climate change programme gave an introduction to the event.
Speakers said the roadmap to address climate change impacts has already been prepared and the youth groups have now started its enthusiastic implementation.
Dr Ainun Nishat said, "Weather is increasingly becoming unpredictable. The seasons of autumn, late autumn and spring are disappearing. We have experienced heavy rainfall in October in which Rajshahi was flooded. On the other hand, you will not find enough water for jute retting. We started destroying the environment with the start of industrial revolution in 1860, and we began our account of destruction only in 1990. The less carbon dioxide and other harmful gases are emitted, the better for our earth."
Dr SM Munjurul Hannan Khan praised BRAC for its role in engaging young people in climate change actions, saying, "The industrially developed countries are spreading pollution and the entire planet has become its victim. Today children are born in an atmosphere that is four degrees Celsius warmer than that in which their parents were born. If this situation continues, the world will be in an unbearable condition by 2050, when 9.3 billion people will be living on earth."
The Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS), an autonomous research body at the National University of Singapore, presented Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, KCMG, founder and chair emeritus of BRAC, with the Outstanding Member of the South Asian Diaspora Award (OMSAD). The honour was given at a gala dinner organised at the Shangri-La Hotel on Friday, November 15, in Singapore.
Manzoor Hasan OBE, executive director, Centre for Peace and Justice at BRAC University, accepted the award on behalf of Sir Fazle. Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, former foreign adviser to the Caretaker Government of Bangladesh and currently a principal research fellow at ISAS, read the citation of the award.
ISAS organised the event as part of its two-day South Asian Diaspora Convention 2019, concluding today. The theme of the convention is “Vibrant South Asia – Innovative Diaspora”. The Bangladesh High Commission in Singapore is one of the organisations supporting the convention.
Dignitaries from the governments of Singapore and other South Asian nations, academia, researchers and civil society and private sector were present at the gala dinner.
Gopinath Pillai, ambassador-at-large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Singapore, and chairman of ISAS, said, “Sir Fazle’s efforts in leading BRAC helped change the lives of many across the world. His contributions to social development and his life’s mission to help the poor serve as an inspiration to the South Asian diaspora and the society at large,” he added.
Past recipients of this award include former Singapore president late SR Nathan.
According to its website, the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) was established in 2004, as an autonomous research institute at the National University of Singapore. ISAS is dedicated to research on contemporary South Asia. It seeks to promote understanding of this vital region of the world and to communicate knowledge and insights about it to policymakers, the business community, academia and civil society, in Singapore and beyond.
Cyclone Bulbul is continuing to gather strength and expected to hit the coastal belt of Bangladesh in the early hours of Sunday. The cyclone will affect coastal areas, as well as Khulna and Barisal divisions, according to data available from the Bangladesh Meteorological Department. The cyclone is expected to generate a maximum wind speed of 5-124 km per hour. Nine coastal districts have been named as highly probable target zones; Satkhira, Khulna, Bagerhat, Barguna, Pirojpur, Patuakhali, Bhola, Jhalakathi and Barisal.
BRAC has mobilised response preparations, with a particular focus on Satkhira, Khulna and Bagerhat. BRAC field operatives are working in coordination with the local government and the Cyclone Preparedness Programme (CPP). Messages have been delivered via community radio and CPP and BRAC volunteers have sent messages to the communities living in Ukhiya and Teknaf. BRAC's Humanitarian Crisis Management Program have disseminated warning and awareness messages door to door using the Communication for Development volunteers.
Sajedul Hasan, Director of BRAC Humanitarian Programme, said that according to BRAC’s policies, cyclone simulation exercises have been undertaken in the vulnerable coastal communities for the last fortnight. Our disaster management team has been working as per our standard operating procedures for preparing with disasters. Specialised medical teams are ready to go, and our goal will be to deliver dry food, safe water and emergency medical care within 72 hours to those who have taken shelter or been injured.
View the situation report to learn more about BRAC's preparedness for the response.
Update (10 November 2019): Severe Cyclone Bulbul has weakened into a deep depression and the signal was lowered down from ten (10) to three (3) this morning (BMD). It hit Bangladesh last night making landfall in Sundarban of Khulna division around 12:00AM. At this time, wind speed was 74 kmph and the tide was low. The depression is forecasted to move in the north-west direction as it further weakens. A total of four (4) deaths have been reported.
BRAC staff standing by at the high risk districts have reported many uprooted trees and some damaged houses causing injury to people; especially at Satkhira, Barguna, Khulna and Bhola districts. At all districts, poultry farms, agricultural land, fish and shrimp farm enclosures were submerged by saline water. Apart from this, a BRAC office building at Shoronkhola, Bagerhat was partially damaged due to a fallen tree. View the latest situation report to learn more.
BRAC and the German Development Bank (KfW), on behalf of the German Government, signed an amendment today to set up a trust on climate change adaptation and climate-induced migration.
The trust called ‘Climate Bridge Fund’ has been developed through consultation between the two organisations with the objective of supporting the communities of Bangladesh vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The fund was originally initiated in 2017.
The amendment was signed on Thursday, October 31, 2019, at BRAC Centre in the capital. Asif Saleh, executive director, BRAC, and Anirban Kundu, director, KfW Development Bank, signed the agreement on behalf of the respective parties.
Mr Saleh said “Climate change is a critical challenge globally, and one which will be a key focus of BRAC over the next five years. This trust is a unique initiative for Bangladesh which will encourage and enable sustainable operations and their scaling up, which traditional development projects often cannot provide.”
The initiative will provide funding to NGOs, social and private sector institutions to implement projects to strengthen the resilience of people in urban areas who are either displaced or at risk of displacement due to the impacts of climate change.
To create an enlightened Bangladesh, it is essential to create an environment where there will be no discrimination between girl and boy children. Abuses and all sorts of discriminatory social norms hinder the development of girl children, speakers said at a discussion event today on Sunday (October 13, 2019).
The programme titled 'Equality is my right' was jointly organised by Bangladesh Shishu Academy and BRAC to mark World Children’s Day and Child Rights Week 2019, organised at the academy premises. The discussion session was followed by a cultural programme and prize distribution ceremony.
Selina Hossain, eminent writer in Bengali literature, Penny Morton, chargé d'Affaires at the Australian High Commission in Dhaka, Judith Herbertson, country representative of DFID in Bangladesh, Anjir Liton, director of Bangladesh Shishu Academy, Anna Minj, director of BRAC's gender justice and diversity programme, and Nabanita Chowdhury, director of BRAC’s violence against women initiative were present among others at the event.
Author Selina Hossain said, "To prevent tortures and abuses of children, we should not always wait for the authorities to take actions. We must step up to intervene and act strongly to prevent these abuses."
Bangladesh Shishu Academy director Anjir Liton said, "As a nation we are not playing an adequate role for the development of our children. There isn’t enough media attention on the Child Rights Week right now."
Anna Minj, the director of BRAC's gender justice and diversity prpogramme said, "It’s a good thing that around hundred per cent children are now going to school. We are also proud that our girl footballers and cricketers are bringing honour for our country by winning international competitions."
As a part of its observation of the Child Rights Week 2019, BRAC organised a story writing competition in 10 schools and an art competition for children living in slums, both in the country’s capital. A prize distribution ceremony was also conducted at today's event for the winners.
The programme was concluded with cultural performances by the students of BRAC Education Programme.
What extent of frustrations and stresses do the young adults of today face and how do they tackle these adversities? How should their families and dear ones reach out to them during these times of need? To reflect on these situations, BRAC Institute of Educational Development conducted an event where students of the country’s nine universities came forward and shared their views. Experts and social advocates also participated in the event.
Titled ‘Public speaking and self-care workshop’, the programme was organised at the capital’s BRAC Centre on Friday, October 11, 2019, with technical assistance from Bangladesh Debating Council. The event was organised on the occasion of World Mental Health Day observed on October 10. This year, the World Health Organisation highlighted prevention of suicide as the theme of the day, urging the nations and communities across the world to tackle the rising incidence of suicides through robust improvements on mental healthcare.
Participating universities were BRAC University, North South University, Dhaka University, The Institute of Business Administration of Dhaka University, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB), Independent University, Bangladesh, Bangladesh University of Professionals, United International University, and Islamic University of Technology.
Nabanita Chowdhury, renowned social justice advocate, journalist and director of BRAC's violence against women initiative, and Dr Helal Uddin Ahmed, associate professor of National Mental Health Institute addressed the audience as special guests.
During the event, the young participants expressed their thoughts on mental health issues, particularly the stress that young adults face in their daily lives. They pointed out a number of reasons causing stress, including parents and elders not wanting to listen to their say; lack of safe spaces for young people to address their concerns, fears and tension; being compared with others by parents resulting in insecurities; irrational criticism of things they like or love to do; not giving proper attention and not valuing the emotions they face as young members of the family.
Nabonita Chowdhury, director at BRAC’s violence against women initiative, expressed her well wishes to the youths and said, “We just can’t sit with indifference. First of all, we need to be empathetic, compassionate and let others know that we care. We have to keep our ears ready so that we can listen to anyone who needs to speak their mind and feelings.”
Dr Helal Uddin Ahmed said, “Fifty per cent of psychological problems start before the age of 14 and 75 per cent of these problems grow the age of 25. So it is imperative to take care of the young population than any other age groups. They also need to learn to take care of themselves. Family, society and educational institution will also create proper and adequate space for their mental care.”
Organisers said the objective of the event was to create a space for the youths to speak their mind on the need of mental and emotional care, nurturing and trust and their expectations of response from their families, relatives, friends and institutions.
Following the public speaking round, the youths attended a self-care workshop facilitated by BRAC IED’s Counselling Psychology Unit. The objective of the workshop was to boost self-confidence and positive attitude towards life and encourage empathy among the young participants.
BRAC IED has been planning and implementing research since 2004. The overall objective of its work in psychology is to help young people grow into compassionate and self-dependent adults who are able to explore their full potential as well as stand by others in their times of need.
BRAC and Villagepump have collectively installed two solar-powered water purifiers to provide clean drinking water to 2,000 residents in Cox’s Bazar’s Rajapalong area.
With the present makeshift inhabitancies of over 900,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, clean drinking water became inadequate for the residents of this area, posing a potential high risk for cholera and diarrhoea.
Mohammed Juma, team lead of BRAC’s WASH programme said, "Safe and clean drinking water is one of the most basic necessities of life. With lowered underground water levels and high iron contamination, many of the shallow tube wells have become obsolete. In this case, Villagepump serves just like a tube well by consuming no electricity or chemicals. But unlike a tube well, it treats surface water to produce clean drinking water which is free from faecal coliform and other contaminants, catering to 50-60 households around each pump.” The devices operate on solar energy and provide 500 litres of clean drinking water per hour. In order to ensure the highest efficiency, BRAC takes care of the management and maintenance of the devices.
BRAC has been working in Cox's Bazar in the areas of education, agriculture, microcredit, and water and sanitation, reaching out to 80,000 people in the community. Cox's Bazar is one of the poorest and most vulnerable areas of Bangladesh, where 17 per cent people live in extreme poverty, compared to the national average of 12.9 per cent. Additionally, it shelters the displaced Rohingya refugees fleeing from Myanmar.
Tamara Hasan Abed, member of the Board of Trustees of BRAC University and managing director of BRAC Enterprises, has been elected as the new chairperson of the board with effect from July 25, 2019. She succeeds Sir Fazle Hasan Abed KCMG, the founding chairperson of BRAC University. Ms Abed has been serving as a member of the board since January 2011, and a member of the syndicate since March 2011. She has also been the chair of the Board of Finance Committee since December 2016.
Sir Fazle founded BRAC University in 2001 with the aim of building young leaders of the future through high-quality tertiary education and research, and inculcating certain essential values in young people to encourage them to become conscious citizens of tomorrow.
“I am proud of what we have accomplished with the support of our faculty and students. At the age of 83, I feel the time is now right for me and others who joined the Board of Trustees with me to make way for a new generation of leadership in the board,” he said.
“Innovation takes place at the intersection of diverse ideas and experiences. I am very pleased that BRAC University’s Board of Trustees has been enriched by the diverse experience of its distinguished members. The present board comprises individuals with leadership experience in governance, enterprises, research, development, technology, art and culture,” Sir Fazle added.
Ms Abed brings extensive experience in investment banking, entrepreneurship and social enterprises, with a career spanning over two decades across diverse sectors. As the managing director of BRAC Enterprises, she heads 13 social enterprises, including Aarong, BRAC Dairy, BRAC Seed and Agro Enterprises, and many more. She served on the Board of Directors of BRAC Bank for eight years from 2008 to 2016.
She has an MBA in Finance from Columbia University, USA, and was inducted into the Beta Gamma Sigma society for her distinctive academic achievements. She completed a BSc in Economics at the London School of Economics. She was honoured by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader in 2010, and is also an Asia 21 Young Leader. In 2014, Ms Abed received the Outstanding Women Leadership Award from the World Women Leadership Congress.
“I am honoured to be elected chairperson of the board,” said Ms Abed. “It’s a privilege to serve this remarkable university alongside our distinguished trustees to support the vice chancellor, leadership team, faculty, administration, students, and alumni. The Board of Trustees is committed to supporting BRAC University’s vital mission to advance knowledge, learning and the development of future leaders who will contribute to Bangladesh’s development.”