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.”
BRAC founder and Chair Emeritus Sir Fazle Hasan Abed has won the prestigious Yidan Prize, the largest international prize in education, for his groundbreaking work on education development. The Yidan Prize Foundation made the announcement in a statement on September 19, 2019.
From the beginning of his foray into development work, Sir Fazle viewed education as a crucial catalyst for change. To date, more than 12 million children have graduated from BRAC’s pre-primary and primary schools. BRAC offers holistic and joyful learning solutions with play-based early childhood development centres, primary and secondary schools, adolescent learning programmes, and also operates a University.
Dr. Charles Chen Yidan, founder of Yidan Prize, said: “Knowledge attainment is an area that transcends racial, religious, economic and national boundaries, affecting everything from human health and the environment to well-being and personal fulfilment. I hope every country and region can benefit from the results of the best research and education development work, helping to create a better world through education.”
Currently, BRAC is running a total of 656 play labs across Bangladesh, Uganda and Tanzania, reaching out to around 11,500 children every day. The BRAC Institute of Educational Development (BRAC IED) also developed a play-based solution called the Humanitarian Play Lab (HPL) model to help refugee children learn and heal from trauma.
Thanking the Yidan Prize authorities, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed said: “Early childhood is a critical time to provide learning opportunities to children to ensure optimal development. BRAC is engaged in research on play-based learning for children from 3-5 years including displaced children living in refugee camps and suffering from trauma, whose well-being and resilience can be enhanced through play. I hope the world’s leaders will realise the potential of this play-based education model to develop more socially and emotionally intelligent individuals who are able to live happier, conflict-free lives.”
As a Yidan Prize Laureate, Sir Fazle will receive a gold medal during the Award presentation ceremony in December and HKD 30 million (around USD 3.9 million or BDT 33 crore), half of which is a cash prize and the other half a project fund.
“The very generous Yidan Prize funding will allow us to expand our education activities. We plan to use the funds for two purposes: strengthen our existing basic education programme, and establish new Play Labs,” Sir Fazle added.
Originated in Hong Kong, the prize, managed by the Yidan Prize Foundation and governed by an independent trust, consists of two awards: the Yidan Prizes for Education Research and Education Development. This year, the prize for Education Research is going to Usha Goswami, professor of cognitive developmental neuroscience at Cambridge.
Bangladesh Technical Education Board (BTEB) has approved the competency standard module that BRAC has recently developed for skills training of domestic workers. The official approval came after a review at a workshop today on Monday, (September 9, 2019) organised on the BTEB premises in Agargaon in the capital. BTEB will publish the module on its website for others to use. BRAC is also ready to share its knowledge and experiences with others working in this area.
Md Mahabubur Rahman, secretary and chairman (additional charge) of BTEB, was present at the workshop as chief guest. Tasmiah Tabassum Rahman, programme head of BRAC’s skills development programme, was also present among others.
Speakers at the workshop said domestic work is one of the most important occupations in the informal sector of Bangladesh's economy. While consisting mostly of women and girl children, domestic workers' force has a small share of men too. Women domestic workers now hold a fair share of the country's migrant workers' force. According to the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET), 12.1 per cent of the migrant workforce of Bangladesh were women domestic workers in 2017. That year a total of 1,008,525 migrant workers, 121,925 of whom were women, went abroad.
A recently-published joint study of International Labour Organisation and Refugee and Migratory Movement Research Unit estimates that around four million people are currently engaged in this occupation in Bangladesh.
Although domestic work provides livelihood for a large population, skills training opportunities are almost absent in the country. BRAC’s skills development programme (SDP) in this context is implementing a pilot project named 'Chacri' (Choosing household work as career to raise income) in Dhaka, facilitating skills development for domestic workers. The project has three objectives: provide skills training to underprivileged young men and women which will help them obtain domestic workers' job in decent work environment with better wage; assist them in job placement; and develop quality training curriculum and materials for domestic workers. BRAC expects that such quality skills training will also be organised for those who want to work abroad as domestic workers.
Having started in February this year, the nine-month pilot is now in its closing phase. With an objective to produce 300 skilled workers in this period, BRAC is operating two quality training centres in Korail and Hazaribag in the capital. The project's partner organisation Sheba.xyz is doing job placements through their online portal for those completing the training course.
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.