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Published: November 16th 2018
BRAC headquarters in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
November 12, 2018 (Dhaka, Bangladesh) When I say I'm in Bangladesh to work with BRAC
, many people wonder what the acronym is. When it was first established it went through several acronym iterations (Building Resources Across Communities, Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee, Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee) but now is simply BRAC. Its hot magenta colored loco with lower case letters is familiar in Bangladesh. For its size and impact globally, it seems relatively unknown outside of this region. But it is impressive. Certainly in Bangladesh it is ubiquitous throughout all aspects of the infrastructure.
BRAC is an international development organization based in Dhaka. It is the largest development organization in the world employing over 100,000 people (70 percent are women) and reaching 150 million people with its services. Founder Sir Fazle Hasan Abed
created BRAC after independence of Bangladesh as a small-scale relief and rehabilitation project to help returning war refugees from the war. Learning to rapidly scale is their mantra and 14 thousand homes were rebuilt as part of the initial relief effort, as well as several hundred fishing boats - done within nine months, including opening medical centres and providing other essential services.
BRAC has a strong presence throughout Bangladesh as
well as 13 other countries. It is partly self-funded through internally generated social enterprises that include a dairy and food project, a chain of retail handicraft stores, agriculture and education (including its own University). Its microfinance program spans all districts of Bangladesh providing collateral-free loans to mostly poor, landless, rural women, to generate income and improve their standards of living. BRAC's microcredit program has funded over $1.9 billion in loans in its first 40 years; 95% of BRACs microloan customers are women, repayment rate is over 98%. To facilitate financial transactions for those without banks, BRAC established a widely adopted digital cash service (b-KASH).
BRAC has more than 22,700 primary schools with an enrollment of 670,000 children. Its schools are typically one room with one teacher and no more than 33 students. Core subjects include mathematics, social studies, English and extracurricular activities. BRAC incentivizes school attendance with food programs, flexible learning hours, and academic scholarships. Their schools have significantly improved female enrollment (60% of students).
BRAC's Humanitarian Relief Team has played a critical role in the initial response, on-the-ground coordination and ongoing relief work with the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox's Bazar district.
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