Climate-resilient migrant-friendly town development urgent
Through locally-led adaptations
Bangladesh is globally recognised as a role model in tackling climate change impacts with sustainable solutions. The district of Bagerhat, especially its Mongla upazila, gets special importance in the climate adaptation initiatives of the government. It’s particularly so because the preservation and development of Sundarbans, a world heritage site situated in this region, means the development of the whole world.
This observation came from Sanjay Kumar Bhowmik, additional secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, while he spoke as chief guest at the inception meeting of a project titled ‘Building climate resilient migrant-friendly towns through locally-led adaptation in Bangladesh’.
Development organisation BRAC and Mongla Port Municipality jointly organised the programme today on Monday (05 September 2022) at the Upazila Muktijoddha Complex in Mongla Port Municipality town.
The project will be implemented in a consortium of BRAC, International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) and technology service company Spark India. BRAC will be in charge of its overall implementation, while ICCCAD and Spark India will be technical and knowledge partners. Mongla Port Municipality will lead the implementation of the pilot in its township. The project has been undertaken with a view to strengthen the process of building climate-resilient migrant-friendly urban centres in Bangladesh. The programme will be replicated in three more urban centres by 2026 and in 26 more such areas by 2030.
Kamalesh Majumder, upazila nirbahi officer, said in his special guest’s speech, it is important to implement various projects by prioritising the needs of climate-vulnerable people. The main problem of Mongla city is the lack of safe drinking water. Increased salinity increased various health risks. It’s urgent to identify and solve the main problems in a sustainable manner.
Bir Muktijodha Sheikh Abdur Rahman, mayor, Mongla Port Municipal, and a special guest at the event, said that the coastal region especially Mongla Port Municipality is one of the most climate-vulnerable areas of Bangladesh. Ensuring safe water supply in this area is essential to combat climate risks. Also, sustainable measures should be undertaken to provide necessary facilities for climate migrants.
Dr. Md Liakath Ali, director, Climate Change Programme, BRAC & BRAC International, and Urban Development Programme, BRAC, in his chair’s speech said, this project is being implemented for the first time in Asia, funded by the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA). Climate change Programme and urban development Programme are closely related. The project will be worthwhile if the real needs of the climate migrants living in Mongla are identified and mitigated through appropriate measures.
At the meeting, BRAC Urban Development Programme’s programme head Imamul Azam Shahi presented details about the project, while Climate Change Programme’s programme head Abu Sadat Moniruzzaman Khan gave welcome speech. SPARK India official Nihar Johori presented a brief on mobilisation model for the development of low-income communities at risk of climate change. Savio Rozario from ICCCAD spoke on vulnerability, risk assessment and climate adaptation planning processes.
Md Hafiz-al-Asad, additional deputy commissioner (revenue), Bagerhat, educationists, journalists and dignitaries were also present on the occasion.
The project will provide support to climate migrants especially women, children, youth and citizens with disabilities to enhance skills, job opportunities, income generation, financial inclusion and social security opportunities.
Accident survivors with disabilities will receive faster and subsidised treatment
We want to establish BRAC model in 8 medical colleges: Health directorate DG
Development organisation BRAC and the Sheikh Hasina National Institute of Burn and Plastic Surgery (SHNIBPS) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) today on Saturday (27 August) at the SHNIBPS conference room in the capital. The public-private partnership agreement will enable the two organisations to give faster and affordable treatment to the patients who have lost limbs in accidents.
Organisers said under this MoU, low-income patients will be able to get international quality treatment at an affordable cost (expenses will be up to 50% subsidised). In December 2021, BRAC and SHNIBPS jointly opened a new unit of Limb and Brace Center on the premises of SHNIBPS to run on a pilot basis, under the planning and operation of BRAC Limb and Brace Center (BLBC). So far, the unit gave subsidised rehabilitation care to over 450 patients. Under this MoU its services will see sustainable enhancement from now on.
Established in 1972, BRAC, now the world’s one of the largest development organisations, has been working for people’s socio-economic development including health and nutrition. Road traffic accidents (RTA), diabetic gangrene, burn, burger’s disease, cancer and congenital anomalies were reported to be some of the major causes of disability in Bangladesh. The BRAC Limb and Brace Center (BLBC) was established with a vision to support persons with disabilities, particularly from low-income communities. It provides patients with low cost, quality and user-friendly customised Prosthetics and Orthotics (P&O) services along with physiotherapy, counselling and rehabilitation services.
The event was attended by Professor ABM Khurshid Alam, director general, Directorate General of Health Services, Asif Saleh, executive director, BRAC, Professor Dr Md Abul Kalam, director, SHNIBPS, Dr Samanta Lal Sen, national coordinator, SHNIBPS, and Dr Morseda Chowdhury, director, BRAC Health Nutrition and Population Programme.
BRAC ED Asif Saleh and SHNIBPS director Professor Dr Md Abul Kalam signed the MoU on behalf of their respective organisations.
DGHS director-general Professor ABM Khurshid Alam said at the signing ceremony, “I thank BRAC for this great initiative. A large number of patients will benefit from this Limb and Brace Center. We have to make sure smooth operation of this Center. I want to replicate BRAC model to eight more medical colleges in the country. I would ask BRAC to come up with plans on which we will collaborate. You stood by the people during COVID-19, you are there now too. I do thank you, BRAC.”
BRAC ED Asif Saleh said, “Our founder Sir Fazle Hasan Abed was a social entrepreneur. Until his death he emphasised that BRAC will have to continue innovating solutions for new social issues, or else it would become irrelevant to the society. Following his guidance, BRAC continues its work to innovate models for pressing social problems. Through the model that we are launching today we are trying to give a much-needed service to people using the government infrastructure, where we have been successful in making it easily accessible and affordable. We had started the piloting with a positive mind upon receiving a proposal from the government to work in this area. Now we want to replicate this model. I am very hopeful about this sector because both you and we are eager to work collaboratively.”
He further added, “We have to think more on transforming it to a holistic system and bringing private sector organisations in this effort. We need strong collaboration for future success. Alongside, we would have to work to prevent road and all other forms of accidents. I am hopeful that in future this model will act as an exemplary partnership model for others to follow.”
BRAC HNPP director Dr Morseda Chowdhury said, “We are part of this PPP because we are earnest in our effort to serve the poor. Beforehand, an injured patient will have to visit different places for different kinds of healthcare. Now we are trying to bring all kinds of treatment and healthcare services under the same umbrella for them.”
SHNIBPS national coordinator Dr Samanta Lal Sen said, “I consider myself fortunate to have this Limb and Brace Center of BRAC operating here. We will now be able to give treatment services to many more patients. We will also be able to bring more such patients using BRAC’s network to give them treatment.”
SHNIBPS director Professor Dr Md Abul Kalam said, “Every year many people become disabled from electrocution. We give prosthetics services to 300-350 patients every year. BRAC’s proposal was important for us. We have been able to give services to over 450 people in just last eight months. We therefore heartily thank BRAC.”
The ‘Made in Bangladesh’ brand in the readymade garments sector is largely the contribution of its millions of workers. A large market of other commodities and services has grown in the country to cater to the demands of the RMG workers. But the country has yet to develop a robust system to ensure the much-needed welfare of the RMG workers even after four decades since the establishment of the industry in the early 1980s. A large section of these workers work for meagre wages due to lack of skills. Many women leave jobs to take care of their newborns in absence of daycare centres, while many pregnant workers leave jobs due to lack of proper care. The country’s RMG sector will secure more sustaining growth once we can ensure basic services, skills training and opportunities and services for the workers.
Currently, the RMG sector contributes 16% to the GDP of Bangladesh, which constituted 83% of the country’s total export earnings in 2021. Bangladesh, second among the world’s readymade wear exporting countries, engages nearly 4.4 million people, 60% of whom are women. At present, this industry brings over 32 billion dollars every year.
These observations and information were shared at an event titled ‘National consultation on the wellbeing of RMG workers’ organised at the BRAC Centre in the capital today (Thursday, 25 August). BRAC, the one of the world’s largest development organisations, hosted the programme with Bangladesh’s commerce minister and lawmaker Tipu Munshi in chair. Special guests at the event were labour and employment secretary Ehsan-E-Elahi, director-general of Health Economics Unit under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Dr Md Enamul Haque, and BGMEA vice president Md Shahidullah Azim. Professor of the Institute of Health Economics at the University of Dhaka Dr Syed Abdul Hamid and Centre for Policy Dialogue research director Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem were present at the discussion panel. Sk Mojibul Huq, programme manager, BRAC Urban Development Programme, presented BRAC’s one-stop service centre model. The event was moderated by the director of BRAC Urban Development Programme and BRAC and BRAC International Climate Change Programme Dr Md Liakath Ali.
The findings of a survey on the effectiveness of the services rendered by the one-stop service centre model were also presented. BRAC and research organisation Lightcastle Partners conducted the study. Lightcastle Partners director Jahedul Amin presented the findings.
Tipu Munshi, minister, Ministry of Commerce, said, “The government has taken various initiatives to ensure the workers’ salary, quality of life and basic services. The prime minister has been giving her full support in this regard. BRAC has set the example of a quality service. This model will ensure the welfare of workers.”
Md. Ehsan-E-Elahi, secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment, said, “We have two funds - a central fund which is solely dedicated for RMG workers, another one is Shramajibi Kallyan Foundation. With these two funds, I have been mitigating payments to thousands of workers with one-off payment for healthcare, in case of injuries or death, and also for their children's education. We will consider implementing this model of BRAC if they share it with our ministry.”
Dr Syed Abdul Hamid, professor, Institute of Health Economics, University of Dhaka, said, “BRAC has created a 360 degree-model. However, the government’s action is needed here.”
Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem, research director, CPD, said, “There were many projects that never saw the light of day. With the help of the government, NGOs can come forward and implement such an initiative.”
Md Shahidullah Azim, vice president, BGMEA, said, “To keep up with the new world, we have increased the use of advanced machinery. As a result, we do not require as much manpower as we did in the past. Thus the number of women in the work force is decreasing.”
Md Liakath Ali, director, Climate Change Programme, BRAC and BRAC International, said, “This initiative of ours was small, it will end this year. By doing the pilot programme, we were able to show that this model works.”
The presentation on the research findings informed the audience that BRAC UDP is implementing a 5-year pilot titled “Empowering the RMG workers living in urban slums of Dhaka” (2017-22). Under this project three one-stop service centres have been established in Tongi, Gazipur and Savar, following an innovative OSCC model of BRAC to give coordinated services to garment factory workers. So far, 60,000 people of low-income families have received services including quality healthcare, legal aid, skills training, daycare service for children, financial inclusion services of deposit pension scheme and micro health insurance, and citizen rights awareness. According to the findings, the ERMG project also helped promote work-friendly environment in these areas through connecting the factory owners and workers.
Bangladesh is also among the countries facing a power shortage due to the ongoing fuel crisis in the world. To tackle the situation the government has called on the people to proactively save electricity and fuel. Responding to the call, BRAC has initiated a number of measures to reduce fuel and energy consumption at its head office and offices and settings across the countries. These measures will be effective from 1 August, 2022.
BRAC is doing this by a rigorous reinforcement of its policy measures maximising the use of natural light and air and through following fuel-efficient rules while using BRAC’s vehicles.
BRAC expects the following measures will help save electricity and fuel by at least 25 percent every month:
All BRAC field offices and facilities across the country have been instructed to actively save fuel and energy by following similar measures.
BRAC has been actively engaged with the local administration since the flood situation began deteriorating in the country. The organisation has already distributed emergency flood relief of BDT 3 crore allocated from its own funds to 59,000 families. From next 30 June BRAC will further initiate the distribution of cash assistance of BDT 7.50 crore to another 50,000 flood affected families. Under this initiative, each family will receive BDT 1,500. The relief operations are being carried out in 12 upazilas of Sylhet and Sunamganj, severely affected by the flood.
Animal feed is also being distributed among the affected ultra-poor families in the flood-hit areas. Every family is getting 40kg of animal feed. ACI, a reputed industrial organisation of the country, has come forward in this effort they have sold a total of 203 metric tons of animal feed to BRAC at its production cost. Besides, BRAC Nursery has donated 222 metric tons of silage.
Meanwhile, World Food Program (WFP), has joined BRAC’s relief effort, donating 85 metric tons of high energy biscuits. BRAC's humanitarian staff are delivering these to the flood affected families in remote areas, with each family receiving 50 packets [2.5kg] of biscuits.
As always, priority is being given to the women-led households, and those with elderly, pregnant and lactating women and people with physical and mental disabilities. Even after the floodwaters recede, BRAC will continue supporting the people in the flood-hit areas with necessary healthcare services, housing repairs, and restoring their lives and livelihoods.
BRAC's humanitarian initiative, 'Dakche Amar Desh’, is raising funds for the relief effort. So far, this initiative has been able to raise BDT 17 crore.
In response to BRAC's call, the following organisations have joined its relief effort: World Food Program (WFP), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, BRAC Bank, HSBC Bank, BRAC University. Besides these organisations, numerous individuals have joined this initiative with personal donations.
Asif Saleh, executive director of BRAC, has called on all sections of the society to come forward in this effort and stand beside the vulnerable communities in the flood affected areas.
Details of public donations are available on this website: 'Dakche Amar Desh': https://brac.net/dakcheamardesh/. Donations can be sent via this bKash number (merchant number): 01730321765.
On Thursday, 23 June 2022, BRAC organised a research dissemination event, “Learning Loss Study and Bridge School Evaluation” at BRAC’s head office in Mohakhali. In this event, findings of two studies on BRAC Bridge Schools and learning loss were presented.
BRAC firmly believes that everyone has the right to education. The organisation is moving forward in leaps and bounds to ensure access to primary education for every child. BRAC Education Programme has launched an innovative model called "Bridge School" in 2014. Children from marginalised communities get left behind when it comes to education. With that in mind, the non-formal primary education (NFPE) model was initiated for children who have never been enrolled in any school or have dropped out of primary school at an early stage. Children who have some literacy, knowledge in numeracy and have dropped out of school are included in a bridging course and then they are enrolled in either Class 2 or Class 3 as per their learning qualifications. In the Bridge model, a five-year course of primary education is followed in an intensive method so that children can gather knowledge in a short period of time. In the Bridge model, a four-month bridge course is conducted for Class 2 students. The goal of this course is to overcome students' learning loss and improve their primary knowledge.
A study was conducted to understand how effective this course is. Under BRAC’s supervision, a team of international researchers used Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) tools to evaluate the learning of BRAC Bridge School students. According to their data, it was found that BRAC Bridge School students were ahead in Bangla and Mathematics compared to their Indian counterparts. This assessment was completed in 2021, when Bridge School students – like others from around the world – were at a risk of severe learning loss (due to prolonged school closures since 2020).
Some notable findings of the evaluation of BRAC Bridge Schools include:
The study was led by Stephen Heyneman, emeritus professor at Vanderbilt University, USA; John Richards, professor of public policy at Simon Fraser University, Canada; and Shahidul Islam, a doctoral student at Queen’s University. They all gave a presentation at the event titled, “BRAC Bridge School Evaluation”.
John Richards said, “The Bridge model is targeting children who have dropped out of a government school or have never been enrolled. Most of the children are from low-income families. At present, about 20% of children never finish primary school. One important success of Bridge Schools is that they probably have better reading and math results than the average government schools.”
Stephen Heyneman said, “I have worked in 65 countries and seen many schools. I can say that Bridge Schools were clean, colourful and provided a happy learning space. Children wanted to be there. Learning should be joyful; and these schools had all the materials. We noticed that the teachers all used innovative techniques to connect with parents who used their phones and learned how to monitor their children’s learning. I have not seen that level of control and contact anywhere.”
Shahidul Islam said, “The four-month bridging course that BRAC’s Bridge School model offers to dropout children to put them back on the education track, helps them progress toward graduation that is unique in the world. This model has huge potential for replication in resource-poor settings/countries. It can immensely help in achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 4 in countries where school dropout is a major challenge.”
Another study was conducted to evaluate the learning loss of children in Bangladesh where Samir Ranjan Nath, programme head of BRAC IED, conducted the ‘Literacy Test’. In this study, Nath found that the enrollment rate in pre-primary schools was 62.7% in 2020, which has come down to 49.6%. Although 96.2% students participated in primary in 2020, it has come down to 93.6% in 2021. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the rate of female student participation was higher than that of male student participation in pre-primary – which has now declined. After schools reopened, 79.7% students participated of whom 78.6% were in primary and 80.6% were in secondary schools. The attendance rate was found higher for girls than for boys. In rural areas it was 80.9% but in urban areas it was 77.5%.
Samir Ranjan Nath presented his findings on learning loss at the event. He added, “Learning loss is a reality. The question is how fast can we recover from it. This can start with assessment of learning levels of all students, categorise them and prepare recovery strategies as per students’ needs. Parents, peers, retired teachers and temporary teachers can be utilised -- keeping the regular teachers at the centre. Follow-up assessments of students can help understand the progress and take necessary actions.”
Prof Md Farhadul Islam, Chairman, National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) was a special guest at the event. He said, “We who work in the education sector - we believe in working collectively. Research is very important to evaluate the situation of our education. We will request BRAC to share their findings so that we can use their learning and gather information from them. We will go forward collectively. We are working on a plan to reduce learning loss. In this case, collaboration is necessary.”
Md Nuruzzaman Sharif, Director (Joint Secretary), Bureau of Non-Formal Education (BNFE), Ministry of Primary and Mass Education, was also present at the event. He commented, “The findings are very important for all of us who are working in the education sector. With the recommendations of the two presentations, we will work together with BRAC and others, and learn from their suggestions; and with that we will complete our two running projects.”
Mr Md Muhibur Rahman, Additional Secretary (School) at the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education was present at the event as the chief guest. He said, “The Bridge School Evaluation presentation was done on a BRAC school programme. I don’t have much to comment on it. Our education system is suffering from multifaceted problems. I will put emphasis on the recent problems: school closures and learning loss. It is still too early to comprehensively evaluate these, we are at an early stage. But I believe we can find a solution together if we all work collectively and share our learnings to go forward.”
Asif Saleh, Executive Director of BRAC Bangladesh, was the chair at the event. He said in his closing note, "The impact on learning caused by the school closure during the pandemic is profound. We need to collectively work together to recover the loss of learning and get the education of both children who have dropped out and children who may potentially drop out back on track, especially girls, children with disabilities, and children from ethnic communities. The learnings from our proven Bridge School model along with the findings of BRAC IED's learning loss study will benefit policymakers and practitioners on ways to accelerate learning and build our education systems back better."
Calling everyone to come forward to deal with this humanitarian crisis
The non-governmental organisation BRAC has been working alongside local government since the beginning of the recent flood situation in the country. The organisation has allocated BDT 3 crore from its own funds for emergency flood relief. The money will be used to provide dry food, safe drinking water, oral saline, matches, candles, essential medicines and other services to people affected by flood. The money will also be used to rescue people trapped in the flood. Initially, the relief will provide support to around 52,000 families.
According to the Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre, the flood situation in northeastern Sylhet, Sunamganj and Netrokona could worsen in the next 24 hours. Meanwhile, about 80 percent of the areas in Sylhet and Sunamganj districts have been inundated.
According to official sources, floodwater has inundated seven upazilas of Sylhet district and five upazilas of Sunamganj.
For the relief effort, priority is being given to the women-led households, elderly, pregnant women and people with physical and mental disabilities. BRAC has also decided to temporarily suspend loan recovery from borrowers in the flood affected areas until further notice.
An estimated BDT 25 crore will be required for emergency support and rebuilding efforts. BRAC has launched a public appeal for humanitarian aid. Asif Saleh, executive director of the organisation, has called on all sections of the society to come forward and stand beside the vulnerable communities in the flood affected areas. Details of public donation are available on this website: 'Dakche Amar Desh': https://brac.net/dakcheamardesh/
For the last 50 years BRAC has been with the people, particularly with those left behind, and will remain so in future. The work it is doing to assist the underprivileged to become self-dependent not only in Bangladesh, but also in nine other countries, will be reinforced. As ever, BRAC will continue its future actions following the development philosophy of its founder Sir Fazle Hasan Abed that “never lose sight of the mission to extend a hand to those who need it the most”.
BRAC leadership made this pledge at its golden jubilee celebration event today on Monday (21 March). An elaborate programme was organised to observe the occasion at the Bangabandhu International Conference Center (BICC). The whole programme was divided in two sessions, the first of which was attended by the present BRAC staff along with the former ones. The second part of the event in the evening was attended by distinguished guests – high officials from government and private organisations and eminent personalities from education, health, sports, entertainment and media sectors. Discussions, display of audio-visual materials on a host of BRAC programmes and cultural performances comprised the programme of the day. Besides Dhaka, the day was celebrated at BRAC’s divisional offices also.
At the programme, honourable foreign minister Dr AK Abdul Momen read out the message from the honourable prime minister sent on the occasion of the golden jubilee.
Every year the organisation observed its founding anniversary styled “BRAC Day”. The golden jubilee celebration, however, has been observed in a much more festive mood. As a part of the celebration, 16 members of BRAC staff have been honoured with Sir Fazle Hasan Abed Values Award for their outstanding contributions.
Asif Saleh, executive director, BRAC Bangladesh, said while addressing the audience, “Our founder would say he had seen men to be defeated but never had he seen women to be beaten. That is why empowerment of women is one of the most important driving forces of social progress. BRAC has always remained focused on this.”
He further said, “An organisation sustains through proving its relevance. As such, BRAC will successfully tackle the challenge of proving its relevance at present and in future as it did in the past.”
One of the world’s largest non-governmental development organisation BRAC was founded in 1972 in Sulla, a remotest corner of Sunamganj, to assist the refugees repatriating from India to rebuild their life. Later on, BRAC extended its programmes for other marginalised communities elsewhere with a goal to assist them achieving self-dependence through socio-economic empowerment. Long-term programmes have been designed and implemented based on cottage industry, microloans, health, education, agriculture and food security, human rights, road safety, migration, and urban development.
The first NGO from the global south to have international operations, BRAC now operates in 10 countries in Asia and Africa, engaging with over 100 million people.
In the 1980s, BRAC’s massive army of field workers trained mothers literally in every household of Bangladesh in preparing oral saline with kitchen ingredients. Followed the government’s child vaccination campaign, under which BRAC covered nearly half of the country. These two campaigns contributed to the dramatic decrease in child mortality.
BRAC piloted its innovative school model for children deprived from education. The non-formal primary education model later scaled up across the country and beyond. Till now, in Bangladesh 140 million children graduated from these schools to continue their education. In 2001, BRAC Bank and BRAC University were founded.
Next year (2002) the famed Ultra Poor Graduation model was launched. BRAC International began its journey to spread this model worldwide.
Aligned with the changing needs of the nation, BRAC in Bangladesh now is focused more on urban poverty alleviation and skills development and employment of the underprivileged youths. Further, we partner with the Bangladesh government as the largest non-government service provider in the ground tackling the Rohingya crisis and Covid-19 pandemic. BRAC’s engagement with the Bangladesh government has deepened in the process of formulation of socio-economic policies and strategies.
All the programmes, activities and models of BRAC, the BRAC brand itself, have been built around the empowerment of women. Unrelenting, we pursue the goal of creating opportunities for women to realise their full potential.
BRAC will deeply engage with the marginalised people, government and other development partners to identify future issues and find solutions, and will continue to do so in future, said the organisers.
BRAC was born to serve the people of the newly independent Bangladesh, assisting them in the struggle of their self-development. For the last 50 years the organisation has stood by the people, the marginal communities in particular, and will continue to do so in the future. It will continue designing and implementing programmes and solutions following the development philosophy of the organisation’s founder Sir Fazle Hasan Abed that we have to reach them first who need it the most.
This was expressed by the members of the senior management of BRAC as they briefed on the organisation’s future path at a press meet organised on the occasion of its 50th founding anniversary.
The press event was organised today on Monday (14 March 2022) at the BRAC Centre at Mohakhali in the capital. Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman, chairperson, BRAC Bangladesh Governing Body, Irene Khan, chair, BRAC International Supervisory Board, Asif Saleh, executive director, BRAC Bangladesh, Tamara Hasan Abed, managing director, Enterprises, BRAC, and Shameran Abed, executive director, BRAC International, were present at the programme. Moutushi Kabir, director, Communications, Learning and Leadership Development, BRAC, moderated the media event.
At the first session of the programme, the senior management members briefed on the organisation’s activities and programmes, and shared experiences and future planning, while at the second session they answered questions from the press.
Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman, chairperson, BRAC Bangladesh Governing Body, said, “Our founder is no more with us physically, but his ideology and philosophy are guiding us in all that we do. We believe as he himself believed that development is strengthened through empowerment covering all the aspects of financial, social, knowledge and skills. In the coming years, we aspire to play an effectively catalytic role at an even greater level, in the international periphery, aimed at building stronger relations between the state and social entities.”
Having described BRAC as “an entity combining ideas and risks,” Irene Khan, chair, BRAC International Supervisory Board, said, “The world is facing a number of crises in the last several years. A hundred million people slipped down to extreme poverty during the pandemic of Covid-19. The Ukraine war will create a food crisis. Furthermore, there’s the wide impact of climate change. This is a situation where BRAC will have to continue its work in Bangladesh and elsewhere in the world by combining ideas and risk factors.”
Asif Saleh, executive director, BRAC Bangladesh, said, “BRAC and Bangladesh are almost synonymous. BRAC wouldn’t have been born in the first place if the nation of Bangladesh wouldn’t have emerged. At the same time, the progress and development of Bangladesh might have been more unequal if BRAC was not there with its massive interventions. And, BRAC could never do such volumes of work if the government was not with us. We sincerely thank the Government of Bangladesh and the entire nation for standing by us.”
Tamara Hasan Abed, managing director, Enterprises, BRAC, said, “It’s not financial profits, but the empowerment of the poor is what BRAC’s business enterprises aim to achieve. Our social enterprises create direct employment opportunities for the poor communities on one hand, while on the other we channel the surplus from these businesses to our social development programmes. We didn’t retreat when we were faced with constraints while attempting to solve a problem. Rather we had built yet new initiatives as solutions to those new problems. We worked with the deprived communities to create solutions.”
Shameran Abed, executive director, BRAC International, said, “BRAC International (BI) started its operation in 2002 through its interventions in Afghanistan. In the last 20 years, BI ran programmes in 13 countries altogether, and currently has direct operations in nine countries. We are making effective use of our experiences in Bangladesh in finding solutions in those countries, while at the same time we are bringing back lessons from those countries to create solutions in this country. BI currently engages over 15 thousand employees and volunteers covering all its programmes including health, education and microfinance.”
In recent times BRAC has assisted the government as one of its large development partners to tackle the Rohingya refugee crisis and Covid-19 pandemic through mobilising all its resources within the least possible time. The organisation has established a unique example of reaching services and assistance to the affected people having mobilised its human, financial and other resources within an extremely constrained time period.
Sir Fazle Hasan Abed founded BRAC in 1972 in Sulla, a remote upazila of Sunamganj, to assist the repatriating refugees in rebuilding their life. BRAC has since been expanding its programmes, services and ventures to form a unique brand ecosystem. Apart from the world’s largest development organisation, the brand in Bangladesh now includes among others, a bank, a university and social enterprises. BRAC now operates in 10 countries altogether in Asia and Africa.
At present, BRAC engages with over 100 million people across the world, steering their empowerment and development to realise their potentials. It also continues achieving the status of the world’s Number One NGO for the last seven years in a row.
Observing International Women's Day 2022, BRAC Bangladesh organised a dialogue on ‘Reporting and referral for gender-based violence: Lessons from the AR NA pilot project and Shongjog service mapping’ on 7 March 2022, at the capital’s BRAC Centre.
Gender-based violence is a key driver of gender inequality. Seven out of 10 married women in Bangladesh face some sort of intimate partner violence. The type of support that these survivors most commonly need are legal support, social protection and psychosocial counselling. In a country of almost 80 million women and 65 million children, this support is inadequate. To address this gap, BRAC launched two initiatives during the event.
The Shongjog mobile application connects survivors of gender-based violence with support services through a digital platform. Another mobile application, under the AR NA project, has digitised the reporting mechanism that connects case managers with survivors.
HE Robert Chatterton Dickson, British High Commissioner in Bangladesh, said, "We have to increasingly use modern technology to tackle violence against women. It certainly brings a positive note as the government, NGOs and women rights activists meet today to discuss these issues. We had worked together in the past and we are pledged to continue doing so in the future to tackle this challenge.”
Kate Sangster, First Secretary, High Commision of Australia, stressed the importance of combating gender-based violence as a development priority for Australia’s strategic partnership with BRAC.
Asif Saleh, Executive Director of BRAC, stressed the importance of developing integrated support services and collaboration between the government and non-governmental actors to aid the survivors of violence to recover from trauma. “It’s imperative to have correct databases and information on gender-based violence. The picture of violence that our army of field-level staff have gathered is worrying. We have to provide all the necessary support to the survivors of violence.”
Nobonita Chowdhury, Director of BRAC’s gender justice and diversity programme and preventing violence against women initiative, said “Through the AR NA pilot project, BRAC trained over 800 frontline workers in northern Bangladesh, to digitally report incidents of violence against women and girls through the AR NA web app. Once a report is filed, a team of case managers connect the survivors with required support services through a referral mechanism.”
Jenefa Jabbar, Director of BRAC’s safeguarding unit, briefed on Shongjog, a user-friendly web app BRAC has developed to provide comprehensive information of state and non-state support services for survivors of gender-based violence. The platform was built following a service mapping initiative in 61 districts, covering 435 sub-districts in Bangladesh. One can find support services down to the sub-district level in various categories, including, healthcare, legal aid, psychosocial support, safe/shelter homes and police stations.
Taqbir Huda, Advocacy Lead, GJD, BRAC highlighted the lessons from the cases reported through the AR NA pilot project. “Although the required support services are available for free, survivors often do not have the means to afford the transportation cost needed to reach the service provider. For this reason, survivors need an efficient social protection mechanism which supports them with immediate cash transfers in the short term, while providing them with means of economic empowerment in the long term.”
Dr Azmeri Haque Badhan, actor, emphasised the need for support for survivors of gender-based violence, particularly from their own family. She shared her own experience as a survivor of domestic abuse, and the critical role a prize money from a beauty pageant had played in helping her re-enrol in university and reconstruct her life.
Kollol Nag, Member of BRAC Technology, highlighted the inclusion of Shongjog under the ‘Suggestions’ tab of bKash mobile app, so existing users of bKash can have direct access to a mobile-friendly version of the app.
Shireen Huq, leading women’s rights activist and member of Naripokkho, said, “The survivors should never lose their mental strength and continue their fight. We appreciate BRAC for its effort to collect information from the grassroots level, and for the services it provides.”
Dr Sheikh Muslima Moon, Additional Director (Deputy Director), Department of Women’s Affairs, Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, discussed the government’s role in supporting the rehabilitation and social reintegration of survivors of violence. Mohammad Kamrul Islam Chowdhury, Director (Institution), Department of Social Services, Ministry of Social Welfare, discussed the existing social safety nets for women facing gender-based violence. AKM Mofizul Islam, Director (Poverty Alleviation), Department of Youth Development, Ministry of Youth and Sports, spoke about the scope of skills training for young women and girls facing gender-based violence.