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21 December, 2015: As the importance of early learning gains support, there is a growing need to ensure that practice in the sector reflects this emphasis on whole child development and the skills and capacities children need to thrive. In light of this, the LEGO Foundation is pleased to announce a 3-year, 4.7 million USD partnership with BRAC focused on promoting the importance of learning through play in Bangladesh, Uganda and Tanzania.

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Photo by: Alison Wright/BRAC

Over the course of this 3-year commitment, we will jointly develop and pilot the Play Lab concept, which is a model for integrating play-based learning into the lives of young children between the ages of 3 and 5. We aim to educate and impact both children and their caregivers. Our approach to program design and development ensures that we are able to reach the most vulnerable children and their families.

With this pilot project we aim to launch 240 Play Labs for 7,200 children; train nearly 500 adolescent girls as play leaders, and educate parents on the importance and value of learning through play. Additionally, we commit to design environmentally sustainable play spaces for homes and communities that otherwise lack play spaces.

To stay up-to-date on play-based education, we will launch a global network of experts who will gather best practices on learning through play, develop curriculum and materials, and act as advocates for children's right to play.

The project will be monitored and evaluated, so that we are able to establish an evidence-based model of scalable Play Labs that exemplifies a low-cost, high-impact intervention capable preparing children to overcome future challenges.

This commitment strengthens the LEGO Foundation’s efforts in East Africa and marks our first major investment in learning through play in Asia.


A Community Health Promoter (CHP) Appreciation day was held on the 18 December 2015. One hundred and thirty CHPs traveled from various parts of Uganda to Kampala for this event, which recognised and awarded fifty of the best CHPs for their outstanding service to their communities. The Chief guest, Assistant Commissioner of Health Promotion at the Ministry of Health Dr Paul Kagwa led other guests in applauding the health programme and the CHPs for their efforts to deliver basic healthcare services to the doorsteps of millions of Ugandans.

In his opening remarks BRAC Uganda Country Representative, Bhuiyan Muhammad Imran congratulated the CHPs for being instrumental in the reduction of mortality among under-5 children in areas where BRAC CHPs are active, based on research conducted by the Research and Evaluation Unit. The Coordinator BRAC Research Africa Dr Jenipher Twebaze Musoke gave a presentation that shed more light on the research work being carried out within the health programme followed by a presentation by the Health Programme Manager in Uganda, Sharmin Sharif and BRAC International Research Director Munshi Sulaiman.

Chief Guest Assistant Commissioner of Health Promotion at the Ministry of Health Dr Paul Kagwa expressed his gratitude to BRAC Uganda and the health programme for activities that are improving the lives of many Ugandans. He presented the best CHPs with certificates and gifts that included energy-efficient cook stoves and home solar-lighting kits.



17 December, 2015
A NextBillion article by Emily Coppel and Tarini Mohan


Faruque Ahmed, executive director of BRAC International, recently wrote for NextBillion about the need for women entrepreneurs to bolster economic recovery in post-Ebola West Africa. One of the most effective ways to counter the repercussions of Ebola and specifically address food scarcity and the destruction of agricultural value chains, he wrote, is to empower female farmers. Here, Tarini Mohan and Emily Coppel of BRAC write about a new scientific method has the potential to change the way NGOs develop empowerment programs for female farmers and dramatically improve outcomes in West Africa and beyond.

“Data not only measures progress, it inspires it. What gets measured gets done. Once you start measuring problems, people are more inclined to take action to fix them because nobody wants to end up at the bottom of a list of rankings.”

– U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, 2012

Women’s empowerment programs have surfaced as a key component of the international development agenda. Although many organizations working in international development make grandiose claims of their programs’ ability to empower women, with few tools available to actually measure empowerment, it is hard to tell if these claims are based on fact or whether they are an organizational appeal to funders.

Until recently, no major development agency had devised a mainstream method to track and measure changes in the level of women’s empowerment in any field, but particularly in agriculture, where it has significant potential to improve food security on a global scale.


No fewer than 27 different studies have found that male farmers achieve higher yields than female farmers. The yield gap is as high as 25 percent. This is not because women are poor farmers. It is entirely explained by the severe constraints women face in accessing productive resources, such as land, seeds, fertilizer, pest control measures, extension advice and mechanical tools.

Empowering female farmers and enabling equal access to inputs could not only increase yields on their farms by 20-30 percent, but also put more resources in women’s hands, which would strengthen their voice within the household. Empowering women in agriculture is a “proven strategy for enhancing food security, nutrition, education and health of children,” according to the Food and Agriculture Organization. “And better-fed, healthier children learn better and become more productive citizens. The benefits would span generations and pay large dividends in the future.”


In March 2012, USAID, along with the International Food Policy Research Institute and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, developed the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) to track women’s involvement in agriculture. It monitors five domains of empowerment: decisions about agricultural production; access to and decision-making power about productive resources; control of income; leadership in the community; and women’s control of their time. A woman or man is considered empowered if (s)he has “adequate achievements” in four out of the five domains, or is empowered in some combination of weighted indicators that makes up 80 percent of the total adequacy score.

Practitioners can also look at the segment of women not empowered and identify in which of the five domains the problem lies. This helps practitioners to improve program design in a targeted way to better reach clients. Apart from the five domains, the WEAI also includes the Gender Parity Index, which compares the level of women’s empowerment to the level of men’s empowerment.

The most compelling feature of the WEAI is its international comparability. Women’s empowerment is by essence context-dependent; for example, how empowered a woman feels in society is largely driven by the socioeconomic, cultural and political features of that particular society. To address this, the WEAI was constructed after a review of hundreds of women’s empowerment indicators in more than 30 studies across several countries in subjects ranging from economics to psychology. The primary purpose of these indicators was international comparability and to construct an index that comes as close to universal applicability as possible.


The most accepted definition of empowerment – one that was developed by Naila Kabeer, professor of gender and development at London School of Economics and Political Science, is the expansion in people’s ability to make strategic life choices in a context where this ability was previously denied to them. Thus, empowerment arises from some state of disempowerment.

Currently, the majority of international development organizations use proxies to measure empowerment ­– such as a woman’s education level or employment status – rather than measuring empowerment itself. For example, claiming that a woman is empowered if she already has access to credit would not be correct for two reasons. First, the woman’s access to credit represents a static state, rather than a dynamic one, if the time period being studied is one in which she always had that access. Secondly, resources like access to credit can be thought of as “enabling factors,” or important inputs to foster a good environment for empowerment to take place, not as measures of empowerment itself.


BRAC, the world’s largest development organization, operates programs in agriculture aimed at empowering women and the poor by helping them to build secure livelihoods for themselves. Through our sustainable agriculture programs, millions of women have gained access to markets, resources and financial services. These women, by existing measures, have been empowered, but using a formal index like the WEAI would help BRAC and similar organizations improve their programming and impact.

BRAC fosters an enabling environment to achieve women’s empowerment. It does this by operating programs primarily in rural areas, to combat food insecurity, financial constraints, inadequate healthcare, education and vocational training of a large pool of youth, as well as by focusing programming on and targeting primarily women. Being a part of the rural community, BRAC tried to identify the real needs of the communities and what would allow them to flourish; it identified food insecurity and unemployment as the most pressing needs. BRAC is aiming for a multiplier effect by running a last-mile delivery system through female community agriculture promoters and agriculture input distribution.

BRAC helps secure female farmers’ livelihoods, thereby elevating women’s importance in the household through trainings, providing access to information on crop production, credit services through BRAC’s microfinance program, and encouraging use of high-quality inputs (disease-resistant seeds, fertilizers and pesticides) at an affordable cost.

BRAC, to date, has measured enabling factors to gauge women’s empowerment levels. Its results have been positive, showing that women who participate in its programs have greater control over their income from farming and increased access to financial services. However, BRAC and many other development and agriculture NGOs would benefit by adopting a more systematic way to measure women’s empowerment using tools like the WEAI. It would not only be a more accurate measure of empowerment, it would also help to improve program design and outcomes.

BRAC is giving serious thought to adopting the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index.


To some extent, women’s empowerment will always be an empirical question, but adoption of the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index is a step in the right direction, as it maps out the sphere in which corrective action needs to be taken.

Adopting this index is not as simple as this article may make it sound. It is quite a time burden on staff, and may distract from the overall initiative. However, once use of the index becomes routine, it could become the very basis for the agriculture program of various organizations.


A programme pioneered by development organisation BRAC, which aims to help households escape extreme poverty by supporting women to set up their own small businesses, not only works but its benefits increase in the long term, according to an evaluation(1) led by researchers at the International Growth Centre (IGC), based at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). The research findings in published today in London.

BRAC’s ‘Targeting the Ultra-Poor’ programme has benefitted 1.6 million households in Bangladesh by helping the very poorest women shift out of low paid and insecure work, such as casual agricultural work or domestic service, into running their own small businesses. It does this by providing them with large scale livestock assets alongside two years of complementary training.

Researchers found that, four years after taking part in the programme, the women increase their annual earnings by 37 per cent.

Seven years after the start of the programme, the increase in the women’s spending on non-durable goods, such as food, is 2.5 times larger than after four years. At the start of the programme, only 10 per cent of beneficiaries have access to renting or owning land – seven years later, this figure is nearly 40 per cent.

Four years after the programme is implemented, there is an eight percentage point decline in the number of households living on less than $1.25 per day(2). Households who benefit from the programme continue to climb out of poverty at a steady rate seven years later(3).

Oriana Bandiera, Professor of Economics at LSE and one of the authors of the study, said: “Our study is significant because it is one of the most extensive and long term evaluations of these types of anti-poverty livelihood programmes. This allows us to see that that the transformative effects of BRAC’s approach are sustainable and therefore life changing for the ultra-poor households who take part. When you trust the poor with assets and train them with the necessary skills, they do better and better, year after year.”

BRAC founder Sir Fazle Hasan Abed said, “It is our aim to meet the first sustainable development goal and end extreme poverty by 2030. Through this programme and the results of our ongoing research, we know this approach works to move the ultra-poor into sustainable livelihoods and help them increase their incomes. We are working this way in Pakistan and South Sudan as well as Bangladesh. Other organisations are also replicating this model, which is encouraging. I believe ultra-poor graduation approaches can make a major contribution to ending extreme poverty.”

The research also highlights a new finding about the nature of poverty – the poorest are neither unwilling nor unfit to engage in the same jobs as more prosperous women in their communities, but face barriers which prevent them from doing so. Before having access to BRAC’s programme, it was predominantly higher earning women who could access more stable and productive work such as rearing livestock. This work generates on average more than double the hourly earnings of the irregular and poorly paid jobs that the ‘ultra-poor’ are limited to such as casual agricultural work or domestic service.

On average, for every £1 invested in the programme there was a return of £5.40.The women who participate shift their working hours from casual wage labour towards rearing livestock and, in doing so, increase the number of hours they work and their earnings.

The researchers compared the employment opportunities and choices of the women who participated in the BRAC programme with women across different wealth classes. They tracked over 21,000 households over seven years, including 6,700 ultra-poor households and 15,100 from other wealth classes.

Aspects of BRAC’s ‘Targeting the Ultra-Poor’ programme have been replicated by other organisations across Africa, Asia and Latin America and have had very positive results in increasing consumption for the extreme poor(4).

BRAC has a strategic partnership with UK Aid and Australia in Bangladesh, providing large scale funding to BRAC’s ‘Ultra-Poor’ programme for many years. International Development Minister Desmond Swayne said: “The UK is proud of our partnership with BRAC and the Australian Government in Bangladesh. Over the last 5 years UK support has so far enabled BRAC to lift 580,000 people out of extreme poverty and delivered health, education, water and sanitation to the poorest and most marginalised. Earlier this year I saw first-hand the difference this work is making to people across Bangladesh. BRAC’s programme targeting the ‘ultra-poor’ is of great significance to development worldwide and the global goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030.”


Monday, 14 December 2015 18:00

Leaving it behind

 20151212 IRP001 0
12 December, 2015
An Economist article

In a small hut overlooking a muddy river, a dozen women are trying to explain how they fell into destitution. After a few stories of husbands falling ill or vanishing, of ill-paid work drying up, of children sickening, of resorting to begging, almost all are crying. This is quite usual, says Sagarika Indu. BRAC, the large aid organisation she works for, has chosen these women and about 1.6m others since 2002 precisely because they are among the most desperate, ground-down people in one of the world’s poorest places.

But then something unexpected happens: the women invite your correspondent to visit again in a couple of years. Is this mere politeness or confidence in the future? It could be either—because they are very likely to be much better off by then.

Roughly 700m people are thought to live in extreme poverty, defined as getting by on less than $1.90 a day. That is huge progress: more than 1.9 billion lived on less than the equivalent amount in 1990. Yet the gains are uneven. Poverty has plummeted in China but declined more slowly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. And the poor are diverse. Among them are a particularly desperate bunch: the “ultra-poor”, who routinely go hungry. In Bangladesh, most are landless, illiterate rural women with children.

In the 1990s it became clear that microfinance, then the most exciting tool in development economics, was not reaching the very poorest people, recalls Sir Fazle Abed, BRAC’s founder. Microlenders offer small loans at lower interest rates than moneylenders charge. Costs are kept down by assembling small groups of borrowers and encouraging them to exert pressure on each other to repay their loans. One reason the poorest were not borrowing, Sir Fazle says, was that other villagers viewed them as hopeless cases.

BRAC came up with a scheme to help the ultra-poor. It gives them a small stipend for food, followed by an asset such as a cow or a few goats, which they are expected to manage. Field workers visit weekly for the next two years, teaching recipients, for example, how to tell when a cow is in heat and how to get it inseminated. The aim is to help women “graduate” from extreme poverty to the normal kind—as Sir Fazle puts it, “to help them back into the mainstream of poor people”. Then, perhaps, they can start borrowing.

Later research showed that microfinance was not the cure-all that had been thought. But BRAC’s graduation programme proved highly effective. Large randomised controlled trials (explained in the next article) show that it makes people wealthier and raises their spending on food and durable goods. It works outside Bangladesh, too. A study published earlier this year in Science showed that similar programmes run by other NGOs boosted consumption in Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Pakistan and Peru, with the effects lasting at least a year after they ended. The only failure was in Honduras, where many of the chickens given as assets died.

Such programmes are pricey. In India and Bangladesh they cost more than $1,000 per household at purchasing power parity. In Peru, where field workers are better paid, the cost was $5,742. If they are to expand—and about 30 countries are mulling or testing them—two questions must be answered. Do the recipients stay out of deep poverty or slip back? And how exactly do they work?

The results of two big research projects, presented at a conference in London on December 9th, provided some powerful hints. Esther Duflo of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology showed that women who were offered cows, goats and intensive training in the Indian state of West Bengal not only did not fall back into indigent poverty but kept climbing out of it. Seven years after the programme began their average monthly consumption was almost one-third higher than it had been after two years. The gap between these women and the untreated control group grew much wider.

Other research explains why. Oriana Bandiera and Robin Burgess, both of the London School of Economics, and four others followed 21,000 people in 1,309 Bangladeshi villages. They tracked ultra-poor women, some of whom were randomly assigned to the graduation programme, and also kept an eye on everyone else. Of the 21,000, only 6,700 were deeply poor at the start. The rest were a mixture of fairly poor, middle class and upper class (by rural Bangladeshi standards, that is: they do not swan around in Hermès).

The poorest women, it turned out, did far more hours of income-generating work: 991 per year on average, compared with 553 for middle-class ones. Yet they packed them into fewer days: the average ultra-poor woman worked for only 252 days a year, compared with 302 for a middle-class woman and 325 for an upper-class one.

The reason is that they toil mostly as domestic servants and in the fields—and casual agricultural work is seasonal. During planting and harvest they work extremely hard; the rest of the year they do little. Better-off women usually rear livestock, which is not only steady work but pays about twice as much per hour. When the poorest women are given cows, they quickly fill their idle time (see chart). They also cut back a little on domestic and field labour.

This is a clue to why microfinance does not reach the poorest. Ms Bandiera and Mr Burgess estimate that the internal rate of return for ultra-poor women going through the graduation programme is between 16% and 23% per year, depending on the assumed opportunity cost of time. That is roughly the interest rate on a microloan. So it ought to be worthwhile for a poor woman to borrow money to buy a cow (and returns would be even higher if they did not require the training BRAC’s field workers provide). The problem is that no microlender would lend them that much.

Some questions remain. The big one is whether the schemes would work in cities. Slum-dwellers are seldom as indigent as agricultural labourers, but they can still get trapped in poverty, and cannot be rescued by gifts of cows. Urban populations are growing so much faster than rural ones that this question is becoming urgent. Another is whether the programme can be run more cheaply. BRAC will soon test sending field workers to visit each recipient once a fortnight instead of once a week.

Their words are heard
For all the advances in research, some things defy measurement. Near Bonabalia, another group of women, recent graduates of the ultra-poor programme, have gathered. What is striking is not so much their greater wealth (reflected in their finer saris and mobile phones) but the way they stand straighter, and their direct looks. Their relatives have started talking to them. Asked to explain how their lives have changed, one of the first things they say is that they now get invited to weddings.



Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and BRAC held a series of events to discuss Nutrition and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): New Approaches to Partnership. The activities concluded today 2nd December with interactive knowledge sharing and a field visit at Palash Upazila (Sub-District), Narshingdi (District) in which the GAIN Global Board Members took part. GAIN’s discussion on SDGs started with a dialogue with government officials on 29 November where the Honourable Minister of Commerce Mr Tofail Ahmed M.P. was present as the Chief Guest.

The Honourable Minister of Commerce Mr. Tofail Ahmed M.P. attended the event as Chief Guest and Professor Dr. Gowher Rizvi, International Affairs Advisor to the honourable Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh was the special guest. Panel discussion was facilitated by   Executive Director of GAIN, Marc Van Ameringen and discussants included, Mr. Md. Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan ndc, Secretary Ministry of Industries and Mr. Syed Monjurul Islam, Secretary Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Laurent Umans, First Secretary, Food Security from the Netherland Embassy and Heather McBride, Deputy Director, Planning and Lead Analyst from the Canadian High Commission.  The event was well attended by representatives from the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Food, ERD the Social Development Fund, USAID, UNICEF and the European Union.

On 30 November the discussion focused on nutrition and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which was jointly organised by BRAC and GAIN. Dr. Kaosar Afsana, Director of BRAC Health, Nutrition and Population Programme (HNPP), Executive Director of GAIN, Marc Van Ameringen and Dr. Tahmeed Ahmed, Director, Nutrition and Clinical Services Division, icddr,b facilitated the event. Dr. Muhammed Musa, Executive Director of BRAC and Vinita Bali, Chair of the GAIN Board gave opening remarks. The Honourable Finance Minister Mr Abul Maal Abdul Muhith M.P. attended the event as Chief Guest and Mr Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, Secretary of Ministry of Industry was the Special Guest. The founder and chairperson of BRAC, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed KCMG attended as a Special Guest and the event was attended by officials of different ministries of Government of Bangladesh,  Board of Directors of GAIN Development, Civil Society and private sector partners and research organisations. Panel discussants included Dr. Khairul Hassan, Deputy Chief (Health), Ministry of Health & Family Welfare,  Dr. Md. Quamrul Islam, Director, IPHN and Line Director, NNS, Mr. Shawn Baker Director of Nutrition, Bill and Malinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), Dr. Stanley Zlotkin Chief, Global Child Health, Hospital for Sick Children, Canada, Mr. Laurent Umans, First Secretary, Food Security, The Royal Netherlands Embassy, Ms. Christa Räder Country Representative WFP, Dr. Md. Ataur Rahman Health & Nutrition Adviser Canadian High Commission, Dr. Jiban Krishna Biswas, Director General, Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI), Ministry of Agriculture , Mr. Michael Anderson, Chief Executive Officer, Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, Mr. Omar Dary Senior Nutrition Adviser, USAID, Ms. Anuradha Narayan Chief, Nutrition Section, UNICEF and Ms. Abi Masefield NAS, Consultant, European Union.

Honourable Finance Minister Mr Muhith M.P. said, “Bangladesh has broken the shackles of extreme poverty through combined efforts of Government, NGOs, academia and private sector”. He also stressed on the importance of research based initiatives to tackle hindrances like poverty and malnutrition.

Sir Fazle emphasised in frugal innovations in bringing nutritious food at the door steps of people. He shared his experience on how BRAC addressed the condition of iodine deficiency in Bangladesh with a holistic approach including setting up salt mills to produce iodised salt.   Sir Abed said, “To scale up nutrition intervention, a multi sectorial approach is necessary”. He also added that “the incidence of malnutrition is widespread not because of lack of food but because of lack of knowledge. Therefore, primary and secondary education curriculum may consider including relevant content on nutrition”. He also urged Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to step forward and persuade ministry of education to make this happen.

Mr Mosharraf Bhuyian, Secretary, Ministry of Industries, said, “The government of Bangladesh is committed to support the cause of combating micronutrient deficiency in Bangladesh. The Ministry of Industries has taken the lead in the Universal Salt Iodisation programme, with the goal of alleviating iodine deficiency by 2030. Mr Bhuyian highlighted the recent success of mandatory fortification of edible oil with Vitamin A as is a good example of a cost effective, scalable intervention.

Mr Jay Naidoo, the Chair of the Partnership Council of GAIN concluded the event with a vote of thanks.

Saturday, 29 August 2015 18:00

Debating for the right cause

30 August, 2015
The finale of BRAC Uganda’s Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescents (ELA) programme debate competition was held in Metropole hotel in Kampala on 25 August 2015. ELA uses debate as a technique to engage girls in critical thinking and problem solving in their communities.  

At the beginning of the year, under the ELA programme, debate trainings were conducted where 8,310 girls competed within their clubs. From this, 1,385 girls went on to compete at the branch level, of which 282 proceeded to the area level. Eventually 21 girls made it to the regional level in which they were put in groups of three, each representing the seven regions in which ELA operates. 

The two winning teams - Gulu region and Kampala-I region competed at the national level ELA debate tournament held at Kampala.  With youth unemployment being a crucial factor affecting Uganda’s development, the topic of the debate was, ‘lack of skills is the main barrier to employment’.

Kyateka Mondo, the Assistant Commissioner for Youth in the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development (MGLSD) was present at the event on behalf of Minister Muruli Mukasa. He handed over the trophies, medals and prizes to the winners – Gulu region - and the runner-up team. High officials and staff members from BRAC Uganda, officials from the MGLSD, members of BRAC Uganda Advisory Board, representatives from UNICEF, UNFPA, Barclays Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, Makerere University and other organisations were present at the event.

26 August 2015, Dhaka. Interpersonal contact between healthcare workers and mothers have produced a large scale improvement in infant and young child feeding programme and in hand washing habits, said speakers at a seminar yesterday.

Referring to a baseline and an endline survey conducted in 2010 and 2014 respectively in 50 sub-districts where community-based Alive & Thrive programme was implemented by BRAC, they said exclusive breastfeeding went up to 88 per cent from 48, and the percentage of mothers washing hands before feeding young children improved from 23 per cent to 31.   
They were addressing a dissemination seminar on Alive & Thrive programme, lessons learned and evaluation results on infant and young children feeding practices in Bangladesh, held at BRAC Centre Inn in the capital.

The Bangladesh part of the project had been implemented by BRAC from 2009 to 2014 with a strong emphasis on community engagement by using its existing healthcare platforms and a cadre of frontline community health workers.

"People in Bangladesh are very receptive," said Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, speaker in parliament, at the programme.

The chair of the event, BRAC’s executive director Dr Muhammad Musa noted that nutrition interventions are difficult to implement and the high success rate of Bangladesh proves the strength of BRAC’s engagement with the community.

Ellen Piwoz, senior programme officer on nutrition at the Gates Foundation’s Global Development Program, said: “We are looking forward to working in Bangladesh with government, BRAC, and all the partners in future with our new strategy.” She also added that the project on improving infant and young child feeding practices funded in three countries was the “most successful” in Bangladesh.

Launched in 2009 in Bangladesh, Vietnam and Ethiopia with funding from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Canadian and Irish governments, Alive & Thrive used advocacy, interpersonal communication and community mobilisation, mass media and strategic data to improve breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices and to reduce stunting and anaemia in young children.

Besides, BRAC and other international development organisations joined the initiative under the management of FHI 360, a US-based organisation.

Dr Tina Sanghvi, country programme director and senior technical advisor, Alive & Thrive said Bangladesh's improvement in breastfeeding was better than Vietnam and Ethiopia where the exclusive breastfeeding increased from 19 percent to 58 and 72 percent to 83 respectively.

Complementary feeding with diet diversity increased in Bangladesh from 32 per cent to 64, she said.

27 August 2015, Dhaka. On 14 April 2015 during the pohela boishakh celebrations around 20 women and girls were sexually abused in Dhaka University's TSC and Suhrawardy Udyan gate areas. Similar kind of incidents took place in different parts of the country on the same day, stirring the entire nation. Practices like child marriage, dowry and violence against women and girls are issues that Bangladesh continues to struggle with.

A national survey carried out by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) in 2011, shows that as many as 87 per cent of married women reported having experienced both physical and psychological violence in the last 12 months.

BRAC expressed its stand against such incidents of violence and harassment and decided to organise a nationwide human chain, BRAC bondhon on every last Thursday of the month for 15 minutes starting from May 2015 until December 2015. People from other sectors and organisations, including onlookers, are also expressing solidarity by joining the BRAC bondhon.  So far BRAC has organised four human chains with participation from  70,000 BRAC staff and BRAC’s affiliated community members including government officials, community leaders, parents, students, teachers in all of 64 districts, and in an average of 2,326 spots around the country.

BRAC has been working to promote women’s empowerment and gender equality since its inception. The organisation takes an active stand against  harassment and sexual violence on women and children.

Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, BRAC’s founder and chairperson, was announced as the winner of the 41st annual World Food Prize on 1 July 2015. Sir Fazle has been recognised for his outstanding contribution to enhancing the world's production and distribution of food to those most in need.

Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn, President of the World Food Prize Foundation, announced this year’s winner at a ceremony at the State Department in Washington, DC. The Prize, which includes an award of USD 250,000, has been referred to as the Nobel prize for food and agriculture.

“Being selected to receive the 2015 World Food Prize is a great honour,” said Sir Fazle in a statement. “I thank the Foundation for its recognition of the work of BRAC, which I have had the privilege to lead over the last 43 years.”

“The real heroes in our story are the poor themselves and, in particular, women struggling with poverty. In situations of extreme poverty, it is usually the women in the family who have to make do with scarce resources. When we saw this at BRAC, we realised that women needed to be the agents of change in our development effort.”

Announcing Sir Fazle’s name as the Laureate, Ambassador Kenneth Quinn said, “At a time when the world confronts the great challenge of feeding over nine billion people, Sir Fazle Abed and BRAC, the organisation he founded and leads, have created the preeminent model being followed around the globe on how to educate girls, empower women and lift whole generations out of poverty.  For this monumental achievement, Sir Fazle truly deserves recognition as the 2015 World Food Prize Laureate.”

At the ceremony, the U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, “I offer my sincerest congratulations to Sir Fazle and appreciation for the progress he has made in improving people’s lives, alleviating hunger, and providing pathways out of poverty. Sir Fazle’s and his organisation’s recognition that engaging women in STEAM fields—science, technology, engineering, agriculture, and math—benefits our local and global communities is a vision that we share at United States Department of Agriculture. It is my honor to participate in this event today with people who see the need for innovative approaches to feeding our rapidly growing population”.

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

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

Download the 2015 Laureate Announcement

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