All Blogs

February 10, 2020

Advancing financial inclusion: BRAC Microfinance in 2019

Achieving new milestones
Last year we disbursed USD 5.07 billion in loans in Bangladesh – an increase of 21% from 2018. We served 7.1 million clients and 5.6 million borrowers. Our clients saved a total amount of USD 100 million, an increase of 15% from 2018.

Our reach beyond Bangladesh expanded. We began our operations in Rwanda on 7 June 2019 under the name BRAC Rwanda Microfinance Company PLC.

BRAC Uganda Bank Limited became our first international operation to transform into a regulated deposit-taking financial institution on 24 April 2019.

Click on the photos below to know more.

A stepping

February 5, 2020

Annual General Meetings in the most unexpected places

What comes to mind when we hear annual general meetings? Big, swanky conference rooms, men in expensive suits presiding over discussions about their company’s shares?

In northeastern Bangladesh, 110 village organisations hold their own AGMs. The functions of the meetings are no different from those held by corporations, but there is something distinct about how these organisations function, and how they conduct their meetings.

Village development organisations (VDOs) are community-led cooperatives, registered with the government’s Department of Cooperatives. They have their own fund, democratically selected executive committees, and trained members on different organisational skills. They are what steer the …

January 26, 2020

One-stop solutions for women in hard-to-reach areas

Selina Akter lives in a haor (wetland) region in rural Bangladesh. Her house is surrounded by water. On her small plot of dry land, she runs a small nursery and breeds poultry and livestock. She sends her children to school with the profits generated by selling vegetables and dairy products in the local market. Whenever she is not in her garden, she is teaching women around her to grow vegetables. She spends her days with packed schedules, taking joy from everything she does.

Not too long ago Selina’s lived a different reality. There was a time when her husband …

January 23, 2020

Recapping Financial Inclusion Week 2019

1.7 billion adults worldwide still have no access to formal financial services – at a financial institution or through a mobile money provider. Among them, more than half are women.

Why must we sit up and take note of this?

Financial services are foundational to achieving some of the most significant  development goals. Access to bank accounts and payment services have a measurable impact on poverty. In fact, financial inclusion is featured as a target in seven of the 17 SDGs, and there are four financial inclusion indicators to track progress.

We have made sure progress. The 2017 Global …

January 23, 2020

Sir Fazle Hasan Abed and the Everyone A Changemaker movement

Ashoka: Innovators For The Public is among the world’s most influential NGOs and is the largest network of social entrepreneurs like Sir Fazle. Founded in 1981 and headquartered in Washington DC, it is now a network of over 3,500 fellows and members in more than 92 countries. Ashoka has supported over 90 leading social change organisations in Bangladesh, including the likes of DNet, Friendship, BYLC and ME SOLshare.

Social entrepreneurship: Past and future

Ashoka’s Founder, Bill Daryton shared about Sir Fazle’s contributions in advancing the global social entrepreneurship movement in his tribute.

“When Ashoka and I

January 20, 2020

Boat schools: What learning looks like at the last mile in Bangladesh

“How should I send my 6-year-old son to school all by himself?” asks Ramena, a 35-year-old mother, “I cannot send him alone. So I cannot do anything.”

Sending children to school is risky for Ramena and thousands of parents living in the haor (wetland) regions in Bangladesh.

The regions remain submerged for half of the year. Most schools go underwater, as do the roads that lead to them. The only mode of transportation to get to the schools that remain dry is via boats, and students are often too young to travel alone for long distances.

Bangladesh has made remarkable …

January 19, 2020

Tackling a process innovation challenge 101

Change is inevitable – but also costly.

When we talk about innovation, we often refer to changing what is visible, and measurable.

But what of internal systems and processes?

Can a financial management process that took seven working days to wrap up, be optimised to under one day? Here’s how BRAC, the world’s largest non-governmental development organisation, innovated their monthly finance consolidation system.

The Problem

In Bangladesh, BRAC has over 3,000 microfinance branches, along with several development programmes, head office operations, and other cost centres. The sheer number and diversity of operational models and the resultant financial data …

January 15, 2020

Cyclone simulations save lives in coastal areas

Raihan ran across the open field of his village that he knew since childhood. But he couldn’t move as he wished. Splashes of water hit him hard, pushing him back. He could barely see ahead apart from silhouettes of people grabbing onto each other in the distance. He held on to a branch and secured himself to a tree. The water made it hard to breathe. He patiently clung on, as instructed by his drama teacher.

At this point the gentleman from the fire brigade stopped hosing water, and all of a sudden, a sunny afternoon was restored. Raihan …

December 24, 2019

Women’s financial inclusion: The smart thing to do

I was delighted to attend this year’s FinEquity annual meeting and the Women’s World Banking Making Finance Work for Women summit in Singapore, where compelling business cases for women’s financial inclusion were presented. While there has been significant progress in closing the gender gap, the change is moving at a glacial pace, calling for more pragmatic actions among stakeholders. Below, I highlight seven key takeaways from the two events.

1. Develop gender-smart policies:  Historically, norms around women’s role in the economy and society have prevented them from getting access to financial services. Regulators need to develop gender-inclusive policies that …

December 17, 2019

Of painful homecomings: What’s behind an unsuccessful migration?

“Departed with a head full of dreams
Returned with nothing but pain
Even the shirt on his back borrowed from friends
And in his hand—a jail sentence”

He was handed a bottle of water. Holding on to a railing, he asked if there was anything to eat.

“I have been without food for the last two days. They huddled me into the flight straight from a detention centre. There was no water for us to drink on the flight,” he said.

A group of BRAC staff was providing emergency support at the airport. One of them asked him his name. …

December 10, 2019

Will we see the end of sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment has an inseparable link with women’s disadvantaged status and subordinate position in any society. In mid-1970s, sexual harassment received socio-legal recognition, through the advocacy of feminit activists. It has been recognised, since then, as a form of discrimination which is akin to criminal conduct.

Although sexual harassment persists as a serious problem for many countries, violence against women and girls remains under-reported and the number of cases placed for public hearing is relatively low.

Bangladesh has achieved tremendous success in women’s empowerment in the last decade. The prevalence of sexual harassment in public places, however, is still …

December 5, 2019

A person you know is raped. Do you know what to do?

Nadia* Begum was raped by her uncle. It was late at night, she had no support and she did not know who to tell. Nadia ran from her house and stayed with friends for three days, not telling anyone what had happened. By the time she returned, told her family, went to the wrong hospital and finally filed a case, there was no evidence left of what had happened.

Nadia’s case is not uncommon.

One person is raped every 6 hours in Bangladesh.

The country has seen a dramatic rise in the number of rape cases in recent months, with …