BRAC USA

Our mission is to empower people and communities in situations of poverty, illiteracy, disease and social injustice. Our interventions aim to achieve large scale, positive changes through economic and social programs that enable men and women to realize their potential.
Mar 1, 2013

Engaging Youth - Going Beyond Skills

STAR Program
STAR Program

In Bangladesh, close to two million young people join the workforce annually. Many of the opportunities that are currently on the market are not in the formal sector, but rather are entrepreneurial opportunities in the growing informal service sectors.

BRAC caters to hundred of thousands of youths and offers a range of empowering programs and services, including many dedicated to livelihood development and income generation. Last year, BRAC's Social Innovation Lab explored how BRAC's programs are working to support entrepreneurship and where there are opportunities to do more. We learned the most in speaking with current members of BRAC's programs, such as the Adolescent Development Program and listening to their stories.

Contrary to what you may expect (and to our experience in adolescent programs outside of Bangladesh), the adolescents who we spoke to showed a keen interest in job-seeking rather than entrepreneurship. In Dhamrai, Dhaka, we met a Rabeya, a 16-year-old member of ADP. Rabeya is a very bright student and is consistently at the top of her class. She plans to complete higher studies and pursue a career in the job market, but when we asked about applying her talent to become an entrepreneur, she is afraid to even consider it as an option. The risk and stigma associated with entrepreneurial ventures has her choosing the security the formal employment sector over the potential of establishing a thriving business.

In Chittagong, we met Halima, an ambitious15-year-old girl who is receiving training from another BRAC program--STAR or Skills Training for Advancing Resources, to become a tailor. STAR is currently providing vocational training to 1,000 school dropouts, drastically increasing their chances for job placement through training in growing market sectors. Halima is ambitious and displays the characteristics of a natural entrepreneur as she dreams of one day having her own shop. However, she doesn't equate that goal with that of being an entrepreneur. Difficulty in accessing financial resources and knowledge on basic business practices hampers her confidence in pursuing her dream.

This feedback from our participants helps us to understand that drastic improvements are needed at all levels of society to cultivate the entrepreneurial mindsets of young people. Successful entrepreneurs need to be celebrated and their stories and knowledge shared with creative and aspiring youths in Bangladesh.

But just a change of mindset still won't be enough. At the "Investing in Youth" workshop held by the Social Innovation Lab in April 2012, we met Sabila, a young energetic tech entrepreneur running her own company and has great potential for success. Unfortunately, a lack of societal support for her venture and the ventures of other emerging young entrepreneurs like herself is hindering their success in a highly competitive market.

With your support of BRAC's Adolescent Program, we are able to continue identifying opportunities to improve our programs and find new ways to empower these bright young entrepreneurs, cultivate interest in market innovation and break down stubborn taboos that hinder the entrepreneurial spirit of young people in Bangladesh.

Learn more about Sabila, the progress of young entrepreneurs, and much more in: BeyondSkills: Supporting Youth to Become Successful Entrepreneurs in Bangladesh.

Feb 14, 2013

The Economic Gain of Investing in Girls

What is the price of excluding girls from productive employment? The cost, according to a recent World Bank working paper, “Measuring the Economic Gain of Investing in Girls”, is in the billions of dollars!
The authors of the study, Judy Chaaban and Wendy Cummingham, explored the linkages between investing in girls and the potential increases in national income by examining three aspects of adolescent girls’ lives: school dropout, teenage pregnancy, and joblessness. Here is a summary of their findings:
Investing in girls so that they would complete the next level of education would lead to a lifetime earnings of today’s cohort of girls that is equivalent to up to 68 percent of annual gross domestic product. When adjusting for ability bias and labor demand elasticities, this figure falls to 54 percent, or 1.5 percent per year. Closing the inactivity rate between girls and boys would increase gross domestic product by up to 5.4 percent, but when accounting for students, male-female wage gaps and labor demand elasticities, the joblessness gap between girls and their male counterparts yields an increase in gross domestic product of up to 1.2 percent in a single year. The cost of adolescent pregnancy as a share of gross domestic product could be as high as 30 percent or as low as 1 percent over a girl’s lifetime.

The World Bank study demonstrates how investing in girls will lead to significant economic growth and points to the need for policymakers to create more robust programs that engage girls in the mainstream economy. 

Since inception, BRAC has made girls central to its approach toward poverty alleviation. Our Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescents (ELA) and Social and Financial Empowerment for Adolescents (SoFEA)

 Programs seek to make girls productive and self-supporting members of society by providing livelihood and life-skills training, combined with credit facilities. To date, ELA has reached over 800,000 girls between the ages of 14 and 25 in Bangladesh, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Jan 18, 2013

Progress on the Ground

Lasbela School 1
Lasbela School 1

The children of Pakistan's Lasbela district lack of the services most would consider essential to proper social and cognitive development, including access to pre-primary education. Because of this, many students struggle to comprehend and retain the government curriculum that is used by schools in the district including BRAC primary schools. In order to to supplement this curriculum, the BRAC Education team has designed additional pedagogic techniques and materials in the areas of storytelling, song and rhyme, art, games, puzzles and general knowledge in order to enhance students' ability to absorb their daily lessons.

Distinctive from most government schools, BRAC schools, which are primarily based in regions where children are deprived of sufficient early childhood development, employ student-centered teaching methodologies that engage students on an individual level. These methods include active learning, in which students solve problems, answer questions, formulate questions of their own, discuss, explain, debate, or brainstorm during class as well as cooperative learning, where students work in teams on problems and projects under conditions that assure both positive interdependence and individual accountability. There is also a practice of inductive teaching and learning, in which students are first presented with challenges (questions or problems) and learn the course material in the context of addressing those challenges.

The difference this makes in the children's lives can be observed by interacting with the them; their confidence and active participation in any activity within and outside of the school is drastically higher than those who are not enrolled. With your support, we can continue to make an invaluable impact in the lives of these children and foster positive socioeconomic change in the community.

Lasbela School 2
Lasbela School 2
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