The Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS), an autonomous research body at the National University of Singapore, presented Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, KCMG, founder and chair emeritus of BRAC, with the Outstanding Member of the South Asian Diaspora Award (OMSAD). The honour was given at a gala dinner organised at the Shangri-La Hotel on Friday, November 15, in Singapore.
Manzoor Hasan OBE, executive director, Centre for Peace and Justice at BRAC University, accepted the award on behalf of Sir Fazle. Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, former foreign adviser to the Caretaker Government of Bangladesh and currently a principal research fellow at ISAS, read the citation of the award.
ISAS organised the event as part of its two-day South Asian Diaspora Convention 2019, concluding today. The theme of the convention is “Vibrant South Asia – Innovative Diaspora”. The Bangladesh High Commission in Singapore is one of the organisations supporting the convention.
Dignitaries from the governments of Singapore and other South Asian nations, academia, researchers and civil society and private sector were present at the gala dinner.
Gopinath Pillai, ambassador-at-large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Singapore, and chairman of ISAS, said, “Sir Fazle’s efforts in leading BRAC helped change the lives of many across the world. His contributions to social development and his life’s mission to help the poor serve as an inspiration to the South Asian diaspora and the society at large,” he added.
Past recipients of this award include former Singapore president late SR Nathan.
According to its website, the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) was established in 2004, as an autonomous research institute at the National University of Singapore. ISAS is dedicated to research on contemporary South Asia. It seeks to promote understanding of this vital region of the world and to communicate knowledge and insights about it to policymakers, the business community, academia and civil society, in Singapore and beyond.
Cyclone Bulbul is continuing to gather strength and expected to hit the coastal belt of Bangladesh in the early hours of Sunday. The cyclone will affect coastal areas, as well as Khulna and Barisal divisions, according to data available from the Bangladesh Meteorological Department. The cyclone is expected to generate a maximum wind speed of 5-124 km per hour. Nine coastal districts have been named as highly probable target zones; Satkhira, Khulna, Bagerhat, Barguna, Pirojpur, Patuakhali, Bhola, Jhalakathi and Barisal.
BRAC has mobilised response preparations, with a particular focus on Satkhira, Khulna and Bagerhat. BRAC field operatives are working in coordination with the local government and the Cyclone Preparedness Programme (CPP). Messages have been delivered via community radio and CPP and BRAC volunteers have sent messages to the communities living in Ukhiya and Teknaf. BRAC's Humanitarian Crisis Management Program have disseminated warning and awareness messages door to door using the Communication for Development volunteers.
Sajedul Hasan, Director of BRAC Humanitarian Programme, said that according to BRAC’s policies, cyclone simulation exercises have been undertaken in the vulnerable coastal communities for the last fortnight. Our disaster management team has been working as per our standard operating procedures for preparing with disasters. Specialised medical teams are ready to go, and our goal will be to deliver dry food, safe water and emergency medical care within 72 hours to those who have taken shelter or been injured.
View the situation report to learn more about BRAC's preparedness for the response.
Update (10 November 2019): Severe Cyclone Bulbul has weakened into a deep depression and the signal was lowered down from ten (10) to three (3) this morning (BMD). It hit Bangladesh last night making landfall in Sundarban of Khulna division around 12:00AM. At this time, wind speed was 74 kmph and the tide was low. The depression is forecasted to move in the north-west direction as it further weakens. A total of four (4) deaths have been reported.
BRAC staff standing by at the high risk districts have reported many uprooted trees and some damaged houses causing injury to people; especially at Satkhira, Barguna, Khulna and Bhola districts. At all districts, poultry farms, agricultural land, fish and shrimp farm enclosures were submerged by saline water. Apart from this, a BRAC office building at Shoronkhola, Bagerhat was partially damaged due to a fallen tree. View the latest situation report to learn more.
BRAC and the German Development Bank (KfW), on behalf of the German Government, signed an amendment today to set up a trust on climate change adaptation and climate-induced migration.
The trust called ‘Climate Bridge Fund’ has been developed through consultation between the two organisations with the objective of supporting the communities of Bangladesh vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The fund was originally initiated in 2017.
The amendment was signed on Thursday, October 31, 2019, at BRAC Centre in the capital. Asif Saleh, executive director, BRAC, and Anirban Kundu, director, KfW Development Bank, signed the agreement on behalf of the respective parties.
Mr Saleh said “Climate change is a critical challenge globally, and one which will be a key focus of BRAC over the next five years. This trust is a unique initiative for Bangladesh which will encourage and enable sustainable operations and their scaling up, which traditional development projects often cannot provide.”
The initiative will provide funding to NGOs, social and private sector institutions to implement projects to strengthen the resilience of people in urban areas who are either displaced or at risk of displacement due to the impacts of climate change.
To create an enlightened Bangladesh, it is essential to create an environment where there will be no discrimination between girl and boy children. Abuses and all sorts of discriminatory social norms hinder the development of girl children, speakers said at a discussion event today on Sunday (October 13, 2019).
The programme titled 'Equality is my right' was jointly organised by Bangladesh Shishu Academy and BRAC to mark World Children’s Day and Child Rights Week 2019, organised at the academy premises. The discussion session was followed by a cultural programme and prize distribution ceremony.
Selina Hossain, eminent writer in Bengali literature, Penny Morton, chargé d'Affaires at the Australian High Commission in Dhaka, Judith Herbertson, country representative of DFID in Bangladesh, Anjir Liton, director of Bangladesh Shishu Academy, Anna Minj, director of BRAC's gender justice and diversity programme, and Nabanita Chowdhury, director of BRAC’s violence against women initiative were present among others at the event.
Author Selina Hossain said, "To prevent tortures and abuses of children, we should not always wait for the authorities to take actions. We must step up to intervene and act strongly to prevent these abuses."
Bangladesh Shishu Academy director Anjir Liton said, "As a nation we are not playing an adequate role for the development of our children. There isn’t enough media attention on the Child Rights Week right now."
Anna Minj, the director of BRAC's gender justice and diversity prpogramme said, "It’s a good thing that around hundred per cent children are now going to school. We are also proud that our girl footballers and cricketers are bringing honour for our country by winning international competitions."
As a part of its observation of the Child Rights Week 2019, BRAC organised a story writing competition in 10 schools and an art competition for children living in slums, both in the country’s capital. A prize distribution ceremony was also conducted at today's event for the winners.
The programme was concluded with cultural performances by the students of BRAC Education Programme.
What extent of frustrations and stresses do the young adults of today face and how do they tackle these adversities? How should their families and dear ones reach out to them during these times of need? To reflect on these situations, BRAC Institute of Educational Development conducted an event where students of the country’s nine universities came forward and shared their views. Experts and social advocates also participated in the event.
Titled ‘Public speaking and self-care workshop’, the programme was organised at the capital’s BRAC Centre on Friday, October 11, 2019, with technical assistance from Bangladesh Debating Council. The event was organised on the occasion of World Mental Health Day observed on October 10. This year, the World Health Organisation highlighted prevention of suicide as the theme of the day, urging the nations and communities across the world to tackle the rising incidence of suicides through robust improvements on mental healthcare.
Participating universities were BRAC University, North South University, Dhaka University, The Institute of Business Administration of Dhaka University, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB), Independent University, Bangladesh, Bangladesh University of Professionals, United International University, and Islamic University of Technology.
Nabanita Chowdhury, renowned social justice advocate, journalist and director of BRAC's violence against women initiative, and Dr Helal Uddin Ahmed, associate professor of National Mental Health Institute addressed the audience as special guests.
During the event, the young participants expressed their thoughts on mental health issues, particularly the stress that young adults face in their daily lives. They pointed out a number of reasons causing stress, including parents and elders not wanting to listen to their say; lack of safe spaces for young people to address their concerns, fears and tension; being compared with others by parents resulting in insecurities; irrational criticism of things they like or love to do; not giving proper attention and not valuing the emotions they face as young members of the family.
Nabonita Chowdhury, director at BRAC’s violence against women initiative, expressed her well wishes to the youths and said, “We just can’t sit with indifference. First of all, we need to be empathetic, compassionate and let others know that we care. We have to keep our ears ready so that we can listen to anyone who needs to speak their mind and feelings.”
Dr Helal Uddin Ahmed said, “Fifty per cent of psychological problems start before the age of 14 and 75 per cent of these problems grow the age of 25. So it is imperative to take care of the young population than any other age groups. They also need to learn to take care of themselves. Family, society and educational institution will also create proper and adequate space for their mental care.”
Organisers said the objective of the event was to create a space for the youths to speak their mind on the need of mental and emotional care, nurturing and trust and their expectations of response from their families, relatives, friends and institutions.
Following the public speaking round, the youths attended a self-care workshop facilitated by BRAC IED’s Counselling Psychology Unit. The objective of the workshop was to boost self-confidence and positive attitude towards life and encourage empathy among the young participants.
BRAC IED has been planning and implementing research since 2004. The overall objective of its work in psychology is to help young people grow into compassionate and self-dependent adults who are able to explore their full potential as well as stand by others in their times of need.
BRAC and Villagepump have collectively installed two solar-powered water purifiers to provide clean drinking water to 2,000 residents in Cox’s Bazar’s Rajapalong area.
With the present makeshift inhabitancies of over 900,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, clean drinking water became inadequate for the residents of this area, posing a potential high risk for cholera and diarrhoea.
Mohammed Juma, team lead of BRAC’s WASH programme said, "Safe and clean drinking water is one of the most basic necessities of life. With lowered underground water levels and high iron contamination, many of the shallow tube wells have become obsolete. In this case, Villagepump serves just like a tube well by consuming no electricity or chemicals. But unlike a tube well, it treats surface water to produce clean drinking water which is free from faecal coliform and other contaminants, catering to 50-60 households around each pump.” The devices operate on solar energy and provide 500 litres of clean drinking water per hour. In order to ensure the highest efficiency, BRAC takes care of the management and maintenance of the devices.
BRAC has been working in Cox's Bazar in the areas of education, agriculture, microcredit, and water and sanitation, reaching out to 80,000 people in the community. Cox's Bazar is one of the poorest and most vulnerable areas of Bangladesh, where 17 per cent people live in extreme poverty, compared to the national average of 12.9 per cent. Additionally, it shelters the displaced Rohingya refugees fleeing from Myanmar.
Tamara Hasan Abed, member of the Board of Trustees of BRAC University and managing director of BRAC Enterprises, has been elected as the new chairperson of the board with effect from July 25, 2019. She succeeds Sir Fazle Hasan Abed KCMG, the founding chairperson of BRAC University. Ms Abed has been serving as a member of the board since January 2011, and a member of the syndicate since March 2011. She has also been the chair of the Board of Finance Committee since December 2016.
Sir Fazle founded BRAC University in 2001 with the aim of building young leaders of the future through high-quality tertiary education and research, and inculcating certain essential values in young people to encourage them to become conscious citizens of tomorrow.
“I am proud of what we have accomplished with the support of our faculty and students. At the age of 83, I feel the time is now right for me and others who joined the Board of Trustees with me to make way for a new generation of leadership in the board,” he said.
“Innovation takes place at the intersection of diverse ideas and experiences. I am very pleased that BRAC University’s Board of Trustees has been enriched by the diverse experience of its distinguished members. The present board comprises individuals with leadership experience in governance, enterprises, research, development, technology, art and culture,” Sir Fazle added.
Ms Abed brings extensive experience in investment banking, entrepreneurship and social enterprises, with a career spanning over two decades across diverse sectors. As the managing director of BRAC Enterprises, she heads 13 social enterprises, including Aarong, BRAC Dairy, BRAC Seed and Agro Enterprises, and many more. She served on the Board of Directors of BRAC Bank for eight years from 2008 to 2016.
She has an MBA in Finance from Columbia University, USA, and was inducted into the Beta Gamma Sigma society for her distinctive academic achievements. She completed a BSc in Economics at the London School of Economics. She was honoured by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader in 2010, and is also an Asia 21 Young Leader. In 2014, Ms Abed received the Outstanding Women Leadership Award from the World Women Leadership Congress.
“I am honoured to be elected chairperson of the board,” said Ms Abed. “It’s a privilege to serve this remarkable university alongside our distinguished trustees to support the vice chancellor, leadership team, faculty, administration, students, and alumni. The Board of Trustees is committed to supporting BRAC University’s vital mission to advance knowledge, learning and the development of future leaders who will contribute to Bangladesh’s development.”
BRAC founder and Chair Emeritus Sir Fazle Hasan Abed has won the prestigious Yidan Prize, the largest international prize in education, for his groundbreaking work on education development. The Yidan Prize Foundation made the announcement in a statement on September 19, 2019.
From the beginning of his foray into development work, Sir Fazle viewed education as a crucial catalyst for change. To date, more than 12 million children have graduated from BRAC’s pre-primary and primary schools. BRAC offers holistic and joyful learning solutions with play-based early childhood development centres, primary and secondary schools, adolescent learning programmes, and also operates a University.
Dr. Charles Chen Yidan, founder of Yidan Prize, said: “Knowledge attainment is an area that transcends racial, religious, economic and national boundaries, affecting everything from human health and the environment to well-being and personal fulfilment. I hope every country and region can benefit from the results of the best research and education development work, helping to create a better world through education.”
Currently, BRAC is running a total of 656 play labs across Bangladesh, Uganda and Tanzania, reaching out to around 11,500 children every day. The BRAC Institute of Educational Development (BRAC IED) also developed a play-based solution called the Humanitarian Play Lab (HPL) model to help refugee children learn and heal from trauma.
Thanking the Yidan Prize authorities, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed said: “Early childhood is a critical time to provide learning opportunities to children to ensure optimal development. BRAC is engaged in research on play-based learning for children from 3-5 years including displaced children living in refugee camps and suffering from trauma, whose well-being and resilience can be enhanced through play. I hope the world’s leaders will realise the potential of this play-based education model to develop more socially and emotionally intelligent individuals who are able to live happier, conflict-free lives.”
As a Yidan Prize Laureate, Sir Fazle will receive a gold medal during the Award presentation ceremony in December and HKD 30 million (around USD 3.9 million or BDT 33 crore), half of which is a cash prize and the other half a project fund.
“The very generous Yidan Prize funding will allow us to expand our education activities. We plan to use the funds for two purposes: strengthen our existing basic education programme, and establish new Play Labs,” Sir Fazle added.
Originated in Hong Kong, the prize, managed by the Yidan Prize Foundation and governed by an independent trust, consists of two awards: the Yidan Prizes for Education Research and Education Development. This year, the prize for Education Research is going to Usha Goswami, professor of cognitive developmental neuroscience at Cambridge.
Bangladesh Technical Education Board (BTEB) has approved the competency standard module that BRAC has recently developed for skills training of domestic workers. The official approval came after a review at a workshop today on Monday, (September 9, 2019) organised on the BTEB premises in Agargaon in the capital. BTEB will publish the module on its website for others to use. BRAC is also ready to share its knowledge and experiences with others working in this area.
Md Mahabubur Rahman, secretary and chairman (additional charge) of BTEB, was present at the workshop as chief guest. Tasmiah Tabassum Rahman, programme head of BRAC’s skills development programme, was also present among others.
Speakers at the workshop said domestic work is one of the most important occupations in the informal sector of Bangladesh's economy. While consisting mostly of women and girl children, domestic workers' force has a small share of men too. Women domestic workers now hold a fair share of the country's migrant workers' force. According to the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET), 12.1 per cent of the migrant workforce of Bangladesh were women domestic workers in 2017. That year a total of 1,008,525 migrant workers, 121,925 of whom were women, went abroad.
A recently-published joint study of International Labour Organisation and Refugee and Migratory Movement Research Unit estimates that around four million people are currently engaged in this occupation in Bangladesh.
Although domestic work provides livelihood for a large population, skills training opportunities are almost absent in the country. BRAC’s skills development programme (SDP) in this context is implementing a pilot project named 'Chacri' (Choosing household work as career to raise income) in Dhaka, facilitating skills development for domestic workers. The project has three objectives: provide skills training to underprivileged young men and women which will help them obtain domestic workers' job in decent work environment with better wage; assist them in job placement; and develop quality training curriculum and materials for domestic workers. BRAC expects that such quality skills training will also be organised for those who want to work abroad as domestic workers.
Having started in February this year, the nine-month pilot is now in its closing phase. With an objective to produce 300 skilled workers in this period, BRAC is operating two quality training centres in Korail and Hazaribag in the capital. The project's partner organisation Sheba.xyz is doing job placements through their online portal for those completing the training course.
In today’s world, the internet has made it easy to access all kinds of services such as healthcare, education and finance, but it does not entirely cater to persons with disabilities. Like many countries across the globe, persons with visual impairments in Bangladesh find it particularly difficult to access and avail services from digital platforms. As a part of its continued effort towards inclusion, BRAC has made its website user-friendly for persons with disabilities.
The website with the added features was launched on Sunday, September 08, at BRAC Centre, Dhaka. K M Abdus Salam, director-general of the NGO Affairs Bureau, was present at the event as chief guest. Asif Saleh, executive director of BRAC, chaired the programme. Sharmeela Rasool, chief technical adviser of the human rights division of UNDP was present as special guest. Md Ismail, additional secretary, and Dr Md Abul Hossain, deputy secretary to the Ministry of Social Welfare, were also present among others.
The transformation work, which took three months to complete, was supervised by Vashkar Bhattacharjee, national consultant to the Access to Information (A2i) project under the prime minister’s office. BRAC’s official website now has a number of features that would enable persons with disabilities to use it. These include thoughtful navigation and minimum number of buttons so it can be operated with keyboards only; support of navigation through voice command; and variable font sizes. Persons with visual impairments can also adjust the screen to high-contrast colours.
Chief guest K M Abdus Salam said, "In the last 10 years, ICT usage has significantly increased. Now it's time to bolster efforts to ensure access to services for persons with disabilities."
Special guest Sharmila Rasul said engagement with persons with disabilities had largely been seen from a charity perspective. “Now, time has come for us to see things from a human rights perspective."
BRAC’s executive director Asif Saleh said, "It’s high time that we change the society's mind-set that 'persons with disabilities cannot.’ In order to achieve that change, the leadership must change their mind-set first."
BRAC is ready to share the knowledge and skills acquired through this website transformation exercise with those who are working for the inclusion of persons with disabilities into the digital world, he added.
One of the pledges of the Bangladesh government’s Vision 2021 is to ensure internet access for all, including persons with disabilities. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), around four million visually impaired people in Bangladesh cannot use digital platforms. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities also endorses their rights to accessibility as well as freedom of expression and opinion and access to information. The World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative stipulates that websites should be inherently designed so that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate and interact with the web.