BRAC is considered the largest anti-poverty group in the world, addressing poverty through multi-faceted solutions enacted simultaneously, reaching an estimated 126 million people in 11 countries.
From a relief effort to long-term development
When the war of independence for Bangladesh ended in 1972, the country’s economy was in ruins. Fazle Hasan Abed, a senior corporate executive, used his own funds to launch a relief effort called BRAC (formerly known as the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee). The country’s entrenched poverty soon shifted his focus to long-term development and empowerment of the poor.
Poor rural women as agents of change
BRAC focuses the majority of its activities on poor rural women, recognizing them as change agents for their families and communities. Using micro-finance as one of its core components, BRAC set up small village organizations run by 30 to 40 women. It offered skills training and eventually created commercial enterprises to provide inputs or markets for the goods its beneficiaries produced. The result to date is $9.7 billion in loans, with borrowers worldwide numbering over 5.5 million as of December 2011. BRAC enterprises and investments, including micro-finance, produce revenues to fund about 70 percent of BRAC’s work in Bangladesh, a percentage expected to rise in the coming decade as the organization gradually reduces donor reliance in its home country.
Health and education programs
Life-saving health programs delivered by 97,000 trained community health promoters provide more than 110 million people with basic health services and have significantly reduced Bangladesh’s maternal and infant mortality rates.
BRAC’s 38,000 primary and pre-primary schools have graduated more than 9.5 million children from disadvantaged backgrounds, most of whom then transitioned into government schools.
Forging a new South-to-South development model, BRAC has expanded beyond Bangladesh into other Asian and African countries, beginning in Afghanistan in 2002 and then in Sri Lanka in 2004 following the devastating tsunami. It also has operations in Liberia, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Haiti and the Philippines—along the way, blazing a trail for development organizations around the world.