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The organisation’s Bangladesh Humanitarian Fund seeks donations from individuals, corporations and foundations for further support. Click here to donate directly to the Fund.

 

22 April 2014, New York -- The Bangladesh Humanitarian Fund, an initiative of BRAC USA, announces a grant of $1.25 million to create employment opportunities and secure sustainable futures for 250 garment workers from the Rana Plaza factory complex, which collapsed last year near Dhaka, Bangladesh.

BRAC USA is seeking additional donations to this fund. “Rana Plaza was like Bangladesh’s 9/11,” says Susan Davis, president and CEO of BRAC USA. “Those who died on April 24 did so working in dangerous conditions to provide a better future for their families and make our own clothing more affordable. For those still grieving, there's nothing that can offset the loss of their loved ones. But we can and should show our solidarity with those who survived.

“We're grateful to those who have contributed to the Bangladesh Humanitarian Fund so far, and welcome these contributions as a crucial first step,” Davis adds. “But more is needed. We ask individuals, corporations and others who have benefited from the hard work of Bangladeshi garment workers to challenge themselves to give more.”

The grant issued this month is the second of the Bangladesh Humanitarian Fund, which BRAC USA created in March as a part of renewed push for Bangladesh garment workers in the run-up to the one-year anniversary of Rana Plaza, which collapsed on April 24, 2013, killing more than 1,100 people.

Services provided to former Rana Plaza workers will include livelihood training, professional development, entrepreneurship training, assistance with access to employment, and personal counseling support. Services will be provided by BRAC, the global development organisation based in Bangladesh, of which BRAC USA is an independent North American affiliate.
The grant comes closely after the Bangladesh Humanitarian Fund’s first grant in late March, a $2.2 million donation to the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund, which supports victims of the Rana Plaza disaster and their families. BRAC USA’s Bangladesh Humanitarian Fund seeks to address victim needs and garment worker safety concerns in part by contributing a portion of every gift to the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund, established in November 2013 by a multi-stakeholder coalition with the International Labor Organisation serving as neutral chair.

“Bangladesh has seen significant gains in living standards, halving poverty rates in the last 20 years, thanks largely to women’s empowerment. The garment industry has played a tremendous role in this,” said Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder and chairperson of BRAC, last month when the Bangladesh Humanitarian Fund was announced. “But these gains will mean little if we allow tragedies like Rana Plaza to continue. The words ‘Made in Bangladesh’ should be a mark of pride, not shame.”

BRAC’s involvement in Rana Plaza relief began in the immediate hours after the building’s collapse, when first-response medical teams from BRAC’s health, nutrition and population program worked alongside the Bangladesh Army’s medical teams at the site. Later, staff and counselors from BRAC, BRAC University and Dhaka University provided psychosocial support to 473 survivors and victims’ families. The BRAC Limb and Brace Center in Savar, the Dhaka subdistrict in which Rana Plaza was located, provided braces to 29 survivors with spinal injuries and prosthetic limbs to an additional 12 survivors.

With support from others, BRAC will continue to provide financial support, livelihood training, seed capital and apprenticeship training to hundreds more victims. Meanwhile, working with other stakeholders, including retailers, government, trade unions and factory owners, BRAC is advocating for a long-term solution to Bangladesh worker safety issues.

BRAC USA welcomes additional contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations. Walmart, Asda, Walmart Foundation, The Children’s Place, Gap Foundation, VF Foundation and others, including many individuals, have already made initial contributions. Donations to the Bangladesh Humanitarian Fund will be directed to three specific program areas: support for the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund, continued support for BRAC’s work to provide counseling and rehabilitation to garment workers, and a reserve that can be used to support a “social safety net” for workers impacted by other tragedies.

All gifts to the Bangladesh Humanitarian Fund are tax-deductible in the United States and will be administered by BRAC USA, an independent 501(c) 3 charitable organisation registered in New York State, with fiduciary responsibility resting with its board of directors.
 

20 April 2014, Dhaka. BRAC held its first  online  training  session  on  advocacy,  behavioral  change communication and promotion (ABP) on April 10, 2014.

It was a joint initiative of Advocacy for Social Change (ASC), BRAC Leaning Division  (BLD)  and BRAC ICT. Opening enormous possibilities to expand training  for  all, this  event  was an excellent example of cross section cooperation.

Afsan  Chowdhury, senior advisor, BRAC advocacy facilitated the session from BRAC  Centrein in Dhaka  while  Kazi Monzur Hasan, senior learning facilitator,  BLD,  Uttara facilitated from BLC, Jessore.  27 participants  from  ASC,  BEP,  CEP,  DECC, HNPP, HRLS, PSU, WASH, FPAB and YFPAD attended the session.

BRAC can now build capacity of many more people particularly from the field in  this area with minimum cost. The future plan includes scaling up this training opportunity through BLCs by end of 2014.

To see a short doc (33 sec) please click the following link: http://youtu.be/kkSwJbtxsk8

 

15 April 2014, Dhaka. The Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA) mWomen programme based in London announced BRAC as one of its Innovation Fund grant recipients on 11 April 2014. The grant is for BDT 14 million.

This fund will launch a mobile service for adolescent girls to develop their English skills to improve their employment prospects. BRAC will partner with Robi Axiata and the British Council in Bangladesh to launch the service. 3,000 adolescent girls from BRAC Adolescent Development Programme (ADP) have been selected for the first batch of 5-month-long training. They will work as peer leaders to disseminate their learning to their communities. In addition to this, Robi Axiata will run the training for 8,000 ADP clubs across Bangladesh after the successful completion of the pilot batch. Since a portion of these girls are thought to one day work in the garment sector, the British Council will adapt the curriculum of the training course accordingly. BRAC and the British Council plan to provide users who have completed all modules of the course with a certificate of achievement through a mobile identity solution developed by Robi Axiata.

Sr programme manager of BRAC’s ADP, Rashida Parveen said, “This fund will create more opportunities for our ADP girls through which they can contribute to our national economy while empowering themselves and bringing positive changes to their lives as well as their communities.”The GSM Association (GSMA), formed in 1995, is an association of mobile operators and related companies devoted to supporting the standardising, deployment and promotion of the GSM mobile telephone system. The GSMA mWomen Global Development Alliance is a programme in partnership with USAID, Australian DFAT, GSMA and Visa Inc. It works to increase women’s access to and use of mobiles and life-enhancing, value-added services in the developing world.

The other winner of this innovation fund is Human Network International (HNI), a global organisation dedicated to bringing the benefits of technology to development. Over the course of both these projects, the programme hopes to generate insights on how life-enhancing value added services can increase women’s access to and use of mobile services.

To find more about this please visit: http://www.gsma.com/mobilefordevelopment/gsma-mwomen-awards-innovation-fund-grant-to-hni-madagascar-and-brac-bangladesh


 

7 April 2014, Dhaka. Twenty officials from the Bangladesh police received certificates today, 7 April 2014, on the completion of their driving training from BRAC Driving School. This successful first batch of Bangladesh police has finished a rigorous five weeks of driving training. The event to recognise their achievement was held from3.30-5pm at BRAC Learning Centre (BLC) in Uttara, Dhaka.

Over 95 percent of all road accidents are caused by human errors and most of them are preventable. An average driver makes one mistake in every two miles of driving and in every 500 miles one of these mistakes leads to a near collision. Once every 61,000 miles, one of these mistakes leads to a crash. In other words, drivers’ mistakes are endemic. Only a trained driver with the correct attitude can overcome these mistakes to a great extent and protect his or her passengers and him/herself. No matter how safe the vehicles, driving environment and roads are road safety cannot be achieved without a driver’s capability to drive safely. 

The Bangladesh police needs to train drivers every year, because, as law enforcement, they can play an important role in preventing road accidents with basic education on road safety and driving themselves. However, the capacity of their driving school in Jamalpur is not enough as per need. In order to ensure training needs are met, the Bangladesh Police delegated training to BRAC Driving School last year and the first batch of 20 police officers were sent to BRAC Driving School in Uttara for training. BRAC Driving School is a modern driving training institute with licensed instructors trained by Hubert Ebner (India) Pvt. Ltd. – an Indo-Austrian road safety and driving training company based in New Delhi, India. 

Additional DIG (Training and Sports) of police Feroz Al Mozahid Khan, World Bank’s road safety specialist  Stein Lundebye, Additional IGP (training), Bangladesh police Moinur Rahman Chowdhury, BRTA chairman Md Nazrul Islam and director of BRAC’s road safety programme,  Ahmed Najmul Hussain will be at the certificate award event. 

Appreciating this effort of BRAC driving school Additional IGP Moinur Rahman Chowdhury said, ‘the police officer who received the training have to remember that people will look up to them and it is their duty to make the roads safer for all.”  BRTA chairman mentioned in his speech that, “I appreciate BRAC’s initiative to train police officials and we expect more batches from police for this kind if trainings.”

“Nearly half the population in South Asia depends on agriculture, yet the potential of agriculture to reduce malnutrition in this region has not been well recognised.” This was a message that emerged from a daylong workshop and open forum organised by BRAC Research and Evaluation Division (RED)on 7 April at BRAC Centre Inn Auditorium, Dhaka. BRAC is one of the key partners of the international research programme consortium titled Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in South Asia (LANSA). The workshop was hosted to bring together knowledge and expertise of key level stakeholders and champions on different aspects of nutrition-sensitive agriculture and food value chains in Bangladesh. Representatives of different line ministries and experts from the UK, USA, India and Germany involved in LANSA attended the workshop. 

Participating stakeholders highlighted issues on women’s empowerment in agriculture and sustainable collaboration among policymakers from different sectors to improve nutrition in South Asia. Preliminary research findings on stakeholder interviews conducted by LANSA highlighted the importance of effective communication with policymakers. Policy briefs can be used to communicate more recommendations rather than just research results. LANSA is working to find out how agriculture and food-related interventions can be better designed to improve nutrition, particularly for children and adolescent girls in South Asia. The lead partner of this consortium is MS Swaminathan Research Foundation in India. Other partners include: BRAC in Bangladesh, Collective for Social Science Research in Pakistan, Institute of Development Studies (UK), International Food Policy Research Institute (USA) and Leverhulme Centre for Integrative Research on Agriculture and Health (UK)

For further information regarding LANSA please visit our website http://www.lansasouthasia.org/

29 March 2014, Dhaka. Programme on Women’s Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (PWESCR) in partnership with South Asian Feminist Alliance (SAFA) and BRAC hosted a public event, Feminist Voices from Bangladesh on Saturday, 29 March, 2014, from 4 to 6 p.m at the BRAC Centre Inn Auditorium, 75 Mohakhali, Dhaka, Bangladesh.  Eminent feminists Rokeya Kabir, Salma Khan, Khushi Kabir, Sara Hossain, Farida Akhter, Shireen Huq, Anna Minj and Moni Rani Das shared their perspectives on feminism, their personal journey as a woman’s rights leader and challenges in being part of a movement. The discussion was moderated by Barbara Phillips, who is a Board Member, PWESCR, a lawyer and civil rights activist.

In an engaging afternoon discussion, panellists self-critically examined the trends in the women’s movement in Bangladesh. Khushi Kabir shared the discomfort, especially within political circles, to use the word ‘feminist’, which is considered a ‘western’ import and not home-grown. Shireen Huq highlighted the silences within the women’s movement, particularly with regard to sexuality rights and personal freedoms. These freedoms are marginalised in favour of socio-economic rights, which the ‘comrades’ in the women’s movement have been openly debating. However, sexuality campaigns like My Body, My Decision (1994), faced resistance from even within the women’s movements. “We can say yes to equal wages but not discuss our bodies. This is when you realise comrades are not progressive after all,” noted Shireen Huq. Rokeya Kabir asserted that violence against women is most severe in the domestic realm, both natal and marital. She importantly reminded the forum that women’s rights were gravely violated during the 1971 liberation war and neither the family, relatives, religion nor the state could protect the bodily dignity of women. She recalled the challenges she faced in her life, especially the incident, in which a Senior Minister not only blamed NGOs for destroying Bangladeshi culture. “We are still fighting this battle today,” she declared. Farida Akhtar lauded the rich history of women’s movement in Bangladesh and applauded the efforts of Bangladeshi women to have always striven on their own initiative, even without the aid of the NGOs. This belief shared by Farida Akhtar was nuanced further by Moni Rani Das, Founder of Dalit Women’s Forum, who has struggled for decades to mobilise, organise, sensitise and create livelihood opportunities for Dalit women, who face multiple discrimination. With the endeavour of the Dalit Forum, Dalit women and girls are more conscious of their rights, are breaking their caste mindsets and thinking about occupations other than sweeping work.

This event was part of PWESCR’s 4th Leadership Institute in Women’s Economic, Social and Cultural Rights from 24th to March 30th  2014, in Dhaka, Bangladesh. 31 women’s rights leaders (women and men) from 18 countries working in organisations worldwide participated. The Institute, based on the International Convenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) is held in two phases each year. 2014’s second phase will take place from 15th to September 20th in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

PWESCR is an international human rights organisation based in the Global South committed to promote women’s human rights - especially in the context of economic, social and cultural rights - by engendering policy, law and practice at local, national, regional and international levels.
 

 

$5 million raised for newly launched Bangladesh Humanitarian Fund for rehabilitation of garment workers, victim support, and awareness of workplace safety

Donate directly to the Bangladesh Humanitarian Fund

NEW YORK, NY – As the one-year anniversary of the Bangladesh Rana Plaza building collapse approaches, BRAC USA, the North American affiliate of BRAC, announced today a multi-year fundraising initiative to ensure that progress continues on humanitarian aid and support for workers in Bangladesh’s ready-made garment industry. An antipoverty organization founded in 1972, BRAC (formerly Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee) is a global leader in providing opportunity for the world’s poor.  

BRAC USA’s new Bangladesh Humanitarian Fund will be directed to three specific program areas: support for the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund; continued support for BRAC’s work to provide counseling and rehabilitation to garment workers; and a reserve that can be used to support a “social safety net” for workers impacted by other tragedies such as the Tazreen factory fire in 2012.

“Bangladesh has seen significant gains in living standards, halving poverty rates in the last 20 years, thanks largely to women’s empowerment. The garment industry has played a tremendous role in this,” says Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, Founder and Chairperson of BRAC. “But these gains will mean little if we allow tragedies like Rana Plaza to continue. The words ‘Made in Bangladesh’ should be a mark of pride, not shame.”

In the wake of the collapse of Rana Plaza on April 24, 2013, which killed more than 1,100 people, BRAC has provided relief and medical assistance, psychosocial counseling for victims, and livelihood support and training with support from BRAC USA, the International Labor Organization and others. Working with other stakeholders, BRAC has also advocated for a long-term solution to Bangladesh worker safety issues.

The Bangladesh Humanitarian Fund continues that work with its first major grant this week: a $2.2 million donation to the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund, which supports victims of the Rana Plaza disaster and their families, who are receiving payments coordinated under a single approach through the Rana Plaza Arrangement. With the International Labor Organization serving as neutral chair, the Rana Plaza Arrangement is overseen by a Coordination Committee established in November 2013 by a multi-stakeholder coalition of government, employers, workers, retailers and civil society. BRAC USA’s Bangladesh Humanitarian Fund seeks to address victim needs and garment worker safety concerns in part by contributing a portion of every gift to the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund.

BRAC USA’s Bangladesh Humanitarian Fund has already raised more than $5 million, including support from Walmart, Asda, Walmart Foundation, The Children’s Place and The Gap Foundation.

“These global industry leaders and foundations contributed to BRAC USA’s fund based on BRAC’s deep history and community roots in Bangladesh, and on BRAC USA's strong commitment to a long-term solution and its high standards in grantmaking, monitoring and reporting,” said Susan Davis, President and CEO of BRAC USA.

“The Rana Plaza tragedy was a wake-up call for the world that shocked our collective conscience,” Davis adds. “Even eleven months after Rana Plaza, more support needs to be provided to victims and their families. Delays have taken place for a variety of reasons, but rather than looking back, we’re moving forward on common ground, and with a clear message: A better path is possible, and we can help create it.”

Mr. Gilbert Houngbo, the ILO Deputy Director-General for Partnerships and Field Operations, said, “The Coordination Committee has called for donations from any party, and they are very much needed to ensure fair treatment for the Rana Plaza victims who are struggling to rebuild their lives and those of their dependents and families. This coordinated Arrangement is a key step on the road to establishing decent work and safe workplaces in the Bangladesh garment industry. We welcome BRAC USA’s efforts in support of the Arrangement and hope that its pro-active approach inspires others to donate funds too.”

The Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund is open to donors from around the world on a voluntary basis, including those that were not in Rana Plaza, as an expression of solidarity and compassion.

BRAC USA will also use contributions to its Bangladesh Humanitarian Fund to make grants in support of BRAC’s continuing work to build sustainable futures beyond monetary compensation for affected garment workers. This support includes counseling and training in new livelihoods for those who survived Rana Plaza, Tazreen and similar disasters but cannot, or do not wish to, return to the ready-made garment industry.

BRAC is the world’s largest nonprofit antipoverty organization and often among the top ranked in terms of effectiveness. A sister organization, BRAC International, now works in 10 other countries in Asia and Africa, supported by two independent affiliates headquartered in New York and London.

Since the Rana Plaza disaster, it has been working with other stakeholders in the public, private and civil society sectors for long-term solutions to Bangladesh worker safety issues. In April, BRAC University, a full-fledged institution of higher learning set up by BRAC in 2001, will host a conference on workers' rights and safety issues in Dhaka.

BRAC USA welcomes additional contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations. All gifts to the new Humanitarian Fund will be administered by BRAC USA, an independent 501(c) 3 charitable organization registered in New York State, with fiduciary responsibility resting with its board of directors.

 

23 March 2014, Dhaka. On 17 March 2014, BRAC formally launched community girls’ schools all over Sierra Leone. Currently, one school has been opened in each of the 12 out of 14 districts that BRAC is currently working in, with the aim to open in the other two districts by 25 March 2014.

The initiative is a major component of the Girls Education Challenge project, funded by DFID. BRAC is providing education to over 7,500 girls who are marginalised and have dropped out of the formal education system. The aim is to open 250 community girls’ schools in the country.

The inaugural ceremony was attended by high officials from the Ministry of Education, various other government sectors, NGO representatives, community leaders, journalists, parents and students. The event was also covered by the country’s national television and radio station.
 

The US-based Fortune magazine has named BRAC founder and chairperson Sir Fazle Hasan Abed in its list of the world’s 50 greatest leaders. The list, which features leaders from politics and religion to corporate CEOs and heads of civil society organizations, features the BRAC founder at number 32.

The top five positions on the list are held by Pope Francis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally, US investor Warren Buffet and former US President Bill Clinton. Other notable persons on the list include Aung San Suu Kyi, Bono, the Dalai Lama, Angelina Jolie and Malala Yousafzai. Sir Fazle Hasan Abed is the only Bangladeshi to have made the list.

Fortune magazine is best known for publishing the annual Fortune 500 list, which ranks the largest US companies on the basis of gross revenues.

 For more details please go to: http://money.cnn.com/gallery/leadership/2014/03/20/worlds-best-leaders.fortune/index.html

 

16 March 2014, Dhaka. Based on the findings of the impact assessment of the credit programme for tenant farmers, a national level workshop was held on Saturday, 15 March 2014 at the BRAC centre auditorium.

Since its establishment in December 2009, the tenant farmer development project – funded by Bangladesh Bank – provides credit and other support for tenant farmers.

The event was attended by the governor of Bangladesh Bank, Dr Atiur Rahman, as the chief guest and chaired by Dr Mahabub Hossain, advisor to BRAC’s executive director.

During the workshop, professor Abul Bayes of Jahangirnagar University presented a paper on tenant farmers’ access to credit and extension services and BRAC’s borgachashi unnayan prakalpa. Dr Mohammad Abdul Malek of BRAC’s research and evaluation division (RED) presented a paper on the impact assessment of credit programmes for tenant farmers and the baseline study findings.  Mr Abu Ahasan Mishu from RED also presented a paper on tenancy, agricultural livelihoods and microcredit.

Professor MA Sattar Mandal of Bangladesh’s Agricultural University pointed out that the dependence on non-institutional sources of funds (ie, friends, relatives)  have decreased, while borrowing loans from NGOs has increased.

Stating that this is the “only project in the world customised for sharecroppers,” Dr Atiur Rahman mentioned, “There has been a huge shift in tenancy. Connectivity has increased.”

He also said that, “[About BDT 70 million] has been disbursed [in loans] and 700,000 tenant croppers have benefited from this project. [Additionally], 55 per cent of clients are now women.”