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UN hails Bangladesh’s women-centred poverty reduction, social dev models

Many interconnected driving forces define the course of poverty alleviation and sustainable development of a country. Meaningful partnerships between the government and development actors are essential to achieve effective growth.

Bangladesh has set remarkable examples for driving poverty eradication and social development programmes centring on women empowerment and gender equality.

A high-level virtual discussion on ‘Lessons in Development from the Global South: 50 Years of BRAC’, hosted by BRAC and the Permanent Missions of Bangladesh and Rwanda to the UN, was held on Monday (11 July).

The speakers were Rabab Fatima, permanent representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations; Robert Kayinamura, deputy permanent representative of Republic of Rwanda to the United Nations, Asif Saleh, executive director, BRAC Bangladesh; OrianaBandiera, professor, London School of Economics; Susanna Wolf, senior programme officer at UN-OHRLLS; and Donella Rapier, CEO of BRAC USA. FarhanaHaque Rahman,senior vice chair, Inter Press Service (IPS), moderated the event.

Ambassador Rabab Fatima said at the discussion, “We need meaningful regional, global and national partnerships to put a country on a sustainable and irreversible development trajectory. Over the last 50 years BRAC has shown many successful models to do exactly that to create transformative partnerships, collaboration with governments, the UN, multilateral institutions and local actors to make a difference on the ground. These lessons can be replicated and scaled to support many countries in the global South to recover lost grounds in SDGs through local solutions.”

Asif Saleh, executive director, BRAC, said, “We like to portray ourselves as a solution ecosystems rather than an NGO that is looking for small scale interventions. It was always about social change and that’s why it is critical to be part of the government. You cannot change system without being a part of the government.”

Referring to ‘Graduation Approach’, the groundbreaking model BRAC has developed for sustainable extreme poverty alleviation, BRAC executive director said, BRAC recognised the reality of the people who are living in extreme poverty completely excluded from traditional development programmes and market-led interventions.

“Twenty years ago BRAC responded with Graduation Approach which is a multidimensional approach to address the multidimensional nature of poverty. We reached 2.1 million households in Bangladesh with this approach and 95% of them have been able to create sustainable livelihoods and escape the poverty trap in the long term,” he remarked.

LSE professor OrianaBandiera observed that although Graduation Approach is apparently an expensive solution but in reality it is not so as the costs are not recurring. “Also you have to see it as an investment in people. It is an investment with extremely high returns because these women escape poverty and contribute to the economy of their villages. So we were told you need growth to reduce poverty, BRAC has shown us that you get growth as a by-product of poverty reduction. And the growth starts from the poorest women in the poorest area once you enable them to escape poverty by their own means.”

Rwandan, deputy permanent representative to UN Robert Kayinamura, said with partners like BRAC his country has been able to make modest achievement of development. “What we have observed that BRAC’s approach fits well to our priorities and need. BRAC has been having impactful work with the women in our country. Within just 10 years BRAC has helped one million people overcome poverty.” The role of south-south cooperation has never been more important than now, particularly in poverty eradication and expansion of best practices, he further observed.