BRAC: Creating opportunity for the world's poor

8:09 PM by Dr. Raych Hatashe, Defense—Churches & Space, GKKH

Image: Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, KCMG Founder and Chairperson of BRAC

BRAC believes that poverty is a system and its underlying causes are manifold and interlinked. Some of these linkages are obvious, for example, a day’s wage forgone because of illness or resources lost to a natural disaster. Others play a more indirect role in perpetuating poverty, such as lack of awareness about laws and rights can lead not only to outright exploitation, but also encourage a lack of accountability on the part of the state to cater to its most vulnerable citizens.

In order for the poor to come out of poverty, they must have the tools to fight it across all fronts. We have, therefore, developed support services in the areas of human rights and social empowerment, education and health, economic empowerment and enterprise development, livelihood training, environmental sustainability and disaster preparedness.

We operate social enterprises that are strategically connected to our development programmes, and form crucial value chain linkages which increase the productivity of our members’ assets and labour, and reduce risks of their enterprises. These enterprises, ranging from agriculture to handicrafts, also help to make us increasingly self-reliant.

Gender equality, respect for the environment and inclusivity are themes crosscutting all of our activities.
To ensure that we are always learning and that our work is always relevant, we have put in place training, research and monitoring systems across all our activities and financial checks and balances in the form of audits. As a knowledge centre, we have opened our doors to the wider public in an effort to develop national capacity in Bangladesh through BRAC University.

But what we really do is best portrayed in the true life stories of those who make the real changes.

Operating in six countries, BRAC’s agriculture programmes work with governments to ensure food security. We build systems of production distribution and marketing of quality seeds at fair prices, conduct research to develop better varieties and practices for the agricultural sector, offer credit support to poor farmers, and promote the use of efficient farming techniques and proven technologies. Using environmentally sustainable practices, we are helping these countries become self sufficient in food production. Agricultural programmes are currently operating in Bangladesh, Uganda, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Liberia and South Sudan.

BRAC’s community empowerment programme believes in the need to build and strengthen community institutions and ensure stronger accountability of the local government towards the poor, especially women, in terms of their socio-political empowerment. This involves their capacity building, motivating them to raise their voice and take collective action. It strengthens the local government for poverty reduction initiatives, creates awareness and access to information, and prevents violence, particularly against women.

Disability inclusion at BRAC
Disability-inclusive development envisions a society that values and enfranchises all persons with disabilities. Disability-inclusive practices aim to contribute to equal opportunities and equitable outcomes for all. Moving towards disability inclusion provides insights into how disability perspectives may be incorporated into policies, laws, services and programmes and the essential elements for sustainable and inclusive growth and development of societies.

The ILO has described persons with disabilities as the world’s largest minority group, with 80 per cent living in developing countries. The WHO and the World Bank estimate that over 1 billion people (about 15 per cent of the world’s population) have disabilities, and 785 million are of working age (15-59 years old).

BRAC recognises the existing and potential contributions made by persons with disabilities to the overall well-being and diversity of their communities. 

For over 40 years, BRAC has been empowering communities to harness their own human and material resources to rise out of poverty. 

Our holistic approach geared towards inclusion gives poor and marginalised groups the chance to seize their own lives and make a lasting change. Inclusiveness is one of BRAC’s four core values, the others beings, 

BRAC Disaster, Environment and Climate Change (DECC) programme works alongside the government, other non-governmental organisations and the community to build resilience, foster adaptation and respond holistically to the effects of climate change and natural disasters.
The programme’s fundamental goals are to enhance BRAC's institutional capacity to respond to natural disasters, build competence at the community level on disaster preparedness and increase coping ability during natural disasters by conducting predictive research, information transfer and education in relation to environment, climate change and natural disasters.

With education programmes in six countries and more than 900,000 students worldwide enrolled in its primary schools, BRAC has built the largest secular, private education system in the world. These schools are designed to give a second chance at learning to the disadvantaged students left out from the formal education systems. Complementing mainstream school systems with innovative teaching methods and materials, the education programmes open primary schools in communities not reached by formal education systems, bringing learning to millions of children, particularly those affected by extreme poverty, violence, displacement or discrimination. At the pre-primary level, we also target underprivileged children to prepare them for mainstream primary school entry. At the secondary level, we provide need-based training, student mentoring initiatives, and e-learning materials to improve the mainstream secondary education system. We are giving increasing attention to adolescents and youth as a special group and offering life skills, livelihood and skills development training, as well as saving and financial services such as savings accounts. Our multipurpose community learning centres promote reading even to those who cannot move from their houses through mobile libraries. Throughout our history of 30 years we have provided basic education to around 10 million students in Bangladesh, with more than five million graduates from our non-formal primary schools

Gender Justice & Diversity
“BRAC believes in gender justice and diversity, and we have worked for decades to integrate gender justice into the programmes and eliminate gender injustice in society,” such is the opinion of the Founder and Chairperson of BRAC, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed. For BRAC, gender justice and diversity means working simultaneously within the organisation and with the society. 

The gender justice and diversity (GJD) division works to realise BRAC’s vision which is to free the world from all forms of exploitation and discrimination where everyone has the opportunity to realise their potential. The division facilitates services to achieve gender equality within BRAC, focusing on gender equality at the local, national and international levels, where women and men have access to equal rights and opportunities, as well as can act to realise own choices and potentials in economic, social and cultural spheres. 

After starting its official journey in 2005, the programme has a proven track record in facilitating community movement on violence against women (VAW) and children. It helps to build a gender-friendly working environment and community platform. Each individual within BRAC and in the community works as agents of change to establish a just society for women, men and children. Besides, the programme has been trying to incorporate the issue of diversity in all programme interventions. It acts as a catalyst to promote sensitivity on issues such as sexual and reproductive rights, people with different sexual orientation, and people with different abilities and cultural background. In addition to this, GJD is actively involved in the national level policy advocacy through different human rights organisations, networks and alliances of government, non-government, and civil society organisations.  GJD further seeks to work with various government departments to implant gender sensitivity and equality in future national policies. 

GJD’s journey towards gender equality is rooted in BRAC’s Sulla Project in 1973. Recognising the distinct needs of poor women for empowerment and mutual support, BRAC formed the first women’s village organisation. Since the late 1980s, BRAC has directed its policies and programmes toward achieving gender equality through sustained interventions targeting women's—especially rural women’s - basic needs and strategic interests through health care, legal education, access to credit, gender awareness and training, and more. While addressing various issues of gender equality and women’s empowerment, GJD focus on both BRAC and the targeted populations. Sir Fazle Hasan Abed once said, “Gender equality is a sensitive issue which requires commitment from every level of the organisation and the integration of gender perspective into all activities”.  Thanks to this commitment, BRAC was one of the firsts in the development world to introduce a gender policy and form a gender equality diversity team (GEDT) in the mid-1990s.

Promote gender equality, empowerment and inclusiveness within BRAC as well as within the wider community. 

1. To promote a culture and environment, inclusiveness within all programmes, that respects gender equality
2. To build capacity of staff to achieve BRAC’s goal of gender equality 
3. To create a platform for community mobilisation against gender-based discrimination and domestic violence, sexual harassment at the workplace and public-place 
4. To promote sexual and reproductive health rights within the society 
5. To increase policy advocacy networking for women’s rights, both nationally and international. 
Social Communication & Advocacy: Road Safety
Road traffic Injury is a major threat to development and public health. Hence it is a social and economic burden worldwide and Bangladesh is no exception. To address these road safety problems, BRAC has conceptualised an innovative “Community Road Safety Programme”. The programme mobilizes community living along highways, make them aware of road safety and facilitate them to plan, undertake and sustain their local road safety initiatives. Through its programme, BRAC involves the community through motivation, education and self-help resulting in a developed sense of ownership of its own road safety. BRAC also extend road safety training for drivers aimed especially at heavy vehicle drivers.

BRAC Driving School: An initiative for road safety
23 May 2012, Dhaka. “I believe that female can do better than man in driving profession. Girls are more cautious while driving. They do not smoke, talk over cell phone or overtake while driving. We should encourage girls to join in driving profession. It can be a respectable job for them. -  Mr. Obaidul Kader MP, Minister, Ministry of Communication & Railways, said this in the launching event of BRAC Driving School at Uttara. He thanked BRAC for including 2 women in the training of trainer’s course that he visited. 

The Minister also requested BRTA to sign an MOU to work jointly with BRAC and other stakeholders on driving training supports. Today BRAC has launched its driving school at Uttara, opposite Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport and Hajj Camp. Read More

Bangladesh can cost-effectively prevent approximately 50,000 deaths in the next 20 years
 Dhaka, 03 July 2010. In the next 20 years, Bangladesh can prevent up to 30,000 deaths and serious injuries in the Dhaka-Sylhet highway and 18,000 in the Dhaka-Mymensingh highway cost-effectively. This was discussed Yesterday (02.08.10) in a workshop on road safety arranged by BRAC and The International Road Assessment Programme (iRAP). The workshop was based on the overview report of the Preliminary iRAP Assessment Results.

During the workshop Mr. Greg Smith, the Regional Director, Asia Pacific, iRAP delivered an in depth informative multimedia presentation on the overview report. iRAP is a pilot project, that is assessing the conditions to tackle the road safety challenge of the N2(Dhaka-Sylhet) and N3(Dhaka-Mymensingh) highways.

What we do: Socially Responsible Investments
The stakeholders of BRAC consist mainly of millions of deprived and disenfranchised poor of Bangladesh. BRAC investments act as ‘hedges’ to BRAC to protect these stakeholders from any future ‘liquidity crunch’ in the financial industry. These BRAC investments focus on companies that are aligned with BRAC’s mission of alleviating poverty. BRAC investments are independently run organisations that are fully or partly owned by BRAC.

Courtesy: @BRACWorld


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