In today’s world, the internet has made it easy to access all kinds of services such as healthcare, education and finance, but it does not entirely cater to persons with disabilities. Like many countries across the globe, persons with visual impairments in Bangladesh find it particularly difficult to access and avail services from digital platforms. As a part of its continued effort towards inclusion, BRAC has made its website user-friendly for persons with disabilities.
The website with the added features was launched on Sunday, September 08, at BRAC Centre, Dhaka. K M Abdus Salam, director-general of the NGO Affairs Bureau, was present at the event as chief guest. Asif Saleh, executive director of BRAC, chaired the programme. Sharmeela Rasool, chief technical adviser of the human rights division of UNDP was present as special guest. Md Ismail, additional secretary, and Dr Md Abul Hossain, deputy secretary to the Ministry of Social Welfare, were also present among others.
The transformation work, which took three months to complete, was supervised by Vashkar Bhattacharjee, national consultant to the Access to Information (A2i) project under the prime minister’s office. BRAC’s official website now has a number of features that would enable persons with disabilities to use it. These include thoughtful navigation and minimum number of buttons so it can be operated with keyboards only; support of navigation through voice command; and variable font sizes. Persons with visual impairments can also adjust the screen to high-contrast colours.
Chief guest K M Abdus Salam said, "In the last 10 years, ICT usage has significantly increased. Now it's time to bolster efforts to ensure access to services for persons with disabilities."
Special guest Sharmila Rasul said engagement with persons with disabilities had largely been seen from a charity perspective. “Now, time has come for us to see things from a human rights perspective."
BRAC’s executive director Asif Saleh said, "It’s high time that we change the society's mind-set that 'persons with disabilities cannot.’ In order to achieve that change, the leadership must change their mind-set first."
BRAC is ready to share the knowledge and skills acquired through this website transformation exercise with those who are working for the inclusion of persons with disabilities into the digital world, he added.
One of the pledges of the Bangladesh government’s Vision 2021 is to ensure internet access for all, including persons with disabilities. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), around four million visually impaired people in Bangladesh cannot use digital platforms. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities also endorses their rights to accessibility as well as freedom of expression and opinion and access to information. The World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative stipulates that websites should be inherently designed so that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate and interact with the web.
As flood water recedes from most parts of Bangladesh and tough challenges such as scarcity of drinking water and sanitation, and risks of spreading of water-bourne and other diseases emerge, BRAC allocates BDT 3.5 crore to fund post-flood relief and rehabilitation efforts. This is an addition to the BDT 50 lac that BRAC had already allocated for emergency flood response in July.
The fresh allocation comprises a grant of USD 300,000 (roughly equal to BDT 2.5 crore) from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that BRAC received recently to provide emergency humanitarian aid to people affected by flood in Bangladesh. The remaining BDT 1 crore is pulled from BRAC’s internal sources.
This fund is being spent to provide for multi-purpose cash transfers of BDT 4,500 per household and distributing hygiene kits to help more than 6,000 flood-affected households in four of the worst affected upazilas: Dewanganj in Jamalpur district, Chowhali in Sirajganj district, Sadar upazila in Gaibandha district, and Chilmari of Kurigram district.
With the cash, the recipients will be able to meet immediate needs such as purchasing food, safe drinking water, educational materials, livestock fodder and reducing health risks such as diarrhoeal, skin and eye diseases, and repairing damaged houses. BRAC is spending one part of the allocation to repair school buildings, donate boats to school children, and deploy teams of health workers in some of the remote areas.
“The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation extends its deep sympathy to the victims of the devastating floods in Bangladesh,” said Mark Suzman, Chief Strategy Officer and President, Global Policy and Advocacy, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We are providing this emergency grant to bolster recovery efforts, such as helping to prevent the outbreak of water-borne diseases and other severe health risks associated with flooding.”
BRAC launched a coordinated relief effort in mid-July, less than a week after flood water started inundating the low-lying districts in the north of the country. More than a thousand relief workers, including those from BRAC’s Upazila Disaster Management Teams (UDMTs), were rapidly deployed, with initial efforts reaching over 14,000 households in 36 of the most impacted upazilas in 13 districts until 8 August, 2019 with food and cash packages, safe drinking water, as well as the installation of toilets, tube wells, and bathing cubicles.
“Post-flood rehabilitation is no less challenging than during-flood operations, considering shortage of work, drinking water and disease outbreaks. Another big challenge is to cover those who were left out in the first phase. As this year’s flood is already labelled as one of the worst in recent years, everyone with the means must come forward to join the relief efforts,” said Asif Saleh, Executive Director of BRAC Bangladesh.
The new allocation will help expand response to cover those households that are led by women and have elderly, pregnant, or disabled family members, or who have lost all assets. Priority is being given to the upazilas that have experienced extremely severe flooding, feature a high proportion of affected households, or have not received adequate levels of aid already. The BRAC Humanitarian Programme (BHP) has been closely monitoring the situation and coordinating all the efforts with the local government and administrative offices, and other relevant stakeholders.
The Bill & Melinda Gates foundation has contributed in disaster response in Bangladesh through BRAC several times in the last 12 years starting with Cyclone Sidr operations in 2007.
To learn more about BRAC's flood response visit: http://response.brac.net/flood-2019/
Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder of BRAC, is retiring from his role as the Chairperson of the Governing Body of BRAC Bangladesh and BRAC International. He is transitioning to the role of Chair Emeritus, effective August 2019.
This transition is part of Sir Fazle’s long standing practice of building strong succession at BRAC. Sir Fazle founded BRAC in 1972, at the age of 36, and served as its Executive Director until 2001. At the age of 65, he retired from the Executive Director position of BRAC and was elected as the Chairperson of the BRAC Bangladesh Governing Body. Later he was also elected as the Chairperson of the BRAC International Board. He is stepping down from his governance responsibilities and in the coming months, as Chair Emeritus, he will focus on guiding BRAC’s global strategy and governance structure.
“For the past few years, I have put a lot of thought and preparation into planning my succession at BRAC. Now, at the age of 83, I feel it is the right time for me to step down from my role as Chairperson and focus my time on guiding the future strategy of BRAC,” Sir Fazle said.
“BRAC has never been about me or any one person. I may have been the founder, however, our strong foundation and reputation are built on the commitment, hard work and dedication of our staff. We are grateful and fortunate to partner with Governments, mission-aligned donors, partners and peer organisations along the way,” he added.
BRAC recently appointed Asif Saleh as the new Executive Director of BRAC Bangladesh. Dr. Muhammad Musa joined as the Executive Director of BRAC International in May 2019. Asif Saleh and Dr. Musa will be in charge of all executive management and operational functions for BRAC and BRAC International respectively, taking BRAC’s vision of building an equal world ahead.
Two very eminent personalities are joining BRAC and BRAC International Boards as Chairpersons. BRAC Governing Body elected Dr. Hossain Zillur Rahman, renowned academic, economist and policy maker as the new Chairperson. Dr. Hossain Zillur Rahman is a leading policy voice of Bangladesh with over three decades of experience. He is the founder and Executive Chairman of the think-tank Power and Participation Research Centre (PPRC). He was Lead Consultant for preparation of the first poverty reduction strategy paper (Unlocking the Potential, 2005) of the Government of Bangladesh and was a member of the SAARC Poverty Commission. Dr. Rahman has also sat on the Board of the Bangladesh Central Bank.
Ms. Ameerah Haq has been elected as the Chairperson of the BRAC International Board. Ms. Ameerah Haq is the former UN Under-Secretary-General for the Department of Field Support (2012-2014). She held the position of Under-Secretary-General from 2009 till her retirement and was the senior-most Bangladeshi national in the United Nations during those years.
Dr. Rahman and Ms. Haq, along with the other Board members, will oversee the governance aspects and provide independent oversight to the Executive Directors of BRAC Bangladesh and BRAC International respectively.
Sir Fazle started BRAC in 1972 with a small relief and rehabilitation project in North-Eastern Bangladesh. Over the past 47 years, BRAC has grown to be one of the most effective non-government organisations in the world, touching the lives of over 110 million people worldwide. BRAC is a unique ecosystem comprising of development programmes, microfinance, social enterprises, a university, bank and a range of mission aligned investments. BRAC now operates in 11 countries in Asia and Africa and have affiliate offices in the USA and UK.
Under the new leadership and guidance of Sir Fazle as Chair Emeritus, BRAC will continue to serve people in need with the right resources and opportunities and transform them into agents of change in their own lives.
Tamara Hasan Abed, currently Senior Director, BRAC Enterprises, has been redesignated as the Managing Director, BRAC Enterprises, effective August 1, 2019. She will report directly to the BRAC Bangladesh Governing Body. She has headed BRAC's 13 social enterprises, including Aarong, BRAC Dairy and BRAC Seed & Agro Enterprise, since 2014.
Tamara Abed brings with her extensive experience in investment banking, entrepreneurship and social enterprise, with a career spanning over two decades across diverse sectors. Leading by example, she has carved a respectful position as a senior leader in traditionally male- dominated industries and has inspired more women to come forward and make a mark. She is passionate about driving value-based business models, operating at the intersection of social good, sustainable business and inclusive growth.
She began her career in 1995 at Peregrine Capital Ltd, a Hong Kong-based investment bank, in Dhaka in corporate finance. Her experience exposed her to leading private sector companies in Bangladesh, including Pacific Bangladesh Telecom, ACI and Rahimafrooz, dealing with raising equity and restructuring. After Peregrine, she joined BRAC's Urban Development Programme, mobilising slum-based women entrepreneurship groups. Simultaneously, she started her entrepreneurial venture through a cafe. Later she moved to New York and worked in Goldman Sachs in Mergers and Strategic Advisory.
She joined Aarong in 2002 as General Manager, Design and Product Development and later took charge of the Export Division of Aarong and started the Marketing Department. In 2005, she was promoted as the Head of Aarong and Ayesha Abed Foundation. Under her leadership, Aarong has gone from strength to strength, celebrating 40 years in 2018 as Bangladesh's most popular lifestyle retail chain. From BOT 123 Crores annual sales in 2005, when she started leading Aarong, it has delivered solid, year-on-year revenue growth. The sales turnover is expected to reach BOT 1,000 Crores in 2019. She has been instrumental in driving the expansion of Aarong to 21 national outlets, multiple brands, e- commerce and digital platforms. With a keen sense of design and consumer insights, she launched 'Taaga', 'Taaga Man', and 'Herstory' connecting the younger generation of the country with the pride of Bangladeshi craftsmanship.
In 2006, she was given charge of BRAC Dairy and since then has built a strong team to take the dairy business to new heights. BRAC Dairy is currently the third-largest dairy processor in Bangladesh with a diverse portfolio of products.
She served on the Board of Directors of BRAC Bank for eight years from 2008-2016. She currently serves on the Boards of IPDC Finance, BRAC EPL Investments, BRAC EPL Stock Brokerage, edotco Bangladesh and BRAC Tea Estates. She is also on the Board of Trustees of BRAC University and Chairs the Board Finance Committee. She chairs the Board of BRAC Services Ltd. and is the Executive Trustee of Ayesha Abed Foundation.
She has represented Bangladesh globally and was honoured by the World Economic Forum as a 'Young Global Leader' in 2010. She also represented Bangladesh during the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship in Washington in 2010. She is an Asia 21 Young Leader. She received the Outstanding Women Leadership Award from the World Women Leadership Congress in 2014.
Tamara Abed holds an MBA in Finance from Columbia University and was inducted into the Beta Gamma Sigma honour society for her distinctive academic achievements. She completed her BSC in Economics from the London School of Economics.
Asif Saleh has been appointed the new executive director of BRAC Bangladesh with effect from 1 August 2019.
He brings with him a diverse multi-sectoral experience in senior leadership roles in private, public and non-government sectors with proven track record of effectively managing interfaces of development programming, operational and financial sustainability and building effective partnerships, both within and outside BRAC.
“BRAC Governing Body is confident that Asif Saleh is the right choice to steer BRAC Bangladesh ahead, driving innovation and positive transformation and ensuring that BRAC stays rooted in our mission, meeting the needs of the people of Bangladesh,” said Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder and chairperson of BRAC.
Asif Saleh has been deeply anchored in driving the strategic direction of BRAC. He joined BRAC in 2011 and took up an increasingly important role in leading advocacy for social change, information technology, communications and social innovation. He has been instrumental in ensuring that BRAC addresses emerging development challenges in the areas of urban poverty, youth skills development, inclusive growth and migration. As the senior director of the empowerment programme cluster, he led BRAC’s new programmatic areas namely, the urban development programme, human rights and legal aid services, skills development programme and migration programme.
"Unique, priceless and transformational would be the words that best describe my experience at BRAC over the past eight years. I am inspired everyday by the perseverance and pragmatism of the people we work with and how they turn around their lives against all odds. I feel honoured and humbled to be asked to lead BRAC Bangladesh and taking ahead our vision of building an equal world. As a team, we are committed as ever to continue our legacy of being grounded, working closely with the local communities, our partners and supporters and complementing the development efforts of the Government of Bangladesh,” Asif Saleh commented.
Prior to joining BRAC, he worked as a policy specialist for the Access to Information (A2i) Programme at the Prime Minister’s Office. As part of the government’s Digital Bangladesh initiative, he led the policy effort to expand affordable broadband connectivity across Bangladesh and devised the government's m-governance strategy. He was also a key part of the Union Digital Centre team that created digital service centres in every union in Bangladesh. Since then, he has actively promoted the role of technology and frugal innovation in the development sector. He spent 12 years in Goldman Sachs in different fin-tech roles and institutional client sales in New York and London, ending his term there as an executive director. He has also worked in Glaxo Wellcome, IBM and Nortel.
Asif Saleh is an active member in a range of international networks and alliances, advocating inclusive achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. He was selected to be a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2013. Asif was also recognised for his work by Asia Society’s Asia 21 programme in 2008, the Bangladeshi American Foundation in 2007, and was selected as an Asia 21 Fellow in 2012.
He chairs BRAC IT Services Limited and is on the boards of BRAC Bank and BRAC Net. He is also a board member of multiple non-profits, such as 1 Degree Initiative, Spreeha, Institute of Informatics and Development, and Maya.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science and an MBA in management and marketing from the Stern School of Business, New York University.
Most Bangladeshi youths (57% female; 42% male) see government jobs as the most viable career. Many educated young people from well-off families want to establish their own businesses. On the other hand, youths with no or less institutional education want to find work abroad to secure better earning. Moreover, only 5% of the respondents believe that their educational qualification will help them secure employment.
However, more women than men were found to be concerned about their children's wellbeing. As much as 34% women put their children's wellbeing ahead of any other issues of their life. Only 11% men are as much concerned about their children.
These are part of the findings of a survey among Bangladeshi youths BRAC conducted in 2018. The findings of the survey were released in an event on Wednesday (24 July 2019) at Lake Shore Hotel in the capital. Zahid Hasan Russel, lawmaker and state minister for youth and sports, Dr Md Jafar Uddin, acting secretary to the ministry of youth and sports, Asif Saleh, acting executive director of BRAC, and Dr Imran Matin, executive director of BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), participated in a discussion at the programme.
Currently, Bangladesh is enjoying a unique historical period of "demographic dividend" with its working age population (15-59) way bigger than the non-working age population. At the same time, according to the Commonwealth's Global Youth Development Index Bangladesh is among the worst performing countries. Although there awareness about this issue is rising, there is a shortage of evidence-based information about what the country's young people are thinking and aspiring for. This youth survey is an effort to fill that gap.
BRAC, BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) and BRAC University conducted the Youth Survey 2018 involving 4200 respondents. Bangladesh was divided into five regions, from which 30 upazilas were randomly selected. Two unions/wards were selected from the upazilas, from which one village or neighbourhood (mahalla) were taken. Finally, from each village/neighbourhood, 14 respondents (7 women and 7 men) were randomly selected. Following this process, a total 4,200 respondents aged 15-35 years were surveyed.
The survey focused on the self-identity, aspirations, institutional education, skills, choice and the preparation to enter employment of the respondents. Among the respondents, 7% male and 4% female had higher education and 14% had vocational training. Of the respondents only 16% were confident about their English language and computer skills. The confidence level among women and less educated respondents were lower than the average. Around 40% had access to internet, although urban spaces offered better access than the rural ones.
Of the educated youth, 57% women and 42% men want government jobs. Around 90% of the young men studied up to the higher secondary level and less were employed. The more educated the respondents are, the later they start earning. Only 5% women with education from 5th grade to upto higher secondary level are earning. Around 90% of the respondents who do not study, are not working to earn or not in any training programme are women.
Around 20% respondents are interested in securing a job abroad, but only one-third of them are actively planning to do so. 31% male, compared to only 7% female respondents, are interested to work abroad.
Male respondents enjoy greater liberty regarding choice of their educational institutions, friends and occupation, mobility and spending money than women. Only 40% women have freedom of mobility, which is just half compared to that of men. All respondents are seriously concerned about two issues: gender-based violence (early marriage, dowry, sexual harassment and rape) and drug addiction.
Welcoming the BRAC Youth Survey 2018, state minister Zahid Ahsan Russel said, "Such surveys enrich our experience and help identify potential work areas. We are trying to overcome the problems gradually. Women's participation in wage earning work is increasing; more than 60% primary school teachers are women. The government has made a decision to set up youth research centres in different regions. These centres will offer assistance to the young people based on their problems, potentials and needs."
Youth and sports acting secretary Dr Md Jafar Uddin said some of the findings in this survey may look like problems, but they actually are not. Rather they should be regarded as challenges. "By overcoming these challenges, the nation will go forward through effective collaboration between the public and private sectors."
BRAC acting executive director Asif Saleh said BRAC has long been engaged in the skill development of young people, "Now we are on to introducing school-based learning programmes that will contribute to their future skill development."
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No less than 400 thousand youths, a large portion of which is women, received training in a number of employable skills in non-agriculture sector from BRAC in last eight years and have found decent employment or started own initiatives.
BRAC officials revealed this information at an event today on Tuesday (23 July 2019) at the BRAC Centre in Dhaka. BRAC organised this event as a part of its celebration of World Youth Skills Day. The programme comprised an exhibition of BRAC skills development initiatives, launch of a publication titled “Star Toolkit: Introducing a Successful Entrepreneurship” and a series of panel discussions.
Faruque Hossain, chairman, National Skills Development Authority, was present as the chief guest at the panel discussion titled “SDG-8: Youth, skills and employment”. Tapan Kumar Ghosh, chairman, Bureau of Non-formal Education, and KAM Morshed, director, BRAC, participated in the discussion among others. Asif Saleh, acting executive director, BRAC, moderated the discussion.
Angela Naumann, first secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australian High Commission, Bangladesh, Mashfique Ibne Akbar, private sector development adviser, Department of International Development, British High Commission, Dhaka, Zhigang Li, social sector specialist, Asian Development Bank, Tomoo Hozomi, country representative, UNICEF Bangladesh, participated in another panel discussion on financing of skills development initiatives.
BRAC Skills Development Programme is currently working with focus on three areas, namely, skills training and other services, systems change with the government and industry partnerships, and community engagement. At present it is operating eight projects focusing on the communities living in the cities, municipalities and Rohingyas and host community in Cox’s Bazar. These current projects are: Skills training for advancing resources (STAR), Promoting skills and productivity enhancement for resilience (PROSPER), Promoting business Incubation for small entrepreneurs (PROMISE), Pro-poor growth of rural enter-prises through sustainable skills-development (PROGRESS), Alternative learning programme for out of school adolescents (ALP), Partnership reinforcement for integrated skills enhancement (PRISE), Skills development project for Rohingyas, and Apprenticeship-based training for host community.
BRAC’s Skill Development Programme began its activities with the STAR project, which has developed a unique model reforming and institutionalising the ancient tradition of skills training through apprenticeships under a master craftsman. Under STAR project, BRAC officials find out skilled people who run their own business. After they go through specially designed training, selected trainees start apprenticeships under them. The trainers receive an honorarium for running the six-monthly course. This model on one hand creates opportunity for underprivileged youths for quality skill training, while helps keep costs low compared with institution-based training. After finishing apprenticeships, BRAC assists the youths to get decent jobs or start their own business.
Under the STAR project, BRAC trained 30 thousand youths up to December 2018. Of them 95 per cent found decent employment. For women trainees the impact is even bigger, reducing child marriage 65 per cent. Post training, the apprentices saw six times increase in both income and employment.
BRAC developed this unique model jointly with ILO, UNICEF, Department of Non-Formal Education of Bangladesh government and follows the National Technical and Vocational Quality Framework (NTVQF).
The experts at the panel discussions stressed effective collaboration between the government, donors, non-governmental actors and private sector for expanding the opportunities for employable skills development. They said to achieve SDG targets there is no alternative for skill development.
BRAC established Skill Development Programme with a socio-economic background of an increasing youth population, large gap in employable skills and training, risky migration of unskilled and semi-skilled labour force, increasing violence against girls and women, and expansion of urban spaces and their population.
Targeting both the domestic and overseas labour market, BRAC is currently giving 15 kinds of skills training in non-agriculture sector, which are: Tailoring and dress making, mobile phone servicing, wooden furniture making, beauty salon, refrigeration and AC servicing, basic electronics, graphic design, IT support technician, aluminum fabrication, motorcycle servicing, wooden furniture designing, electrical house wiring, block and batik, screen printing, jori and chumki work.
Non-governmental development organisation BRAC has allocated BDT 50 lac for flood relief operations across Bangladesh. Until 22 July, the organisation has distributed dry food and cash assistance among 8,659 families in 34 worst affected upazilas across 11 districts. With the new allocation, the operation will now be expanded to all flood-affected districts.
Although water is receding from some of the districts, the flood could linger for a longer time, especially in the northern and central regions of the country. In this emerging humanitarian crisis, BRAC has launched a coordinated effort in order to ensure timely response in the form of relief, deploying several thousand relief workers in some of the worst affected districts.
BRAC has expanded water, sanitation and hygiene support to schools, embankments and highways in Bagura and Gaibandha districts where hundreds of thousands of people have taken refuge. Everyday, new sanitary latrines, bathing cubicles and tube-wells are being built to cope with the rising demand.
“We are focusing on remote areas, especially where conducting relief operations have become difficult as a result of damaged communication system. We are doing a quick needs assessment of affected families, so that we can expand our operations rapidly,” said Asif Saleh, Acting Executive Director of BRAC.
People in Ulipur of Kurigram, Sarishabari of Jamalpur, Kalmakanda and Barhatta in Netrakona, Sylhet Sadar and Sariakandi of Bagura district are the latest upazilas to come under BRAC’s relief operations coverage.
"We are coordinating our operations to complement the government's relief efforts. If the situation does not improve soon, all concerned should come forward to support various government and non-government efforts,” Asif Saleh added.
BRAC University President and Vice-Chancellor Vincent Chang met Chairman of the Global Commission on Adaptation and former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. They discussed global citizenship, and opportunities for collaboration between BRAC University and the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens. Based in Vienna, the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens was jointly founded by the former UN Secretary General and Heinz Fischer, the Austrian President from 2004-2016, and focuses on empowering youth and women.
Their meeting concluded with a warm gesture from Ban Ki-moon. The former UN Secretary General fondly recalled signing one of the first diplomatic treaties between his country, South Korea, and Bangladesh, a newly independent nation then. At the time, he was working as a junior diplomat officer of South Korea. Vincent Chang thanked Ban Ki-moon for inviting him despite his tight schedule. Chang invited Ban Ki-moon to visit BRAC University to encourage students to participate further in the global arena.
Ban Ki-moon was in Dhaka to attend the Global Commission on Adaptation meeting, which was inaugurated by the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, and attended by dignitaries from around the world. This was the former secretary general’s first visit to Bangladesh after leaving the UN.
The South Asian Policy Leadership for Improved Nutrition and Growth (SAPLING), a multi-stakeholder advocacy platform for healthy, affordable and accessible diets all over South Asia, was launched today on Sunday (7 July 2019) in Dhaka. SAPLING platform is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with its secretariat hosted by the Health, Nutrition and Population Programme (HNPP) of BRAC. The platform aims to be an exclusive regional mechanism which collates relevant evidence, brings greater visibility to nutrition issues and promotes action by engaging with policy making processes and leadership at the national level. The Launch ushered in discussions on cross border perspectives regarding food systems and nutrition priorities for South Asia.
Dr Purvi Mehta, deputy director and head of Asia for Agriculture at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr Kaosar Afsana, professor at BRAC James P Grant School of Public Health at BRAC University, and Saiqa Siraj, coordinator of SAPLING and programme head of HNNP, BRAC, among others, addressed the audience at the launch event.
Asif Saleh, acting executive director of BRAC, moderated a panel discussion on the topic of “Healthy, affordable and accessible diets for all across South Asia: Where do we stand?” Dr Akhter Ahmed, country representative of International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) Bangladesh, Dr Sandy Thomas, director of the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition, Dr Basanta Kumar Kar, country director of Project Concern International, India, Dr Tayan Raj Gurung, senior specialist, Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, Bhutan, Dr WMW Weerakoon, director general of the Department of Agriculture, Ministry of Agriculture, Sri Lanka, and Dr Morseda Chowdhury, associate director of HNPP, also participated in the panel.
Youth involvement in food systems businesses, food trade within South Asia and political commitment to nutrition were especially focused in the panel discussion.
Throughout the next year, SAPLING will continue its role as a policy advocate, knowledge hub and facilitator. The platform will accumulate high quality research and case studies from the region to develop papers on the status quo of food systems in South Asia and policy recommendations. Latest news and resources from SAPLING can be found on www.sapling-initiative.org.