19 March 2011, Dhaka. As you all know by now, Japan was hit by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded, on Friday, 11th March, 2011. It also triggered a massive 23 foot (7 meter) ferocious tsunami killing thousands of people, as it swept away boats, houses, and cars, while widespread fires burnt out of control. The earthquake was followed by more than 50 aftershocks so far, many of them more than magnitude 6.0, and reaching up to Hawaii and other US west-coast areas.
Photo Copyright © Kyodo/Reuters
We join the Japanese in prayer and in sympathy at the losses suffered by its people.
8 March 2011. On the occasion of the centenary of International Women’s Day on March 8th, BRAC – the largest non-profit in the developing world – joins the global celebration with the launch of Courage in the Heart, an online platform highlighting the stories of amazing women who experienced transformational change. BRAC will also participate in Join me at the Bridge, a collaboration of Women for Women International and Google to celebrate women’s achievements.
In honor of International Women’s Day, Google selected BRAC to be highlighted for its impactful work on behalf of women from a list of thousands of organizations. “I think Google picked BRAC because of our track record in touching the lives of some 138 million women and their families. By helping girls to get educated, we help them realize their dreams. When girls fly, the whole world soars.,” says Susan Davis, President & CEO of BRAC USA.
Courage in the Heart (http://www.brac.net/courageintheheart) – also slated to launch on March 8th – is an online storytelling platform that features the stories of women in rural Bangladesh who are changing the fabric of society by shifting the consensus about the role of women. Courage in the Heart creators Annie Escobar and Patricia Schneidewind traveled to Bangladesh in 2010 to profile the lives of women who have transformed their lives through BRAC’s pioneering programs.
On the launch, Escobar says:
“Courage in the Heart is meant to build solidarity in the fight for women’s empowerment. We hope to create ‘BRAC ambassadors’ by connecting people in the United States to BRAC’s work and further its effort to empower people in situations of poverty, illiteracy, disease and social injustice.”
This platform shares the accounts of women like Rupa, a young woman in Bangladesh, who after being widowed at fifteen changed her life by becoming a community advocate through BRAC’s Human Rights and Legal Services program. Rupa says of her transformation: "before, I was not aware of the legal system, but now I teach a lot of people about the law."
One additional story will be released each week for six weeks following the launch of Courage in the Heart.
To raise awareness of International Women’s Day, Google has launched a marketing campaign intended to drive awareness of women’s achievements by highlighting incredible women organizations that work in the field of economic security, education, empowerment, equality and leadership, health, and safety and the security of women. BRAC was selected to be highlighted from hundreds of organizations for its impactful work educating women.
BRAC is a global development organization dedicated to alleviating poverty by empowering the poor to bring about change in their own lives. BRAC’s holistic approach aims to achieve large scale, positive changes through economic and social programs that enable women and men to realize their potential. BRAC was launched in Bangladesh in 1972 and today reaches more than 138 million people in Africa and Asia through its programs that address poverty by providing micro-loans, self-employment opportunities, health services, education and legal and human rights services.
01 March 2011, Dhaka. Dr. Kaosar Afsana, Associate Director of BRAC Health Programme, has received the " Woman of Distinction Award 2011" from the NGO Committee of the Status of Women, New York in recognition of her leadership in developing countries for empowering women through education, training, science and technology. This event took place in New York on February 22, 2011. Dr. Afsana was invited as a guest speaker to deliver a speech on using mobile technology for empowering women on February 21, 2011 on Consultation Day at the NGO CSW, New York.
Dr. Afsana speaking on Consultation Day at the NGO CSW, New York
Dr. Afsana has been working at BRAC for over 18 years. She is an MD with MPH from Harvard and PhD from Edith Cowan University, Australia.
Currently, she is heading two significant projects of BRAC on maternal, newborn and child health in urban slums and rural districts of Bangladesh and involved in many different activities with BRAC including strategic directions, policy-making and programmatic decisions.
07 March 2011, Dhaka. In celebration of the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, Women Deliver, a global advocacy organisation, announced the “Women Deliver 100” - their list of the hundred most inspiring people who have delivered for girls and women. This list recognises women and men, both prominent and lesser known, who have committed themselves to improving the lives of girls and women around the world.
BRAC founder and chairperson Fazle Hasan Abed is one of the honourees in the list for lifting millions out of poverty throughout Asia and Africa- –particularly women. Abed recognised early on that empowering girls and women is central to alleviating poverty, and women have always provided the backbone of BRAC’s organisation – 98 percent of the borrowers in our microfinance programmes and more than 95 percent of our volunteers are women.
The honourees derive from the fields of health, human rights, politics, economics, education, journalism, and philanthropy, and represent a great diversity of geographic and cultural backgrounds. The 100 honourees were selected from among hundreds of potentials and feature some of the most intrepid, committed, and results-driven people in the world.
For more details visit http://www.womendeliver.org/
Photo Credit: www.womendeliver.org
07 March 2011, Dhaka. On behalf of BRAC, I am expressing my concern at the recent development concerning Grameen Bank. Grameen Bank is an extremely important institution serving almost 8.3 million of Bangladesh’s most underserved population. The welfare of these borrowers and the continuous progress of the institution must be given the highest priority for any decision affecting the organization.
The role of microfinance in ensuring financial inclusion and improving people's lives are well documented. MFI organizations like Grameen Bank, BRAC and various local MFIs that are supported by PKSF have played a very important role in Bangladesh in ensuring this access to finance and enterprise development. BRAC has also played its role by providing additional service support in various other areas such as health, education and agricultural support services through a multi-pronged approach towards tackling poverty.
We must understand that microfinance institutions like Grameen Bank are different from traditional organizations. A big capital of such organizations is the intrinsic community level trust that they have earned. This trust element must not be underestimated. If this trust is lost, then there may be delinquencies, intentional refusal to repay loans or large scale withdrawal of savings by the members -- in effect potentially bringing the organization’s future in jeopardy.
A sudden exit of the founder and the managing director of Grameen Bank and a legal battle between the board and the government may potentially cause a loss of confidence among its borrowers putting the organization’s future in doubt. For the sake of the millions of its members, we must take utmost care in not letting this happen. A carefully planned succession for Dr. Yunus can help a smooth transition and give the organization the stability that it needs to ensure the welfare of its members.
We hope that for any steps concerning Dr. Yunus or Grameen Bank due process will be followed -- keeping in mind the integrity of the institution concerned and also how lack of due process may affect the reputation of our country globally.
We must remember that development organizations play a complimentary and supportive role to the Government in national development. Recent dramatic decline on maternal mortality rate is a great example where such complimentary work can prove tremendously beneficial for the entire country and in effect globally improving the image of the country. Government and the NGOs must continue to work together to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) for which our Prime Minister recently got acclaimed internationally.
Sir Fazle Hasan Abed,
01 March 2011, Dhaka. ‘Going to the Radisson or Westin for dinner was quite common for me. But now, after visiting the ultra poor areas and seeing those hunger stricken faces, I began to feel a sense of guilt. I am now aware that the cost of one meal at these hotels can buy food for the ultra poor for one whole month. I now feel strongly that I should do something for them’, says Asir Faisal Dipro, student of Udayan High School who went to visit BRAC’s field activities for the ultra poor. Such realisations were reoccurring during the experience sharing in the discussion session on ‘Ultra Poverty Reduction: Views of Future Leaders’.
To create a platform for these young minds to voice their concerns for the ultra poor, a discussion session titled ‘Ultra Poverty Reduction: Views of Future Leaders’ was organised by our Advocacy Unit at the Auditorium of BRAC Centre on February 28, 2011. The event helped bring forth the views of the future leaders in front of a versatile audience.
Mahabub Hosssain, Executive Director, BRAC chaired the session and Sheepa Hafiza, Director, Gender Justice & Diversity and Advocacy moderated the event. The session was divided into two parts. The students along with the Youth Forum who went to the field visit took the floor in the first part to share their experience and views. Students from Dhaka College, Dhaka Commerce Collage, Udayan High School, The New School Dhaka and Dhaka Cantonment Girls Public School & College participated in the session. Galib Ibn Anwarul Azim represented the Youth Forum, a student of Economics Department, University of Dhaka. The theme of the second part was an open floor discussion with active participation of teachers from the respective schools and colleges, BRAC professionals, representatives from development partners, and civil society.
The event was a part of the national level campaign on Advocacy for Ultra Poverty Reduction. Our Advocacy Unit organised several debate competitions at different urban schools and colleges throughout 2010, in order to mobilise urban students who are rarely exposed to the extreme poverty of Bangladesh. They were followed by field visits to BRAC’s Ultra Poor programme areas of Rajshahi and Pabna District.
02 March 2011, Dhaka. BRAC Community Empowerment and Strengthening Local Institutions Programme (CESLI) has been awarded a contract from United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to implement a project titled “Joint Programme on Gender Based Violence”. The project aims to improve the overall gender based violence situation, particularly violence against women, through a comprehensive set of activities involving awareness raising and capacity building, developing networks and partnerships, policy advocacy, survivor support and establishing a database on violence against women. This is a 2 year project to be implemented in 6 districts of Bangladesh (Feni, Habiganj, Narshingdi, Sirajganj, Satkhira, Barguna) covering 41 upazilas and 388 union parishads.
Key activities of the project include -
The “Joint Programme on Gender Based Violence" will be implemented within the ambit of two existing UNDP projects, BRAC and Bangladesh government’s Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives (MLGRD&C). Besides these strategic partners, the intervention will embrace other human rights support organisations operational in the project area.
24 February 2011, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The following article by Roshaneh Zafar, the founder of the Kashf Foundation, and Susan Davis, the president and CEO of BRAC USA, was published on the Forbes Corporate Social Responsibility Blog by Frederick E. Allen.
Imagine if Hurricane Katrina struck all the states from Florida to Massachusetts and massive floods washed away homes and businesses, destroyed roads and bridges, and devastated the lives of tens of millions of Americans. How quickly would we respond to the urgent need to provide short term relief and long term rehabilitation to the victims? We know the answer. There would be wall-to-wall daily media coverage with stories of devastation and emergency response, and a clarion call to Americans with direction on the most effective way to help those in need.
Last summer, the equivalent disaster happened in Pakistan. The magnitude of the flooding was so large that it left 20 million people displaced and 6 million shelterless. About 1.2 million hectares of standing crop worth $3.3 billion were destroyed. With the flood waters now mostly gone, the victims have returned to debilitated and uninhabitable homes with their belongings swept away.
In the face of such a dire assessment, the clarion call is being answered by the women and men of many organizations—government entities, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), Pakistani celebrities, private companies, Pakistani media, and last but not least, private individuals. A number of Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) members (including Kashf and BRAC) are in this mix, and a CGI Pakistan Action Network was formed last September to coordinate the work of many members working in this critical area.
But it is the resilience of the individuals in Pakistan’s flood-affected communities that gives us cause for optimism. Small entrepreneurs are working to restore their enterprises with funding support from microfinance institutions. Communities are working to rebuild their schools and homes. With seed aid and other forms of assistance, farmers have planted seeds for the Rabi season.
The story of Rehman, who lived in a two-room home in Mannah village in the Kot Addu Tehsil in South Punjab, is illustrative of the stories of thousands of others affected by the flooding. Crippled by birth, Rehman has relied on his family’s help to get by. When the villagers received a warning that they must evacuate their homes, Rehman’s brother carried him on his shoulders to a camp set up by the army in the highlands. Thanks to his brother, Rehman survived the flood’s initial onslaught. He has returned to the location where his home used to be, only to learn that he has become homeless and all the assets of his family have been washed away. Rehman’s fate hangs in the balance. Presently, Rehman not only needs a consistent supply of food but with the winters setting in he also needs a permanent roof over his head.
In the Nowshera district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, another area that was hard hit by the floods, Ulfat is patiently rebuilding her life. Several years ago, after being abandoned by her husband, she returned to her childhood home and began earning a livelihood by starting her own tailoring shop with a microloan. She dreamt of taking over her father’s buffalo-rearing and milk business. The floods, however, damaged their home and washed away their livelihood—two buffaloes, one calf, her sewing machine, and furniture. But Ulfat is not standing still. With a new microloan and her existing savings, she began her livelihood recovery by investing in one buffalo. It is producing 10 liters of milk a day for sale in the market, and it also gave birth to a calf. NGO workers came and fixed the water and sanitation facilities. Her life, however, is still far from what it used to be before the floods. Her family is still living in a tent, and she is still waiting for the opportunity to bring life back to her sewing business.
As seen in Rehman and Ulfat, the will to rebuild livelihoods homes is widespread. However the resources needed by Rehman, Ulfat, and the millions like them are still very scarce. Approximately 2,000 people have died from the floods, but in the flood-affected communities the death toll could rise if the related destabilizing threats are not tackled—water-borne diseases, food insecurity, destroyed economic opportunities, children who lost their schools, and homelessness at the onset of winter. The U.N. Secretary General has called this situation a “slow-moving Titanic.”
The response to Pakistan’s flooding has been slower than to other natural disasters. Within 10 days of the 2005 Pakistan earthquake, international aid commitment per person was $70; after the 2010 floods this value was much lower, at $4 per person. Of the $2 billion that the United Nations called for, only half has been funded.
In this time of tremendous need, people like Rehman and Ulfat need greater compassion from the international community. The private and non-governmental sectors in Pakistan have embarked on reconstruction and rehabilitation work. They need to be empowered to deliver much more than they are capable of doing now. People like Rehman and Ulfat are real people, not statistics. They are just like most of us—working hard, wanting a better life.
Reconstructing homes and schools. Restoring clean water supplies. Restarting economic activity with financial services, agricultural support, and more. This is what Kashf, BRAC, and other Pakistani organizations and individuals are doing. But the sheer enormity of the devastation suffered by 20 million people requires more people and resources to help the flood victims of Pakistan to rebuild their lives.
14 February 2011, Dhaka. ‘A panel discussion was held at the Distirct Commissioners Office in Chadnighat union, Moulvibazar on the occasion of launching of a community radio station, ‘Radio Pollikontho’ by BRAC.
Present as chief guest was Mr. Mostafizur Rahman, District Commissioner, Moulvibazar and the discussion was chaired by Anna Minj, Director, Community Empowerment and Strengthening Local Institutions, BRAC.
Government officials, Private sector officials and the elites of the society took part in the panel discussion. Mr. A.H.M Bazlur Rahman, Chief Executive Officer, Bangladesh NGO’s network for Radio and Communications took part in the discussion. Among others, Syed Moshahid Ahmed, Deputy Director, Basic Bank Ltd., Moulvibazar Choumohona Branch, Bokshi Iqbal Ahmed, Editor, Daily Banglar Din, Polli Shomaj Chiefs Uma Das and Monju Rani were present.
‘Radio Pollikontho’ will work as a reliable and accessible medium to enhance the economic situation and ensure the rights of the local people of Moulvibazar. It will highlight the voice of women right from the grassroots level to other parts of society. It will highlight the local culture and heritage and increase participation of local population in rural development.
Radio Pollikontho will pass on the message of development and realizing potential through education, entertainment and information. People will benefit from an awareness of human rights and different ways to improve livelihoods, as well as the local culture and heritage which will be upheld by Radio Pollikontho.
The shows aired on ‘Radio Pollikontho’ will be based mostly on the local dialect and will be based on improving situation of the poor people, especially women and children.
‘Radio Pollikontho’ will be aired through Moulvibazar Radio station and will reach across a radius of 17 kilometres. It will be aired across 21 unions and will reach 400,000 rural people.
Even though the idea of a community radio station is widely known and used across the part, it is a very new idea in Bangladesh. The people present hope and believes BRAC’s Community Empowerment and Strengthening Local Institutions programme will make the community radio a success and achieve the goal of awareness among the people of Bangladesh and play an important role in building a Digital Bangladesh.
01 February 2011, Dhaka. This month, Forbes profiled BRAC partner, VisionSpring, in an article titled, "New vision for non-profits." In it, VisionSpring Founder & CEO Jordan Kassalow discusses how the organization’s model has evolved and how he intends to make the organization increasingly self-sustaining. VisionSpring is a social enterprise dedicated to reducing poverty and generating opportunity in the developing world through the sale of affordable eyeglasses.
To become a self-sustaining organization that is independent of philanthropic dollars, VisionSpring partnered with BRAC in 2005 to begin scaling the sale of their eyeglasses through BRAC’s network of entrepreneurs in Bangladesh. In 2009, VisionSpring and BRAC signed a Memorandum of Understanding to formally launch the scaling throughout BRAC’s network of Shastha Shebikas, or Community Health Workers.
Helen Coster of Forbes writes, “Kassalow figured BRAC's 80,000-strong sales force could help him scale up faster while saving money on training and administrative costs.” Since the beginning of this partnership, BRAC’s entrepreneurs have sold nearly 100,000 eyeglasses and have reduced the cost of the program to VisionSpring.
While this partnership cannot make VisionSpring’s model entirely self-sustaining on its own, the BRAC entrepreneurs have dramatically propelled the VisionSpring mission: getting affordable eyeglasses to those who need them to live fulfilling, productive lives.
To learn more about BRAC’s partnership with VisionSpring, click here to read the full article.