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BRAC, an international development organisation based in Bangladesh, is the largest non-governmental development organisation in the world, in terms of number of employees as of September 2016.[1][2][3] Established by Sir Fazle Hasan Abed in 1972 after the independence of Bangladesh, BRAC is present in all 64 districts of Bangladesh as well as 13 other countries in Asia, Africa, and the Americas.[4]

BRAC states that it employs over 100,000 people, roughly 70 percent of whom are women, and that it reaches more than 126 million people with its services.[5][non-primary source needed][6] The organisation is partly self-funded through a number of social enterprises that include a dairy and food project, a chain of retail handicraft stores called Aarong, seed and Agro[clarification needed], and chicken. BRAC has operations in 14 countries of the world.[5][non-primary source needed]


Sir Fazlé Hasan Abed, founder of BRAC

Known formerly as the Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee, then as the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, and later as Building Resources Across Communities,[7] BRAC was initiated in 1972 by Sir Fazlé Hasan Abed at Shallah Upazillah in the district of Sunamganj as a small-scale relief and rehabilitation project to help returning war refugees after the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971.[8] 14 thousand homes had to be rebuilt as part of the relief effort, as well as several hundred fishing boats; BRAC claims to have done this within nine months, as well as opening medical centres and providing other essential services.[9][non-primary source needed]

Until the mid-1970s, BRAC concentrated on community development through village development programmes that included agriculture, fisheries, cooperatives, rural crafts, adult literacy, health and family planning, vocational training for women and construction of community centres. A Research and Evaluation Division (RED) was set up to evaluate its activities and decide direction, and in 1977, BRAC began taking a more targeted approach by creating Village Organisations (VO) to assist the landless, small farmers, artisans, and vulnerable women. That same year BRAC set up a commercial printing press to help finance its activities. The handicraft retail chain called Aarong was established the following year.[10]

In the late 1970s, diarrhoea was a leading cause of child mortality in Bangladesh.[11] In February 1979, BRAC began a field trial, in two villages of what was then Sulla thana, of a campaign to combat diarrhoea.[12] The following year they scaled up the operation and named it the Oral Therapy Extension Programme (OTEP).[13] It taught rural mothers in their homes how to prepare an oral rehydration solution (ORS) from readily available ingredients and how to use it to treat diarrhoea.[14] The training was reinforced with posters and radio and TV spots.[15]

The ten-year programme taught 12 million households spread over 75,000 villages in every part of Bangladesh except the Chittagong Hill Tracts (which were unsafe to work in because of civil unrest).[16] Fifteen years after they were taught, the vast majority of mothers could still prepare a safe and effective ORS.[17] The treatment was little known in Bangladesh when OTEP began,[18] but 15 years later it was used in rural households for severe diarrhoea more than 80% of the time, one of the highest rates in the world.[19]

Non Formal Primary Education was started by BRAC in 1985.[20]

In 1998, BRAC's Dairy and Food project was commissioned. BRAC launched an Information Technology Institute the following year.{{Citation needed|date=September 2016} In 2001, BRAC established a university called BRAC University.[21]


BRAC has done what few others have – they have achieved success on a massive scale, bringing life-saving health programs to millions of the world's poorest people. They remind us that even the most intractable health problems are solvable, and inspire us to match their success throughout the developing world.

Bill Gates, Co-chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Global Health Award, 2004

Economic development

Microfinance, introduced in 1974, is BRAC's oldest programme. It spans all districts of Bangladesh.[22][23] It provides collateral-free loans to mostly poor, landless, rural women, enabling them to generate income and improve their standards of living.[22][23] BRAC's microcredit program has funded over $1.9 billion in loans in its first 40 years. 95% of BRACs microloan customers are women.[24] According to BRAC, the repayment rate is over 98%.[25] BRAC started community empowerment programme back in 1988 all over the country.

BRAC founded its retail outlet, Aarong (Bengali for "village fair") in 1978 to market and distribute products made by indigenous peoples. Aarong services about 65,000 artisans, and sells gold and silver jewellry, hand loom, leather crafts, etc.[10]


BRAC is one of the largest NGOs involved in primary education in Bangladesh.[26] As of the end of 2012, it had more than 22,700 non-formal primary schools with a combined enrolment of 670,000 children.[25][non-primary source needed] Its schools constitute three-quarters of all NGO non-formal primary schools in the country.[26]

BRAC's education programme provides non-formal primary education to those left out of the formal education system, especially poor, rural, or disadvantaged children, and drop-outs.[24] Its schools are typically one room with one teacher and no more than 33 students. Core subjects include mathematics, social studies and English. The schools also offer extracurricular activities.[26] They incentivise schooling by providing food, allowing flexible learning hours, and conferring scholarships contingent on academic performance.[27]

Bangladesh has reduced the gap between male and female attendance in schools.[27] The improvement in female enrolment, which has largely been at the primary level, is in part attributable to BRAC.[26] Roughly 60% of the students in their schools are girls.[24]

Public health

A BRAC community health worker conducting a survey in the Korail slum, Bangladesh

BRAC's 2007 impact assessment of its North West Microfinance Expansion Project testified to increased awareness of legal issues, including those of marriage and divorce, among women participants in BRAC programs. Furthermore, women participants' self-confidence was boosted and incidence of domestic violence were found to have declined.[28] One of the most prominent forms of violence against women, acid throwing, has been decreasing by 15-20% annually since the enactment in 2002 of legislation specifically targeting acid violence.[29]

Disaster relief

BRAC conducted one of the largest NGO responses to Cyclone Sidr which hit vast areas of the south-western coast in Bangladesh in mid-November 2007. BRAC distributed emergency relief materials, including food and clothing, to over 900,000 survivors, provided medical care to over 60,000 victims and secured safe supplies of drinking water. BRAC is now focusing on long-term rehabilitation, which will include agriculture support, infrastructure reconstruction and livelihood regeneration.[30][non-primary source needed]

Partnership with the Nike Foundation

BRAC has a collaboration with Nike's Girl Effect campaign to launch a new program to reach out to teenagers in Uganda and Tanzania.[31][non-primary source needed]


In 2006 BRAC received donations from Directorate-General for International Cooperation (DGIS) and Government of the Netherlands / Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (EKN).

In 2011 the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) joined the list of BRAC donors.

In 2012 the Department for International Development (DFID), Government of the UK and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), and Australian Government (SPA) (under the strategic partnership arrangement) became BRAC donors as well.[32]

Geographic scope

BRAC operates in 13 countries.

  • Asia: Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Philippines, Nepal, Myanmar
  • Africa: Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, Liberia, Sierra Leone
  • Caribbean: Haiti
  • BRAC provides technical assistance to organisations in Haiti, Sudan, and Indonesia
  • BRAC has affiliate organisations in the United Kingdom and United States

Honours and awards

See also

  • ASA (NGO)
  • Grameen Bank
  • TMSS (NGO)


  1. "A creative response to the challenge for change". Dhaka Tribune. 
  2. "NGO founder: Sustainable Development Goals will work". 
  3. "BRAC in business". The Economist. 18 February 2010. "Called BRAC, it is by most measures the largest, fastest-growing non-governmental organisation (NGO) in the world". 
  4. ShineTheme. "Where we work". 
  5. 5.0 5.1 "BRAC at a Glance". 
  6. Alice Korngold, 17 May 2011, "BRAC Is The Largest Global Anti-Poverty Organization, And It's A Secret" at Retrieved 4 April 2017
  7. Abed, Fazle Hasan. "BRAC: Building Resources Across Communities, The Coproduction of Governance: Civil Society, the Government, and the Private Sector". Harvard University. Retrieved 8 September 2016. 
  8. "Interview with Fazle Hasan Abed". Harvard Business School. 
  9. Annual Report, 1990, BRAC
  10. 10.0 10.1 "This ethical brand began in 1978"... "supports 65,000 artisans with fair terms" in about-aarong at Retrieved 6 April 2017
  11. Chowdhury, A. Mushtaque R.; Cash, Richard A. (1996). A Simple Solution: Teaching Millions to Treat Diarrhoea at Home. Dhaka: University Press. p. 23. ISBN 978-984-05-1341-3. 
  12. Chowdhury & Cash 1996, p. 29
  13. Chowdhury & Cash 1996, p. 42
  14. Chowdhury & Cash 1996, pp. 25, 28–29
  15. Chowdhury & Cash 1996, p. 78
  16. Chowdhury & Cash 1996, pp. 42–43, 100
  17. Chowdhury & Cash 1996, p. 100
  18. Chowdhury & Cash 1996, p. 101
  19. Chowdhury & Cash 1996, p. xvi
  20. Daniel Schugurensky: 1985 - BRAC begins non-formal primary education for poor children in Bangladesh, History of Education: Selected Moments of the 20th Century at Retrieved 6 April 2017
  21. "BRAC University was established by BRAC in 2001" at Retrieved 8 April 2017
  22. 22.0 22.1 "Microfinance". 
  23. 23.0 23.1 Barber, Ben (May 2002). "No Free Lunch". World & I 17 (5). 
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 "BRAC Bangladesh Annual Report 2014". 
  25. 25.0 25.1 "BRAC at a Glance". December 2012. 
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 26.3 Ardt, Kalene; Hastings, Chas; Hopkins, Katie; Knebel, Robin; Loh, Jun; Woods, Rodney (2005). "Report on Primary Education in Bangladesh: Challenges and Successes". Stanford University School of Medicine. 
  27. 27.0 27.1 "Gender Differences". 
  28. Rogers, Cate; O'Farrell, Sue-Ellen (October 2008). "Microfinance, gender and aid effectiveness". 
  29. Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School, and the New York City Bar Association (2011). "Combating Acid Violence in Bangladesh, India, and Cambodia". 
  30. Annual Report, 2007
  31. "Nike Foundation and Buffetts join to invest $100 million in girls" (PDF) (Press release). Nike Foundation. 28 May 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 October 2011.
  33. "BRAC ranked top global NGO of 2018" (in en-gb). 
  34. "NGO Advisor". 
  35. "BRAC ranked number one NGO in the world". 

Further reading

External links

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