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BRAC logo.svg
  • Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee
  • Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee
Formation 1972 (1972)
Founder Sir Fazle Hasan Abed
Type Non-profit
Purpose International development
Headquarters Dhaka, Bangladesh
Key people
Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, Chairperson
Revenue (2014)
Increase53,358,527,594 taka (US$684M)[1]
Expenses (2014) Decrease41,915,645,023 taka (US$537M)[1]
Staff (2014)

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 June 2015.[3][4][5][6] 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 other countries in Asia, Africa, and the Americas.

BRAC employs over 100,000 people, roughly 70 percent of whom are women, reaching more than 126 million people[citation needed]. The organisation is 70-80% self-funded through a number of commercial enterprises that include a dairy and food project and a chain of retail handicraft stores called Aarong. BRAC maintains offices in 14 countries throughout the world, including BRAC USA and BRAC UK.[citation needed]

BRAC considers itself to have a unique philosophy towards eradicating poverty. As one author has said, "BRAC's idea was simple yet radical: bring together the poorest people in the poorest countries and teach them to read, think for themselves, pool their resources, and start their own businesses" (Barber). BRAC has mobilized to organize what it calls "the isolated poor" or the "ultra poor". Women and girls have also been a strong focus of BRAC's anti-poverty approach.[7]

In April 2009, Freedom from Want, a book that traces the evolution of BRAC by author Ian Smillie, was published by Kumarian Press.


Sir Fazlé Hasan Abed, founder of BRAC

Known formerly as the Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee and then as the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (currently, BRAC does not represent an acronym), 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. In nine months, 14 thousand homes were rebuilt as part of the relief effort and several hundred boats were built for the fishermen. Medical centers were opened and other essential services were ensured.[8] At the end of 1972, when the first phase of relief work was over, BRAC turned towards long-term development needs and re-organised itself to focus on the empowerment of the poor and landless, particularly women and children.

By 1974, BRAC had started providing micro credit and had started analysing the usefulness of credit inputs in the lives of the poor. 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 by BRAC in 1975 to analyse and evaluate its activities and provide direction for the organisation to evolve. In 1977, BRAC shifted from community development towards a more targeted approach by organising village groups called Village Organisations (VO). This approach targeted the poorest of the poor – the landless, small farmers, artisans, and vulnerable women. Those who own less than half an acre of land and survive by selling manual labor were regarded as BRAC's target group. 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.

In 1979, BRAC entered the health field by establishing a nationwide Oral Therapy Extension Programme (OTEP), a campaign to combat diarrhoea, the leading cause of the high child mortality rate in Bangladesh. Over a ten-year period 1,200 BRAC workers went door-to-door to teach 12 million mothers the preparation of home-made oral saline. Bangladesh today has one of the highest rates of usage of oral rehydration, and BRAC's campaign cut down child and infant mortality from 285 per thousand to 75 per thousand.[9][page needed] This initial success in scaling up propelled rapid expansion of other BRAC programmes such as Non Formal Primary Education which BRAC started in 1985 – a model that has been replicated in about a dozen countries.

In 1986 BRAC started its Rural Development Programme that incorporated four major activities – institution building including functional education and training, credit operation, income and employment generation and support service programmes. In 1991 the Women's Health Development program commenced. The following year BRAC established a Centre for Development Management (CDM) in Rajendrapur. Its Social Development, Human Rights and Legal Services programme was launched in 1996 with the aim to empower women with legal rights and assist them in becoming involved with community and ward level organisations. In 1998, BRAC's Dairy and Food project was commissioned. BRAC launched an Information Technology Institute the following year. In 2001, BRAC established a university called BRAC University with the aim to create future leaders and the BRAC Bank was started to cater primarily to small and medium entreprises.

In 2002 BRAC launched a programme called Challenging the Frontiers of Poverty Reduction – Targeting the Ultra Poor (CFPR-TUP) designed specifically for those that BRAC defines as the ultra poor - the extreme poor who cannot access conventional microfinance. The same year BRAC also went into Afghanistan with relief and rehabilitation programmes. It was the first organisation in Bangladesh to establish, in 2004, the office of an Ombudsperson.


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[edit]

BRAC's Economic Development programme includes microcredit. It provides collateral-free credit using a solidarity lending methodology, as well as obligatory savings schemes through its Village Organisations. Reaching nearly 4 million borrowers, Village Organisations provide loans to poverty groups. BRAC has reached out to those who, due to extreme poverty, cannot access microfinance. BRAC defines such people suffering from extreme poverty as the 'ultra poor', and has designed a programme customized for this group that combines subsidy with enterprise development training, healthcare, social development and asset transfer, eventually pulling the ultra poor into its mainstream microfinance programme.

BRAC also participates in microlending. BRAC is considered the largest microlender in Bangladesh, the renowned Grameen Bank being a close second (Barber). BRACs lending typically gives loans to the poor to start raising chickens for eggs and meat. Not only does BRAC lend money to a loanee, BRAC teaches the loanee how to care for and raise the chickens. Once again, the uniqueness of BRAC is its hand in self-empowerment, even in lending programs.BRAC's microcredit program has given over $1.5 billion in loans over the past thirty years (Barber). 90 percent of BRACs microloans have gone to women (Barber), which is astounding given the very traditional and passive roles women typically have in Bangledashi culture. Repayment of the loan is over 98 percent.

Jaminder-Ginni dolls made by village artisans. Handicrafts like these are sold by Aarong, BRAC's handicrafts store.

In addition to microfinance, BRAC provides enterprise training and support to its member borrowers in poultry and livestock, fisheries, social forestry, agriculture and sericulture. It provides inputs essential for some enterprises through its 'Programme Support Enterprises' that include Poultry farm and disease diagnostic laboratory, Bull Station, Feed Mill, Broiler Production and Marketing, Seed Production, Processing, Marketing and Soil Testing, BRAC Nursery, and Fish and Prawn Hatchery. BRAC's Vegetable Export programme started in 1998 is a venture that is aimed at bridging the gap between local producers and international markets.[10] BRAC also focuses on the problem of youth employment, providing assistance for young men and especially women to join the workforce, for example, with programs like the Adolescent Development Program.[11] BRAC also has a number of commercial programmes that contribute to the sustainability of BRAC's development programmes since returns from the commercial programmes are channeled back into BRAC's development activities. These programmes include Aarong, a retail handicraft chain, BRAC Dairy and Food Project, and BRAC Salt.

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 jewelry, handloom, leather crafts, etc.


BRAC's Non-Formal Primary Education programme provides five-year primary education course in four years to poor, rural, disadvantaged children and drop-outs who cannot access formal schooling. These one-room schools are for children between eight and fourteen years of age. Each school typically consists of 33 students and one teacher. Core subjects include Mathematics, Social Studies and English. The schools also offer extracurricular activities. As of June 2008, 37,500 Primary Schools and 24,750 Pre-Primary schools have been established by BRAC enrolling nearly 3 million children, 65% of whom are girls. The schools have a drop-out rate of less than 5%.[12]

BRAC has set up centres for adolescents called Kishori Kendra that provide reading material and serve as a gathering place for adolescents where they are educated about issues sensitive to the Bangladeshi society like reproductive health, early marriage, women's legal rights etc. BRAC has also set up community libraries 185 out of 964 of which are equipped with computers.[13]

Public health[edit]

BRAC started providing public healthcare in 1972 with an initial focus on curative care through paramedics and a self-financing health insurance scheme. The programme went on to offer integrated health care services, its key achievements including the reduction of child mortality rates through campaign for oral rehydration in the 80s and taking immunization from 2% to 70% in Bangladesh. BRAC, in 1980, trained 10,000 women to teach Bangladeshi families how to make their own oral rehydration solution; to date 75% of families in Bangladesh use oral rehydration therapy to treat diarrhea, 13 million homes have been reached by BRAC trainers, and estimates of lives saved by oral rehydration therapy reach 10s of millions. BRAC currently provides a range of services that reach an estimated 31 million rural poor and include services for mothers in reproductive health care and infants.In Bangladesh, 78% of births occur in the home. BRAC has implemented a program in which midwives are trained to work in the homes of women to ensure that births are as risk-free as possible. As of December 2007, 70,000 community health volunteers and 18,000 health workers have been trained and mobilized by BRAC to deliver door-to-door health care services to the rural poor. It has established 37 static health centres and a Limb and Brace Fitting Centre that provides low cost devices and services for the physically disabled. BRAC has been working closely with the government as part of National Tuberculosis Programme (NTP) to combat tuberculosis, covering 93 million people in 42 districts.[14] BRAC has also been working in National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) in partnership with government and 20 other NGOs in 13 endemic districts of Bangladesh covering almost 15 million people.[15]

Social development[edit]

In 1996, BRAC started a programme in collaboration with the Ain O Shalish Kendra (ASK) and Bangladesh National Women Leader's Association (BNWLA) to empower women to protect themselves from social discrimination and exploitation of which dowry, rape, acid throwing, polygamy, domestic violence and oral divorce are common in rural Bangladeshi communities and to encourage and assist them to take action when their rights are infringed. The programme has two components: the Social Development component and the Human Rights and Legal Services component.[16]

The Social Development component focuses on building human and socio-political assets of the poor – especially women – through institution building, awareness raising, training and collective social mobilizationThe Human Rights and Legal Services component seeks to empower the poor by increasing their awareness of their rights (legal, human and social) and entitlements through participation in activities like the Popular Theatre and through Human Rights and Legal Education (HRLE) classes arranged by BRAC for its Village Organisation members. BRAC also offers external services such as access to lawyers or the police either through legal aid clinics, by helping women report cases at the local police station or when seeking medical care in the case of acid victims. At the end of June 2006, 124,748 HRLE classes were held and 1,332 acid victim cases and 1,735 rape victim cases were reported.[17]

Disaster relief[edit]

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.[18]

Operations outside Bangladesh[edit]


BRAC registered in Afghanistan in 2002 and covers 23 out of 34 provinces. Its major programmes in Afghanistan include Microfinance (funding from MISFA), Health, Education, National Solidarity and Capacity Development. Its Microfinance Program has 429 branch offices that have disbursed more than US$96 million to over 179,000 member households (895,000 people). BRAC runs nearly 2,371 schools which have seen 118,416 students graduate, almost all of whom are girls. BRAC Afghanistan has 3,617 community health workers and 1,390 poultry and livestock extension workers. It has established two Training and Resource Centres in Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif. BRAC's staff in Afghanistan includes 3,463 locals and 180 expatriates. {Annual Report, 2007}

Sri Lanka[edit]

BRAC registered in Sri Lanka in 2005 following the devastating Tsunami and initiated relief and rehabilitation activities. Its rehabilitation and livelihood programmes in Sri Lanka covers three districts and 43 divisions. BRAC's work in Sri Lanka includes the fisheries, agriculture, poultry and livestock, small business, income-generation activities, education and health sectors. In January 2014, BRAC sold its shares of BRAC Lanka Finance PLC to Commercial Leasing and Finance PLC (CLC), a company within the LOLC Group.[19]


BRAC expanded into Pakistan in 2007 and now covers six districts. BRAC Pakistan employees 1000 staff members that work in 68 offices that are set up throughout the country. The Micro-finance Program supports 837 village organisations that have over 14,544 members,which is one of the leading MFI in Pakistan and a trend setter of vulnerable groups.From Aug 2, 2012 BRAC is field partner of Kiva Microfunds,BRAC Pakistan's education programme has opened 200 primary schools in the Sindh province, and 100 pre-primary schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.[20] In 2013, 94,361 people benefited from BRAC Pakistan's health services.[20]


BRAC Tanzania, established in 2006, has created over 7,619 microfinance village organisations with over 116,000 members and already disbursed more than $160 million. Over 480 community health promoters, 65225 agriculture program farmers and 15681 poultry and livestock farmers have been trained. up to December 2012 it was a field partner of Kiva Microfunds.

As of July 23, 2010, Kiva reported BRAC Tanzania's status as closed with a 0% Delinquency Rate.[21]


BRAC Uganda's Microfinance Program has formed over 2,145 village organisations with 59,844 members. To date, the program has disbursed $14.8 million with a repayment rate of 100%. BRAC Uganda has trained 200 community health promoters and opened 122 learning centers in Internally Displaced People (IDP) camps that have enrolled nearly 20,704 learners. {Annual Report, 2007} It is a field partner of Kiva Microfunds.

South Sudan[edit]

In 2007, BRAC started operations in South Sudan. The microfinance program, which consists primarily of returning war refugees, has formed 220 village organisations with over 8,400 members. The cumulative disbursement in 2008 was $1,313,150. BRAC South Sudan has initiated a community-based health program under which community health organisers and health promoters receive training. {Annual Report, 2007} It is a field partner of Kiva Microfunds.


Established in 2008, BRAC launched programs in microfinance, health, agriculture, livestock and poultry; reaching more than 582,000 of the poorest in Liberia. BRAC employs 161 Liberians (71% women) and has mobilised nearly 300 community-based volunteers.[22]

Sierra Leone[edit]

BRAC opened its offices in Sierra Leone in 2008 and started programmes in 2009. BRAC runs services in microfinance, health, agriculture, livestock and poultry, and by the end of 2009 reached over a quarter of a million Sierra Leoneans with their activities. BRAC provides jobs for 169 Sierra Leoneans (83% female) and supports 323 local volunteers.[23]


BRAC has provided technical assistance to Fonkoze, Haiti's largest microfinance organisation, to replicate BRAC's ultra poor program. In 2010, they opened a Limb and Brace Center to support those who were injured in the 2010 Haiti earthquake.[24]


BRAC launched operations in the Philippines in 2012 in partnership with Australian aid agency AusAID, with plans to operate at least 1,600 pre-primary and primary schools in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.[25][26] As of 2013, there are 1,010 learning centres that are benefitting 31,522 disadvantaged children. There are also 600 new learning centres in Sulu and Basilan, adding to the existing operations in the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and Tawi-Taw.[27]


Partnership with the Nike Foundation[edit]

BRAC is collaborating with Nike's Girl Effect campaign to launch a new program to reach out to teenagers in Uganda and Tanzania. The Employment and Livelihood for Adolescents program has been successful in Bangladesh and BRAC is now adapting and piloting this program in Africa.[28]

Countries where BRAC operates[edit]


BRAC Awards[edit]

  • Gates Award for Global Health (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), 2004[29]
  • CGAP Financial Transparency Award, 2005 & 2006[30]
  • Independence Award (Shadhinata Puroshkar), 2007
  • The Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, 2008
  • Devex Top 40 Development Innovator, 2011[31]
  • #1 Nonprofit in International Microfinance (2012)[32]
  • #1 in Top 100 Best NGOs in 2013 (2013)[33]
  • World Toilet Organization "Hall of Fame" Award 2014[34]

Sir Fazle Hasan Abed's awards[edit]

  • The Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership, 1980.[35]
  • The Maurice Pate Award by UNICEF, 1992[36]
  • The Olof Palme Prize, 2001[36]
  • The Social Entrepreneurship Award by the Schwab Foundation, 2002[36]
  • The International Activist Award by the Gleitsman Foundation, 2003[37]
  • The United Nations Development Programme Mahbub ul Haq Award, 2004[38]
  • The Henry R. Kravis Prize in Leadership, 2007[36]
  • The inaugural Clinton Global Citizen Award, 2007[39]
  • The David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award, 2008
  • Knighted by Queen Elizabeth, 2010[40]
  • WISE Prize, 2011[41]
  • Open Society Prize, 2013[42]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "BRAC Annual Report 2014" (PDF). BRAC. 
  2. ^ "Partnership". BRAC. Retrieved 25 November 2015. 
  3. ^ "The path through the fields". The Economist. 3 November 2012. Archived from the original on 4 November 2012. 
  4. ^ "BRAC in business". The Economist. 18 February 2010. 
  5. ^ "World's Largest NGO Helps Poor of Bangladesh". United Nations in Bangladesh. Archived from the original on 5 September 2004. 
  6. ^ "World's largest NGO gains new support from Australia". 15 June 2012. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  7. ^ BRAC=Action, 2007
  8. ^ Annual Report, 1990, BRAC
  9. ^ Chowdhury, A. M. Raza; Cash, Richard A. (1996). A Simple Solution: Teaching Millions to Treat Diarrhoea at Home. Dhaka, Bangladesh: University Press. ISBN 9840513419. 
  10. ^ Annual Report, 2005, BRAC
  11. ^ Ara, Jinnat; Hamid, Syed Abdul (May 2010). "Moving ahead in Bangladesh". D+C Development and Cooperation (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Entwicklung (GIZ)). Archived from the original on 4 November 2011. 
  12. ^ BRAC At a Glance, June 2006
  13. ^ Annual Report, 2005; BRAC
  14. ^ "BRAC Tuberculosis Control Programme". BRAC. 
  15. ^ "BRAC Malaria Control Programme". BRAC. 
  16. ^ BRAC Annual Report. 2009. 
  17. ^ BRAC Annual Report. 2006. 
  18. ^ Annual Report, 2007
  19. ^ "Srilanka - Home". BRAC. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  20. ^ a b "BRAC Pakistan Annual Report 2013" (PDF). BRAC. 
  21. ^ "BRAC Tanzania". 
  22. ^ "About BRAC Liberia". BRAC. Archived from the original on 20 November 2010. 
  23. ^ "About BRAC Sierra Leone". BRAC. Archived from the original on 20 November 2010. 
  24. ^ "About BRAC Haiti". BRAC. Archived from the original on 16 January 2011. 
  25. ^ "BRAC launches operation in Philippines". BRAC. Archived from the original on 19 January 2013. 
  26. ^ "Reaching scale through partnership". Australian Government, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. 7 January 2013. Archived from the original on 13 August 2014. 
  27. ^ "BRAC Phlippines Annual Report 2013" (PDF). BRAC. 
  28. ^ "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. 
  29. ^ "2004 Gates Award for Global Health: Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee". Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Archived from the original on 20 August 2008. 
  30. ^ "BRAC wins CGAP financial transparency award 2005". Drishtipat blog. 24 January 2006. Archived from the original on 20 August 2008. 
  31. ^ Zalkin, Pauline. "BRAC: 'A Grass-Roots Approach To Poverty Alleviation'". Devex. Retrieved 26 February 2013. 
  32. ^ "Ranked Nonprofits: International Microfinance 2012". Philanthropedia. Retrieved 26 February 2013. 
  33. ^ "01 - BRAC - The Agile Giant of the Development World". The Global Journal. Retrieved 26 February 2013. 
  34. ^ "WTO Hall of Fame Awards". World Toilet Organization. 
  35. ^ "Awardees: Abed, Fazle Hasan". Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation. 
  36. ^ a b c d "Speaker Series: Fazle Hasan Abed". Reynolds Program in Social Entrepreneurship. New York University. 
  37. ^ "Sir Fazle Hasan Abed KCMG, Founder and Chairperson". BRAC. 
  38. ^ "Sir Fazle Hasan Abed wins UNDP Award". The Daily Star. 18 October 2004. 
  39. ^ "President Clinton Honors Four Extraordinary Individuals at Inaugural Clinton Global Citizen Awards" (Press release). Clinton Foundation. 27 September 2007. 
  40. ^ "Bangladesh NGO head gets UK award". BBC News. 31 December 2009. 
  41. ^ "2011 WISE Prize for Education - Sir Fazle Hasan Abed". World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE). 
  42. ^ "University Honors BRAC Founder for Advancing Open Society as a Means to End Poverty" (Press release). BRAC USA. PRweb. 13 June 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Banu, Dilruba, Fehmin Farashuddin, Altaf Hossain, and Shahnuj Akter. "Empowering Women in Rural Bangladesh: Impact of Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee's Impact." (n.d.): n. pag. BRAC. Web.
  • Barber, Ben. "No Free Lunch." World & I 17.5 (2002): n. pag. Web.
  • Rohde, J. E. "BRAC- Learning To Reach Health For All." Bulletin Of The World Health Organization 84.8 (2006): 682-83. Web.
  • "World Winners From WISE." Education Journal 130 (2011): 32. Web.
  • Smillie, Ian. Freedom From Want: The Remarkable Success Story of BRAC, the Global Grassroots Organization That's Winning the Fight Against Poverty, 2009.
  • Chowdhury, M. Jahangir Alam; Ghosh, Dipak; Wright, Robert E. The impact of micro-credit on poverty: evidence from Bangladesh, 2005.
  • Lovell, Catherine. Breaking the Cycle of Poverty: The BRAC Strategy, 1992.
  • Is Bigger Better?, Forbes.
  • Creating Emerging Markets Project, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed

External links[edit]