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08 July 2010, Dhaka. An agriculture training centre is being constructed in Uganda. The centre will be used to carry out agriculture research and experimentation at BRAC’s Nakaseke farm. The centre will include residential facilities. The training centre is expected to be completed within 6 months.

Wednesday, 07 July 2010 18:00

BRAC and UNICEF aim for closer ties

08 July 2010, Dhaka. BRAC and UNICEF have collaborated on different projects over the years. To strengthen this tie further and work towards Bangladesh’s national goals both the organisations have decided to collaborate more frequently to address the impending issues of Bangladesh. The main focuses are education, child protection, health and nutrition, and water and environmental sanitation.


Pakistan Flood


11 August 2010, Islamabad. The number of people affected by the worst floods in Pakistan that the country has witnessed in decades continues to rise as the scale of the disaster becomes more serious with every passing day.

A rapid assessment of the situation by UN- OCHA in Pakistan has found that nearly one million people have been displaced by flooding in Nowshera, Charsadda, Mardan and Peshawar, four districts in the hard-hit province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), 100,000 homes have been destroyed in these districts, while some 50,000 others have sustained damage. Nowshera alone is home to over 650,000 affected people, while in some parts of Charsadda, the waters have destroyed all crops. The meteorological department of Pakistan has released fresh flood warnings on Wednesday, putting parts of Punjab and Sindh on alert and calling on foreign donors to step up to contain the country`s worst humanitarian disaster.

There is a serious shortage of clean water, food, blankets, sleeping mats and health facilities for the affected people. BRAC Pakistan is actively engaged in emergency relief efforts for the flood victims in the region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK). Eleven BRAC branches have distributed 6kg food parcels and oral saline sachets to more than 8,000 affected families–benefiting almost 50,000 flood victims. An additional 1650 households received six litres of bottled water, a plastic floor mat for sleeping on, and 1000 rupees for house repairs.

BRAC is providing emergency health care from four health camps that have been set up. So far, we have treated 5,606 people and distributed 425 free mosquito nets. BRAC WASH teams have also installed 22 water sinks and hand pumps benefiting entire communities.

BRAC Pakistan is constrained by a lack of funds for emergency relief supplies and is appealing for international funds in order to scale up its work to other affected districts where it has staff and branches.

For further information about BRAC or on how you can contribute to flood relief efforts, please write to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



20 July 2010, Dhaka. Alan Duncan, UK Minister for International Development, spent the morning in Manikganj visiting BRAC programmes on education, health, microfinance and extreme poverty alleviation, many of which receive funding from the UK government.

At a BRAC pre-primary school in Gilondo village, the minister took part in various learning games with the children and was particularly impressed by the school’s interactive teaching methods.

Whilst visiting the home of Modhumala, a BRAC microfinance client in Uchutia village, he observed a weekly microfinance group meeting on her courtyard and spoke to several members of BRAC’s ultra poor programme. He was especially moved by the significant improvements Modhumala was able to bring to her life through various enterprises she started with microloans, citing this as a perfect example of the benefit of giving a helping hand instead of a hand out.

“...going around with BRAC was very instructive and very useful, they’re doing some great things. A few minutes ago, I was with some of the ultra poor where the programme is to give them a grant of a cow or chicken to begin a life which has some kind of livelihood behind it. It’s from these little beginnings that development has to start, and that’s what I’m seeing in practice today.”

Later on, he joined a community health forum and participated in an eye examination for reading glasses conducted by a BRAC health volunteer. His final stopover was at an ante-natal clinic for expecting mothers where he observed various health examinations designed to identify pregnancy-related complications.

The Minister was accompanied by Acting British High Commissioner Duncan Norman, Head of Department for International Development (DFID), Bangladesh, Chris Austin, BRAC Executive Director Mahabub Hussain as well as other senior officials from BRAC and DFID Bangladesh.


Saturday, 12 September 2015 18:00

School inauguration in Balkh province


On 13 September 2015, BRAC Afghanistan inaugurated a school building in Daulatabad district of Balkh province. The inauguration ceremony which took place in the new building premise was attended by representatives from the Ministry of Education, country representative of BRAC Afghanistan, Shura leaders, teachers, female students from the community and their parents.

A Shura leader mentioned that there is only one high school in this village. The officials from the Ministry of Education urged the community people to inspire their children to seek education.  

The new building built on a land donated by the community consists of five classrooms, one office room, two latrines and one hand pump. The classrooms are well equipped with necessary academic materials and teaching supplies. Currently 90 female students attend the school.




Founder of BRAC received this prestigious prize for giving nearly 150 million people worldwide the opportunity for enhanced food security and a pathway out of poverty.
BRAC founder and chairperson Sir Fazle Hasan Abed has been honoured as the 2015 World Food Prize Laureate, on 16 October 2015 at 06:30am (Bangladesh time) at a ceremony held at the Iowa State Capitol Building in Des Moines, Iowa, USA. This highly prestigious prize was conferred to him for his outstanding contribution to enhancing the world's production and distribution of food to those most in need.

The chairman of The World Food Prize John Ruan III handed over the award to Sir Fazle at the event which was the centrepiece of a three-day international symposium. This prize which often referred as the Nobel Prize for food and agriculture also includes USD 250,000.

Receiving the award Sir Fazle said, “I must acknowledge that the award does not belong to me alone, it is the recognition of BRAC’s work over the last 43 years in providing pathways out of poverty for millions of people in Bangladesh and other countries in Africa and Asia.”

He also said “The real heroes in our story are the poor themselves and, in particular, women struggling with poverty who overcome enormous challenges each day of their lives. Throughout our work across the world, we have learnt that countries and culture vary; but realities, struggles, aspirations and dreams of poor and marginalised people are remarkably similar. In order to solve the multidimensional problems of poverty, we have to think big, in terms of millions not thousands and holistically. In the coming decades we must refine methods of delivery at scale, placing solutions at the hands of poor people themselves and track progress. Only by putting the poor specially women in charge of their own lives and destinies will poverty and deprivation can be removed from the face of the earth.”

Guests and dignitaries present at the ceremony included US secretary of agriculture Tom Vilsack, president of World Food Prize Foundation Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, president of Iowa senate Honourable Pam Jochum, speaker of Iowa house Honourable Linda Upmeyer. Former president of republic of Malawi and founder of the Joyce Banda Foundation Mrs Joyce Banda was present as distinguished special guest of honour. The ceremony was presided by the governor of Iowa Terry Branstad.

BRAC is widely credited as a major contributor to Bangladesh's achievement in halving poverty and hunger levels since 1990, in line with the UN's Millennium Development Goals, through its sustained efforts in the fields of poverty and hunger eradication and food security. By focusing on scalable solutions, BRAC’s food programmes have turned into sustainable social enterprises that provide inputs and access to stable markets for the rural poor. From its inception till today,

BRAC has helped nearly 150 million people worldwide with the opportunity for enhanced food security.

Earlier this year, Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn, announced Sir Fazle as this year’s winner at a ceremony at the State Department in Washington, DC.

BRAC's agriculture and food security programmes are part of a larger set of poverty eradication interventions working in 11 countries, empowering the poor, especially women and girls, using tools such as microfinance, education, health care, legal services, community empowerment, social enterprises, and a full-fledged university, BRAC University, in Dhaka.


Watch Sir Fazle's speech at the ceremony


Flo kit includes reusable sanitary pads and equipment for washing and drying them discreetly. Photograph: Flo

Even in 2015, menstruating females in Asia and Africa are shunned as unclean and have difficulty getting hold of sanitary products. A 2011 survey for the Indian government found that only 12% of women across India use sanitary pads. Others use old rags, and unhygienic substances such as sand, sawdust, leaves, mattress foam and even ash to stem their monthly bleeding, with implications for their health and education. Menstruating girls in both Asia and Africa are unable to go to school during their periods, or drop out of school altogether.

Japanese design student Mariko Higaki Iwai hopes that she can help make the lives of girls and women better with her design for a simple reusable pad, which has won some high-profile awards and plaudits from development professionals.

“What I loved about it is that it gives the possibility of addressing the issue of washing and drying [a pad] with dignity,” says Archana Patkar, programme manager of the UN’s Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), who has spent 20 years working on menstruation in Asia and Africa.

Iwai’s invention allows a girl to discreetly carry a reuseable pad in a pouch around her waist to school, store a soiled one until she returns home, then wash and spin-dry the pad with a spinner that cunningly converts into a hanger covered by a burlap cloth so it can be hung outside to dry without embarrassment. Flo recently won a gold award from the Industrial Designers Society of America and is shortlisted for an international award from the James Dyson Foundation.

Iwai developed the prototype and a business plan for its global production and distribution during a 17-week course at the Art Center College of Design in California last year, with a multidisciplinary team of Sohyun Kim, Tatijana Vasily, Charlotte Wong and Benjamin Freedman. They named it Flo because they wanted to remove the stigma. “Flo is flow of blood from menstruation, flow of water that cleans the pads, and ‘go with the flow’, to accept who you are and what your body goes through,” says Iwai.

The team decided to focus on reusable pads because sanitary pads are too expensive for people who live on less than $1.25 a day. But they quickly realised that their product would have to tackle social as well as practical barriers: in most parts of the world social norms prohibit girls from washing used rags with other clothes or drying them in public. This mean they must be furtively washed, then stuffed under mattresses or under the eaves of roofs, where they never get dry, and can become breeding grounds for reproductive infections and illnesses.

Iwai says it was heartbreaking for her to discover during researching the product how badly girls were affected during their periods, with many even put in isolation in their communities. “It’s 2015 and such things shouldn’t be happening now. That was what we wanted to solve.”

Flo would not be the first reusable menstrual pad. In Africa there is the AFRIpad, and in India the Uger pad. Patkar says there are also affordable eco-friendly disposable pads, such as the Anandi pad in India, and in Africa pads made of banana fibre by SHE Enterprises, founded by Harvard Business graduate Elizabeth Scharpf.

Patkar points out that she had not seen the Flo kit, “but I love that it looks at the drying aspect, and no other reusable does from the range I have seen.” The important thing is it could help girls to manage their periods in privacy – a key issue in patriarchal societies such as India. Washing reusable pads means women are also not having to dispose of blood-soaked sanitary pads, “which pollute the environment as the waste disposal chain chooses to ignore them, perpetuating the silence and stigma all the way down the chain”.

But cost, at an expected retail price of $3, could be prohibitive in some of the remote rural areas they work in Senegal, Niger, India and Nepal, Patkar says. Ingeborg Krukkert, who leads programmes in Asia for international water, sanitation and hygiene NGO IRC, agreed that cost would be a barrier.

Krukkert added that Flo’s potential will also be limited in countries whose governments are not working to tackle the issue. “These kind of ‘hardware’ solutions to menstrual hygiene are great, but they won’t help at scale to achieve the SDGs [sustainable development goals],” Krukkert says. “What’s needed is for the governments to be on board and take responsibility to act on this.”

Some countries are taking responsibility. India and Senegal have recently announced major initiatives to improve menstrual hygiene, including providing girls toilets and hand basins in schools and public places, and WSSCC is also working with Cameroon and Niger.

In Bangladesh, the country’s largest NGO, Brac, has been working on improving menstrual hygiene at both the community and school level since 2006, with funding from the UK’s Department for International Development, among other donors. Over the first four years of the programme absenteeism of female students during menstruation reduced from 44% to 33%.

But Patkar points out that the 17 SDGs, agreed by 150 world leaders last week at the UN General Assembly in New York, does not have a single mention of menstruation in the 35-page document – despite the fact that at least eight of the 17 goals are related to improving the lot of women. Krukkert points out that even the mention of “hygiene” was dropped from early drafts of SDG 6, covering the human right to clean water and sanitation, at the beginning of this year, and was only reinstated in September after a campaign by 90 NGOs.

Patkar says that menstrual hygiene management is a “huge blind spot” even for people working in water, sanitation, hygiene, as she found during a 2004-study (doc) of menstrual hygiene management around the world.

“It’s deplorable that the Wash sector hasn’t talked about this,” says Patkar. “I think the worst thing we can do is perpetuate the silence around these issues by not specifically naming them in the SDGs.”

Whether Flo will be able to contribute to breaking the silence over menstruation remains to be seen. “The development of the product is in the very early stages,” says Iwai, who is still in her last year at college. She says it’s important that Flo is extensively field-tested in many different countries to see how women interact with it. “It’s a prototype that still needs research. We don’t want to make a product that isn’t needed and ends up in landfill.”

Thursday, 01 October 2015 00:00

Disability inclusion at BRAC

Written by

Chevron Bangladesh today announced the launch of an 18-month pilot for an enterprise development programme. The initiative, to be implemented by BRAC, will be for the communities of the Bibiyana, Jalalabad and Moulavi Bazar gas field locations where Chevron operates. It is part of the five-year Bangladesh Partnership Initiative (BPI), a $10M commitment that was formally launched in September 2014 to support economic development. The ceremonial event held at a local hotel was graced by the presence of Energy Adviser to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Dr. Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, Bir Bikram, and the United States Ambassador to Bangladesh, Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat, who attended as Chief and Special Guests respectively. Also present were President of Chevron Asia Pacific Exploration and Production, Melody Meyer; Senior Director of Strategy, Communications and Empowerment at BRAC, Asif Saleh; Managing Director of Chevron Asia South Ltd Brad Middleton, and Chevron Bangladesh President, Kevin Lyon.   

It is anticipated that the programme will reach approximately 20,000 beneficiaries, and up to 1,500 enterprises will be established during its lifespan.

Mr. Lyon said in his remarks, “We feel privileged that BRAC, the world’s largest NGO, is partnering with us on this important journey. We’re confident that their tremendous knowledge and vast experience will help us significantly improve the socioeconomic standing of our communities. BPI is a five-year programme, but I hope that its impacts will be sufficiently far-reaching to continue beyond its lifespan and beyond Chevron’s intervention. We want to be a part of the success of our communities, and I’m excited that the launch of this pilot will be a key step in that direction.”
Mr. Saleh said, “The project focuses on inclusion, sustainability and self-dependence. BRAC’s strength is working in the rural Bangladesh focusing on holistic development and the partnership with Chevron will have a bigger impact in generating livelihoods for the target group. We hope our joint work can give people the tools to climb out of poverty and lead them towards prosperity.”

Chevron Bangladesh entities are subsidiaries of Chevron Corporation, one of the world's leading integrated energy companies. It produces natural gas from the three fields of Bibiyana, Jalalabad and Moulavi Bazar in North-Eastern Bangladesh. In areas where we operate, we invest in activities and programmes that focus primarily on economic development, education and health care, collectively reaching nearly 37,000 people. We work with our communities across our operations, building long-term partnerships that foster social and economic development.


By Maria A. May, special to Humanosphere

Earlier this summer I wrote a response to the constant attacks from microfinance haters that are trending this year. It was a nice surprise to see that a piece referencing Taylor Swift could be taken seriously!

Obviously the hardcore haters are a small minority. More frequently I encounter the more moderate “post-microfinancists”: people who staunchly supported microfinance in the 1980s or 1990s but now consider it obsolete. Many of us left in the market find ourselves constantly having to argue that we’re not being left behind, focusing on the new innovations we’re trying instead of the model that accounts for most of our portfolio.

It wasn’t always this way. At one point microfinance was seen as almost a silver bullet of poverty elimination. Its popularity probably peaked around 2006 when Mohammad Yunus and Grameen Bank won the Nobel Peace Prize. His work in Bangladesh, on which BRAC drew substantially in its development of a microfinance model, inspired widespread adoption globally of a group-based model accessing savings facilities and small loans with a repayment of small, consistent installments on a weekly basis.

But in the age of mobile money, many question whether this type of standard loan, with proper regulation and safeguards, continues to provide a valuable financial service to poor people. While there is scope for improvement, many of the most common critiques from the post-microfinancists have flawed assumptions.

Here are three that I hope we can reexamine:

“Microfinance is too rigid to meet the needs of the poor.”

One of the factors of the sector’s success to date is the traditional simplicity of the product design: for example, a one-year loan with weekly installments of equal amounts. It’s a product that clients can understand and plan around. There’s virtually no fine print “terms and conditions.” It’s the same year after year. Regular, frequent repayments also create a sense of discipline and typically minimize the burden on a family’s consumption.

Many institutions, BRAC included, are thinking about ways to better segment clients and customize to their needs, but it’s often harder than it looks. As demonstrated by financial diaries, the poor often combine a number of financial instruments, formal and informal, to manage their money. Many have developed innovative strategies to smooth their incomes. For example, in Bangladesh it is very common for tenant farmers to also cultivate vegetable gardens or poultry and livestock, which offer a steady stream of income to supplement the seasonal harvest. Efforts to customize payment schedules around cash flows are often rejected by clients, who find it easier to deal with constant small payments than arguably better-timed big ones.

“We need to move from microfinance to pro-poor financial models.”

What does pro-poor mean, if not empowering people through more opportunity, ability to improve their financial situation, and minimize vulnerability to outside shocks? By these standards, microfinance is a powerful tool because people can apply it in so many ways. Because people understand the basic product, they can become sophisticated users, able to mold the product to their own pressing needs. Clients may take their first loan or two to invest in their business, but often their third or fourth loan goes towards other purposes, such as repairing their house, financing a household solar system, or buying a fridge. There are creative uses that we see too: people take loans to pay off their higher-interest debt with local informal money lenders. Loans for medical emergencies, to cover school fees, or even just to smooth consumption when times are tough. Part of the beauty of the standard microfinance loan product is that it’s reliable and quickly disbursed, so people can breathe easier knowing that they have access if they need it.

“We should be focusing on other types of financial products, like savings and insurance, instead of loans.”

Savings is very important and an area where access needs to be expanded greatly. As I point out in my earlier piece, in many markets regulators limit the ability of microfinance providers to accept deposits. But at the same time, we should acknowledge that most households globally have financial needs that can’t be met by solely by withdrawing savings.  

Insurance in most emerging markets remains nascent. Across agriculture, emergency, and health, efforts to date have either proved to be financially unsustainable or to have very low levels of uptake. Many are excited about mobile platforms as a tool for increasing insurance penetration, but the evidence of any impact is yet to be seen.  Insurance is a bit more complex than a loan and new to many poor households, so the education and support components will need to be significant for households to utilize it effectively. Consumer protection and good regulation on insurance may also take some time.

Bottom line: there remains a substantial need for credit, and thus far it has proven to be the most scalable and sustainable product in many microfinance markets.

Tweaking the model versus starting from scratch

There’s plenty of scope for improvement in microfinance.  As the head of research and development unit for the BRAC microfinance programme, I’m constantly thinking about how to better understand our clients’ financial lives and offer savings, credit and even insurance that meet their needs. And I’m very proud of some of the pilots that my team is running, including an innovative medical treatment loan and popular credit shielding product. In the next few months we’ll be testing out several new benefits for loyal clients, including more flexible repayment and pre-approval for emergency loans.

As providers, we can work on creating better tools, but making gains in financial inclusion is more about providing a few thoughtful, simple products than a overflowing marketplace of options. When provided responsibly, with adequate information, they can offer poor households financial flexibility and support, very important dimensions of empowerment.


MariaMayMaria A. Mayis the senior program manager for the BRAC Social Innovation Laband also oversees research and development for the BRAC Microfinance Programme. She is based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. She co-wrote Making Tuberculosis History: Community-based Solutions for Millions and regularly blogs on


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