23 May 2008, Dhaka. BRAC Founder and Chairperson, Fazle Hasan Abed, was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws by Columbia University in the United States for his comprehensive approach to fighting poverty, the powerful model of social change that he has introduced and his abiding commitment to serving the poorest and most vulnerable. Abed was conferred his degree by Lee C. Bollinger, the president of Columbia University, at its 254th commencement ceremony, held on Wednesday, 21 May in New York.
“One of the world’s most effective humanitarians, you have transformed the lives of millions through the work of your organization, BRAC. Your vision is audacious, the scale of your work inspires awe and the results you have achieved are a stunning example to the world of our potential to successfully fight poverty and save lives. You have been recognized by many organizations for your commitment to improving life on this planet; we are honored to acknowledge you again today.” reads his citation.
Columbia, one of the world's leading universities and a member of the Ivy League, was founded in 1754, making the University the fifth oldest institution of higher education in the United States.
Abed founded BRAC in 1972 to help rehabilitate returning refuges from India to newly independent Bangladesh. Later, BRAC changed its focus to long-term community development. Today, BRAC is the largest non-governmental organisation in the world and its programmes in education, health, economic and social development and human rights and legal services cover a population in excess of 100 million. In addition to numerous national and international awards, Abed was previously awarded degrees of Doctor of Laws by Queen’s University in Canada, Doctor in Education by the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom and Doctor of Humane Letters by Yale University in the United States in recognition of his work with BRAC.
30 May 2008, Dhaka. A group of three British MPs visited several BRAC projects in Gazipur and Dhaka city as part of a week-long study tour to Bangladesh to learn about efforts to combat tuberculosis (TB) and poverty. MPs Annette Brooke, Liberal Democrat – Mid Dorset & North Poole, Kerry McCarthy, Labour – Bristol East, and Marsha Singh, Labour – Bradford West, visited a birthing hut operated by BRAC’s Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health programme in Dhaka city’s Korail slum on Thursday.
The MPs also paid a visit to a BRAC school in Korail where they spent time talking to the students and teacher. Following her visit to the Korail BRAC school, MP Kerry McCarthy said, “I was struck by the scope and extent of BRAC’s work and particularly enjoyed my visit to the BRAC school…the children were delightful and very keen to demonstrate their English language skills! I would like to congratulate BRAC and their work to alleviate poverty in Bangladesh.”
On Wednesday, the MPs also visited a BRAC village organisation in Gazipur, where they observed BRAC’s microfinance activities and met with a BRAC health volunteer. The MPs then visited a BRAC community health forum and an antenatal care clinic and was able to observe various activities under BRAC’s groundbreaking TB Control Programme, including Directly Observed Therapy – Short Course (DOTS) for TB by a health volunteer, a TB outreach smearing centre and TB and external quality assurance laboratories. “The success of the TB programme in Bangladesh is impressive and must be maintained. It is a model that could be translated and implemented effectively by other countries,” observed MP Annette Brooke.
“This is my first visit to Bangladesh and I have been inspired by the energy, dynamism and optimism of the Bangladeshi people, including the poorest of the poor” said MP Marsha Singh, “Bangladesh faces many daunting challenges but in BRAC has a national NGO to be proud of. The scope, extent and reach of BRAC is staggering and its grassroots work is so impressive and effective”. He added, “I will leave Bangladesh with a feeling of immense hope”.
06 June 2008, Dhaka. BRAC strongly believes that it is the responsibility of the state to ensure quality primary education for all. BRAC does not believe in the privatization or commercialization of primary education. In response to recent reports and articles in the media regarding the pilot programme initiated jointly by the Government of Bangladesh and BRAC, we would like to clarify that the aim of the programme is to improve the standard of education at selected government and registered non-government primary schools. BRAC has not been given any control over the management of these schools.
The objectives of the pilot programme are to increase attendance, reduce high drop out rates, raise course completion rates to over 80% and improve overall quality of teaching and learning at government and registered non-government primary schools in 20 sub-districts of 9 districts. This will be done by providing teachers with skills training, making school management committees more active, organising periodic parent-teacher meetings as well as regular head-teacher-led discussion forums for all teachers. All activities under this programme will be carried out with the full involvement of the management and teachers of the schools. It may be mentioned that BRAC has, over the past three years, conducted an experimental programme to improve the capacity of government primary schools in 6 subdistricts of Sherpur district. In light of the significant experience gained through this programme, the current pilot programme is being undertaken.
In the 36 years that have passed since its inception in 1972, BRAC has established itself as one of the largest and most successful NGOs in the world. BRAC’s groundbreaking interventions in poverty alleviation and empowerment of the poor have been successful in bringing about significant changes in the socioeconomic landscape of Bangladesh and beyond.
BRAC’s education programme has played a significant role in supplementing and reinforcing the formal education system by creating access to schooling for disadvantaged children who have dropped out of or have never enrolled in formal schools. More than 1.2 million children are currently enrolled in the 37,500 BRAC primary schools across the country and over 3.8 million students have already graduated, over 90% of whom have moved on to formal schooling at the secondary level. In 2007, the pass rate of BRAC school students in the government conducted class 5 completion exam was over 95%.
We hope that the experience and knowledge gained from the aforementioned pilot programme will be helpful in improving the overall quality of education in Banlgadesh.
09 June 2008, Dhaka. BRAC University’s James P. Grant School of Public Health (JPGSPH) recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Nagasaki University of Japan to work together improve health education and research and build capacity of human resources in the health sector. Both universities agreed to develop collaborative activities in academic areas of mutual interest, on the basis of equality and reciprocity. These activities will include exchange of students, faculty, researchers, and other research and administrative staff, implementation of collaborative research projects, lectures and symposia, exchange of academic information and materials.
This Agreement was signed by Professor Hiroshi Saito, President of Nagasaki University and Professor A Mushtaque R. Chowdhury, Dean of the JPGSPH.
This agreement is one of many partnerships that the JPGSPH has developed with other leading schools of public health, including the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (UK), University of Amsterdam (Netherlands), Karolinska Institute (Sweden), and Columbia University, Harvard University and Johns Hopkins University (USA).
20 June 2008, Dhaka. “The future of Bangladesh is very bright if everybody is getting the education [BRAC school students] are getting!”
UK Minister for International Development, Shahid Malik, visited a BRAC primary school located in the Korail slum area of Dhaka city on Thursday, as part of a three-day tour to Bangladesh. The minister spent time talking and interacting with the students and also enjoyed a lively song and dance performance by them.
Following the visit, the minister expressed his appreciation of BRAC’s education programme. “The future of Bangladesh is very bright if everybody is getting the education that these children are getting,” he said. “And the good thing is that over 93% of children who go to BRAC schools end up going into the state sector, so it’s a really positive initiative,” he also added. The Minister expressed his strong belief that if the Government of Bangladesh continues to work closely with civil society organizations such as BRAC in the education sector, Bangladesh would be able to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in education.
During his visit to the school, the Minister was accompanied by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) South Asian Division Director Jim Drummond and senior officials from DFID Bangladesh. BRAC Deputy Executive Director Aminul Alam and Education Programme Director Safiqul Islam were also present.
The Korail North primary school which the Minister visited is one of 11 BRAC primary schools in Korail, providing BRAC’s groundbreaking non-formal primary education services to nearly 400 underprivileged children living in the slum. In addition to primary schools, BRAC Education’s Adolescent Development Programme also runs an adolescent centre in Korail. Over 37,500 non-formal primary and 24,000 pre-primary BRAC schools provide education to nearly 2 million children across the country.
Shahid Malik is the UK Member of Parliament for Dewsbury, West Yorkshire and was elected in May 2005. Within a year, he was appointed to the influential Home Affairs Select Committee and served as a PPS to Schools Minister Jim Knight. In 2007 he was appointed Minister for International Development in Gordon Brown's first government.
30 June 2008, Dhaka. The European Commission (EC) will provide a grant of 13 million euros to Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (Brac) in support of sustainable recovery and rehabilitation of agriculture-based and non-agriculture-based livelihood in cyclone Sidr-affected coastal areas.
The delegation of the European Commission to Bangladesh signed a grant agreement with BRAC to this effect yesterday, said an EC press release.
Brac Executive Director Mahabub Hossain and Dr Stefan Frowein, Ambassador of Head of delegation of the delegation of the European Commission signed the contract.
This action will help to link the relief phase, for which ECHO already provided 20.425 million euro with the longer term reconstruction and development of the affected areas.
This new EC support under the instrument for stability will provide much needed interventions to boost rehabilitation of agriculture-based and non-agriculture-based, livelihoods in severely cyclone Sidr affected areas of Bangladesh.
The action is designed to build upon previous and ongoing ECHO emergency intervention and link with ongoing DIPECHO disaster preparedness activities and the longer term EC development support for disaster risk reduction and food security.
A Joint Damage Loss and Needs Assessment, financed through the instrument for Stability, estimated the total amount of damage and losses caused by the cyclone at over 1.1 billion euro, equivalent to 2.8 percent of Bangladesh's GDP. More than two-thirds of this was physical damage and one-third economic loss.
Ambassador Frowein stated, "This additional support from the European Commission underlines the solidarity which the European Union has expressed with the government and the people of Bangladesh in the wake of this terrible natural disaster."
Ambassador and Head of Delegation of the European Commission Dr Stefan Erowein, second from left, and Executive Director of Brac Dr Mahabub Hossain shake hands at a ceremony in the city yesterday after signing a deal worth 13 million euros to support the sustainable recovery and rehabilitation of agro-based and non-agro-based livelihoods in Sidr-hit coastal areas
02 August 2008, Dhaka. Visiting Indian politician and member of the Indian Parliament Rahul Gandhi, along with his 8-member delegation, visited several BRAC programmes in Gazipur district on Saturday. He was accompanied by BRAC Executive Director Dr Mahabub Hossain and other senior officials.
Gandhi began his day by visiting a microfinance group in Lahuri village of Kapasia sub-district and observed microfinance activities. He enquired about the range of loan sizes, how they are used by the women and the means of repayment. He interacted with the women and enquired about their economic condition after obtaining loans from BRAC. He learnt about various other income generating activities by the borrowers and paid a visit to a borrower’s household to see her cattle-rearing enterprise.
He then visited a BRAC pre-primary as well as a BRAC primary school. He observed classes in progress and watched the students engage in various extra-curricular activities. He also visited a BRAC community library and a BRAC Kishori Kendra (Adolescent Development Centre).
Gandhi then visited BRAC health programmes in Kapasia sadar and discussed health issues with BRAC Shastho Shebikas (health volunteers). He observed first-hand the role played by BRAC health volunteers in providing health education and treating basic ailments. He also visited an Ante-Natal Clinic conducted for pregnant women.
In the afternoon, Gandhi saw a BRAC’s human rights classes for rural women in progress. He also visited a BRAC training centre.
On his return to Dhaka, Gandhi and his team sat for exclusive talks with BRAC chairperson Fazle Hasan Abed for an hour and a half at the BRAC Centre. He was later expected to attend a dinner hosted in his honour by the BRAC chairperson.
21 August 2008, Dhaka. BRAC Human Rights and Legal Aid Services Program (HRLS) together with the Center for Reproductive Rights (the Center), New York, is organizing a workshop themed ‘Reproductive Health, Litigation and Human Rights’ in Dhaka on August 28th 2008, at the BRAC Center, where activists, health rights advocates and experts in reproductive health and human rights will come together to discuss legal strategies for addressing key reproductive health issues in Bangladesh.
Women’s reproductive health in Bangladesh is a matter of concern for human rights advocates in Bangladesh and around the world. An estimated 12,000 women die annually from pregnancy-related causes, and although there has been a significant increase in contraceptive use since the late seventies, access to family planning services and information is unequal, leading to a higher incidence of adverse reproductive health outcomes among low-income and adolescent women and girls.
BRAC, together with the Centre and other Bangladeshi activists, will discuss legal strategies undertaken in other parts of Asia and Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe such as fact-finding, documentation, litigation and legal advocacy, and how these may serve to address reproductive health issues and to promote access to justice for victims of reproductive rights violations in Bangladesh. This discussion will determine a future course of action for health and reproductive rights in Bangladesh.
24 September 2008, Dhaka. We are deeply saddened by the passing of Dr. Allan Rosenfield, Chair of BRAC USA and the former dean of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. Dr. Rosenfield had been suffering for the past three years from diseases which affected his motor nerve functions. He was an icon in the world of public health, one of the most outspoken advocates for women’s health rights and an ardent supporter of BRAC. We are grateful for his unbending dedication to BRAC over the years and particularly to the amount of time and energy he gave to launching BRAC USA, in spite of his deteriorating health.
Dr. Lincoln Chen, BRAC USA board member and friend of Dr. Rosenfield, has paid the following tribute: “While none of us are immortal, and Allan's illness was clearly exacting a toll, he fought and braved the burden with enormous courage. I was amazed at how he kept pushing those of us around him to stay in touch, to keep interacting, to not let his illness slow us down. Indeed, he became even more invigorated while fighting his illness!
All of us owe a huge debt to Allan, for launching BRAC USA and so many other global health endeavors -- from his earliest innovative work in Thailand to his leadership at the Population Council, Columbia University, and in so many international health activities. To the end, Allan remained steadfast in his commitments, never bending to the enormous political pressures on him and his institution to compromise on women's health, human rights, and equity in global health.”
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Rosenfield family.
27 September 2008, Los Angeles. BRAC, the largest non-profit organisation in the developing world, has been selected to receive the 2008 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize of $1.5 million. The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation presents the annual award, the world’s largest humanitarian prize, to an organisation that is significantly alleviating human suffering. The prize will be presented on October 20 in Geneva, Switzerland.
‘BRAC’s approach to creating self-sufficient and sustainable programmes on a massive scale has blazed a trail for development organisations around the world,’ said Steven M. Hilton, President and CEO of the Hilton Foundation. ‘Where most NGOs might tackle one dimension of poverty, BRAC delivers multi-faceted solutions to attack all aspects simultaneously,’ Hilton added.
Launched in Bangladesh in 1972, BRAC reaches more than 110 million people with its holistic approach to addressing poverty by providing access to credit for economic development and delivering health services, education, social awareness of legal and human rights and business management and skills training. Now in its 37th year, BRAC has taken its model beyond Bangladesh into eight other Asian and African countries. It has issued $5 billion in micro-loans to nearly seven million borrowers; graduated 3.8 million students from its primary schools and 2.3 million from its pre-primary schools, with 1.5 million children currently enrolled in its 52,000 schools; provided basic health services to more than 90 million; created 8.5 million jobs; and employed 110,000 staff and teachers.
According to Fazle Hasan Abed, BRAC’s founder and chairperson, ‘To receive the Hilton Prize is a great honour and tremendous validation of our work. Billions of people in the world today live in extreme poverty, and it is our goal to transition the poor from receiving aid to controlling their own destinies. The Hilton Prize will add to our momentum as we take on greater challenges to unleash the full potential of the poor, especially women, and to realise justice and their full human rights.’
Judy Miller, vice president of the Hilton Foundation and director of the Hilton Prize, said BRAC was one of more than 225 nominees for the 2008 Hilton Prize. She added that the Hilton Prize international jurors were impressed by BRAC’s innovation and the diversity of its programmes, along with its ability to dramatically scale up its work and to expand beyond Bangladesh into other developing countries.
Miller added, ‘BRAC began by targeting poor rural women and recently announced a major initiative to educate girls in Africa and Asia. This is the third year in a row that our Hilton Prize recipient is an NGO that recognises women as the critical agents of change to lift their families and communities from poverty.’
Formerly known as the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, BRAC was founded in 1972 by former Shell Oil executive Fazle Hasan Abed, with proceeds from the sale of his London apartment, to help Bangladesh overcome the devastation and trauma of the liberation war that secured its independence from Pakistan. Using micro-finance as its core component, BRAC sets up small village organisations run by 30 to 40 women that provide their communities access to credit for economic development and also deliver health services, education, social awareness of legal and human rights and business management and skills training. Today, BRAC’s programmes reach three quarters of Bangladesh’s population through the efforts of more than 110,000 micro-finance officers, teachers, health staff and enterprise managers. BRAC has helped bring Bangladesh’s immunisation rate from 2 percent to 83 percent and reached 86 million people with its tuberculosis control program. The organisation has been instrumental in lowering Bangladesh’s maternal and infant mortality rates. At a time when half of children’s deaths were caused by diarrhea, BRAC sent women into the countryside to teach 13 million mothers how to prepare an oral rehydration solution.
In recent years, BRAC has expanded its programmes globally. In 2002, the organisation moved into post-Taliban Afghanistan after seeing the haunting images of three million refugees returning to the war-torn country. Starting out with $250,000 of its own funding, BRAC is now the largest micro-finance, health and education provider in the country, operating in 25 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces and disbursing over $96 million in small loans. The organisation began working in Sri Lanka in 2004 after the devastating tsunami and has set up 40 offices throughout Pakistan. Over the last two years, BRAC launched programmes in Tanzania, Uganda, Liberia and Southern Sudan in response to reports that Africa is the only continent where the proportion of poor is growing. BRAC plans to operate in 10 African countries by 2010.
About the Hilton Prize
The Hilton Prize is presented each year in conjunction with the annual Hilton Humanitarian Symposium which gathers policymakers and world leaders in the humanitarian field to address critical challenges. This year’s theme is: “The Bottom Billion—Is There a Tipping Point?”
This year’s Hilton Prize jury includes: Princess Salimah Aga Khan, International Ambassador for SOS-Kinderdorf International; Catherine Bertini, former Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme and Senior Fellow in Agricultural Development at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Gro Harlem Brundtland, M.P.H., former Director General, World Health Organisation and former Prime Minister of Norway; Gregory R. Dillon, Director, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation; Eric M. Hilton, Director, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and son of Conrad Hilton; Olara A. Otunnu, former UN Under-Secretary-General and Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict and former Ugandan Minister for Foreign Affairs; and Professor Amartya Sen, Nobel Prize Laureate in Economics and Lamont University Professor at Harvard University.
Former Hilton Prize recipients are recognised leaders in the humanitarian world and include: Tostan (Senegal) 2007; Women for Women International (Washington, DC) 2006; Partners in Health (Massachusetts) 2005; Heifer International (Arkansas) 2004; International Rehabilitation Center for Torture Victims (Denmark) 2003; SOS Children’s Villages (Austria) 2002; St. Christopher’s Hospice (England) 2001; Casa Alianza (Costa Rica) 2000; African Medical and Research Foundation (Kenya) 1999; Doctors Without Borders (France) 1998; International Rescue Committee (New York) 1997; and Operation Smile (Virginia) 1996.
About the Hilton Foundation
Based in Los Angeles, the Hilton Foundation was created in 1944 by the late hotel entrepreneur and business leader, Conrad N. Hilton, who left his fortune to the foundation when he died in 1979 with instructions to help the most disadvantaged and vulnerable throughout the world without regard to religion, ethnicity or geography. Barron Hilton, who also led Hilton Hotels Corporation and is current chairman of the foundation, has joined his father in committing to leave the bulk of his wealth to the foundation. The foundation along with its related entities has assets exceeding $4.2 billion and, since its inception, has committed more than $780 million for charitable projects throughout the world.