All Blogs

September 28, 2020

Towards the great reset: How do we build a more inclusive post-COVID world?

Global Shapers Dhaka Hub of the World Economic Forum and Amra Notun Network of BRAC Youth Platform launched the webinar series Shapers and the Solvers, with The Daily Star as the media partner, and Torun Digital as the youth outreach partner.

Taking lessons from top practitioners, the first webinar of the series kicked off on 22 September 2020 with “Towards the Great Reset: Reformation Strategy for a more inclusive post-COVID-19 world”. Thousands of viewers tuned in as host Shadman Sadab, Global Shaper of Dhaka Hub, welcomed insights from the speakers: Asif Saleh, executive director of BRAC; Saif …

September 15, 2020

August Khichuri Index for Bangladesh

Economic figures often make sense to economists and not many others. To figure out how changes in Bangladesh’s economy are affecting different groups of people across the country during the pandemic, BRAC has begun constructing an index similar to the Financial Times’ ‘Breakfast Index’. The ‘Khichuri Index’ reflects the weighted average cost of a plate of khichuri — a popular all-day meal in most Bangladeshi homes, and the minimum meal that a four-member family would need to survive during the pandemic.

At BRAC, we are using the index for two purposes – to understand changes in the affordability of

September 9, 2020

Culture clash: The ‘not-so-dirty’ secret of digital transformation

The COVID-19 pandemic has led many institutions to fast track the implementation of digital technology across its business functions. Now, it has become a necessity for the survival of any business. But what does it take to transform into a digital organisation?

Digital transformation is all about changes – from strategy, technology, to processes and the structure of the organisation. But at its heart, digital transformation is ultimately a test of an organisation’s culture. Therefore it’s not surprising that a Mckinsey survey identified culture as the most significant barrier to digital transformation.

Some organisations are typically risk-averse. They often take …

September 7, 2020

A new survey sheds light on non-member RMG factories

“How many factories on the MiB map do not have BGMEA and/or BKMEA membership?” – is a common question that the MiB team receives whenever they reach out to its stakeholders, be it academicians, worker associations, trade associations, NGOs or policymakers.

There has always been a debate on the exact number of export-oriented RMG factories in Bangladesh due to a dearth of data. The official data tends to rely on factories that have membership of two apex trade associations – Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA). There is no official …

September 6, 2020

Keeping the price of rice down: A prerequisite for food security

Production of rice, especially the Boro variety (cultivated in residual water in low-lying areas), has facilitated Bangladesh’s journey from import dependence to food self-sufficiency. Total production of the three main varieties of rice paddy (Aus, Aman and Boro) increased from 28.8 million tonnes to 36.45 million tonnes in 2019, making up 88% of total grain production in the country. Wide availability of rice means millions of people can afford a staple food source, contributing to poverty alleviation.

The government showed strong commitment to ensuring food security this year by supporting farmers in the early harvesting of Boro, which was …

September 1, 2020

Cash transfers to support families during the COVID-19 pandemic

The Bangladeshi government kicked off countrywide lockdown on 25 March, freezing general mobility except for emergency services and necessary goods transfer. No sooner than after the directive came out, over the first couple of days a mass movement was observed among low-income people from urban centres to rural hubs. As an example, by tracking SIM cards, a telecom authority announced that almost 11.5 million people had left the capital of Dhaka city, the significant economic hub home to 21 million people, or 13% of the total population of 164 million. Needless to mention that Bangladesh has the highest density of …

August 9, 2020

Is Bangladesh’s RMG industry on its way to recovery?

Mapped in Bangladesh, a four-year (2017-2021) project by the Centre for Entrepreneurship Development of BRAC University, is driven by the fundamental belief that transparency and traceability lead to long-term industry advancements and improved working conditions.

It recently published findings from the second phase of its ongoing rapid survey series. The findings were revealed at a webinar titled State of the RMG Industry during the Pandemic: Is it on the way to recovery? on 20 July 2020, bringing together speakers from Pennsylvania State University, Center for Policy Dialogue and BRAC University. Data is collected through a country-wide census. To date, …

August 6, 2020

BRAC International sets out Covid-19 recovery plan

At the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, BRAC International released a strategic framework to guide its response efforts. The framework outlines the overall response through a four-pronged approach.

The first prong emphasised ensuring the safety and security of BRAC’s own staff. The second outlined an extensive community-based awareness raising campaign to prevent the spread of the virus. The third highlighted response efforts including the importance of partnerships, supporting affected families through case management, and food and income support. The final prong projected the role of BRAC International in supporting social and economic recovery once the outbreak had passed.

Over the …

July 29, 2020

Adapting to the new normal: how BRAC is protecting its workforce

As the COVID-19 has been surging worldwide, affecting people, economies and social structures across continents, offices and businesses have turned into ghosts of their former selves. Bustling shared workspaces and big meetings have become a thing of the past. After months of working from home and being active on a limited scale, BRAC has reopened its head office while practicing extreme caution. In Bangladesh, the government issued a directive asking offices and agencies under all ministries to not allow over 25% of the staff to be in attendance in the office at a time. Additionally, pregnant and lactating mothers, and …

July 20, 2020

Urban agriculture: Future source of organic food for city dwellers

36 million people in Bangladesh will be newly pushed into poverty due to COVID-19. Social distancing measures and lockdowns have cut opportunities for work and income, especially in urban areas – leading millions of people to struggle to earn a single meal.

Agricultural production and supply routes are also being disrupted. The demand for fresh food in cities is increasingly acute, where adulterated food was already a common problem. Nearly half of fresh produce consumed daily in Dhaka is adulterated.

Those living in urban poverty find it the hardest to afford fresh, unadulterated food.

The number of people living in …

July 13, 2020

COVID-19: Update from Asif Saleh (12 July 2020)

Dear colleagues, partners and friends,

We are still struggling with the quality of testing after 120 days of the pandemic in Bangladesh. The recent Regent Hospital scandal (detailed later in the report) highlighted the sorry state of the health sector – both in governance and the quality of service in the private sector.

Unfortunately, I experienced this first hand myself, while doing my own tests in both a public and a private sector lab. I received a positive and a negative report in two successive days. This seems to be a growing phenomenon across the board – the  increasing inability …

July 11, 2020

Periods do not stop during a pandemic

Nasima* is in class eight. She lives in Korail slum, the biggest slum in Bangladesh. The impacts of COVID-19 have been difficult to cope with for the 15-year old.

Nasima lives with her parents, both of whom are daily wage labourers. Buying sanitary napkins during her periods has never been affordable, and she often ends up resorting to using old clothing as an alternative.

The pandemic pushed her parents’ incomes down even further. Managing one meal a day has become a challenge, and sanitary napkins are considered as a luxury commodity.

Taboos around menstrual health and hygiene and the …