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October 23, 2018

Bridging the digital gender divide in financial inclusion

In the summer of 2011, as BRAC Bank in Bangladesh prepared to launch its mobile money subsidiary bKash, those of us in charge of BRAC’s microfinance operations held a series of discussions about what the advent of mobile money would mean for microfinance generally and for our organization more specifically. In those heady days the excitement about bKash was palpable, but so were our concerns about its immediate impact on our work. We were particularly worried about the possibility that bKash would cannibalise some of our deposits. At the time, customer deposits accounted for over 40 percent of our …

October 17, 2018
BLOG Youth

Enabling young entrepreneurs to start off strong

According to Small Business Association, nearly one-third of all new businesses crash and burn within the first two years. The number one culprit is the lack of business acumen and market insight. The cycle continues when many become afraid to start their own ventures, after seeing so many fail around them.

Bangladesh has a young workforce. With about 60% of the total labour force being under the age of 30, one of the national priorities of the government is skills development.

However, a gap does exist. Efforts are focused on creating skilled workers, not entrepreneurs. What if someone already …

October 16, 2018
BLOG Health

Food for thought: Ways to end world hunger

Zero hunger could save the lives of 3.1 million children a year.

A dollar invested in hunger prevention could return between $15 and $139 in benefits.

A malnourished baby will grow up to be a child with impaired learning abilities, and an adult with poor physical and mental health.

We know the solution to world hunger is not merely the provision of food. Climate change, disaster, conflict, and catastrophic health expenditure can all push families into poverty traps, and food insecurity.

The solution lies in building resilient systems through multi-sectoral collaboration with agriculture, health, finance and social protection.

The world …

October 15, 2018

Clean hands to save lives: Innovations from South Asia

In the 90s, UNICEF revolutionised how sanitation was perceived in the rural south with the very famous Meena cartoons, where an adorable parrot Mithu changed our lives with one line.  

While that campaign was successful in shifting people’s habits in sanitation, diarrhoea still accounts for 8% of 5.6 million deaths of children under 5 years of age, with pneumonia accounting for a further 16% – that’s 896,000 – more than the population of Qatar!

What is unfortunate is that these innocent lives could be saved with one simple solution.


Many of these

October 11, 2018
BLOG Youth

#WithHer: Five girls set to take over the world

Girls are outranked by boys in all aspects of life. However, when given the opportunity, girls too grow up to become engineers, lawyers and athletes. There are 600 million adolescent girls in the world today, and many miss out on these opportunities. With the right support, they can grow up to be part of a dynamic generation, knock down gender stereotypes that hold them back, and be the superheroes that the world needs.

Today, we are celebrating the stories of five girls from our adolescent club and skills programme who are on their way to doing exactly that.


October 4, 2018

The Ugandan teacher who leads learning through play

Nankinga Justine jokingly asks me how I do not know her. The 27-year-old once had her pictures published in the region’s newspapers every day for nearly a month when her family was searching for her. She admits it was a difficult time, but has moved past it now. She is now a passionate play leader for children in BRAC’s play lab in the Wakiso district of central Uganda. She exudes a very playful aura, a natural result of spending long hours with small, excited children.

“I want to give children the guidance I never had as a child. I always

October 2, 2018
BLOG Urban

For waste-wise, sustainable cities

During my visit to Dhaka Match, I witnessed a sight that was beyond my imagination. Residents had filled up the small canal near the slum with household waste, a practice that has been continuing for years. Drains had overflowed and alleyways were permanently inundated. Shoes, food wrappers, medicine packets, cigarettes packs, and food compost were some of the items seen floating in the purplish sludge that covered the entire slum.

For mobility, residents had two options: they either waded in the sludge or walked on flimsy boards placed between the houses and shops. Water pipes poked out of the canals

September 27, 2018
BLOG Health

What’s stressing our hearts?

Bangladesh, a country ranked 138th by the UN Development Index.

Dhaka, a city marked as the second most unliveable in the world.

Bangladesh, ranked the world’s 19th most stressed country.

Dhaka, Asia’s most stressed city.

A city and country scarred with daily stressors that beat down hearts, plunging the nation to 104th spot on the Coronary Heart Disease Index.

According to the WHO, cardiovascular disease is one of Bangladesh’s biggest threats. The figures are frightening: close to 200,000 deaths caused by strokes; over 100,000 by ischemic heart disease (caused by narrowed arteries); and 28,000 by hypertensive heart disease

September 27, 2018
BLOG Health

Sir Fazle’s remarks at the UN General Assembly

New York, 26 September 2018“Two hundred years ago, tuberculosis was one of the leading killers in Western countries, due to the unsanitary and often crowded conditions of early industrial society. In New York City, from 1800-1815, 25% of all deaths was due to TB. As effective treatments were discovered, it gradually became a disease of poor countries and, as a result, financing for research and development dried up. The richer countries began to see the disease as somebody else’s problem.

This accounts for the situation we face today. TB is the deadliest infectious disease in the world, …

September 25, 2018

Can empathy end poverty?

Zakia meets Firoza four times a month, twice in a group with other female participants in her neighbourhood, and twice individually at her home. She supervises the growth of Feroza’s livestock, including the cow that she has received as part grant, part interest-free loan. She gives her tips on how to earn more from her assets, discusses about health and social issues and collects her savings and loan installments.

Zakia has been seeing Firoza for nine months now and she already sees a difference. Firoza’s family used to rely on day labouring and earned approximately USD 75 (BDT 6,500) a

September 20, 2018

Managing rumours in the Rohingya camps

These are only a few of the rumours that the Rohingyas living in the camps in Cox’s Bazar are faced with.

In December 2017, following a joint field assessment, the Government of Bangladesh and WHO launched the first phase of a diphtheria vaccination campaign in the Rohingya camps. As the biggest responder to the Rohingya crisis, BRAC, along with local and international NGOs, were tasked by the government to vaccinate children in the camps in Ukhia and Teknaf for diphtheria.

Initially, the Communicating with Communities (CwC) Working Group of the Inter Sector Coordination Group (ISCG) that coordinates field response, mobilised

September 12, 2018

BRAC’s tablet journey: Revolutionising microfinance operations in Bangladesh

BRAC’s credit officer Ismat Ara was about to start her day. She was surrounded by a group of women who came to pay their monthly instalments and deposit savings. This setting, known at BRAC as a village organisation (VO), has been central to microfinance since it began in Bangladesh in the early 1970s.

The group sat on a hand stitched bamboo mat under the shade of a mango tree in a client’s courtyard. As they exchanged polite greetings, Ismat Ara took out a smart tablet from her bag and began the collection process. A gap between technology and rural communities …