18 July 2011, Dhaka. Government of Bangladesh recently adopted Bangladesh ‘National Eye Care plan' responding to the Vision 2020 - "The Right to Sight" - global campaign to eliminate avoidable blindness by the year 2020. The Vision Bangladesh Project, a joint initiative of BRAC, Sightsavers and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, has been specifically designed in accordance with the Government’s national eye care plan with an aim towards eliminating avoidable blindness across Bangladesh by the year 2020.
BRAC and Sightsavers in cooperation with the Government of Bangladesh have launched a pilot project to conduct surgery on 100,000 cataract patients in Sylhet division over a period of three years. The goal of working in Sylhet is to eliminate the backlog of treatable cataract blindness from Sylhet division by the year 2013. In January 2010, Vision Bangladesh began the first phase of this project with screenings and operations in Sylhet.
At a function held on Sunday, July 17 at a city hotel, the government formally signed an agreement with BRAC and Sightsavers to implement the project. The health minister Dr. AFM Ruhal Haque was present as the chief guest while Prof. Deen Md. Noorul Huq, Line Director-National Eye Care & Director-NIO&H, Faruque Ahmed, Director of BRAC Health Programme and Dr. Wahidul Islam, Country Director of Sightsavers were also present on the occasion.
The government would introduce eye care facilities under the project at 4 district hospitals and 33 upazilla health complexes in Sylhet division. Primary eye care training would also be provided to health workers of both BRAC and government community clinics through this project.
16 July 2011, Dhaka. MEJNIN - Meyeder Jonno Nirapad Nagorikotto (Safe citizenship for women) Programme of BRAC has organised a Human chain in front of the National press club, demanding exemplary punishment of Parimal Jayadhar.
The speakers called upon the authorities to implement the High Court guideline against sexual harassment in educational institutions and launch a complaint cell at every school and college to monitor any types of sexual harassment.
Activists of the different development organisations, students, teachers and guardians from different educational institutions of the capital have participated in the human chain programme.
Tahmina Yesmin and Selina Shirin and Chiroranajan Sarker from BRAC MEJNIN programme delivered their speech. Mahbuba Niru from BAWSE (Bangladesh Association of Women for Self Employment), Rehana Begam from CAMPE (Campaign for Popular Education), Hafizur Rahman, a guardian representative and Nargis Akhtar a student expressed their solidarity through this programme along with the students of Viqarunnisa Noon School and demanded exemplary punishment of the perpetrator immediately.
Speaker expressed that the incident at Viqarunnisa Noon School had exposed the extent of moral decadence in the society. They called for building up a strong social campaign against such evil activities.
04 July 2011, Dhaka. BRAC’s Human Rights and Legal Aid Services (HRLS) Programme has taken initiatives to ensure the rights of poor women and marginalized men regarding property and has commenced efforts to increase awareness on land related issues in Rangpur and Gaibandha. Under the Property Rights Initiative, in association with BRAC USA and Omidyar Network. HRLS built the capacity of 32 of its Upgrade Sheboks from different upazillas across Rangpur who received a unique month-long training session on land measurement so that they may effectively handle land related disputes and activate demand for land measurement services. On Sunday, the 3rd of July 2011 the graduation ceremony celebrating the first batch of government accredited land measurers was held at BRAC Training and Resource Centre (TARC), Rangpur. Certificates and materials were distributed among the participants Dr. Faustina Pereira, Director of the HRLS programme chaired the event. Dr. Md. Mosharof Hossain, Additional District Magistrate attended as Chief Guest and Professor Moloy Kishore Bhattachria, Assistant Chairman of Udichi Shilpigosthi and Wadud Ali, General Secretary of Rangpur Press Club were present as special guests.
10 July 2011, Dhaka. BRAC organized a field visit for the policy makers to give them an exposure to the marginalised communities BRAC works with. The communities belong to the target group of our CFPR TUP programme, which targets those who are extremely poor, i.e. those who fall right at the bottom of the economic ladder. Academicians from the University of Dhaka, journalists and the Member of Parliament from Naogaon 3 took part in the field visits.
A session was organised to share experiences, ideas and recommendations of the participants about the situation of the marginalised communities and strategies to better their condition. The unified voice was to use strategies which target specific groups, involving the local elite and monitor the programme intensively. Executive Director of BRAC, Mr Mahabub Hossain presided over the programme while Ms Sheepa Hafiza, Director, Gender, Justice & Diversity and Advocacy moderated the session. Dr Akram Hossain Chowdhury, MP from Naogaon 3, professors from Dhaka University and directors from BRAC also took part in the session.
MP Mr Chowdhury stated BRAC’s work with marginalised communities has had significant impact in rural areas.
09 July 2011, Dhaka. At an informal opinion exchange programme with the journalists, BRAC's 2010 Annual report was launched today at the Jatri Auditorium. Addressing the need for accountability and transparency, BRAC's Executive Director Dr. Mahabub Hossain presented the report in light of national and millennium development goals. He stressed that BRAC is performing a complimentary role to the government in attaining the millennium development goal for the country and highlighted some of the success stories. Various questions from the journalists were answered by the Executive Director, BRAC International's deputy executive director Dr. Imran Matin, BRAC Group's chief financial officer S.N.Kairy, communications director Asif Saleh, director of education programme Dr. Safiqul Islam, Agriculture programme head Dr. Monoranjan Mondol, Disaster and Environment and Climate Change Director Dr. Babar Kabir, HRLS director Dr. Faustina Perrera, Community Empowerment Director Anna Minj, Associate director Health Dr. Kaosar Afsana, Associate Director Rabeya Yasmin and various other programme leads.
In this report, it was highlighted that there has been considerable progress in Bangladesh in attaining the millennium development goal. In this light, BRAC's performances in addressing the 8 MDGs were discussed. Particularly in the field of health and education and poverty reduction, the results have been very encouraging. BRAC's pre-primary education programme to encourage enrollment had almost 3,29,000 children. In primary education, the rate of primary school enrollment nationally is now almost 100%. BRAC is currently working on reducing the drop outs and reaching the areas which are hard to reach and have fewer government schools. Its non formal primary school in 2010 had almost 610,000 students. Similarly, in health in BRAC areas of operation of 10 districts the rate of maternal mortality has come down to 141 per thousand in urban areas and 157 in rural areas -- remarkably close to attaining the MDG goal of 144. TB detection rate in BRAC covered areas is 78% and recovery rate is 92% which is also well past the MDG target. In the poverty alleviation front, beyond traditional microfinance, BRAC has reached out to almost 80,000 extremely poor household through asset transfer and technical assistant. It has also extended low interest loan to almost 100,000 tenant farmers. BRAC is also working on climate change issues and researching on climate proof crops for the coastal areas.
Through these services of BRAC and BRAC International almost 138 million people throughout the world are within the reach of some kind of BRAC services. Outside Bangladesh BRAC has expanded to 9 other countries in Asia, Africa and the Caribbeans. In Afghanistan and Uganda, BRAC is now the largest NGO. Outside Bangladesh almost 30 million people are within BRAC's reach. In terms of number of people engaged, BRAC is now the biggest development organisation in the world.
Next year BRAC will celebrate its 40th year of operation. Innovation, Effectiveness, Integrity and Inclusiveness -- keeping these four values in mind, BRAC will continue to work in the coming days to bring the most disadvantaged back into the mainstream. In this context, the executive Director highlighted some future plans which included:
In the programme, the executive director divided BRAC's programmes in three key groups --- poverty alleviation, social security and capacity building and lastly community empowerment. BRAC also has social enterprises which started to address social needs but generates income for BRAC which is used for long term self sustainability of BRAC. Part of these profits is reinvested in the enterprises and the rest goes towards funding the development programmes. Approximately, 30% of BRAC's budget is from foreign grant and the rest of the fund is managed by BRAC.
25 June 2011, Dhaka. BRAC & Bangladesh Rice Foundation jointly organised a dialogue titled ‘Agriculture, Food Security and Social Security: An Analysis of Proposed National Budget 2011-12’ on June 25, 2011 at the BRAC Centre Auditorium. Dr. Mahabub Hossain, Executive Director, BRAC presented his analysis on the proposed National Budget 2011-12 while M. Syeduzzaman, Former Finance Minister, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh Chaired the dialogue. The dialogue brought together the policy makers, bureaucrats, economists, academicians, lawmakers, businessmen and prominent civil society members as well as representatives from national and international NGOs who spoke about the proposed budget in relation to agriculture, food security and social security. All the speakers and the guests insisted in the proper implementation and utilisation of the proposed budget. They also shared their concern regarding transparency and accountability in implementing the proposed budget for the fiscal 2011-12. Following are the recommendations that come forward from the dialogue:
27 June 2011. Thirty-five years ago, thousands of school-aged children in Soweto, South Africa took to the streets to demand the right to a quality education and instruction in their native language. Over 100 of these children died, and more than 1,000 were injured. The Organization for African Unity (now the African Union) initiated the Day of the African Child in 1991 to commemorate this event. Since then, the continent has come together every year on June 16th to celebrate the hopes and needs of its children.
For this year’s celebration of the Day of the African Child, the focus was on the estimated 30 million street children across Africa. BRAC Uganda, in collaboration with UNICEF, took part in this event by hosting a visit from the Honorable Barbara Oundo Nekesa, State Minister for Karamojan Affairs. Many of Uganda’s estimated 10,000 street children come from the Honorable Minister’s region of Karamoja. As one of the poorest regions in the country, these children were forced to migrate due to severe drought, poverty, food insecurity, and decades of conflict that ravaged this area.
Since the cessation of conflict in Karamoja, renewed attention has been paid to developing this region. As part of this effort, BRAC Uganda launched 120 Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescents (ELA) clubs dedicated to the social and economic empowerment of young girls. In the morning, the clubs serve 25 pre-school children with care and stimulation through toys, games and support. In the afternoon, the clubs provide livelihood and life-skills training, as well as a customized microfinance program, for adolescent girls between the ages of 13 and 20.
The Honorable Minister had the opportunity to meet and speak to many of the beneficiaries of the ELA clubs, many of whom are former street children. The Minister was particularly touched to hear the testimonial of one young girl who, due to poverty, was separated from her parents and forced to find employment away from her hometown. Her journey first took her to Kampala by bus, and from there, she moved from city to city and even ended up in Southern Sudan.
Throughout this time, she struggled to find work opportunities, slept on the streets, and was unable to find food. When she returned to Iriiri, Karamoja last year after the long journey back home, she was finally reunited with her parents and joined BRAC Uganda’s ELA club. She explained how BRAC’s programs are providing the necessary support to keep her—and many other girls—off the streets.
After meeting with beneficiaries, the Honorable Minister inaugurated BRAC Uganda’s programs by distributing the assets of girls who were awarded for their successful completion of vocational training. Those who undertook courses in poultry rearing received a chicken coop, ten chickens, and a month’s worth of chicken feed. Those who undertook agricultural training received a variety of different seeds to plant during the rainy season. Throughout the next few months, club mentors and trainers will work closely with these girls to ensure that they are able to fully utilize their new assets in order to earn an income for themselves and their families.
At the end of her visit to BRAC’s programs, the Honorable Minister gave a strong message of support to BRAC Uganda and its partners in Karamoja. She reaffirmed the Government's commitment to programs like BRAC’s that provide key opportunities and support to children so that they will no longer be forced to migrate from their homes.
This article was written with contributions from Dr. Nicola Banks. Dr Banks works with BRAC's Research and Evaluation Unit in Uganda. She previously worked for BRAC's Research and Evaluation Division in Bangladesh, before completing her PhD in Development Policy and Management with The Brooks World Poverty Institute, The University of Manchester. She remains an Honorary Research Fellow at the Brooks World Poverty Institute.
21 June 2011. The Society for Peace, National Reconciliation and Reunification (SPNRR) has honored a Microfinance Company, BRAC-Liberia for what it termed "empowering" over seven thousand Liberians to acquire training in different skills.
The Chairman of the organization, J. Mayfield Copson said the company‘s commitment to improving the living conditions of Liberians shall remain commendable as Liberians have suffered for too long and now need a change in their livelihood.
During the honoring ceremony, which took place over the weekend at BRAC-Liberia’s head office in Congo Town, Mr. Copson noted that the gesture of BRAC-Liberia is one of the best things for human kind, saying that the company’s contributions would go a long way in the fight against poverty.
He used the occasion to call on all Liberians to make use of the available training opportunities in Liberia to enhance the rebuilding process of the country after 14 years of destruction.
Responding, the Executive Director of BRAC-Liberia, Mohammed Abdus Salam, disclosed that 32,873 Liberians have benefited from the company’s microfinance program so far.
According to Mr. Salam, the company was established in Liberia for the purpose of empowering people and communities in tackling the issues of poverty, illiteracy and disease among others.
He said the company has financially empowered many parents who now are capable of sending their children to school thereby helping to make them useful and assets to society.
Mr. Salam indicated that the company is also working in collaboration with the Liberian government in the promotion of peace and security as a way of buttressing government’s efforts aimed at implementing the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS).
Meanwhile, the BRAC-Liberia Executive Director has further disclosed that the company has extended its microfinance program to seven counties including, Nimba, Bong, Grand Bassa, Lofa, Montserrado, Grand cape Mount and Margibi.
Mr. Salam said additional counties would benefit from the program shortly. He felt short in naming the additional counties to benefit the Microfinance program.
According to the BRAC- Liberia Executive Director, since the establishment of the organization in Liberia, the company’s Microfinance program has changed the lives of about 69 percent of female Liberians.
Mr. Abdus Salam added that Liberian needs capacity building in order to empower the young people and improve their living condition as well.
During a visit to the Gorakpah town market in Sinkor, a beneficiary of the BRAC- Liberia microfinance program who sells fish, Annie Walker, age 49 said prior to the intervention of the organization, she sold fish in the market for several years without making gains or profits.
But, Madam Walker said when she received the first loan of 15,000 United States dollars from the microfinance company in 2009, things became to change and her life started to improve.
This article was originally written by Roland Davis and published in the Liberian newspaper, In Profile Daily.
18 June 2011, Dhaka. Christy Turlington Burns, American fashion icon, activist and women’s health advocate, spent the afternoon in the Kunipara slum in Bara Magh Bazar, Dhaka, visiting various maternal health initiatives run by BRAC.
Turlington Burns and her team, who reached Dhaka earlier this morning, braved the torrential downpour to make their way to BRAC’s delivery centre in Kunipara. While there, they met with BRAC’s community health volunteer, health worker and urban birth attendants (UBAs) who deliver babies at the centre, supervised by trained Manoshi mid wives. They also talked to several pregnant women attending an Expected Date of Delivery mothers’ meeting to become oriented with the centre where they will be giving birth. They also spoke to Aklima Begum, who gave birth to a healthy baby girl at the centre last night with the help of UBA Joba Begum.
BRAC Community health worker Firoza Begum (2nd from left) demonstrates to Christy Turlington Burns (4th from left) how she uses mobile health technology to collect information about her clients, pregnant women such as Zulekha (3rd from left)
The team followed local BRAC health worker Feroza Begum on one of her routine household visits to the home of Zulekha Begum, who is eight month’s pregnant. They observed as Feroza conducted general tests during an ante natal check up and collected information and photos of Zulekha’s condition using mobile technology. The team members were particularly impressed with the level of access and acceptability BRAC’s health staff and volunteers had with the slum community.
"Like so many others, I was thrilled to read the new statistics about Bangladesh’s progress reducing maternal mortality but this visit has been especially heartening for me as I've had a chance to see a real difference even since my last visit in 2009. More women are seeking out the sort of trained assistance in pregnancy and delivery that BRAC has made available and that's making a real impact," stated Turlington Burns. commend BRAC on the role they have been playing in these achievements".
This is Turlington Burns’s second visit to Bangladesh. In 2009, she travelled here to film a segment of her directorial debut, No Woman, No Cry, a documentary chronicling the global plight of pregnant women lacking access to timely and critical care. She is returning for the Bangladesh premiere of the film, to be held on Monday at ICDDR,B in Dhaka. Accompanying her on the trip are photojournalist Josh Estey, founder of Dooce.com Heather B. Armstrong and Erin Thornton, the Executive Director of Every Mother Counts, an advocacy and mobilization campaign started by Turlington Burns to increase education and support for maternal and child health.
31 May 2011, Kampala. BRAC was recently introduced to an initiative called Ureport. Initiated by UNICEF, Ureport is an SMS based forum designed to provide Ugandan youth with a platform to raise issues that concern them. The system uses mobile technology to allow youth to interact with each other and participate in a national dialogue process.
BRAC Uganda has partnered with the Ureport initiative by including the members from their youth clubs. BRAC Uganda's Empowerment and Livelihoods for Adolescents program has 690 clubs for adolescent girls and a further 100 Youth Development Centers under its Access to Health, Education and Youth Development program in Karamoja. About 26,500 adolescent girls in Uganda are now reached by these programs. Ureport is a great opportunity for BRAC to connect these girls through new mediums and a feedback based process. It fits nicely with our objective of supporting youth in becoming contributing members of their communities. Already more than 3,500 club members are being registered into the system along with nearly 9,000 young members from the microfinance and health programs. The hope is that these BRAC participants will spread the message and encourage others to join.
With Ureport, questions are sent to youth, who are called Ureporters. Ureporters send their responses back to UNICEF through free SMS. The process, however, does not stop there; some responses are shared again with all Ureporters and sometimes suggestions and guidance are sent to the participating youth. Last month's question was, ‘May 12th is Women’s Health Day! What can u do 2 reduce health problems associated with women in ur community?’ The responses received from participants have been wide ranging- starting from the need to encourage regular health check-ups to the problem of domestic violence. A message was then sent suggesting ‘women can visit their church/hospital/VCT center 4 counseling on domestic violence.’
The function of Ureport does not stop there. The Ureport initiative aims to ensure that the concerns raised by the youth are heard by both policy makers and the larger development community. The long term objective is to highlight the outcomes of these dialogues by using various channels including the media. Furthermore, Ureporters provide basic information about themselves when they register with the system thus there is huge opportunity to enhance knowledge and understanding of youth in Uganda.
To find out more about Ureport, see the below newspaper insert. And if you are a young Ugandan you can register as a Ureport for free by texting ‘join’ to 8500 and raise your voice to be heard!