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BRAC Driving School opens new branch in Chattogram

BRAC Driving School, a pioneering institution dedicated to promoting road safety, has launched its newest branch in Chattogram. The inauguration ceremony took place on Monday, 25 September 2023, at the Bangabandhu Auditorium of Chattogram Press Club.

On the same day, a separate programme took place where 40 individuals were honoured with certificates for the successful completion of driver training at BRAC Driving School. This initiative is a result of a collaborative effort between BRAC and the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development, and Co-operatives (MoLGRD).

Deputy Commissioner and District Magistrate of Chattogram, Abul Bashar Mohammed Fakhruzzaman graced the inauguration of the Driving School's new branch as the chief guest. The session was chaired by Ahmed Najmul Hussain, Director of BRAC's Road Safety Programme. Towhidul Hossain, Deputy Director (Eng.), BRTA Chattogram Metro Circle-Chattogram and N M Nasiruddin, Deputy Police Commissioner (Traffic-South), Chattogram Metropolitan Police were present at the event as special guests. Mainul Hossain, BRAC's Road Safety Programme Manager, shed light on various aspects of the organisation's road safety programme. The programme was moderated by Project Manager M Khalid Mahmud.

Similar to other branches of BRAC Driving School, the Chattogram branch offers both fundamental and specialised driver training. Skilled instructors employ cutting-edge tools such as driving simulators, visual impairment systems, seatbelt convincers, and the P-Drive (Digital Driving Testing System) for the training programme. Additionally, there is a dedicated facility for women to receive instruction from female trainers.

In his address as the chief guest, Deputy Commissioner and District Magistrate of Chattogram, Abul Bashar Mohammed Fakhruzzaman suggested that BRAC could assist in piloting a scheme that includes training before obtaining licenses, providing defensive (Surokkha) training for drivers, and offering driving training as part of the Asrayan project. He recommended that BRAC should establish affiliations with internationally renowned training institutes or universities. Furthermore, he extended an offer of funding support through Corporate Social responsibility (CSR) to facilitate the implementation of BRAC's Surokkha driving training for all heavy vehicle drivers of Chattogram.

He emphasised the introduction of restrooms for long-distance drivers and assured that this would be raised during next DC's meeting chaired by the honourable Prime Minister.

Ahmed Najmul Hussain, Director of BRAC's Road Safety Programme, mentioned the safe system approach as the international standard to ensure Road safety. This approach includes safe roads, safe vehicles, safe road users, safe speeds, and post-road crash management. The hour following a road crash is referred to as the 'Golden Hour', and it is crucial for taking necessary actions that can reduce fatalities by up to 90%. 

Meanwhile, at a separate event, 40 individuals were awarded certificates for participating in driver training under the Comprehensive Village Development Programme (Phase 3), in collaboration with the MoLGRD, at Hotel Saikat in Chattogram.

Abdul Mannan Mia, Additional Commissioner of Police, Traffic, Chattogram, emphasised in his speech as the chief guest that Bangladesh is facing a shortage of one billion professional drivers. Currently, driving is one of the most highly sought-after professions worldwide.

Addressing the graduates from BRAC Driving School Chattogram, he said, 'Consider yourselves fortunate to have received this training. Treat your profession with respect and strive to be a positive influence, both within and beyond Bangladesh.

The event was also chaired by Ahmed Nazmul Hussain, Director of BRAC's Road Safety Programme. Dr. Monzur-Ul-Amin Chowdhury, Adjunct Faculty, School of Liberal Arts and Social Science (SLASS) in Chattogram Independent University and President of Ghashful, along with Salah Uddin Ibne Syed, Deputy Project Director, Comprehensive Village Development Programme (CVDP) 3rd phase, were present as special guests in this event.

The CVDP is an initiative of the Ministry of LGRD designed to provide various skills development trainings for employment and livelihoods in rural areas. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Ministry and BRAC in 2022 paved the way for the professional driver training under the 3rd phase of this project.

To date, 250 individuals have undergone basic driving training, with an additional 610 scheduled for training by the end of the year at BRAC Driving Schools in Jessore and Rajbari. The driving training at BRAC Driving School Chattogram commenced in August 2023 under this project.

Since 2001, BRAC's Road Safety Programme has been dedicated to enhancing road safety for all road users. A significant component of these efforts involves imparting safe road use training. To date, over 1.2 million regular road users, 5,6100 students, and 5,400 teachers have received training in safe road use.

As part of this initiative, BRAC Driving School conducts the BRAC Road Safety Programme. To date, 11,535 individuals have received commercial driving training, 8,114 in basic driving, 2,698 women in car driving, 2,013 in motorcycle driving, and 384 as driving instructors.

Prestigious 'Aga Khan Award for Architecture (AKAA)' committee visited Rohingya Camps

A five-member delegation from the 'Aga Khan Award for Architecture (AKAA)' committee visited the Rohingya Camps in Cox's Bazar today (Tuesday, 19 September). Dr. Hossain Zillur Rahman, former adviser to the caretaker government and chairperson of BRAC, along with senior officials from the organisation, joined the delegation during the visit.

Bangladesh has been honoured for six innovative structures with the prestigious 'Aga Khan Award for Architecture (AKAA)' for the year 2022. These structures showcased innovative, environment-friendly designs and community centres in the Rohingya camps and the host community in Ukhiya, Cox's Bazar.

BRAC has been awarded for five of these structures: four are located at Camp 1 East, Camp 3, Camp 4 Extension, and one in the host community in Ratna Palong, Ukhiya. International development organisation, ActionAid also received recognition for an additional structure in the Rohingya camp.

The delegation visited Camp 4 Extension, Camp 3, Camp 11, Camp 18, Camp 2 West, and Camp 5. At Camp 4 Extension, they visited BRAC's Women-Friendly Centre, Community Centre, and various exhibition centres, engaging with members of the Rohingya community. During this visit, the delegation stressed the importance of constructing environmentally friendly facilities within the Rohingya camps.

The delegation included Farrokh Derakhshani, Director of Aga Khan Award for Architecture (AKAA); Kareem Ibrahim, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Takween Integrated Community Development and on-site review expert for AKAA; Munir Merali, Resident diplomatic representative of Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN); Marina Tabassum, steering committee member of AKAA and architect of the organisation Saif Ul Haque.

Dr. Md Akramul Islam, Senior Director of BRAC; Rezaul Karim, Programme Head and Office in Charge; Md. Emamul Hoque, Programme Head; and other senior officials of BRAC Humanitarian Crisis Management Programme (HCMP) were also present during the visit.

Prior to the visit today (Tuesday, 19 September), BRAC HCMP, with the support of ActionAid organised an event to celebrate the recognition received at the ‘Aga Khan Award for Architecture (AKAA)’ for 2022 at a hotel in Cox’s Bazar on Monday, 18 September.

Dr. Hossain Zillur Rahman, former advisor of the caretaker government and Chairperson of BRAC, Mohammed Mizanur Rahman, Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC), Mohammad Shamsud Douza, Additional RRRC, Farah Kabir, Country Director of ActionAid Bangladesh, Farrokh Derakhshani, Director of Aga Khan Award for Architecture, Munir Merali, Resident diplomatic representative of Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and Marina Tabassum, steering committee member of Aga Khan Award for Architecture, among others, spoke on the occasion.

Dr. Md Akramul Islam, senior director, BRAC, gave the welcome address.

BRAC Chairperson Dr. Hossain Zillur Rahman emphasised that development should prioritise environmental protection over environmental damage. In the context of Cox’s Bazar, a region surrounded by mountains and the sea, environmental protection holds significant importance. He also stated that this prestigious recognition from the 'Aga Khan Award for Architecture' would serve as great motivation to construct environment-friendly structures in the Rohingya camps.

Farrokh Derakhshani stated, 'This award recognition isn't limited to individuals; it also acknowledges larger-scale partnerships.'

Mizanur Rahman emphasised the importance of establishing safe and environmentally friendly centres within the camp to promote environmental protection.

A video highlighting the significance of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture was also screened. Following this, a cultural programme featuring local artists was held as part of the programme's conclusion.

The Aga Khan Award for Architecture is one of the most highly prestigious awards in the world and underscores efforts to ensure the safety of Rohingya women and children in the camps.

Silatech and BRAC partner to promote self employment through financial inclusion for 684,000 youth in Bangladesh

Silatech has announced a partnership with BRAC, the world’s largest development organisation, to promote youth income generation through financial inclusion and unlock access to finance for 684,212 youth in Bangladesh to become self-employed.

The project, Unlocking Financial Solutions for Youth Enterprise Development was signed on the sidelines of the 78th edition of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York on 17 September 2023.

It aims to address the lack of access to traditional financing resources for the youth of Bangladesh who seek to sustain, start, or expand their income-generating ventures.

Over the course of three years, the project will provide financing products to young people who do not have access to traditional banking services. Moreover, it will offer financial literacy and entrepreneurial training programmes to enhance the sustainability of their ventures and improve the financial literacy and capabilities of youth entrepreneurs.

The lack of access to formal financing is a significant challenge for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Bangladesh, with the World Bank estimating a financing gap of US$2.8 billion. This gap is particularly pronounced for women-led SMEs, as 60 percent of them lack collateral.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated these challenges, leading to reduced income, job loss, and limited financial access for youth. The project seeks to bridge this financial gap and create meaningful economic opportunities for young people and their families.

“By promoting youth income generation through financial inclusion and empowering Bangladesh’s youth, we are confident that this project will significantly improve their livelihoods, create more employment opportunities within their ventures, and drive sustainable economic growth. Bangladesh has a huge youth population with few opportunities as it is the densest country in the world, and we are excited to partner with BRAC, the world’s largest development organisation to help reduce the suffering of many youth due to lack of access to financial solutions" said Hassan Al Mulla, Silatech CEO.

Asif Saleh, the Executive Director of BRAC said, "BRAC believes in power of youth to drive economic growth. We are extending microfinance services and combining it with financial literacy, and entrepreneurship training to young entrepreneurs from marginalised backgrounds. Our client-centric approach ensures tailored financial products, while mentorship and capacity building would help the young entrepreneurs fuel the growth of their businesses. We are excited to be partnering with Silatech in testing this innovative model to support young entrepreneurs in Bangladesh. This will help us not only to design more effective products but also understand and manage risks better."

This partnership marks an important step towards youth economic empowerment and creating a more equitable and prosperous future for disadvantaged communities.

British High Commissioner visited BRAC school in Sylhet

Since commencing her post, British High Commissioner to Bangladesh, Ms. Sarah Cooke visited Sylhet for the first time on 23 August, Wednesday as a part of her mission and visited BRAC school beside Lakkatura Tea Garden.

During the visit, officials from The British High Commission accompanied The High Commissioner while Safi Rahman Khan, Director, Education, Skills Development, and Migration; Profulla Chandra Barman, Programme Head, BRAC Education Programme along with head office and field staff were present from BRAC.

The High Commissioner observed the class in the BRAC school and talked to the students about their experiences and feeling regarding getting back to school. Ms. Cooke shared her greeting with the teacher, staff, parents, and School Management Committee members and discussed the ongoing activities of the school.

Ms. Sarah Cooke expressed her contentment stating, “It was great to meet with the students and their parents who work at the tea plantations in Sylhet. It was clear to see that education is transformative, not just for the individual but also for the community. The UK is proud to support education for the most disadvantaged children in Bangladesh, with a particular focus on girls.”

Safi Rahman Khan conveyed his greetings to The High Commissioner and said “We are honoured to have welcomed Her Excellency Sarah Cooke to BRAC's education programme in the tea gardens of Sylhet to see first-hand the important work we are doing in partnership with the UK Government. All of us in the education sector have a responsibility to ensure that children living in poverty, particularly girls and children with disabilities, are not excluded from their right to education. Our accelerated schools are already delivering significant benefits, and Ms Cooke's visit will inspire and motivate our students, teachers, parents, and staff.”

Due to the unprecedented outbreak of COVID-19, all schools in Bangladesh were forced to shut down for 18 months, bringing traditional classroom teaching and learning to a standstill. The prolonged shutdown caused significant learning losses for children, putitng them at risk of dropping out and further swelling the ranks of an already sizable community of out-of-school children (OoSC).

Supported by The UK Government, the "Educate the Most Disadvantaged Children in Bangladesh (EMDC)" project of the BRAC Education Programme (BEP) is providing expedited primary education to OoSC from disadvantaged communities. The project's accelerated model includes a 4-month catch-up component (the Bridge course) to help students recover their previous learning. This is followed by a 6-month accelerated course with grade-specific learning, after which students transition to formal schools in the next grade.

The EMDC project is now in its second year, with more than 16,000 students having already completed the accelerated course from 650 BRAC schools. Additionally, 12,500 more students are currently enrolled in 500 more BRAC schools. It is estimated that over the project’s lifetime, a total of 1,47,500 OoSC will receive accelerated model education for 10 months through approximately 5,900 one-room schools.

BRAC Health Porogramme (BHP) hosted a special factory visit at Zaber & Zubair Fabrics Limited in Tongi, Gazipur, under the Mothers@Work project, supported by UNICEF, as part of BRAC’s month-long observation of World Breastfeeding Week. In commemoration of this year’s World Breastfeeding Week, BHP has launched a month-long celebration throughout August, focusing on raising awareness in the community and workplaces to promote breastfeeding. This year's theme is “Enabling Breastfeeding - Making a Difference for Working Parents.”

World Breastfeeding Week is observed every year to empower and support breastfeeding mothers and raise awareness of the numerous health benefits that breastfeeding offers both mothers and infants.

The celebration of breastfeeding, held on Sunday (August 20th), aimed to encourage support for the environment and promote breastfeeding among working parents. The programme was attended by government stakeholders, including the Line Director of National Nutrition Services (NNS), Professor Dr. Mijanur Rahman.

One of the highlights of the visit was a quiz competition organised for working mothers, addressing various breastfeeding-realted issues. This interactive session not only provided valuable information to the mothers but also offered them an opportunity to win exciting prizes. The event served as a platform for discussion and education, fostering a deeper understanding of the significance of breastfeeding for both maternal and child health.

Representatives from the organisations shared their insightful views and words of appreciation, emphasising the importance of BRAC's work and the positive impact on the lives of working mothers.

Chief Guest of the event, Professor Dr. Mijanur Rahman said "It's heartening to witness organisations like BRAC Health Programme and UNICEF taking substantial steps to advocate for important aspects of breastfeeding to develop a healthy workforce and a healthier generation for the future. Such initiatives are fueling our goals of promoting optimal maternal and child nutrition. It demonstrates how impactful public-private partnerships can bring about meaningful changes.”

Monira Parveen, Nutrition Officer, UNICEF added "Every mother deserves the opportunity to give her child the best start in life and we are pleased to support BRAC Health Programme in directly addressing the challenges faced by working mothers.”

Dr. Monowarul Aziz, Programme Head, BRAC Health Programme (BHP) said, “At BRAC, our dedication to improving the lives of mothers is unwavering. Our celebration of World Breastfeeding Week throughout August underscores our commitment to supporting working mothers and promoting breastfeeding as a fundamental aspect of maternal and child health."

The Mothers@Work project aims to create an enabling environment in the workplace for maternity rights protection and breastfeeding support for working mothers and their children. These interventions are crucial in the ongoing effort to create a more nurturing environment for working mothers. The interactive engagement, coupled with the endorsement of esteemed representatives, further solidifies the importance of breastfeeding in the RMG sector and beyond.

Climate-resilient and migrant-friendly towns through locally-led adaptation

The critical role of communities in determining priorities for adapting to the impacts of climate change was emphasised during a National Consultation organised by BRAC and the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA) in Dhaka.

The event was attended by Habibun Nahar, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) along with Dr. Farhina Ahmed, Secretary, MoEFCC. The Mayors of Patuakhali and Kuakata, community representatives from Mongla, and over 60 national stakeholders participated in the consultation focused on efforts to build climate-resilient and migrant-friendly towns in Bangladesh.

With over 50% of urban residents in Bangladesh living in informal settlements, addressing their vulnerability is a key priority. At the same time, supporting secondary cities in planning for climate-induced migration has the potential to reduce informality while fostering economic growth, thereby transforming a potential burden into an opportunity. Goal 3 of Bangladesh’s National Adaptation Plan underscores the need for Climate-Smart Cities for improved urban environment and well-being.

In pursuit of this Goal, BRAC and GCA are supporting the development of Climate Resilient, Migrant-Friendly Towns in Bangladesh, with support from the UK Government. Over the past year, work has been going on in Mongla, the second-largest seaport in the country, to engage communities living in informal settlements. This effort has involved mapping their settlements, identifying key climate vulnerabilities, and developing People’s Climate Resilience Plans.

The process leverages the extensive experience of BRAC and SPARC, an affiliate organisation of Slum Dwellers International, in mobilising and supporting communities to plan through a locally-led process. In Mongla, the communities have worked under the leadership of Mayor Sheikh Abdur Rahman, to identify and prioritise solutions for the significant climate threats they face. These threats primarily encompass rising salinity levels and the scarcity of freshwater. Even though there is a scarcity of fresh water, the influx of migrants into Mongla is increasing, driven by both ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors in the southwestern region.

Push factors involve climate hazards and a lack of economic opportunities in Bagerhat, Pirojpur, Barishal, Khulna, Noakhali, and Satkhira. On the other hand, pull factors involve the increasing economic opportunities in Mongla due to its Port, the inauguration of Padma Bridge, and the declaration of Mongla as an Export Processing Zone.

The Locally-Led Adaptation (LLA) approach, modelled in Mongla will now be extended to three new paurashavas - Patuakhali, Kuakata, and Bhola. This extension aims to guide investments under the Coastal Towns Climate Resilience Project (CTCRP), financed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and implemented by the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED).

Deputy Minister Habibun Nahar expressed her special interest in seeing the progress of the implementation of the plan developed in Mongla, which also happens to be her constituency. 

Community representatives from Mongla shared how this process has enabled them to understand the implications of climate change for their locality and to devise corresponding solutions. “We appeal to the mayor, the municipality, and MoEFCC to support us in implementing the solutions,” said Chompa Begum from Narikeltola Guccho Gram, Mongla Port municipality.

Special Guest Dr. Farhina Ahmed emphasised the value of utilising existing local government structures to channel funds to implement solutions. She also highlighted the significance of the National Strategy on Internal Displacement Management, which outlines the planned rehabilitation of internally displaced individuals in Bangladesh.

Anju Sharma, Global Lead on Locally-Led Adaptation Programme, reaffirmed GCA’s commitment to collaborative efforts with the government and development partners for the implementation of priority solutions identified through the People’s Plans in Mongla.

A panel discussion was moderated by Professor Saleemul Huq, Director, International Center for Climate Change and Development. Sanjay Kumar Bhowmik, Additional Secretary, MOEFCC, emphasised the importance of traditional knowledge in the development of adaptation solutions. The mayors emphasised the importance of active engagement of community members in designing and implementing sustainable adaptation solutions.

Dr. Md. Sarwar Bari, Director General of the Monitoring, Inspection and Evaluation wing, Local Government Division (LGD), highlighted the importance of building the capacity of local government representatives for the effective implementation LLA solutions. He also stressed the importance of incorporating lessons from other LLA projects across Bangladesh.

Anna Ballance, Senior Climate Change and Environment Advisor, British High Commission, Dhaka, appreciated the role of GCA in supporting the expansion of small-scale LLA solutions.

SA Abdullah Al Mamun, Urban Specialist, ADB appreciated GCA’s valuable contribution to the slum improvement component of CTCRP.

Mokhlesur Rahmen, CTCRP Project Director, LGED, reiterated the value added by the People’s Climate Resilience Plans in designing the slum improvement component.

In conclusion, Dr Liakath Ali, Director, BRAC, appreciated MOEFCC for their strong commitment and support in scaling up the LLA approach. He extended to the participants for their invaluable contributions.

Women trained at BRAC Driving School receive professional driver’s certificate

Eleven women have been awarded the certificates as professional drivers after successfully completing their training at the BRAC Driving School. These women are now confident in their hard-earned skills. They said this achievement has come through their indomitable spirit and the high-quality driving training programme run by BRAC, one of the largest development organisations in the world.

To award the certificates, an event was organised today (Wednesday, 26 July 2023), at BRTA Bhaban, the head office of Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA). The event was attended by A B M Amin Ullah Nuri, secretary of Road Transport and Highways Division, BRTA, as the chief guest. Ahmed Najmul Hussain, director of BRAC Road Safety Programme, chaired the event, with Nur Mohammad Mazumder, chairman of BRTA, and Md. Tazul Islam (additional secretary), chairman of Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC), attending as special guests. Mainul Hossain, manager of BRAC Road Safety Programme, gave an overview of BRAC’s programmes and activities on road safety.

The organisers stated that the 11 trainees attended a 3-month-long residential, extensive training programme conducted by BRAC Driving School in the capital. The school, equipped with the state-of-the-art driving training facilities, provided them with both theoretical and practical lessons. Additionally, they received basic communications skills training in English, as well as gender sensitisation and safeguarding training. After successfully completing the training, they participated in the licencing tests conducted by BRTA and successfully obtained their professional driver’s licences. Subsequently, they were assigned to BRAC’s transport division as apprentice drivers, where they will undergo further training for three months under the guidance of senior drivers.

A B M Amin Ullah Nuri, secretary of Road Transport and Highways Division, mentioned in his chief guest’s speech that although driving is a respectable profession, there is a prevailing culture of looking down upon it as a job. Consequently, driving does not attract many to take it up as their profession. 

Regarding the employment of woman drivers, he informed the government reserves 10 per cent of its total driver positions for women. He also pointed out that there are buses for women commuters, but no women drivers or ‘helpers’. BRTC hires part-time drivers for its vehicles at the district level where the trained women drivers can join to gather experience.

Nur Mohammad Mazumder, chairman of BRTA, stated, "This is an important profession, but unfortunately, we have not been able to train enough drivers. We haven’t been able to make the driver’s job a respectable one. Moreover, many people are not even aware of BRAC’s initiative for driver’s training. If they knew, many employers might come forward with job offers for the graduates coming out of this school.

Tazul Islam (additional secretary), chairman of BRTC observed that there are family and societal barriers for women to become professional drivers. Often, families and society discourage women from joining professional driving. Last year, when BRTC advertised for 100 drivers, they could recruit at least 15 women, but only 1 female candidate applied. She got the job. This year as they are in the process of hiring 27 technicians, three female candidates have applied. As more women begin to join this profession, society's acceptance of female drivers will increase.

Ahmed Najmul Hussain, director, BRAC Road Safety Programme, stated in his chair’s remarks that as a standard, a person can qualify to become a driver with practical driving experience of 12 hours. However, our female drivers received about 100 hours of training and drove over 1,200 kilometres on the roads. All of them successfully passed the BRTA licence test on their first attempt and obtained their licences three months ago.

This training also included English language training and gender awareness lessons. These women are highly skilled drivers and should not be compared to other drivers, he further said.

Mousumi Khatun, one of the trained female drivers said, apart from driving skills, we have learned manners and etiquette and so many things, making us fully prepared for the job. Now, we are eager to find suitable employment opportunities.

BRAC Road Safety Programme has been operational since 2001 with the aim of increasing the safety of all road users. An important component of its activities is awareness-raising and training on safe road use. To date, BRAC has provided safe road users’ training to 1.2 million general road users, 561 thousand students, and 5,400 teachers across the country.

BRAC Driving School was established to produce skilled drivers with a focus on safe driving practices. So far, it has trained 11,535 people as commercial drivers, provided basic driving training to 8,147 individuals, and produced 2,698 trained women drivers. Additionally, It has trained 2,013 individuals in motorcycle driving and produced 384 driving trainers.

BRAC's graduation model assists local ultra-poor living in the host community in Cox’s Bazar to overcome poverty

Over 900 thousand Myanmar nationals from the Rohingya community crossed over to Ukhya and Teknaf in Cox's Bazar in 2017, facing persecution and decimation. The situation exacerbated the life and livelihood crisis of the local ultra-poor host community in Cox’s Bazar, a district already burdened with high incidence of poverty.

In this context, the BRAC Ultra-Poor Graduation Programme (UPG) has been assisting ultra-poor women and their families in overcoming poverty. The program employs an approach that deeply and comprehensively understands their vulnerabilities, risks, and needs. As part of this initiative, BRAC recently implemented a pilot project with the objective of establishing stronger linkages between the ultra-poor and the local market, enabling them to sell their products effectively.

An event was arranged in Cox's Bazar to share the learnings of this pilot initiative implemented by the UPG programme. BRAC, BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) organised the event on Tuesday (20 June) at a local hotel.

Dr. Narayan C. Das, associate professor and senior research fellow at the BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University, presented the findings of research on a programme run by UPG in Cox's Bazar since 2018. According to the findings, the participating families continue to achieve socio-economic progress at a rate of 96 per cent. During this time period, they have made significant growth in earnings, savings, wealth, and food security.

Dr. Imran Matin, executive director of the BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University, observed that there is a lack of solid data and evidence-based work in humanitarian contexts worldwide. BRAC's research sets a significant example in this regard.

Palash K Das, director of the UPG programme at BRAC, stated that the one-year market linkage pilot was implemented jointly by BRAC and UNHCR. The project had a two-fold objective: to increase the bargaining opportunities for the ultra-poor with market actors and to widen the scope for marketing the commodities they have produced. A total of 2,000 members from ultra-poor families participated in this pilot initiative.

Palash K Das further observed that the ultra-poor families living in the humanitarian context after the Rohingya influx gained economic growth through multifaceted support from the UPG programme. However, women from these families have limited access to the market as it is not stable. The main objective of the pilot initiative is to assist the women producers of ultra-poor families in achieving sustainable livelihoods and social integration by linking them with the mainstream economy.

The UPG director also mentioned that since the participants of the pilot project had very limited assets, they could not benefit much by operating individually in the market. Instead, they benefited more by moving into the market as a group, both for purchasing raw materials and selling their products. The project, in addition to organising various training programmes to improve market management capacity, also linked the participants with raw material sellers and product buyers. The project also helped improve their access to different services provided by the government and non-governmental organisations.

Md. Nasim Ahmed, additional deputy commissioner of Cox's Bazar, stated that the government has undertaken a number of poverty eradication and social protection programmes for people living in poverty across the country. However, Cox's Bazar, with a higher poverty rate and multidimensional complexities, requires collaboration from the government, non-governmental organisations, and private sectors to address its issues.

Subrata Kumar Chakrabarty, livelihood and economic inclusion officer at UNHCR, mentioned that the pilot project has provided important learnings for both BRAC and UNHCR. He recommended that future poverty eradication programmes should include market linkage aspects in their activities.

Farzana Zahid, senior development advisor (Rohingya response) at the High Commission of Canada, shared that she had conversations with members of the UPG programme who told her that earlier, people and neighbours did not invite them to attend social gatherings or events. But now, after their economic conditions have improved, they receive invitations.

Robert Stoelman, interim head of the Sub Office at UNDP, observed that the UPG programme has helped improve the lives and livelihoods of ultra-poor families, which in turn improves their social status.

Rozina Haque, associate director of the Ultra-Poor Graduation programme, delivered the closing remarks, stating that BRAC will incorporate the observations and recommendations brought up during today's event into its future initiatives.

Sheuly Sharma, executive director of a Cox's Bazar-based NGO, Jago Nari Unnayan Sangstha, also spoke at the event.

For over 20 years, the BRAC UPG programme has been working to enable the extreme poor in the country to lift themselves sustainably out of the state of destitution associated with ultra-poverty. According to the World Bank's definition, the extreme poor live on less than USD 2.15 per person per day. These individuals often lack access to food, education, basic services, and the skills needed to develop a sustainable livelihood. Since 2002, the UPG programme, a flagship of BRAC, has continuously adapted the graduation approach to meet the changing needs of people living in ultra-poverty and destitution. Inspired by the concept of "Leaving No One Behind," the programme has customised interventions for climate change adaptation, disability inclusion, urban poverty reduction, indigenous community inclusion, and more.

Kaiser Zaman, a friend of BRAC, organiser of the Liberation War, and noted humanitarian, has passed away

With deep sorrow, we announce the passing of Kaiser Zaman, a true humanitarian and organiser of the war of liberation of Bangladesh. He was one of the closest companions of Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, the founder of BRAC, and one of BRAC's founding partners. Kaiser Zaman was also a former member of BRAC's governing body. He passed away at 8:50 pm on Monday, June 19, 2023.

Kaiser Zaman and Sir Fazle Hasan Abed shared a friendship that spanned half a century, which sadly came to an end with Sir Fazle's death in 2019.

When Fazle Hasan Abed joined the Pakistan Shell Oil Company in 1968, Kaiser Zaman was his colleague there. Following the devastating Bhola Cyclone in 1970, Kaiser Zaman and Sir Fazle Hasan Abed established an organisation called 'HELP' to provide relief in the cyclone-affected areas. At one point, Kaiser Zaman left his job at Shell to fully dedicate himself to the relief work.

During the 1971 war of liberation, Kaiser Zaman actively participated in various initiatives aimed at shaping public opinion in support of Bangladesh. He became one of the earliest employees of BRAC, joining soon after its inception in 1972.

Kaiser Zaman served as a former representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). For over 25 years, he dedicated himself to humanitarian efforts, working as the deputy or head of operations for numerous UNHCR missions and non-governmental organisations across the globe. From Switzerland to the United States, from Hong Kong to Thailand, and from Azerbaijan to Somalia, he demonstrated unwavering commitment in assisting those in need, touching countless lives and bringing hope to the most vulnerable.

Prior to his remarkable journey with the UNHCR, Kaiser made significant contributions to various organisations. His invaluable expertise was recognised during his tenure at BRAC, Unilever and Shell Oil, International Rescue Committee, and Capitol Headstart. Kaiser's involvement with BRAC from its inception showcases his unwavering dedication to fostering positive change.

Kaiser Zaman's legacy will forever shine as a beacon of hope, compassion, and tireless advocacy for those who need it the most.

Boot camp organised on the occasion of National Nutrition Week

A boot camp was organised on the occasion of National Nutrition Week today on Sunday (13 June) at St. Joseph Higher Secondary School in the capital. The Institute of Public Health Nutrition (IPHN), BRAC, and Bangladesh Institute for ICT in Development (BIID) jointly organised the event.

More than a hundred students of this school participated in the boot camp. They took part in drawing and quiz competitions and speaking events on selected topics. Navid Iqbal from Class IX, Wasif Mursalin and Hassan Monem Reza, both from Class VII, won the first, second, and third prizes, respectively, at the drawing competition. Rafid-un-Nabi, Mahib al Mamun and Hamim Rahman stood respectively first, second, and third at the quiz competition.

Brother Leo James Pereira, principal, St. Joseph Higher Secondary School; Professor Dr Md Nasir Uddin, director, IPH; Md Shahid Uddin Akbar, chief executive director, BIID; Dr Murad Md Shamsher Tabris Khan, junior clinician, IPHN, and officials from IPHN and BRAC were present at the boot camp, among others.

IPHN director Professor Dr Md Nasir Uddin addressed the students, saying, “Only a healthy generation can build a good future. It’s therefore important for all of us to be adequately aware of which food we should take and which we shouldn’t.”

BIID chief executive director Md Shahid Uddin Akbar said, “Building Smart Bangladesh needs people with talent. Ensuring nutritious food for the growing generation is a prerequisite to ensuring talented people. This kind of initiative will help fill up the gaps in the knowledge about nutritious food among the school students across the country.”

The event concluded with the guests awarding prizes to the winners.

Earlier, on Wednesday (7 June) National Nutrition Week was launched at a programme at the Osmani Memorial Auditorium in the capital. With this year’s theme ‘Build a strong nutrition base to build Smart Bangladesh’. National Nutrition Week will continue to be observed through different programmes around the country till 13 June.

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