8 November 2010, Dhaka. As a part of the national level campaign on ultra poverty reduction, BRAC Advocacy Unit has successfully completed the week long ‘Inter College Debate Competition 2010 Dhaka’ (from November 2 to November 8) on ultra poverty issues at the Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.
On November 8, we hosted the final debate between Dhaka College and Dhaka Commerce College which was followed by a grand closing ceremony. The topic of the final debate was “Exact budgetary allocation will best contribute to alleviate extreme poverty.” Dhaka College came out as the champions and Dhaka Commerce College became the runners up of the competition beating 14 other renowned colleges from the city. Nahian Bin Khaled from Dhaka College was voted ”Best Speaker.”
The week long event full of logic, argument, agreement, disagreement and rebuttal came to an end following a grand closing where Suranjit Sengupta, Co-chair, Constitutional Amendment Committee & Chair, Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Ministry was present as the Chief Guest and Sheepa Hafiza, Director, Gender Justice & Diversity and Advocacy, BRAC chaired the session. Professor Ainun Nishat, Vice Chancellor, BRAC University, Professor Sirajul Islam, President, Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, Professor Mafuza Khanam, General Secretary, Asiatic Society of Bangladesh and Mr. Abu Syed Khan, Executive Editor, the Daily Somokal were present as the Special Guests in the session. The guests highlighted BRAC’s contribution in extreme poverty reduction of our country. They also appreciated our initiatives to mobilise the youth in favour of the ultra poor through a scholarly tool like debate.
To increase youth participation in favour of the ultra poor, BRAC Advocacy Unit regularly organises quizzes, seminars and debates at grassroots to national level. This debate competition was another step to reach the youth group.
At the end of the debate a student forum titled "Poverty Alleviation Forum" was formed with the debaters from 16 colleges along with some members from Dhaka University Debating Society (DUDS) who will actively work on ultra poverty issues.
BRAC Advocacy Unit intends to take the students of the forum to field visits in order to get firsthand knowledge about the ultra poor. They will then carry out dialogue sessions and issues based activities on ultra poverty and thus contribute in the ultra poverty reduction of the country. We strongly believe such involvements in a national agenda will engage the students as ambassadors of social change both at family and community level.
9 November 2010, Dhaka. During a recent visit to BRAC Uganda's Agriculture Research and Seed Production Center in Nakaseke district, Uganda’s Finance, Planning and Economic Development Minister, Honorable Syda Bhumba, commended BRAC for becoming one of the most successful nongovernmental organizations internationally.
“BRAC has set up a global record for establishing world class development programs. They are very successful in microfinance and they are considered to be one of the most successful organisations globally,” Minister Bhumba said during her visit.
The 53 acre Agriculture research center in Nakaseke District has been established with the purpose of testing and replicating new high yielding disease resistant seed varieties. Lack of access to good quality seeds at affordable cost is one of the fundamental challenges faced by farmers in Uganda. BRAC Uganda currently provides agricultural extension services to more than 50,000 farmers in the country through its vast network of microfinance branches. The services are provided at the village level through franchised entrepreneurs selected by BRAC Uganda from the pool of microfinance borrowers. BRAC Uganda's portfolio of 'microfinance multiplied' programs, including the agriculture extension services, are implemented in partnership with the MasterCard Foundation.
During Minister Bhumba’s visit to the Agriculture Research Center in Nakaseke, BRAC Uganda’s Country Program Head, Ariful Islam, said that the organization’s agriculture, poultry and livestock programs are aimed at helping to meet the food security needs and household incomes of the small farmers, especially women. He said this was done through offering extension services, improved seeds and training.
Mr. Islam said that the facility in Nakaseke would go a long way in meeting BRAC’s goal of contributing to Uganda’s “Prosperity for All” program. The center with an initial capacity of 25 residential trainees will train both extension workers as well as farmers in modern agricultural practices and will be open for use to other partners in the industry.
“Our future plans include large scale production and marketing of improved seeds for both the local market and the market in the region,” Mr. Islam said.
The minister said that BRAC interventions in the country were alleviating problems that were identified in the government’s National Development Plan. She reiterated the challenges faced by the farmers, which include, lack of quality seeds, lack of marketing structure, lack of credit appropriate for agriculture, lack of extension services, lack of market infrastructure and value addition and lack of high yielding seeds.
She said seeds on the market were very expensive, at Shs2,500 per kilogram, and quite often farmers were sold fake seeds.
“We have only three seed companies in a country of over 30 million people, 80% of who depend on agriculture. The few seed companies are monopolistic and therefore charge high prices. So, BRAC will offer competition and, thus, lower prices,” the Minister said.
03 November 2010, Dhaka. We had a grand opening of ‘Inter College Debate Competition 2010, Dhaka’ at the Asiatic Society premises which was followed by a colourful rally. Professor Dr. A.A.M.S. Arefin Siddique of Dhaka University inaugurated the programme while Rashed Khan Menon, MP and Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee for Education was present as the Chief Guest.
Professor Sirajul Islam, Chairman Asiatic Society, Professor Mafuza Khanam, General Secretary, Asiatic Society and Mr. Sishir Shil, Secretary General; all Party Parliamentary Group were present as Special Guests in the Opening Ceremony. All the speakers highlighted BRAC’s contribution in extreme poverty reduction of our country. They also appreciated our initiatives to mobilise the youth in favour of the Ultra Poor through a scholarly tool like debate. BRAC Advocacy Unit honoured the guests with complementary crests.
At the very first day of the debate competition, four parliamentary debates were held among eight renowned colleges and madrasas of the city. All the topics were focused on ultra poor issues like gender equality, social justice, pro-poor budgeting and other similar issues.
02 November 2010, Dhaka. Today’s student is tomorrow’s leader. They can immensely contribute for the development of the country. Realising their potential BRAC Advocacy Unit seeks to mobilise Youth Groups in favour of the Ultra Poor. With a view to informing the students about the poverty situation and the ultra poverty scenario of Bangladesh and to sensitise them to take constructive initiatives for poverty reduction, the Advocacy Unit regularly organises Quizzes, Seminars and Debates from the grassroots to the national level. As a part of national level campaign we are going to organise ‘Inter College Debate Competition 2010, Dhaka’ on the ultra poverty issue from the 2nd of November to the 8th of November, 2010 at Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. 16 renowned colleges from the city are going to Participate in this event. Some active members of Dhaka University Debating Society (DUDS) are helping us to organise this event. The opening ceremony will be held on the 3rd of November, 2010 and the closing session will commence on November 08, 2010. For the occasion we organised a Press Conference at the Auditorium of Asiatic Society on November 02, 2010. Thirty reporters from both electronic and print media were present there. We strongly believe such involvement in a national agenda like Ultra Poverty will engage the students as ambassador of social change both at family and community level.
29 September 2010, Dhaka. With a vow to raise awareness of individuals` right to access government information and to promote access to information as a fundamental human right, BRAC Advocacy Unit celebrated the ‘International Right to Know Day’ on September 28, 2010 as an active member of ‘Right to Information –RTI Forum’.
BRAC strongly believes that the right to know is every individual’s fundamental human right. As a manifestation of that belief BRAC Advocacy Unit celebrated the day both at District and Upazilla level in collaboration with the RTI Forum. The activities of celebration included rallies, discussion sessions, seminars, melas and cultural programs in 27 districts and 84 Upazillas throughout the country.
20 August 2010, Dhaka. Business leaders and professionals in the North West of England have responded generously to BRAC’s call for public support for Vision Bangladesh. Fundraising events so far have raised close to £10,000 since July 2010 and more are planned for the future.
Sandra Kabir, Executive Director, BRAC UK, praised the commitment that British-Bangladesh professional affiliations are showing towards eradicating cataract blindness in Sylhet by 2014.
“We are really delighted with the support so far from our northern supporters. All the funds raised by these events are sent directly to the project in Bangladesh. The money goes a long way – just £20 buys a cataract operation for a poor widow isolated by blindness in her village and £30 provides 20 people free glasses so they can see again. Thank you for all your dedication and keep up the good work – we still have a long way to go to reach our target of £3 million.”
Recent activities include:
“We hope that our contribution will go a long way to help those who are less fortunate and with better can build their lives. We are grateful for all the donations made at the Charity Iftar.” Mohammed Dobir Miah, RBPP Secretary.
“It is a privilege and an honour to be supporting such an excellent initiative with clear goals. We were absolutely delighted to welcome to our event, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, the founder of BRAC, who is such an inspiration to the world.” Monchab Ali, Central Chair, Greater Sylhet Council and owner of Bengal Dynasty.
Vision Bangladesh is a partnership programme between BRAC and Sightsavers in Bangladesh with the targeting of eliminating avoidable blindness in Sylhet by 2014. Screenings, treatment and operations started in January 2010 and so far 1,300 poor people have undergone a cataract operation, and 7,000 people have been screened.
For more information on how to support Vision Bangladesh, and organise a fundraiser in your area, please contact:
Penelope Mawson, Director of Development and Communications, BRAC UK
Tanvir Ahmed, Media Consultant, BRAC UK
Muzahid Khan, Manchester Supporter Group Coordinator, BRAC UK
22 September 2010, Dhaka. Today at the United Nations Millennium Development Goal (MDG) Summit Special Event on the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, BRAC founder and chairperson Sir Fazle Hasan Abed pledged to mobilize $700 million over the next five years to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals of reducing child and maternal mortality and saving the lives of millions of the worlds most vulnerable in Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Southern Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Haiti.
“Over the last few years, BRAC’s health program in Bangladesh has generated significant reductions in maternal and neonatal mortality,” said Sir Fazle. BRAC has been providing support to pregnant women in rural Bangladesh and more recently in urban Bangladesh with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “We want to improve women’s and children’s health not only to reach the MDGs by 2015 but to exceed them,” said Sir Fazle.
Every year, 8 million children die preventable deaths – 3.2 million die less than a month after they are born – and 500,000 women die in childbirth in the world’s poorest countries. The UN’s latest figures demonstrate progress is being made: the number of child deaths per day has declined to 22,000 - 12,000 fewer per day than in 1990. Nonetheless, only 9 of 64 countries with the highest mortality of children under 5 are on track to meet their goals for reducing child deaths by 2015.
Sir Fazle said, “Guided by the conviction that all lives have equal value, we must do all we can to stop the unnecessary deaths of mothers and babies. We can harness the advances in science and technology to save lives – not just in rich countries – but everywhere.”
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ABOUT BRAC (formerly Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee)
BRAC, the largest non-profit in the developing world, was launched in Bangladesh in 1972 and currently touches the lives of more than 138 million people through its programs addressing poverty including micro-loans, education, health services, self-employment opportunities and human rights education. BRAC has provided $6.7 billion in micro-loans to nearly eight million borrowers, mostly women, and created 9 million self-employment opportunities. BRAC’s 84,000 community health promoters have provided basic health services to nearly 100 million people. Currently, BRAC has programs in Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Haiti, Liberia, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Southern Sudan, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Uganda. For more information, please visit www.bracusa.org.
09 July 2010, Dhaka. International development NGOs BRAC and Sightsavers have today launched an appeal to raise £3m to transform the lives of 100,000 poor Bangladeshi’s living in the Sylhet District by providing them with sight-restoring operations and eliminating treatable blindness.
In Bangladesh over one million people are blind, yet 80% of this blindness is due to cataract, a clouding of the eye’s lens, which can be cured with a straightforward and cost-effective operation. Sadly in Bangladesh, many people do not realise their blindness could be cured, or they don’t have the money or time to visit a hospital. Without surgery people can find themselves falling further into poverty as they become increasingly dependent on their family and stop going to work or school. Devastatingly 50% of children who go blind will die within two years.
In the north east region of Bangladesh, Sylhet, which has a population of 13 million, almost 60,000 people are blind, with cataract remaining the largest cause. With a huge waiting list for operations and around 9,000 new cases of cataract blindness occurring every year there are vast numbers of people who are needlessly blind. The Vision Bangladesh Appeal will target the poorest and most marginalised communities in the region, screening one million people between now and 2014 and providing operations, or glasses, for those who need them.
From teams of specially trained community health workers offering hygiene and general health information to cataract surgeons and specialised doctors, the appeal will also ensure there are more professionals in the region to identify and treat eye problems.
Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, Founder & Chairperson, BRAC comments: “The Vision Bangladesh Appeal is an important opportunity for the British-Bangladeshcommunity in the UK to make a measured and lasting difference. The gift of sight is something so precious and with their help we can have a huge impact on lives of those living in poverty.”
A start up phase has already begun in the region and over 1,000 surgeries have been conducted and a further 970 people have been prescribed glasses to improve their vision.
Dr Wahidul Islam, Bangladesh Country Director for Sightsavers comments: “We are so excited to be working together with BRAC to tackle the huge task of eliminating avoidable blindness in Sylhet. Combining our expertise and resources is essential if we are to train more surgeons, build and equip new eye care centres and find those desperately in need of an sight restoring operations. The result will be a lasting impact for individuals, families and communities.”
The appeal will transform the lives of people like fifty year old Padma Kormi who was blind in both eyes with cataracts. Padma from the village of Mourapur in Sylhet had lost her job on the tea estates and became extremely poor and vulnerable. She was one of the first people to be treated by Vision Bangladesh. Now having had surgery Padma can see again and is very happy to be able to return to her job and be independent again.
More details of the Appeal, including a film can be found at [www.sightsavers.org/visionbangladesh]
For British-Bangladesh media, please contact Tanvir Ahmed, 44 (0) 7782 415491
Notes to Editors:
1. BRAC was founded by Fazle Hasan Abed in February 1972, soon after the liberation of Bangladesh and has grown to become one of the largest NGOs in the world employing more than 120,000 people, the majority of which are women, and reaching more than 110 million people in Asia and Africa.
2. BRAC achieves large scale, rapid change by working with individuals, families, communities, and institutions, to overcome poverty. Our approach is comprehensive – with financial services, capacity building and livelihood development as well as health, education and social justice – enabling people to realise their potential.
3. BRAC’s health programme in Bangladesh covers a population of 100 million people and operates through a network of 85,000 trained women community health volunteers who every month visit 11 million households providing essential health care.
4. BRAC UK was founded in 2006 to help mobilise support for BRAC’s international work (registered charity number 1115482).
5. Currently BRAC has country programmes in Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Liberia, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Southern Sudan, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Uganda as providing technical assistance in Haiti, India, Indonesia, Sudan, and Yemen,
1. Sightsavers is a registered UK charity (Registered charity numbers 207544 and SC038110) that works in more than 30 developing countries to prevent blindness, restore sight and advocate for social inclusion and equal rights for people who are blind and visually impaired. www.sightsavers.org
2. There are 45 million blind people in the world; 75% of all blindness can be prevented or cured.
3. Every sixty seconds another child loses their sight; only 2% of children who are disabled in the developing world attend school
4. 2010 marks the 60th anniversary of Sightsavers, originally called the Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind, which was founded in 1950 by the late Sir John Wilson.
5. In the six decades since its foundation, Sightsavers has:
6. Sightsavers has worked in Bangladesh since 1973 and last year treated over 873,057 people, including performing over 72,000 cataract operations and providing 167,000 people with spectacles
17 September 2010, Dhaka. This week, BRAC was finally able to open its limb and brace center and began serving patients in Haiti.
One of our Limb and Brace Center staff fits a
young girl for a prosthetic leg.
We had 10 patients come to the Center on the first day, as well as a few other guest and supporters, including the Haitian Secretary of State for the Inclusion of Persons with disabilities, Dr. Michel Pean. Here are some pictures from opening day:
Our staff from the Limb and Brace Center in Bangladesh
The Limb and Brace Center workshop, where artificial limbs and
Dr. Ripon, the head of BRAC's Limb and Brace Center, with
17 September 2010, Dhaka. Almost 21 million people are now reported as having been directly affected by the devastating floods in Pakistan. With 23 out of 94 BRAC Pakistan’s microfinance branches affected by the flooding, BRAC is close to the people and communities that have been suffering as the disaster began to unfold in July.
“The rains started on July 28th and within the weekend 9 out of 12 of our microfinance branches were flooded,” said Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, Founder and Chairperson of BRAC. He noted that “As a NGO that originated in Bangladesh, we are very familiar with floods and cyclones. We have worked on emergencies for many years. In Pakistan BRAC started relief work immediately. People had lost everything and they needed us to help them.”
BRAC Pakistan launched relief efforts using its institutional knowledge of emergency relief, and its network of community volunteers to identify and provide support to communities in greatest need benefiting over 200,000 people.
As the flood waters recede, rebuilding the lives of those who have most suffered will be the primary focus of the BRAC partnership with the American Pakistan Foundation.
Mr. Awais Khan, CEO of the American Pakistan Foundation, said “We want to ensure that people recover their assets and their ability to earn an income so they can regain their dignity. We are confident that our partnership with BRAC is a great step towards this recovery effort.”
The American Pakistan Foundation will be supporting BRAC, through its U.S. affiliate BRAC USA, to start livelihood recovery efforts across three districts in the Khyber Pakhtunwa province of Pakistan. The program will enable 200 households, particularly the most vulnerable and marginalized, who have been completely devastated by the disaster, to recover their assets and livelihoods.
Susan Davis, President & CEO of BRAC USA, stated that “BRAC is committed to working with the flood affected communities and for Pakistan’s development.” She said, “We are very pleased to partner with the American Pakistan Foundation, because of its deep and long term commitment to the country.” Ms. Davis added that “BRAC USA encourages people to join this partnership and text BRAC to 20222 to give $10 through their cell phone. We hope to work together to mobilize wider support and empathy for the plight of those suffering from conflict and disaster, and generate greater action.”
BRAC, the largest non-profit in the developing world, was launched in Bangladesh in 1972 and currently touches the lives of more than 138 million people through its programs addressing poverty including micro-loans, education, health services, self-employment opportunities and human rights education. BRAC has provided $6.7 billion in micro-loans to nearly eight million borrowers, mostly women, and created 9 million self-employment opportunities. BRAC’s 84,000 community health promoters have provided basic health services to nearly 100 million people. Currently, BRAC has programs in Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Haiti, Liberia, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Southern Sudan, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Uganda.
BRAC began operations in Pakistan in 2007 through a microfinance program. It serves over 106,000 members in 94 branches. It has cumulatively disbursed $18 million in loans averaging $161 and has loans outstanding of $7.7 million. In addition to microfinance, BRAC now operates programs in health and education. Through its almost 1,000 staff, BRAC is currently serving about 437,465 people in 14 districts across four provinces.
BRAC USA is a 501(c)3 affiliate in New York. To learn more about BRAC, please visit www.bracusa.org.
About American Pakistan Foundation
Founded and led by Pakistani-Americans and friends of Pakistan at a critical moment in Pakistan's history, the American Foundation (APF) is a registered 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving the social and economic condition of the people of Pakistan APF's mission is to expand development initiatives in education, public health, social entrepreneurship and poverty-alleviation with a vision to advance mutual understanding between the peoples of the US and Pakistan. APF is a focused effort on developing a secure and transparent channel for effectively mobilizing greater public and private resources from the Pakistani Diaspora and friends of Pakistan to expand the most credible and effective programs dedicated to Pakistan's social and economic development.
For more information, please visit www.americanpakistan.org.
President & CEO
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President and CEO
American Pakistan Foundation
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