BRAC (organisation)

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  • Building Resources Across Communities
  • Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee
  • Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee
Formation21 March 1972 (1972-03-21)
FounderFazle Hasan Abed
PurposeInternational development
HeadquartersBRAC Centre, 75 Mohakhali, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Key people
Asif Saleh
(Executive Director, BRAC)
Shameran Abed
(Executive Director, BRAC International)
Revenue (2016)
Increase6053.7 crore (US$560 million)[1]
Expenses (2016)Increase4323.3 crore (US$400 million)[1]
Staff (2016)

BRAC is an international development Organisation based in Bangladesh. In order to receive foreign donations, BRAC was subsequently registered under the NGO Affairs Bureau of the Government of Bangladesh. BRAC is the largest non-governmental development Organisation in the world, in terms of number of employees as of September 2016.[3][4][5] 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 16 other countries in Asia, Africa, and the Americas.[6]

BRAC states that it employs over 90,000 people, roughly 70 percent of whom are women, and that it reaches more than 126 million people with its services.[7][8][9] The organization 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 12 countries of the world.[7][10]


Sir Fazle 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,[11] BRAC was initiated in 1972 by Sir Fazle Hasan Abed at Shallah Upazillah in the district of Sunamganj as ll-scale relief and rehabilitation project to help returning war refugees after the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971.[12] 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.[13][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.[14]

In the late 1970s, diarrhoea was a leading cause of child mortality in Bangladesh.[15] In February 1979, BRAC began a field trial, in two villages of what was then Sulla thana, of a campaign to combat diarrhoea.[16] The following year they scaled up the operation and named it the Oral Therapy Extension Programme (OTEP).[17] 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.[18] The training was reinforced with posters and radio and TV spots.[19]

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).[20] Fifteen years after they were taught, the vast majority of mothers could still prepare a safe and effective ORS.[21] The treatment was little known in Bangladesh when OTEP began,[22] 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.[23]

Non Formal Primary Education was started by BRAC in 1985.[24]

In 1979, BRAC started a Rural Development Programme (RDP).[25] This was intended to give members access to credit and to savings facilities.[26] The programme involved considerable growth in the number of people who were members of BRAC: in 1989, three years after the start of the Rural Development Programme, there were 350,000 members, and by 1995 there were 1.2 to 1.5 million members.[27] An evaluation by the United Kingdom Department for International Development in 1998 found that the programme had been successful, though not all the aims were achieved.[26] BRAC's own evaluation in 1996 found "gradual improvements in the indicators such as wealth, revenue earning assets, value of house structure, the level of cash earned, per capita expenditure on food, total household expenditure", but hoped-for improvements in village self-management had not taken place, and the drop-out rate of members was high.[26]

In 1991, the Women's Health Development programme commenced. The following year BRAC established a Centre for Development Management (CDM) in Rajendrapur.[citation needed]

BRAC opened an Information Technology Institute in 1999.[citation needed]

In 2001, BRAC established a university called BRAC University.[28]


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]

Microfinance, introduced in 1974, is BRAC's oldest programme. It spans all districts of Bangladesh.[29][30] It provides collateral-free loans to mostly poor, landless, rural women, enabling them to generate income and improve their standards of living.[29][30] BRAC's microcredit program has funded over $1.9 billion in loans in its first 40 years.[citation needed] 95% of BRACs microloan customers are women.[31] According to BRAC, the repayment rate is over 98%.[32] 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 jewellery, hand loom, leather crafts, etc.[14]

The Challenging the Frontiers of Poverty Reduction: Targeting the Ultra Poor (CFPR-TUP) project was initiated in 2002.[33] The ultra poor are a group of people who eat below 80% of their energy requirements despite spending at least 80% of income on food.[34] In Bangladesh, they constitute the poorest 17.5 percent of the population.[35] These people suffer from chronic hunger and malnutrition, have inadequate shelter, are more prone to disease, deprived of education and more vulnerable to recurring natural disasters. The CFPR-TUP programme is aimed at households which are too poor to access the benefits from development interventions such as microfinance and assists them to access mainstream development services. The program costs around US$35 million a year.[36]


BRAC is one of the largest NGOs involved in primary education in Bangladesh.[37] As of the end of 2012, it had more than 22,700 non-formal primary schools with a combined enrolment of 670,000 children.[32][non-primary source needed] Its schools constitute three-quarters of all NGO non-formal primary schools in the country.[37]

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.[31] 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.[37] They incentivise schooling by providing food, allowing flexible learning hours, and conferring scholarships contingent on academic performance.[38]

Bangladesh has reduced the gap between male and female attendance in schools.[38] The improvement in female enrollment, which has largely been at the primary level, is in part attributable to BRAC.[37] Roughly 60% of the students in their schools are girls.[31]

BRAC also runs a university called BRAC University.[39]

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.[citation needed]

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.[40] 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.[41]

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.[citation needed] 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.[42][non-primary source needed]

Partnership with the Nike Foundation[edit]

BRAC has a collaboration with Nike's Girl Effect campaign to launch a new program to reach out to teenagers in Uganda and Tanzania.[43][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.[44]

Geographic scope[edit]

BRAC operates in 13 countries.

Honours and awards[edit]

  • Number one NGO in the world, 2019 by NGO Advisor.[45]
  • Number one NGO in the world, 2018[46]
  • Number one NGO in the world, 2017 by NGO Advisor[47]
  • Number one NGO in the world, 2016 by NGO Advisor[48]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Bangladesh Annual Report" (PDF). BRAC. Archived (PDF) from the original on 14 December 2017. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  2. ^ "December 2016" (PDF). BRAC. Archived (PDF) from the original on 29 March 2017. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  3. ^ "A creative response to the challenge for change". Dhaka Tribune. Archived from the original on 16 September 2016. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  4. ^ "NGO founder: Sustainable Development Goals will work". 10 February 2016. Archived from the original on 14 November 2019. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  5. ^ "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
  6. ^ ShineTheme. "Where we work". BRAC. Archived from the original on 25 April 2019. Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  7. ^ a b "BRAC at a Glance". BRAC. Archived from the original on 13 February 2019. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  8. ^ "Departure of an anti-poverty icon". Newsnext Bangladesh. Archived from the original on 21 July 2020. Retrieved 31 January 2020.
  9. ^ Alice Korngold, 17 May 2011, "BRAC Is The Largest Global Anti-Poverty Organization, And It's A Secret" at Archived 14 November 2019 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 4 April 2017
  10. ^ Bhagat, Shalini Venugopal (1 January 2020). "Fazle Abed, Founder of a Leading Relief Agency, Dies at 83". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 8 January 2020. Retrieved 31 January 2020.
  11. ^ Abed, Fazle Hasan. "BRAC: Building Resources Across Communities, The Coproduction of Governance: Civil Society, the Government, and the Private Sector" (PDF). Government Innovators Network. Harvard University. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 September 2016. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
  12. ^ "Interview with Fazle Hasan Abed". Creating Emerging Markets. Harvard Business School. Archived from the original on 30 September 2015. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
  13. ^ Annual Report, 1990, BRAC
  14. ^ a b "This ethical brand began in 1978"... "supports 65,000 artisans with fair terms" in about-aarong at Archived 19 August 2019 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 6 April 2017
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ Chowdhury & Cash 1996, p. 29
  17. ^ Chowdhury & Cash 1996, p. 42
  18. ^ Chowdhury & Cash 1996, pp. 25, 28–29
  19. ^ Chowdhury & Cash 1996, p. 78
  20. ^ Chowdhury & Cash 1996, pp. 42–43, 100
  21. ^ Chowdhury & Cash 1996, p. 100
  22. ^ Chowdhury & Cash 1996, p. 101
  23. ^ Chowdhury & Cash 1996, p. xvi
  24. ^ Daniel Schugurensky: 1985 - BRAC begins non-formal primary education for poor children in Bangladesh, History of Education: Selected Moments of the 20th Century at Archived 9 May 2017 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 6 April 2017
  25. ^ "The Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC)". THE GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT RESEARCH CENTER. 1991. Retrieved 1 September 2023.
  26. ^ a b c Mustafa, Shams; Ara, Ishrat; Banu, Dilruba; Hossain, Altaf; Kabir, Azmal; Mohsin, Mohammad; Yusuf, Abu; Jahan, Sarwar (1996). "Beacon of Hope: an impact assessment study of BRAC's Rural Development Programme" (PDF). BRAC Research and Evaluation Division. Retrieved 1 September 2023.
  27. ^ "UK ASSISTANCE TO COMPONENTS OF THE BRAC RURAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME, BANGLADESH (enterprise development; credit provision;technical support for borrowers): Evaluation Summary EV606" (PDF). Department for International Development, United Kingdom. 1998. Retrieved 1 September 2023.
  28. ^ "BRAC University was established by BRAC in 2001" at Archived 19 April 2017 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 8 April 2017
  29. ^ a b "Microfinance". BRAC. Archived from the original on 25 June 2011. Retrieved 21 February 2012.
  30. ^ a b Barber, Ben (May 2002). "No Free Lunch". World & I. 17 (5). Archived from the original on 8 October 2016.
  31. ^ a b c "BRAC Bangladesh Annual Report 2014" (PDF). BRAC. Archived (PDF) from the original on 26 November 2015. Retrieved 25 November 2015.
  32. ^ a b "BRAC at a Glance" (PDF). BRAC. December 2012. Archived (PDF) from the original on 10 November 2016. Retrieved 12 February 2016.
  33. ^ Rakib Avi; Anika Noor (20 September 2015). "Hope Is The Word". The Daily Star. Archived from the original on 20 September 2015. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  34. ^ Lipton, Michael (22 May 2009). "Seasonality and Ultrapoverty". IDS Bulletin. 17 (3): 4–8. doi:10.1111/j.1759-5436.1986.mp17003002.x.
  35. ^ Bangladesh Household Income and Expenditure Survey, 2010, Bureau of Statistics
  36. ^ "Expense Revenue 2015". Archived from the original on 1 May 2017. Retrieved 22 April 2017.
  37. ^ a b c d Ardt, Kalene; Hastings, Chas; Hopkins, Katie; Knebel, Robin; Loh, Jun; Woods, Rodney (2005). "Report on Primary Education in Bangladesh: Challenges and Successes" (PDF). Rethinking International Health. Stanford University School of Medicine. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 July 2010. Retrieved 21 February 2012.
  38. ^ a b "Gender Differences". Education in Bangladesh, a Dawson College term paper. Archived from the original on 24 August 2011. Retrieved 21 February 2012.
  39. ^ "Brac University". Archived from the original on 1 November 2020. Retrieved 2 December 2020.
  40. ^ Rogers, Cate; O'Farrell, Sue-Ellen (October 2008). "Microfinance, gender and aid effectiveness" (PDF). AusAID Office of Development Effectiveness. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 May 2011. Retrieved 21 February 2012.
  41. ^ 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" (PDF). Cornell Law School. Archived (PDF) from the original on 16 June 2014. Retrieved 12 February 2016.
  42. ^ Annual Report, 2007
  43. ^ "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.
  44. ^ "Donors and Partners". Archived from the original on 8 December 2017. Retrieved 7 December 2017.
  45. ^ "BRAC". BRAC Official Website. 13 January 2016. Archived from the original on 3 May 2020. Retrieved 23 January 2020.
  46. ^ "BRAC ranked top global NGO of 2018". Archived from the original on 14 January 2019. Retrieved 4 June 2019.
  47. ^ "NGO Advisor". NGO Advisor. Archived from the original on 10 January 2017. Retrieved 10 January 2017.
  48. ^ "BRAC ranked number one NGO in the world". BRAC Official Website. Archived from the original on 10 January 2017. Retrieved 10 January 2017.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]