As a non-profit dedicated to poverty reduction, client welfare has been central to BRAC’s mission since its inception in 1972. In Bangladesh in general, almost all microfinance institutions are non-profits, and so microfinance has always been seen as a tool for alleviating poverty in the country.
Last year WHO and UNICEF’s Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation reported that Bangladesh had made significant progress in reducing the proportion of people practising open defecation –to just 1 per cent, down from 34 per cent in 1990.
Most people have probably never heard of the world’s largest non-governmental organisation. BRAC, with a workforce of over 100,000 people and projects reaching 1 in every 55 people, is the biggest development organisation operating today.
The integration of mobile money into microfinance operations is one of the most exciting yet challenging prospects facing microfinance providers today. Mobile money presents a fast, cost-efficient and flexible alternative delivery channel through which money can be transferred, loans can be repaid and savings can be deposited.
You’d be forgiven for thinking microfinance has gone wildly out of fashion. The “development caravan”—defined as the wagon train of poverty interventions that excite donors—has pulled away from micro-lending, drawn to more powerful things like BRAC-style graduation programmes (which aim to “graduate” people from extreme poverty into a sustainable livelihood) and bKash-like mobile money, according to recent coverage in The Economist.
Flooding is not a new phenomenon, and yet it continues to be treated with surprise. Almost one fifth of our country goes underwater every year. The geography and topography of Bangladesh means that we will always be prone to flooding, and the situation will only worsen with climate change.
The practice of child marriage adversely affects the lives of millions of girls in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. In Uganda, nearly one in every two girls is married before reaching their 18th birthday. The situation is worse in Bangladesh where two out of every three women aged between 20 and 24 marry young.
“What’s there to be afraid of?” they shot back, shrugging their shoulders with cheeky smiles. This was their reaction to Cyclone Roanu, which swept the coast of Bangladesh on 21 May 2016, killing 21 people and destroying 200,000 homes.
In April, BRAC, Access to Information (a2i), fhi360, USAID and IFMR LEAD jointly organised an event named ‘Digital financial inclusion: Innovations from Bangladesh’ to invite local stakeholders to discuss their experiences and emerging solutions (see a recent write-up by IMFR LEAD summarising the event).
On this World Refugee Day, people all over the world will affirm their commitment to humanity, from the global to the local level. Refugees are the most vulnerable people on earth and experience every suffering that is possible. Perhaps the greatest pain is that they left a home behind and have no land to call their own.
What comes to your mind when you think of microfinance? To me it’s 'easy access'- a key factor that has enabled the sector to reach 34 million poor people in Bangladesh, essentially bringing financial services to their doorstep.