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Tuesday, 08 September 2015 00:00

Learning Resources

 

Freedom from Want: The Remarkable Success Story of BRAC - Click to buy the book

Books about BRAC

 

Papers, articles and other resources

Interested in sharing the story of BRAC's success with your students or classmates? Click here to view a list of articles, reports and books about BRAC's work from third-party researchers as well as our research and evaluation division. Below is a list of selected articles and case studies.

 

Sunday, 06 September 2015 00:00

Sir Fazle Hasan Abed KCMG

Chair Emeritus

 

Fazle Hasan Abed

Sir Fazle Hasan Abed KCMG

Sir Fazle was born in 1936 in Bangladesh. He studied Accountancy in London, qualifying as a Cost Management Accountant in 1962. While he was working as a senior corporate executive at Pakistan Shell, the 1970 cyclone and 1971 Liberation War in Bangladesh dramatically changed the direction of his life. He left his job and moved to London, where he helped initiate Action Bangladesh and HELP Bangladesh in support of the Liberation War.

Early in 1972, after the war was over, he returned to the newly-independent Bangladesh, finding the economy in ruins. The return of 10 million refugees, who had sought shelter in India during the war, called for urgent relief and rehabilitation efforts. Sir Fazle established BRAC to address the needs of refugees in a remote area of north-eastern Bangladesh, guided by a desire to help the poor develop their own capacity to better manage their lives.

Today BRAC is one of the largest NGOs in the world, operating across eleven countries in Africa and Asia. Its primary objectives are to alleviate poverty and empower the poor. In 2018, for the third consecutive year, BRAC was ranked first among the world's top 500 NGOs by Geneva-based 'NGO Advisor' in terms of impact, innovation and sustainability.

Sir Fazle has been honoured with numerous national and international awards for his achievements in leading BRAC, including the LEGO Prize (2018), Laudato Si' Award (2017), Jose Edgardo Campos Collaborative Leadership Award, South Asia Region (2016), Thomas Francis, Jr. Medal in Global Public Health (2016), World Food Prize (2015), Trust Women Hero Award (2014), Spanish Order of Civil Merit (2014), Leo Tolstoy International Gold Medal (2014), CEU Open Society Prize (2013), Inaugural WISE Prize for Education (2011), Entrepreneur for the World Award (2009), David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award (2008), Inaugural Clinton Global Citizen Award (2007), Henry R. Kravis Prize in Leadership (2007), Palli Karma Shahayak Foundation (PKSF) Award for lifetime achievement in social development and poverty alleviation (2007), UNDP Mahbubul Haq Award for Outstanding Contribution to Human Development (2004), Gates Award for Global Health (2004), Gleitsman Foundation International Activist Award (2003), Schwab Foundation’s Social Entrepreneurship Award (2003), Olof Palme Prize (2001), InterAction Humanitarian Award (1998) and Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership (1980).

He is also recognised by Ashoka as one of the 'global greats' and is a founding member of its prestigious Global Academy for Social Entrepreneurship. In 2009, he was appointed Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George by the British Crown in recognition of his services to reducing poverty in Bangladesh and internationally. Sir Fazle was a member of the Group of Eminent Persons appointed by the UN Secretary-General in 2010 to advise on support for the Least Developed Countries. In both 2014 and 2017, he was named in Fortune Magazine’s List of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders.

The many honorary degrees received by Sir Fazle Hasan Abed include those from Princeton University (2014), the University of Oxford (2009), Columbia University (2008) and Yale University (2007).

 

Friday, 04 September 2015 00:00

Contact us

 

Bangladesh/Headquarters

BRAC Centre
75 Mohakhali,
Dhaka-1212
Bangladesh

Communications
Tel: 88 02 2222 81265.
Fax: 88 02 2222 63542
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Human Resources

Tel: 88 02 2222 81265
Help Line: 8801755692023-4 (9am to 5pm, Bangladesh Standard Time)


Designated Officer under RTI Act.

Md. Hafizur Rahman
Programme Manager and In-charge of Partnership Strengthening Unit (PSU)
Tel: 88 02 2222 81265, Ext: 3638, 3639
Fax: 88 02 2222 63542
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Internship Unit

Tel: 88 02 2222 63542
Ext: 3103
Fax: 88 02 2222 81265
E-mail:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Ombudsperson

B 1/5, Flat # E-2, W-5, BUET Housing Society,
Lakeside Gulshan, Gulshan 1
(Opposite to Shooting Club), Dhaka 1212
Bangladesh

Phone: 8802222282072


Stichting BRAC International

Spaarneplein 2
2515 VK The Hague
The Netherlands

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

UK

Arch 19
Wootton Street
London
SE1 8TG
UK

Tel: 44 (0) 203 434 3073

Chris Lyne, Communications and Marketing
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

USA

Donella Rapier, President and CEO
110 William Street, 18th Floor
New York, NY 10038
USA

Tel: 1 212 808 5615
Fax: 1 917 591 5804
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For media inquiries:

Sarah Allen
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

BRAC Afghanistan

House # 472, Lane # 2
Haji Mir Ahmed Street Baharistan,
Karte Parwan Kabul Afghanistan

Tel: 93 (0) 700288300
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

BRAC Liberia

Divine Town, Old Road
Monrovia, Liberia

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

BRAC Myanmar

No.17, Pyi Thar Yar Housing
Street 1 (Thukhitar Street)
15 Ward, Yankin Township, Yangon, Myanmar.

Tel: 95 1 8603578
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

BRAC Nepal

House no. 404/21 Buddhi Sagar Marg,
Panipokhari Kathmandu, Nepal

Tel: 977 1 4002671
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

BRAC Philippines

Block 4, Lot 6, Narra Street
San Pablo Village, RH 11
9600 Cotabato City, Philippines

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

BRAC Sierra Leone

174 Wilkinson Road,
Freetown, Sierra Leone

Tel: 232 88873330
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

BRAC South Sudan

Plot 15, Block L14
Atlabara, Juba
South Sudan

Tel: 211 (0) 922922013
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Lanka Finance Plc

25, Dr. C.W.W.Kannangara Mw,
Colombo 07, Sri Lanka

Tel: 94-11-4853063,
Mobile: 94-77-4575124
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

BRAC Tanzania

NATAI Plaza
Plot No. 17, Light Industrial Area - Mikocheni PO Box: 105213
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Tel: 0800 782206
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


BRAC Uganda

Plot 880, Heritage Road, Nsambya
P.O: Box 31817 (Clock Tower),
Kampala, Uganda

Tel: 256 (0) 714 274201, 256 (0) 700861747
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

BRAC Rwanda Microfinance Company PLC

KG385 Street, House 360
Kagugu, Kigali, Rwanda

Tel: 250 788 373 709
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

BRAC Kenya

Africa Regional Office

FAWE House, Chania Avenue
Nairobi, Kenya

Tel: : 254 202 524 266
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


For any website related issue or feedback please email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

Saturday, 05 September 2015 00:00

Internship at BRAC

 

Application Process

1.    All BRAC internship applications should be submitted by the deadline specified in the relevant available internship description.
2.    All applications are accepted on the basis of merit and academic/professional records. Any attempt to use unfair means to secure acceptance may lead to the cancellation of the application.
3.    Download the application form: http://www.brac.net/sites/default/files/Internship Application Form.doc.
4.    Complete the application form and submit it to the Internship Unit (at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), along with an updated CV including a passport-sized digital picture. The CV must detail your academic background and professional experience.
5.    Please mention the name of the programme/department in which you are applying for an internship in the subject of your email.
6.    Following receipt ofthe completed application form, it is assessed and forwarded to the relevant programme/department with a view to making a placement which will be of benefit and value to both the programme/department and the prospective intern.
7. A decision regarding your application will be communicated to you within 2 weeks of the application deadline expiring, if not before.

 

 

FAQ

Potential Intern Applicants

In which countries does BRAC offer an internship programme?
The internship programme is only available with the BRAC Bangladesh operations and has not yet been expanded to BRAC’s international ventures in Africa or Asia.

How do I apply for an internship?
Download the  application form. The process is described there.

Is there any summer exposure trip for foreign interns?
There is no summer exposure trip now in BRAC. If anyone from outside Bangladesh wants to do internship in summer then he needs to apply into available internship opportunities in our BRAC website.

Is there a fee?
There is no processing fee for interns placed into programmes of BRAC.

What is the climate like in Bangladesh?
Bangladesh has a tropical monsoon climate, with a hot and rainy summer and a dry pleasant winter. 

I can’t speak Bangla. Do I still qualify for an internship?
Yes you do. BRAC receives foreign interns who have no knowledge of Bangla every year. BRAC also offers translator services if requested by an intern, especially when engaged in field work. Interns have to pay for these translators’ services, as well as for their food and accommodation. Most BRAC staff stationed in the head office can communicate fluently in English.

Accepted Interns


LOGISTICS

How do I get a visa and what are the requirements?
Bangladesh requires that most foreign nationals get a visa prior to arrival. The process differs depending on your nationality and country of residence. We are not qualified to give advice on the type of visa you should apply for. Please contact your nearest Bangladesh Embassy or Consulate for further information. When applying for the visa, make sure you ask for enough time to cover your expected duration. It is very difficult, time-consuming and often impossible to apply and get approval for an extension from Bangladesh.

Where will I stay in Dhaka? Will BRAC arrange my accommodations?
Interns are advised to start looking for accommodation in advance of their arrival in Dhaka. BRAC can offer you assistance to secure suitable accommodation. Accommodation options can range from BRAC Learning Centers (BLC) for the field, BRAC Inn, housing with host families, guest houses and hotels in neighborhoods in Dhaka where most foreigners and diplomats reside.

Should I contact my Supervisor before arrival?
We advise you to be in touch with your Supervisor at BRAC from pre-arrival to discuss and fine tune your internship and to have an idea about your role and schedule. You may discuss assignment details, your areas of interest and strengths, field visits and you can also request reading material via email.

What gadgets, if any, will I need for my internship?
All interns are recommended to bring their own laptops as the organization may not be able to provide sufficient resources. Interns usually have a laptop, camera and voice recorder upon them. The camera and voice recorder are helpful for field work.

How will I get an internet connection and a cell phone in Dhaka?
Local telecommunication service providers have their centers at the airport as well as locations all over Dhaka. Both cell phone and internet services may be obtained from them at reasonable prices.

Can I avail any facilities from my embassy as a foreign national in Bangladesh?
We advise our foreign interns to register with their embassies in Bangladesh, as soon as they arrive. Once registered, the intern may be able to use some facilities provided by the embassy, receive updates and alerts about national emergencies and help in case of emergency evacuation etc. You can search the contact details of your country’s embassy here: www.embassiesabroad.com/embassies-in/Bangladesh

How much money should I plan to carry for my stay in Bangladesh?
It depends on how long you stay in Bangladesh and where you chose to stay and dine, since Dhaka caters to all levels of spending capacity. On average, interns should be prepared to meet costs of approximately 700 USD per month. It is also recommended that you have access to at least an additional 200 USD for emergency purposes. ATM’s and banks are widely available in Dhaka. Bringing both a debit card and a credit card would be most convenient and interns are advised to own a VISA card (as opposed to Mastercard or any other providers) since it is the most widely accepted card in Dhaka.

Will somebody from BRAC pick me up from the airport?
No. Taxis are available at the airport. Make sure you have the address of your destination written down and explained to the driver with the help of an English-speaking local at the airport.

Where will I exchange currency when I arrive at Dhaka?
Currency exchanging points are available at the airport and also widely available in Dhaka.

What should I know about public transportation in Dhaka?
Rickshaws (tri-cycles with ornate hoods) and CNG’s (green motorized three-wheelers) are convenient, available everywhere and safe public transport options. Details will be provided during orientation.

What is the state of security in Dhaka?
The neighborhoods recommended by BRAC will be suitable and safe areas to live in. However, it is always suggested that you move in groups and avoid traveling after dark. A detailed security plan will be emailed to you before your arrival which you will sign and submit during orientation.

What happens if I find myself in a difficult situation?
The security plan will brief you on how to act in case of an emergency. The internship coordinator will also be available to instruct you in such conditions.

What should I do in case of a medical emergency?
The security plan includes a course of action in case of a medical emergency. Details will be addressed at the orientation. During office hours a doctor at the Health Department within the BRAC Center will be able to assist you. A handout will be provided to all interns/volunteers with important phone numbers of the police and fire departments, hospitals, ambulance etc. if ever needed in case of emergencies outside of office hours.

What is BRAC’s policy about alcohol and drugs?
BRAC operates as per the regulatory laws in Bangladesh. It follows the controlled substance laws. Foreigners are allowed to consume alcohol at their private premises. Details will be provided at the orientation.

Can you recommend a packing list for my trip to Bangladesh?
General:

  • Three passport size photos for registration
  • Laptop (preferably with wireless internet setting)
  • Mosquito Repellent
  • Sunglasses
  • Raincoat and umbrella (for rainy seasons)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Sunscreen


For the field:

  • Durable shoes
  • Dry food
  • Clip board
  • Backpack
  • Flash light
  • Mosquito Repellent
  • Bed sheet, pillow cover
  • Flask to carry water
  • A book to read
  • Portable music player and headphones
  • Medicine kit once in Dhaka and instructed by coordinator
  • Camera (preferably digital)
  • All interns, including locals, are recommended to bring their own laptops as the organization may not be able to provide sufficient resources


CULTURE

Will BRAC arrange my accommodations when I am out for field work?
Yes, BRAC will. Interns usually stay at the Learning Centers (BLC) and have to pay on a daily basis for food and accommodation. They also have to pay for transportation.

What will be my mode of transportation in the field?
Interns usually move around on foot, in rickshaws and in three-wheeler auto-rickshaws, popularly known as CNGs, when out for field work.

What food will be available to me in the field?
The BLC’s usually serve local Bangladeshi meals which include rice, dal (lentils), fish/chicken curry and curried vegetables. Filtered water will also be available.

What is Bengali cuisine like?
Rice is a staple for Bengalis. Other than that, fish curries, chicken/beef curries, dal (lentil soup), curried vegetables and mashed potatoes make a very basic Bengali meal. A great variety of spices are used in Bengali cuisine and snacks involve lots of deep-fried items such as shingaras and samosas.

Is western cuisine widely available in Dhaka?
Yes it is. Supermarkets in Dhaka offer a large selection of local and international groceries. Many restaurants and bakeries also cater to people with a palate for international cuisines such as Continental, European, Italian, American, Chinese, Thai, Korean and Japanese, to name a few. A lot of these places will be at a close proximity from the interns’ residence.

Will I have to drink bottled water in Dhaka?
Yes. Interns are advised to drink bottled water.

What is considered appropriate clothing in Bangladesh?
As a foreigner going to a Muslim country, you would be expected to show respect for the cultural differences in Bangladesh. Interns are thus advised to conform to social norms when in the country. Men are advised to wear full length pants (shorts should not be worn to the field, nor at the head office) paired with t-shirts, shirts or panjabis (long, traditional shirts for men). Women are advised to dress in local wear (shalwar kameez/fotuas with a long scarf) especially when out at the field. As long as the clothing is made of light material like cotton, covers the arms and legs and isn't tight fitting, you should be comfortable moving around.

What recreation options does Dhaka offer?
There are several restaurants, hotels, clubs and museums that offer recreation options. The internship coordinator will be able to advise you upon arrival.

Internship Expectations

What facilities can I expect to avail as a BRAC intern?
To date, BRAC has hosted interns from all over the world and facilitated various kinds of support and assistance for them. These facilities include:

  • Stipend per month BDT 5,000
  • Trained Translators
  • Subsidized meal at BRAC’s staff cafeteria
  • Transportation at BRAC staff rate (conditions apply)
  • Access to the very resourceful BRAC University Library
  • Reports of former interns of BRAC

What is the expected output from the internship?
The ToR will specify the expected output from the interns specifically. Depending on conversations with the supervisor, most interns involved in research projects are expected to produce a report highlighting their research analysis and results. You can also offer a presentation to your department to explain your findings and foster discussion. 

Will I get a recommendation letter or a certificate upon completion of my placement?
A Letter of Appreciation will be given to you upon completion of your assignment. Your direct supervisor may also be willing to write a personal recommendation.
 

 

 

Friday, 04 September 2015 00:00

Visit BRAC

BRAC welcomes visitors from around the world to experience firsthand its wide range of actions and innovations that continues to improve the condition of the marginalised people. BRAC's visitors unit is dedicated to support the national & international government officials, donor agencies, prospective partners, academia and individual practitioners in facilitating their visit. The unit aims to provide ample opportunity to observe BRAC's micro level field activities as well as share views and thoughts with BRAC practitioners. Visiting experiences are customised according to the visitors' interest and field of work to ensure the highest convenience in learning.

 

Schedule your Visit

If you are planning to visit BRAC, the first step is to send us a completed Checklist Form. You can download the form here. Based on your given information and your fields of interest, we will provide you with tentative itineraries of the visit by coordinating with the respective programmes, as well as an approximate budget. We also provide support in reservation of accommodation, transportation, and logistics. Here is a general template of the visit procedure:

Things to keep in mind when making arrangements and filling out profile and logistics forms:

  • Please make sure you plan your visit between Sunday through Thursday since Friday and Saturday are weekends in Bangladesh. We recommend that you plan your arrival on the weekend if you would like to start a visit at the beginning of the week.
  • Field visits start early in the morning (6:30am-7:30am) since locations usually tend to be far away, and the heavy traffic can be avoided early in the day.
  • If you are able to plan in advance, we recommend visiting Bangladesh during the winter, since the weather is pleasant. Summers in Bangladesh are hot and humid which can take a toll during extensive field visits.


Here are some sample itineraries for visitors:
Urban visit (half-day)
Urban visit (full-day)
Rural visit
Rural visit (including BRAC Enterprise)
2 days BLC based programme
5 days immersion on Microfinance

The following sample itineraries give an idea of what a general BRAC visit covers.

 

Facilitation Fees for Visitors

Category Fees
Commercial Organisation 1-5 person/s: $50/person/day
6 > persons: $40/person/day

$25/person/half-day
Private Individual
(National & International)
1-5 person/s: $40/person/day
6 > persons: $35/person/day

$25/person/half-day
Non-Profit Organisation
(National & International)
1-5 person/s: $30/person/day
6 > persons: $25/person/day

$20/person/half-day
Academic Institution
(National & International)
1-5 person/s: $30/person/day
6 > persons: $25/person/day

$20/person/half-day
Ministry & Secretariat:
(National & International)
NIL

 

 

What and Where

PROGRAMME BRIEFING


 

 

Contact the Visitors Unit


Visitors Unit

BRAC Centre (20th Floor)
75 Mohakhali, Dhaka 1212
Bangladesh
Tel: 88 02 2222 81265 Ext. 3105
Fax: 88 02 2222 63542
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

Friday, 04 September 2015 00:00

Annual Report and Publications

Written by

2021:

  • BRAC Annual Report Download
  • Stichting BRAC International Financial Report Download
  • BRAC International Holdings B.V. Financial Report Download
  • BRAC UK Annual Report Download

 

2020:

  • BRAC Bangladesh Annual Report Download
  • BRAC Afghanistan Annual Report Download
  • BRAC Liberia Annual Report Download
  • BRAC Liberia Microfinance Company Limited Annual Report Download
  • BRAC Myanmar Annual Report Download
  • BRAC Myanmar Microfinance Company Limited Annual Report Download
  • BRAC Philippines Annual Report Download
  • BRAC Rwanda Microfinance Company PLC Annual Report Download
  • BRAC Sierra Leone Annual Report Download
  • BRAC Microfinance Sierra Leone Limited Annual Report Download
  • BRAC South Sudan Annual Report Download
  • BRAC Maendeleo Tanzania Annual Report Download
  • BRAC Tanzania Finance Limited Annual Report Download
  • BRAC Uganda Annual Report Download
  • BRAC Uganda Bank Ltd Annual Report Download
  • BRAC UK Annual Report Download
  • Stichting BRAC International
  • BRAC International Holdings B.V. Financial Report Download
  • BRAC International Magazine – BRAC Life Download

 

2019:

  • BRAC Bangladesh Annual Report Download
  • BRAC Afghanistan Annual Report Download
  • BRAC Liberia Annual Report Download
  • BRAC Liberia Microfinance Company Limited Annual Report Download
  • BRAC Myanmar Annual Report Download
  • BRAC Nepal Annual Report Download
  • BRAC Philippines Annual Report Download
  • BRAC Rwanda Microfinance Company PLC Annual Report Download
  • BRAC Sierra Leone Annual Report Download
  • BRAC Maendeleo Tanzania Annual Report Download
  • BRAC Tanzania Finance Limited Annual Report Download
  • BRAC Uganda Annual Report Download
  • BRAC Uganda Bank Ltd Annual Report Download
  • BRAC UK Annual Report Download
  • BRAC USA Annual Report View online
  • Stichting BRAC International Annual Report Download
  • BRAC International Holdings B.V. Financial Report Download

 

2018:

 

2017:

 

2016:

 

2015:

 

2014:

2013 :

2012 :


 

Agronomy guides for Bangladesh

 

 

Friday, 04 September 2015 00:00

Financials and External Audit

Written by

BRAC's finance and accounts department is responsible for financial planning and record-keeping, managing costs, assets and liabilities, financing investments, analysing cash-flow and profitability, and preparing budgets and financial frameworks for the development programmes. The department is accountable for donor grants, property, provident funds, employee gratuity, salary, tax and loans. It produces annual and monthly consolidated financial statements and fulfils the rules and regulations of the NGO Affairs Bureau, Microcredit Regulatory Authority (MRA) and other regulatory bodies. Through this department we ensure effective financial control and transparency of the financial data of our projects and enterprises, garnering the trust and confidence from all those with whom we work.


BRAC was awarded the ‘AAA’ by Credit Rating Agency of Bangladesh Ltd. (CRAB). (The ‘AAA’ means Extremely Strong Capacity and Highest Quality.) 

BRAC became a full charter member of the INGO Accountability Charter in December 2013. The INGO Accountability Charter was incorporated in 2008. It is registered as a company in the UK and having its secretariat in Berlin, Germany. The objective is to create and develop a charter relating to the accountability of non-governmental organisations.
    
BRAC received many awards in the field of financial transparency in different times. In 2014, BRAC received the following awards:

  • 1st position in the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Bangladesh (ICAB) National Award under the category of NGOs for the year 2013.
  • 1st position in the Institute of Cost and Management Accountants of Bangladesh (ICMAB) Best Corporate Award in the NGO Sector for the year 2013.


Audit Reports:

 

Rating Reports

 

Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder and chairperson of Brac, has urged a shift in focus from school enrollment to quality of learning. Credit: Brac

Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder and chairperson of Brac, has urged a shift in focus from school enrollment to quality of learning. Credit: Brac

Improving the quality of education on offer to children in developing nations will be a key factor in efforts to eradicate global poverty, the founder of the world’s largest non-governmental organisation said.

Investment in school systems rather than a narrow focus on enrollment numbers will be the next challenge for the global humanitarian sector, said Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder and chairperson of Brac.

We have been able to get children into school, but the next task is to give them high quality education. Many countries are failing to provide quality education to their children, including Bangladesh, India, Pakistan,” said Abed, who recently won the 2015 World Food Prize for his contribution to reducing poverty in his home country Bangladesh and 10 other nations.

“There are so many children going to school but not learning much. This is going to be a big challenge – how to provide quality education to children.”

Abed left a job as a senior corporate executive at Shell Oil in London after the 1971 Liberation War that led to Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan. He began with a small relief operation in 1972 in a remote village of Bangladesh after the country was hit by a major cyclone, before founding Brac. Today, the NGO employs 110,000 people in Bangladesh and works in areas such as microfinance, education, healthcare, legal services, community empowerment and social enterprises. Worldwide, Brac has helped around 135 million people, with operations in regions including Asia, Africa and the Caribbean.

Thanks to a funding model that helps it generate revenues from its different assets and funnel them back into Brac, the organisation relies on donors for only 25 per cent of its financing needs. This allows it to follow its own agenda and test new models without necessarily seeking donor approval.

To date, Brac has educated nearly 7 million children, including helping 5 million girls to attend primary school. The organisation has also helped reduce infant and child mortality in Bangladesh to 40 in 1,000, down from 250 almost a decade ago.

“If you are looking for challenges for the future, the other is how to eradicate extreme poverty in the world so that everybody has a decent meaningful life to lead,” said Abed. “These are the next generation of challenges that we must face and win.”

Another pressing topic is developing mechanisms that help developing nations adapt to climate change, which hits poorer communities hardest, he said.

“Climate is going to bring in its wake a lot of problems, which we need to solve. We need to adapt to some of them. We also need mitigation, in other words the lifestyle has to change in a lot of the developed world to be able to cut down carbon emissions. That has to happen in the West, but in our countries we need to adapt to climate change aspects like drought, saline water, water logging, and things like that,” he added.

The world is also becoming less equitable, and there’s a need to build societies that promote equal opportunities for everyone, instead of equality of wealth, he explained.

“People should have opportunity to rise through their own hard work. These are the kind of societies we want to build. We don’t want to build a society where opportunities are reserved for a few.”

Gender equality is at the top of Abed’s list of challenges to tackle through Brac’s programmes. Describing it as “the unfinished agenda of my life”, he noted that human societies would be much happier if gender equality was achieved.

“For our own sake we need to develop equality of opportunity or all men and women, girls and boys,” he said.

Tuesday, 01 September 2015 18:00

Graduating from destitution

THE poor do not just lack money. They are also often short of basic know-how, the support of functioning institutions and faith in their own abilities. As a result, note Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in their book, “Poor Economics”, published in 2004, it takes “that much more skill, willpower and commitment” for the poor to get ahead. No wonder escaping extreme poverty—usually defined as living on less than $1.25 a day—is so hard.

Even the most successful schemes to lift (and keep) people out of dire poverty seem to work only for some people, in some places, some of the time. For example, microcredit works best for the relatively enterprising, who are rarely the very poorest. Similarly, cash transfers linked to school attendance are useful, but require a working education system. What succeeds in one country may fail elsewhere, thanks to different conditions and cultural norms. And the poorest are often the hardest to help.

This dispiriting picture makes a new paper* by Mr Banerjee, Ms Duflo and several others all the more striking. It claims to have identified an anti-poverty strategy that works consistently, based on a seven-year, six-country study of more than 10,000 poor households. The secret, the economists argue, is to hand out assets, followed by several months of cash transfers, followed by as much as two years of training and encouragement. That formula seems to have made a lasting difference to the lives of the very poorest in countries as different as Ghana, Pakistan and Peru.

BRAC, a big Bangladeshi NGO that originally came up with this approach to tackle abject poverty, calls it a “graduation programme”. Given the many problems of the poor, the logic runs, it is useless to apply a sticking plaster to one while leaving the others to fester. For example, various NGOs, including Heifer International, Oxfam and World Vision, give cows, goats or chickens to poor people in developing countries, to enable them to earn an income selling milk or eggs. But what if the recipients are so hungry that they end up eating their putative meal ticket?

BRAC’s idea was to give those in the graduation programme not just chickens but also training on how to keep them, temporary income support to help them to resist the inevitable temptation to eat them, and repeated visits from programme workers to reinforce the training and bolster participants’ confidence. The economists studied schemes along these lines run by local NGOs in Ethiopia, Ghana, Honduras, India, Pakistan and Peru. The programmes all targeted the very poor: as many as 73% of participants in India and 66% in Ethiopia lived on less than $1.25 a day.

In all six places households in the programme chose an asset, typically livestock, as a one-off gift. In addition, they received enough money to buy a kilo of rice a day for as long as a year. They were given training not just on how to exploit their chosen asset, but also on keeping themselves healthy. Lastly, the NGO provided a safe way to save money, along with encouragement to do so. Although some details, such as the type of livestock people received, or the emphasis placed on saving money, varied from country to country, the nub of all six schemes was the same.

The results were promising. At the end of the programmes, roughly two years after participants first enrolled, their monthly consumption of food had risen by around 5% relative to a control group. Household income had also risen, and fewer people reported going to bed hungry than in control households. The value of participants’ assets had increased by 15%, which suggests that they had not improved their diets by eating their chickens. Rather, each person in the programme spent an average of 17.5 more minutes a day working, mostly tending to livestock—10% more than their peers. (The impact did still vary by country, being weakest in Honduras and Peru and strongest in Ethiopia.) Even more striking, the programme had strong, lasting effects on consumption and asset values even for the poorest tenth of households it reached—the poorest of the poor.

Perhaps most important, when the researchers went back and surveyed households a year after the programme had ended, they found that people were still working, earning and eating more. Were these gains to persist even longer—as they have in Bangladesh, where another study has been able to track people an additional year down the road—the researchers reckon that the graduation programme would have benefits of between 1.33 and 4.33 times what was spent on it. (The only exception is Honduras, where it did not break even, in part because the chickens that many people chose to receive kept dying.)

Not chicken feed

The costs of the schemes, which varied from $414 per participant in India to $3,122 in Peru, look daunting. But the help is intended as a one-off, whereas many anti-poverty drives in the developing world are never-ending. That makes graduation programmes cheaper than many of the alternatives. India, for example, spends about 0.3% of GDP every year on a workfare programme that reaches about 50m households. Reaching the same number of households through a graduation programme would be a one-off cost of about 1% of GDP.

Besides, it might be possible to achieve the same effect more cheaply. For one thing, it is not clear that all the elements of the programme are necessary. A recent study of a similar scheme targeting the very poor in Uganda found that more frequent home visits bring little extra benefit. This is the most expensive part of the programme, costing twice as much on average as the direct transfers. It could perhaps be eliminated or curtailed. Even as it is, the blight of abject poverty looks a little less intractable.

 

Adolescent girls are often forced to leave school in Africa, but a new programme is bringing the classroom to them

Brac’s ‘study club’ targets girls who have dropped out of secondary school so they can continue to receive academic tutoring.
Brac’s ‘study club’ targets girls who have dropped out of secondary school so they can continue to receive academic tutoring. Photograph: Chris Noble/Aurora Photos/Corbis

We face tremendous problems keeping girls in school as they transition through adolescence. In Sierra Leone, 30% of reported rapes take place in the school environment, and a recent ruling banned “visibly pregnant” girls from school. When the school itself becomes a hostile setting, it should come as no surprise that dropout rates shoot up.

Education programmes tend to fall short when it comes to dropouts. Brac schools have raised primary and pre-primary enrolment rates in six countries, getting 1.3 million more children into classrooms – most of whom are girls and all of whom would otherwise be left behind. But we need to think more creatively when it comes to adolescent girls who have already dropped out.

We are piloting a programme in Tanzania – where only 36% of all children go on to secondary school, mostly boys – to educate girls who have already dropped out. I recently visited the northern region, where dropout rates are highest. In Mwanza, I met a girl named Kesy. She’s just completed her primary leaving examination for grade 7. “My parents did not let me go and see my results, nor did they go to see it. I did not go back to school after that,” she told me.

Girls like Kesy drop out for a host of reasons: poverty, early pregnancy or marriage. They also face gender-based violence and harassment, parental indifference and traditions that inhibit girls’ ability to make their own decisions. I’ve even heard stories about parents bribing teachers to declare their daughters dead so they don’t have to return to school.

It is impossible for girls to return to school after they have dropped out. Catching up would require a costly course in self-study, which few can afford. We’re exploring an alternative: bringing schooling back to the girls, rather than vice versa.

Kesy is now part of a Brac “study club”, a programme that targets girls who have dropped out of secondary school or were unable to continue schooling because they failed the primary leaving examination.

We’ve set up 150 study clubs – girls-only safe spaces, situated in borrowed or rented rooms outside the school setting and within walking distance of girls’ homes. The girls, numbering about 13 per club, meet five times a week, receiving academic tutoring in the mornings and life skills education in the afternoons. Each club is led by a “community tutor”, a recent secondary school graduate from the area, who receives a small stipend.

We provide a limited number of self-teaching textbooks, which are shared among groups of three or four to save costs. We also provide educational materials such as books and pens for the girls. They are registered in, and the tutors are trained by, the government’s Institute for Adult Education (IAE), the entity charged with overseeing continuing education. Brac provides additional support through monthly refresher training for the tutors.


In Tanzania only 36% of children go to secondary school. Photograph: Graeme Robertson

To fill the community tutor positions, we drew from Brac’s existing networks of microfinance groups and livelihood programmes. We also conduct community and parent meetings to heighten awareness of the importance of keeping these girls on an educational track.

We aim for a holistic approach that will give the girls a second chance at education and make them more aware of their capabilities. The combination of education and life skills along with parental awareness will help them reach their potential.

The results so far are positive but anecdotal; an independent evaluation will determine how and whether we scale. However, the support and enthusiasm from the community and government is inspiring. The pilot now reaches 1,950 girls in five regions, operating with support from UK Aid’s Girls Education Challenge.

The idea of safe spaces for girls isn’t new to Brac. We have already recorded remarkable changes in their lives through participation in a programmes called Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescents (ELA), which combines life skills and livelihood training with micro-loans in a girls-only club setting. These clubs operate in five countries in Africa.

In Uganda, where 70,000 girls belong to these clubs, a randomised control trial recorded a drop in pregnancy rates, a rise in self-employment and 83% fewer reports of forced sex. These were all attributed to participation in ELA clubs, which are run in partnership with the MasterCard Foundation.

But until now, we haven’t applied the safe spaces concept to academics. There are others working in this area in Tanzania, but we don’t know of anyone doing similar study clubs. Unicef, the Forum for African Women Educationalists (Fawe), Camfed and Tanzania Education Network are looking at ways to keep girls learning, with Unicef particularly concerned with keeping options open for young mothers.

Brac has committed to scaling up girls’ education and empowerment efforts, and piloting new ones like these, in at least eight countries. To do this, we look forward to learning from others as part of the Collaborative for Harnessing Ambition and Resources for Girls’ Education (Charge), which brings together 40 organisations pursuing similar goals under the umbrella of the Brookings Institution.

I can see the difference the Tanzania study clubs are already making. These girls have enthusiasm, will and ambition. Many declare they want to be teachers. We need to give them the tools they need to build their futures.

Rafiath Rashid Mithila is the senior manager of education at Brac International

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