What Girls Can Teach the World
There, Abed helped initiate a campaign called "Help Bangladesh" to organise funds to raise awareness about the war in Bangladesh. The war over, Abed returned to newly independent Bangladesh to find the economy of his country in ruins. Millions of refugees, who had sought shelter in India during the war, started trekking back into the country. Their relief and rehabilitation called for urgent efforts. Abed decided to initiate his own, by setting up BRAC, to rehabilitate returning refugees in a remote area in northeastern Bangladesh. This work led him and BRAC to deal with the long-term task of improving living conditions of the rural poor. He directed his policy towards helping the poor develop their capacity to manage and control their own destiny. Thus, BRAC's primary objectives emerged as alleviation of poverty and empowerment of the poor. Under Abed’s leadership, in the span of only three decades, BRAC grew to become the largest development organisation in the world in terms of the scale and diversity of its interventions.
Abed has received numerous national and international awards for his achievements in leading BRAC, including the David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award (2008), the Inaugural Clinton Global Citizen Award (2007), the Henry R. Kravis Prize in Leadership (2007), the Palli Karma Sahayak Foundation (PKSF) Award for Lifetime Achievement in Social Development and Poverty Alleviation (2007), Gates Award for Global Health (2004), UNDP Mahbub ul Haq Award for Outstanding Contribution in Human Development (2004), Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneurship Award (2002), Olof Palme Award (2001), UNICEF's Maurice Pate Award (1992) and the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership (1980).
BRAC has also been awarded the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize (2008), which is the world's largest humanitarian prize, as well as the Swadhinata Puroshkar (2007), the highest state award in Bangladesh.
Abed is recognised by Ashoka as one of the "global greats" and is a founding member of its prestigious Global Academy for Social Entrepreneurship. In 2010 Abed was appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to the Eminent Persons Group for the Least Developed Countries.
Abed has also received several honorary degrees including Doctor of Humane Letters from Yale University in 2007, Doctor of Laws from Columbia University in 2008, Doctor of Letters from the University of Oxford in 2009 and Doctorate of Laws from the University of Bath in 2010.
In February 2010, Abed was appointed Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George (KMCG) by the British crown in recognition of his services to reducing poverty in Bangladesh and internationally.
Sir Fazle Abed: In 1974 there was a famine in one area of Bangladesh, and I went there to try and do famine relief work. There were emaciated women and their malnourished babies. All the men had left. And I thought: the men abandon children and women, but women don’t. If we want to change our society, we need to focus our attention on our women, who are not going to abandon anybody.
We found that when we added three million borrower groups in our micro finance program we had about 380,000 women who were producing vegetables for livelihood, but we found that they don’t have high-quality vegetable seeds, so we went into seed multiplication as a business in order to supply our women with high-quality seeds. But then once we had gone into business not only we supplied to our own clients, but also we supplied throughout the country high-quality seeds, so development automatically happened in the sense that more productive horticulture program was started throughout Bangladesh.
So it was a combination of microfinancial services and then enterprises, training that we provided them. Generally, it was a holistic approach to development: microfinance with plus, plus. Plus means providing them support in terms of inputs and services and training. The other plus is providing them healthcare, education for their children, so at least you can break the cycle of poverty. The next generation will not be poor.
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Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd
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