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Sunday, 29 August 2021 00:00

BRAC launches Mental Health Strategy

BRAC launches Mental Health Strategy

The strategy pledges to raise public awareness and education of mental health difficulties, tackle stigma, and provide communities with culturally appropriate needs-based mental health interventions.

Although mental health issues pose considerable public health risks, claiming more lives than Covid-19, Bangladesh still lacks resources essential to undertake the necessary interventions. The consequence is, people cannot enjoy their right to the highest standard of physical and mental health.

As Bangladesh continues to weather the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, BRAC feels the issue of mental health in the country needs to be tackled with a comprehensive approach, and in strong partnership with the government.

In the presence of speakers from the government and non-government agencies, BRAC launched its first Mental Health Strategy at a virtual event organised today, Wednesday (25 August 2021). The event was chaired by Asif Saleh, executive director, BRAC, and moderated by KAM Morshed, senior director, BRAC.

Professor Meerjady Sabrina Flora, additional director general (planning), Directorate General of Health Services, attended the programme as the chief guest. Dr Robed Amin, line director, Non-Communicable Disease Control (NCDC), Government of Bangladesh, and Mia Seppo, UN resident coordinator, Bangladesh, were present special guests at the event.

The strategy sets out the organisation's commitment towards improving mental health of the population and developing mental health services and activities that are effective and ethical.

To achieve this, the strategy outlines four strategic aims and associated goals to meet by 2030. BRAC is committed to working alongside the Government of Bangladesh and other stakeholders, to address the current and future mental health needs of the country.

Grounded in an approach that espouses, endorses and advocates for culturally congruent, respectful and compassionate ethos, BRAC’s Mental Health Strategy pledges to raise public awareness and education of mental health difficulties, tackle stigma, and provide communities with culturally appropriate needs-based mental health interventions.

Dr Nargis Islam, consulting clinical psychologist, Oxford (UK), and consultant for BRAC Institute of Educational Development (BRAC IED), presented the details of BRAC Mental Health Strategy at the event. The blueprint of this strategy comes from the proven paracounsellor model that has been developed and executed successfully by BRAC IED in the past. While sharing her experiences in executing the paracounselling model, Dr Erum Mariam, executive director, BRAC IED, BRAC Bangladesh, said, “We did not call it mental health but over the past 49 years we connected with communities, supported and gave people hope and ensured their dignity. It is a moment of celebration that we have been able to build on our work and articulate the first Mental Health Strategy for BRAC!”

Dr Morseda Chowdhury, director, Health, Nutrition and Population Programme at BRAC, explained the design of a pilot to test BRAC’s mental health model at a large scale. She said, “Action at local and national levels to implement this strategy will only be effective if there is sustained and reciprocal partnership working across all sectors, and as such, will be the focus for achieving successful implementation of the strategy.”

Professor Meerjady Sabrina Flora, additional DG, DGHS, said “Improving mental health services is one of the key health related agendas for the government right now. The government and non-government actors can work together in a multi-sectoral approach to improve the mental health situation in the country. We need to fight together to reach a common goal which will give us a mentally healthy nation, a mentally healthy Bangladesh.”

Mia Seppo, UN resident coordinator, Bangladesh, said “17% of adults in Bangladesh live with mental health issues. We must cater to the rising need for mental health support by mainstreaming appropriate services within the existing health system. Mental health is just as important as physical health.”

Asif Saleh, executive director, BRAC, said “BRAC’s founder Sir Fazle Hasan Abed believed that mental health and wellbeing were a crucial and underserved component of public health. Now, particularly against the backdrop of Covid-19 and the toll it has taken on our mental wellbeing, it is time to work together to improve the access to mental health services in Bangladesh. BRAC has developed a comprehensive strategy to reach the last mile with mental health services. And, now we need other partners - the Government of Bangladesh, non-government organisations, private actors, and development partners - to move the work forward collaboratively.”

Experts in the mental health services in Bangladesh, high officials from other government and non-government agencies and representatives from various global organisations also joined the virtual event.

Roundtable: Health Insurance for RMG workers HI cuts out of pocket spending, adds productivity

Chairperson of the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Labour and Employment Ministry Md. Mujibul Huq MP underscored the national initiative of health insurance coverage for readymade garment workers and other sectors’ wage earners in collaboration with government and private entities. He asked public insurance companies to offer health insurance for low-income earners.

He came up with the call while addressing a virtual roundtable on “Health Insurance for RMG Workers in Bangladesh: Designing Policy and Management Structure” on Wednesday. Health Economics Unit (HEU) of Health and Family Welfare Ministry, Institute of Health Economics (IHE) of Dhaka University, BRAC, Netherland-based development organisation SNV and vernacular daily Prothom Alo conjointly arranged the roundtable.

HEU Director-General Dr. Md. Shahadat Hossain Mahamud, DG, HEU, said that the RMG sector already has a systematic and formal structure in collaboration with BGMEA, BKMEA, and Labour and Employment Ministry’s Central Fund, which enables the sector to be the initiator of institutional health insurance policy for workers’ wellbeing. Other sectors’ workers could be brought under health insurance in phases.

BRAC Climate Change and Urban Development programmes director Dr. Md. Liakath Ali said the country should introduce health insurance for wage-earners and the RMG sector is ready to introduce it that can be scaled up in other sectors after success in RMG.

Bangladesh Diabetic Association Chairman AK Azad Khan suggested that health insurance should be tax-free.

Representatives of different organizations were also spoke in the roundtable. Facilitated by Prothom Alo’s assistant editor Firoz Choudhury, the roundtable was also addressed by Central Fund DG Dr Selina Akter, HEI Professor Dr Syed Abdul Hamid, HEU’s research director Dr Md Nurul Amin, ANM Saifuddin from BGMEA, Mohammad Hatem from BKMEA, Progoti Life Insurance CEO M Jalaul Azim, Gonosastha Kendra’s Dr Rejaul Huq, and Bangladesh Garments Workers’ League president Sirajul Alam Rony.

In the Keynote Dr. Syed Abdul Hamid said that different NGOs operate various pilot health insurance projects to safeguard RMG workers. Research found that participation in the health insurance eased heath care cost and increase productivity of RMG workers. Although most of the projects’ timeline is at the end, no policy or management framework has been developed yet to advance the project or undertake permanent initiatives. Therefore, the establishment of a social health insurance management unit in collaboration with all stakeholders including the government, factory owners and the workers.

The discussion also informed that a network involving HEU, IHE, BRAC, SNV and Ganashastho Kendro have been working for policy formulation and the establishment of the institutional infrastructure to the policy formulation levels.

Canada joins BRAC in Strategic Partnership to support the vulnerable

Today, the Honourable Karina Gould, Minister of International Development, announced CAD 45 million, over the next five years, to support increasing services to Bangladesh’s most vulnerable populations, including the hard-to-reach.

Canada is committed to investing in partnerships to support the most marginalized, including women and girls in Bangladesh. Canada’s support will fund BRAC led multi-sector initiatives, including programming in skills and vocational training and public health outreach tailored to reach children and families that are unable to access the services they need. It will also strengthen BRAC’s interventions related to human rights, sexual and reproductive health and rights, nutrition and ending gender-based violence against women and children. Programming will also focus on, and support, Bangladesh’s COVID-19 response and inclusive economic recovery.

With this contribution Canada joins the Strategic Partnership Agreement, a long-term tripartite partnership with BRAC and the Government of Australia. Canada’s contributions to the partnership will expand BRAC’s integrated healthcare, education, legal services, skills development and livelihood service delivery to hard-to-reach areas and the most marginalised populations. This partnership is closely aligned with Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy and is built on BRAC’s longstanding women-centred development approach which prioritises the empowerment of women and girls.

The announcement was made during Minister Gould’s virtual visit to Bangladesh. Today, Minister Gould visited Bhashantek slum in Dhaka to see first-hand the impacts of BRAC’s urban development programming, which will receive continued support through the partnership. Minister Gould also met with young women engaged in skills training, health care workers supporting soon-to-be-mothers, and witnessed the BRAC-led COVID-19 prevention and response activities in action. BRAC Executive Director Asif Saleh accompanied the Minister on the visit, with both acknowledging the courageous front line workers who continue to deliver key services in the face of ongoing challenges during the pandemic.

Quotes
“Our local, experienced partners know all too well the disproportionate impact the COVID-19 crisis has had on the world’s most vulnerable. Together, we must continue to push forward and seek out those hardest to reach, including marginalized women and children. Canada remains committed to supporting Bangladesh in addressing the impacts of the pandemic and helping vulnerable populations respond and recover as fast as possible”
- Karina Gould, Minister of International Development

We are delighted to welcome Global Affairs Canada as one of our strategic partners. This partnership couldn't come at a more critical time, as the COVID-19 pandemic has further aggregated inequalities in Bangladesh. Bangladesh needs resources to combat the impact of this pandemic and sustain the momentum of socio-economic growth. This partnership will help us to keep the country on the growth trajectory and to continue our efforts in the pandemic response and the recovery process.”
- Asif Saleh, Executive Director, BRAC

BRAC partners with Bangladesh government’s Covid-19 vaccination drive

It will manage vaccine administration at Dhaka’s 9 centres and provide assistance at 3214 union level centres

BRAC joins as a partner of Bangladesh government's Covid-19 vaccination drive to accelerate resilience against the pandemic. The development organisation is managing vaccine administration in nine centres of Dhaka from today (Saturday), with the help of midwives from BRAC James P Grant School of Public Health. It is also assisting the government in 3,214 centers at the union level across Bangladesh.

BRAC has joined in the vaccination campaign from today in support of Dhaka’s two city corporations to speed up the vaccination drive.

People aged 25 years and above can get the vaccine by showing their national identity card between 9am and 3pm every day from BRAC-managed centres. The service will remain open till August 12. An aspirant must bring a photocopy of NID card or the vaccine registration card registered with the Shurokkha App to receive the latest vaccine.

The centres are offering vaccine doses only for those who have registered with the Shurokkha App but have yet to receive a short message service confirming the date of vaccination. Each of these BRAC-managed centres in Dhaka city can administer 350 doses per day.

Women, elderly population (over 50 years) and people with disabilities are prioritised in vaccination from these centres. Only the first dose of the vaccine is offered from these centres and will mention the date of the second dose in the vaccine card.

Dr Morseda Chowdhury, director of Health, Nutrition and Population Programme (HNPP) at BRAC, said, “BRAC has engaged itself in Covid-19 prevention activities since the global pandemic began. As part of it, we have mobilised our capacities to accelerate the government’s Covid-19 vaccination campaign. We aim to ensure vaccine administration management in a disciplined way everywhere, including hard-to-reach areas. We believe a combined effort by everyone is essential in the fight against the pandemic.”

The nine centres BRAC is operating in the two city corporations in Dhaka city are: Nurer Chala Government School and Shaheed Turjo Primary School in Badda under the Dhaka North City Corporation, and councillor office in Paltan Community Centre, Dingi in Dhanmondi 8/A (beside the lake), councillor office in Dhanmondi Community Centre at Bhuter Goli on Dhanmondi Circular Road, councillor office in Hatirpool Kacha Bajar (158/1, Elephant Road), councillor office in Shegunbagicha multipurpose complex, Fakir Chan Sarder Community Centre in Narinda, and MA Sattar High School in Demra under Dhaka South City Corporation.

Saturday, 07 August 2021 00:00

BRAC's Tk 1,350 crore bond gets MRA approval

BRAC's Tk 1,350 crore bond gets MRA approval

BRAC, the largest microcredit provider in Bangladesh, has received approval from Microcredit Regulatory Authority (MRA) to issue zero-coupon bonds valued BDT 1,350 crore through private placement. Issuance of zero coupon bond by a non-governmental organisation is the first of its kind in microcredit history of Bangladesh.

Executive vice chairman of MRA Md Fashiullah handed over the much anticipated approval letter to Tushar Bhowmik, chief financial officer of BRAC, in a small ceremony arranged by MRA on its own premises on Thursday (5 August) afternoon.

MRA executive director Laxman Chandra Debnath, directors Muhammad Mazedul Haque and Md Nure Alom Mahadi and BRAC associate director Ashit Baran Das were also present at the ceremony.

Earlier on February 3, Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission (BSEC) also approved the issuance of this zero-coupon bonds valued Tk1,350 crore.

The bond is unsecured, non-convertible, and fully redeemable with its tenure from one and a half years to five years. Institutional investors, corporates and high net worth individuals will be eligible to purchase this bond with a multiple of BDT 10 million. RSA Advisory Limited is acting as a lead arranger of this issue and MTB Capital Limited is acting as trustee to the issue.

“Client’s savings and bank borrowings was the main source of funds for BRAC Microfinance. Now Bond issuance also comes as an alternative source of funding for the microcredit institutions,” BRAC CFO Tushar Bhowmik said.

The CFO expected that the bonds would open up avenues for non-lender institutions to invest in BRAC's microfinance programme. He commented that it is a great recognition for the microfinance sector and expressed gratitude to all regulatory bodies for the cooperation along the way.

BRAC expects that the bonds will help improve the livelihoods of people who need access to affordable financial solutions, especially in marginalised communities, in a more efficient way.

BRAC’s journey began in Sulla, in northeast Bangladesh in 1972. Having access to finance was necessary for people living in poverty to break the cycle. Understanding their need, the first loans given by BRAC were in 1974 to fishermen in Sulla. Till date, BRAC microfinance programme has reached 7.4 million clients with financial services.

Standard Chartered, BRAC to develop returnee migrant workers into entrepreneurs

File photo shows migrant workers at the Dhaka airport Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune/

Standard Chartered Bangladesh and BRAC have announced the launch of a Covid-19 response initiative that will work with returnee migrant workers to ensure economic self-reliance through skills and entrepreneurship development.

The Standard Chartered Foundation is financing the two-year project titled “Covid-19 recovery: Entrepreneurship Training and Gainful Employment for Returnee Migrants Affected by Covid-19 in Bangladesh,” reads a press release.

According to the Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment, more than 400,000 migrants returned to their home country within a year due to the ongoing pandemic.

Recent BRAC survey findings suggest that half of the returnee migrants could not find gainful employment upon their return.

Under this project, the returnee migrants affected by Covid-19 will be supported with emergency arrival assistance, counselling, and entrepreneurship training followed by in-kind financial assistance as business award money to start their new business, which will support their sustainable economic reintegration.

The project will also link beneficiaries with microfinance institutes to facilitate access to finance and provide emergency and psycho-social support.

The project will identify and trace beneficiaries through several sources, including the airport, community members, hotline and other referrals. Three Reintegration Support Centres will be established under the project.

Preference will be given to more vulnerable demographics, particularly women and youths aged between 18 and 35 years.

Beneficiaries will be identified from three districts — Dhaka, Chattogram and Cumilla.

Naser Ezaz Bijoy, CEO of Standard Chartered Bangladesh, said the return of migrant workers could be seen as a challenge for our economy, but it is also an opportunity.

“Through harnessing the skills and knowledge, they have gained throughout their overseas careers and channelling it towards entrepreneurship and gainful employment opportunities, our remittance earners will not only ensure their own economic self-reliance but also create more opportunities for the broader community, multiplying the recovery momentum at the root-levels,” he added.

He also said Standard Chartered is delighted to work with BRAC on this initiative, adopting the reintegration model implemented by the NGO since 2006, which has already helped 3.5 million people across 64 districts of Bangladesh.

Asif Saleh, executive director of BRAC, said that for systematic changes, a meaningful partnership is required for the welfare of migrant workers in Bangladesh.

Covid-19 left many migrants jobless with new learning where for all actors, government and non-government need to work together to support returnee migrants for their economic and social reintegration back into our society, he added.

“We have to do more work with fewer resources — there comes partnership. The main focus is to support returnee migrant workers with entrepreneurship skills development and other support services for small-scale businesses that will change and improve the local economy," Saleh further said.

See also: Financialexpress.com.bdFinancial ExpressIttefaqSamakalBusiness StandardDaily ObserverDaily SunNew NationBonik BartaBhorer KagojSangbadBangladesh , PostManob KanthaAmader OrthoneetiShomoyer AloProtidiner SangbadNews TimeSamakal.comBdnews24.comIttefaq.com.bdObserverbd.comDaily-sun.comThenewnation.comBonikbarta.netInqilab.comBhorerkagoj.netSunbd24.comThesangbad.netThesangbad.netBangladeshpost.netTbsnews.netNewspapers71.comLastnewsbd.comProtidinersangbad.comBvnews24.comBusinessinsiderbd.com

BRAC starts antigen testing in 9 cattle markets in the capital

BRAC has launched antigen-based Covid-19 rapid testing in nine cattle markets under the Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) from today on Sunday (18 July). The Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) is providing necessary support to set up one Surokkha corner in each of these cattle markets where BRAC staff is carrying out the sample collection service. The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) of the Government of UK is supporting BRAC and DGHS in this effort.

DNCC mayor Atiqul Islam inaugurated the operations of Surokkha corners at the cattle market at Sayeednagar in Bhatara about 11am this morning. Dr Mirna Zaman, manager technical of BRAC’s Health, Nutrition and Population Programme (HNPP), was present, among others at the event. She informed the mayor about the different aspects of this initiative.

Starting from today the service will continue till 20 July (Tuesday), the previous day of Eid, and will be available from 8am to 8pm. Anyone experiencing Covid-19 symptoms like fever, dry cough, fatigue, sore throat and respiratory difficulties, or has been in contact with a confirmed Covid patient, is eligible to undergo the test through Surokkha corners. One has to pay the fee fixed by the government to get the service. Prior registration is not required to give the samples. Each of the Surokkha corners will be able to collect and analyse 150 samples a day.

If the result of a sample analysed via antigen testing comes positive i.e. detects the presence of novel coronavirus, the service seeker will be notified within 30 minutes. Results of a positive patient tested via antigen testing will be uploaded to the website within 3-4 hours.

The nine cattle markets to have these Surokkha corners are: The open space inside the Section-3 of Block-E of Badda Eastern Housing (Aftabnagar), open space adjacent to Kaula Shiyaldanga, open space adjacent to Shahinagar housing (residential) project at Uttarkhan Moinertek, open space from Brindabon to north of BGMEA in Uttara Sector-17, temporary cattle market in Bhatara (Sayeednagar), Rajdhani Housing adjacent to 40-feet Road in Basila Mohammadpur, open space of Shopnodhara housing and Basila Garden City; open space owned by Salam Steel Ltd and Jumuna Housing Co to the north of and adjacent to 300ft Road under Ward-43 and Gabtoli cattle market in Mirpur.

Mayor Atiqul Islam said at the inauguration event, “This is a truly praiseworthy initiative from BRAC at this crisis moment of the pandemic. We are calling on other organisations also to come forward with initiatives as much as they can afford.”

Currently in Bangladesh, for Covid-19 diagnosis RT-PCR tests are done for the majority of samples that take at least 24 hours to deliver results. As antigen tests can deliver results only in 30 minutes, BRAC expects that this method will add pace to the government’s Covid-19 testing operations.

Director of BRAC Health, Nutrition and Population Programme (HNPP) Morseda Chowdhury said, “The cattle markets set up for Eid-ul-Azha are among high risk spots for Corona virus transmission due to mass gatherings. BRAC has joined Dhaka North City Corporation in this effort to reduce the level of vulnerability. We are distributing masks as part of our awareness campaign. The overall risk of contracting the infection will reduce when people who have already contracted Covid-19 will be identified through antigen testing.”

Responding to the government’s call in covid-19 prevention campaign, BRAC’s walk-in kiosks have been collecting samples from the suspected patients since March 11 last year, among which 41 are currently in operation. Additionally, BRAC has been offering antigen-based rapid testing through 16 booths in Dhaka and Chittagong since 24 April this year.

Dr Tasnim Jara joins the effort, calling on others to come forward

BRAC initiates “Dakchhe abar desh”, calling all to stand by the people who lost their earnings amid the community transmission of the delta variant of Coronavirus and consequent lockdown. A contribution of BDT 7.50 crore (75 million), half of which comprises a one-day salary donation from the BRAC employees and the other half is matched from BRAC’s own fund, will be distributed to 50 thousand selected families. Each family will receive BDT 1500 which will enable them to buy essential food and other emergency necessities for two weeks.

The initiative was announced today on Wednesday (14 July) mentioning that the distribution of the money will start from 18 July Sunday. Nineteen districts exposed to high risk of Covid transmission and under strict lockdown will be prioritised in this initiative. The families to receive the assistance are being identified by the skilled field staff of BRAC following a rigorous process. Families with elderly members, pregnant and lactating mothers, persons with disabilities, families dependent on women’s earning, ultra poor households and those who have not received assistance from other sources will have the priority in this initiative.

Responding to the call of the Honourable Prime Minister, besides the government agencies, BRAC and many other non-governmental and privately owned organisations have been running such assistance programmes since last year. To continue the effort, BRAC is coming forward to stand beside 50 thousand families in the first phase.  But this contribution is simply inadequate compared with the thousands of families suffering in dire situation. The nation needs both institutions and individuals to come forward. “Dakchhe abar desh” will serve as a platform in this regard and will encourage both individuals and organisations to make contributions. Details of the initiative are available here: https://www.brac.net/dakcheabardesh/

Asif Saleh, Executive Director, BRAC, said, “The battle against Corona is long-term and tough. It has to be fought and won together. We have plunged in the fight with everything we have, to build community resilience across the country. BRAC is active in the field with over 1 lakh (100 thousand) fearless field staff, health workers and volunteers, building skills, raising awareness about health and hygiene, distributing free masks and providing emergency assistance. We are committed to supporting the government and our people at every step of the journey.”

“Both the public and private sectors have to come together to see this crisis through. I will request all able individuals and institutions to join the “Dakchhe abar desh” platform,” he added.

Grameenphone partnered with BRAC in 2020 in its effort to provide emergency assistance to the affected families and they have also given commitment to join the initiative this year.

Healthcare non-profit “Sahay” has joined this initiative. Dr Tasnim Jara, a founder of this non-profit and a postgraduate student at the University of Oxford has already joined the movement. A recipient of the “Vaccine Luminary” award by the British government and currently working at the United Kingdom’s government healthcare system NHS, Tasnim Jara said, “People who live just on their daily wages confine themselves to their home not only for their own safety but to ensure others’ safety also. Their sacrifice is not only for their own sake, but for the sake of all of us. It is therefore all of our responsibility to lessen the terrible hardship they are in.” Through BRAC Sahay will assist more than 65 families and motivate others to come forward.

BRAC hopes that more individuals, institutions and partners will join this initiative. Details for sending contributions:

Name of bank account: BRAC
Account number: 150120-2316474001
Bank Name: BRAC Bank, Gulshan 1, Gulshan Avenue, Dhaka

Bkash account: 01730321765

Last year BRAC employees donated their one-day salary as emergency food support. Under that initiative BRAC, Grameenphone and other partners came together to provide emergency assistance to 3 lakh 65 thousand (365,000) families, with BDT 1500 received by each family.

One-third of female employed youths are jobless as Covid-19 impacts

More women lost jobs, had a harder time finding another job, and had a much slower income recovery amid Covid-19 in Bangladesh. A third of the young women employed before the pandemic in the country were out of jobs in January 2021. The rate is three times higher in women (29%) than that of young men (11%).

The female youths who again found a job later, income recovery has dropped only 10% for male youths while it is 21% for female youths in January 2021.

The data mentioned above was presented by Dr Imran Matin, executive director of BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), in a webinar organised today on Sunday, (11 July 2021).

Respondents in the study pointed out that private tutoring, handicrafts, factory jobs, tailoring and light engineering are among the areas in which more young women used to find employment conventionally, but again these are among the hardest hit economic areas in the pandemic. The respondents also think that recovery of these particular areas will be tough and take time even when the pandemic is over, making it difficult for female youths to come back to paid employment.

The BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) and BRAC’s skills development programme (SDP) hosted the webinar titled ‘Building a resilient ecosystem for women in the skills sector: challenges and prospects’ to celebrate World Youth Skills Day (July 15).

Highlighting the survey findings, Dr Matin said so many working women remaining out of paid work for such a long period may cause many to permanently leave the job market, which may further reduce the already low rate of women’s labour market participation.

Covid shock may threaten to undo much of the progress made around women’s empowerment unless corrective measures are taken, he said.

Speaking at the webinar, speakers emphasised on greater awareness on the importance of technical and vocational education, and training and development of other skills relevant to both local and global economies.

BIGD in collaboration with SDP has conducted a number of studies identifying the sustained beneficial impact of skills training on women’s economic independence. Speaking on the possible interventions, a panel of development professionals shared their insights, highlighted the importance of adopting proper implementation strategies, and stressed that the evidence-based findings from different relevant studies need to be taken into view in building a resilient ecosystem for women in the area of skills development.

Joydeep Sinha Roy, head of operations of BRAC SDP, presented findings from SDP’s implementation experiences over the years at the event.

The presentation pointed out that culture and traditional gender roles, gender stereotyping, lack of career guidance, safety concerns particularly fear of gender-based violence and sexual harassment, family responsibilities, and availability of quality apprenticeship occupations are the major barriers for adolescent girls’ and young women’s access to skills learning.

To bring change in the sector, Joydeep presented SDP’s incremental approaches - enterprise development training, entrepreneurship training, employability training, classroom training and apprenticeship training.

The presentation recommended more awareness about skills training both at the individual and household level, access to the labour market through skills training, raising awareness to change perception towards women, enabling a women-friendly environment in the labour market, and access to jobs and retention to improve the scenario.

Following the presentation, Tasmiah Tabassum Rahman, current in-charge of BRAC Skills Development Programme moderated a discussion also attended by BRAC’s Gender, Justice and Diversity Programme director Nobonita Chowdhury, International Labour Organization’s programme officer (M&E) for Skills 21 Project Tahmid Arif, and Natore-based Neda Society’s executive director Jahanara Beauty.

BRAC’s Gender, Justice and Diversity Programme director Nobonita Chowdhury emphasised bringing change in designing proper interventions. “Instead of designing interventions separately, we need to focus on making integrated interventions in line with mainstreaming women empowerment in different sectors.”

ILO programme officer (M&E) for Skills 21 Project Tahmid Arif said, “Changing mindset is crucial not only for skills training of female youths, but also for their employment. Conducting training is not enough. We also need to make sure those who receive training also get an employment opportunity and the opportunity has to be sustainable.”

Highlighting the harsh impact of Covid-19 on the female workforce, Neda Society ED Jahanara Beauty said, “During the pandemic many employers opted to keep male ones instead of female youths in informal sectors. As many women had to leave their job, it impacted not only their income or employment but also their surrounding situations. There was sharp decline in their savings, while violence against women increased and incidents of child marriage rose drastically.”

Shameran Abed has been appointed the new Executive Director of BRAC International (BI), one of the leading development organisations in the world, with effect from August 1, 2021.

As Executive Director, Shameran will oversee and guide BI’s strategies, programmes and organisational development for scaled impact and sustainable growth, contributing to BRAC's Global Strategy to reach 250 million disadvantaged women (and their dependents), youth, and people living in poverty by 2030. He will also continue to lead BI’s microfinance operations and oversee the Ultra-Poor Graduation Initiative (UPGI).

“The Board of BRAC International is confident that Shameran is the right person to steer BI at this time, driving innovation and positive transformation while ensuring continuity. We believe Shameran’s extensive experience at BRAC and his strong strategic and collaborative skills will help us to further align our goals and objectives to achieve the vision of our late founder, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, to make BRAC a global force for poverty eradication and empowerment of the poor,” said Irene Khan, Chair of the Supervisory Board of Stichting BRAC International.

Shameran joined BRAC Bangladesh in 2009 and BRAC International in 2012, and has been instrumental in bringing BRAC’s flagship programmes of microfinance and ultra-poor graduation to global scale. Under his leadership, BI’s microfinance portfolio has seen impressive growth and a renewed focus on client impact. Since 2016, Shameran has also led BRAC's ultra-poor graduation work and played an instrumental role in setting up the UPGI to spearhead global advocacy and provide technical assistance to governments and other organisations.

Shameran also comes with significant Board experience on several non-profit and corporate entities, including the boards of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV), BRAC Bank and bKash.

“As we confront unprecedented challenges due to the pandemic, we are reminded once again of the urgent need to build resilience and create sustainable pathways out of poverty for the world’s most marginalised,” commented Shameran. “BRAC holds a truly unique position, as an organisation from and for the Global South, to continue to demonstrate the same commitment and tenacity in designing and delivering practical, scalable, community-led solutions as we have done for almost 50 years. I am honored and excited to have the opportunity to lead BRAC International at this critical juncture, working alongside thousands of fearless co-workers and with millions of programme participants, whose courage and enterprise inspire us every day to accelerate and further amplify our impact.”

Shameran holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from Hamilton College in the United States and is a qualified Barrister in the UK.

Shameran succeeds BI’s current Executive Director, Dr Muhammad Musa, who will step down on July 31.

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