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January 23, 2018

Over 9,000 “dignity kits” distributed. What even are they and why are they important?

In a reasonably secure environment, all these items represent an average woman’s everyday life. A woman’s—a human’s—right to a life with basic dignity innately implies having at their arm’s length everything she could possibly need.

 

Imagine having to flee your home because of a violent conflict or natural disaster. What you would carry at that moment would be vastly different, and perhaps impossible to fit into one single handbag.

 

In the midst of a life-threatening crisis, items like a soap, comb, or underwear may appear as luxuries. When around 40,000 women are stripped off access to their

January 17, 2018

In Bangladesh, aid groups confront an invisible danger

Originally appeared on Devex.

Small trafficking networks were already targeting the Rohingya minority and members of the local community in southern Bangladesh ahead of the late August influx of refugees. Now, as aid workers continue to respond to the overwhelming needs of the stateless population, worry grows that once-disorganised trafficking gangs are quickly formalising.

“In terms of crime, it’s not as organised yet as you’d see in other cities of that size,” Benjamin Steinlechner, UNICEF spokesperson based in Cox’s Bazar, said of the camps that now sprawl across more than 3,000 acres of land. “But we all have to …

January 16, 2018

The cold wave that grips Bangladesh, and our lessons

Temperatures have dropped down to a record low of 2.6 degree celsius in some parts, claiming more than 25 lives so far. The biting cold can be felt even in Dhaka city, which has become cooler than previous years.

It may not be a problem in the privileged pockets of the city, and is rather an enjoyable time for many city dwellers. I am one of them, having running hot water, and the ability to buy enough warm clothes to cope with the cold. It is children, pregnant and lactating mothers, and the older population with little or no resources

January 10, 2018

NGOs in national development: Will it be relevant in the coming days?

When the World Bank declared Bangladesh as a lower-middle income economy in 2015, some of us can remember its first president in Bangladesh Just Faaland and his joint work with economist Richard Parkinson. The duo saw what a difficult path awaited the new nation in The Test Case for Development (1976):

‘It must be the fond hope of most educated people that man can control events and his own future. There is little to give credence to that view in the situation of Bangladesh … Nature, not man, is in charge of the situation in Bangladesh … All of this …

January 4, 2018
BLOG History

An accountant with a mighty vision

We acquired our own nation in 1971. Before that we were not familiar with the largest institution of a nation ie, the state. This left our institutions lacking in both life and lustre. Being able to establish a fabric store on Dharmatala Street in Kolkata, even during the end of the British colonial rule, was hailed as the consummate example of the Bengali entrepreneurship genius.

Independence in 1971 brought Bengalis the power to determine their own destiny and the opportunity to build new institutions. A new age of Bengali institutions began. Built around the most country’s urgent needs, they were

January 3, 2018

What does self-defense mean for adolescent Rohingya girls?

It was a warm, windy December day in the Kutupalong makeshift settlement in Cox’s Bazar.

Around 20 girls, from 10 to 16 years old, gathered together in a circle on the mats inside one of BRAC’s child-friendly spaces. Voices mingled as they chatted inside the spacious room, waiting for a new day’s session with BRAC’s social workers and counsellors.

Children and adolescents pour into these safe spaces every day, in designated shifts.

Children create art, sing songs, make music, recite and play Burmese folk poetry and games. Adolescents are provided training and counselling on cross-cutting issues, such as sexual reproductive

January 2, 2018

Financial inclusion for the ‘missing middle’

Abdur Kadir Dhaly teaches mathematics at Maleka Banu Adarsha Uccha Biddalay in Uttara. He shares a flat with his colleague in Dhaka, while his wife and two children live in their hometown outside the capital. For many years, he has been saving to buy a plot of land near the city. However, a month before his final payment, he noticed that he was short of BDT 100,000.

Abdur quickly scanned alternative financing options. He began applying for loans, confident that his permanent job, a monthly salary of BDT 28,000, and a history of never having missed a payment would suffice. …

December 27, 2017

Combating climate change: Momentum builds with new financial commitments

The risks that climate change poses are now perceived as a discipline that must be shared by all economic players, including financial actors. How can financial regulators and supervisors contribute to the transition of the economy towards a low carbon model? What is the role of climate-related risks and opportunities in the strategy of major players in finance?

The landmark Paris agreement at COP21 in 2015 started a new course in the global climate effort. Governments, cities, regions, companies and delegates from over 190 countries have all agreed to a detailed engagement plan at the close of the annual UN

December 18, 2017

The uncertain future of the Rohingya children

This was not only in the Kutupalong camp, but in Balukhali, Thangkhali, Hakimpara – in all of the camps and settlements. Instead of playing, or going to school, children were in line everywhere for food, house items or materials for them and their families’ temporary shelter.

Manjur Morshed, a social services officer in the district of Cox’s Bazar, revealed a depressing number; their team has identified 36,000 orphaned Rohingya children.

I thought about the incidents that happened in 2014 and 2015. Thousands of people trafficked to Malaysia and Thailand through the Bay of Bengal. Countless children who fell victim to …

December 18, 2017

A crisis within a crisis: Tackling a diphtheria outbreak in the Rohingya makeshift settlements

Life moves at an exponentially faster pace these days in Cox’s Bazar. Humanitarian workers’ tall strides of urgent service delivery are like waves hitting the shore of the Bay of Bengal. The sound of the bay is lost here though, with everyone running north to south all day. The 656,000 Rohingyas here, most of whom sleep every night without electricity, who dream in the colours of recent trauma and wake up to uncertainty, cannot afford to be hurt further. That’s what humanitarians are trying to mitigate every second of every hour.

But some things did unfold in the past week

December 17, 2017

Social enterprises: More than women-friendly spaces

Social enterprise – most of us in Bangladesh tend to be skeptical and see it as another system of siphoning money in the name of doing social good. These are essentially business ventures with a twist – reinvesting revenue to scale social and environmental impact instead of maximising profits. While there are cases of evident malpractice, social enterprises play a critical role when it comes to empowering communities and improving marketplace dynamics.

Most people find it difficult to differentiate between a social enterprise and a mainstream business – especially in terms of objectives and operational models. Social enterprises exist to …

December 14, 2017

IamBRAC: Adventuring from Kaliganj to Kabul, Magura to Liberia

Rural Bangladesh, three decades ago. Brilliant green rice paddies stretching for miles, long winding roads lined with huge trees and bicycles lined up in front of offices. Khaled’s first posting was far, far away from any city, in green Kaliganj. His first task was to set up six tube wells. He dove in, figured it out and water soon flowed. He fondly remembers being deeply inspired by his colleagues, many of whom were female and most of whom held master’s degrees. They all rented out a house and lived together, in a warm, lively work environment which he will never