Advancing Gender Equality in Bangladesh : Twenty Years of BRAC’s Gender Quality Action Learning Programme book cover
1st Edition

Advancing Gender Equality in Bangladesh
Twenty Years of BRAC’s Gender Quality Action Learning Programme

ISBN 9780367248079
Published June 7, 2019 by Routledge
162 Pages

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Book Description

In 1994, BRAC, the world's largest NGO, made headlines by putting women's rights centre stage in Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world. The Gender Quality Action Learning (GQAL) Programme was one of the very first large-scale efforts to mainstream gender equality and aimed to weave objectives of gender equality throughout its own microfinance, education and health services.

Advancing Gender Equality in Bangladesh describes the history, implementation, and outcome of this major 20-year initiative and discusses the lessons learnt throughout the fight to achieve gender equality outcomes in an effort to provide a tangible framework for future organizations interested in promoting gender equality and social inclusion. At a time when many gender equality programmes are still relatively young, this book offers a unique opportunity to track 20 years of intervention within a theoretical and cultural context and provides a platform for ongoing discussion about the roles of empowerment and gender transformation as agents for social change.

This book provides an in-depth analysis of how strategies for change have operated in practice and will be of considerable interest to students, researchers and practitioners of international development, gender studies and social justice theory as well as those interested in a new practical methodology of the gender role framework.

Table of Contents

List of acronyms

Chapter 1. The Context in 1994
Chapter 2. Strengthening BRAC’s Ability to Advance Gender Equality
Chapter 3. Implementing GQAL in BRAC

Chapter 4. Implementing GQAL in the Community

Chapter 5. Conclusion


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Rieky Stuart is an associate of Gender at Work and a consultant in international development. She promotes gender equality through evaluations, strategies and programmes and has worked with United Nations organizations like FAO, IFAD, and UNWomen; NGOs like Oxfam, the Red Cross and BRAC; bilateral organizations, and research organizations and foundations. She has worked and lived in Africa, Asia and Canada as a teacher, development programmer, writer, consultant and manager. She was Executive Director of Oxfam Canada from 1999 to 2005, and previously served as Deputy Director for the Canadian Council for International Cooperation, and also taught at St. Francis Xavier University’s Coady International Institute.

Aruna Rao is the Co-founder and Executive Director of Gender at Work, an international, feminist network committed to ending discrimination against women and advancing cultures of equality. She is an expert in gender and development with over 30 years’ experience in pioneering new approaches to gender and institutional change. She has consulted widely with government, United Nations, international development agencies and published extensively on gender and organizational change and gender mainstreaming. She holds a Ph.D. in Educational Administration from Columbia University, New York.

David Kelleher was a member of the original GQAL team at BRAC. He is a co-founder and Senior Associate of Gender at Work, a global knowledge and capacity-building network on institutional change for gender equality. He has worked with numerous organizations in Canada and internationally over the past 40 years helping them build their capacity for social change.

Sheepa Hafiza was the one of the founders of GQAL and was the lead for the program. She was responsible for a variety of innovative approaches to gender and change programs from 1992-2016 in BRAC.As an executive, Ms Hafiza has been widely recognized for her expertise in areas including policy advocacy for extreme poverty reduction; program development; organizational change management; capacity strengthening; rights advocate for gender justice, migrant labour rights and ending child marriage. She has received several awards including the Communication for Sustainable Social Change Award, at the University of Massachusetts, to honour her work on migrant rights, and the Best Practice Award for Gender Norm Change. Her international publications are on gender justice, policy advocacy for extreme poverty reduction, climate resilience and empowering livelihoods for women.

Carol Miller is Knowledge Strategist at Gender at Work, a global network focused on institutional change for gender equality. She is an experienced researcher, learning specialist and evaluator on gender and development issues and has published widely. Carol has previously worked for UNRISD, Action Aid and Oxfam. She is a co-author of Gender at Work: Theory and Practice for 21st Century Organizations (Routledge 2016). She holds a D.Phil from Oxford University and a Graduate degree in Policy and Program Evaluation from Carleton University, Canada.

Hasne Ara Begum works as Programme Manager for Gender Justice and Diversity programme of BRAC in Bangladesh. Ms. Begum has 19 years of experience working with government, non-government and international organizations in research, monitoring and evaluation, gender mainstreaming in organization and programmes/ projects. Ms. Begum has contributed to documenting learning and best practices and forward strategic agenda for organizational transformation in favour of gender equality and women’s empowerment. Ms. Begum also actively affiliated in regional and national women’s rights movement, policy advocacy networks and platforms.


"This important book demonstrates that advances in gender equality are possible within organizations and communities. It also demonstrates that change takes time, the willingness of organizations and communities to learn and adapt, and a dedicated team to promote change. The approach of the Gender Quality Action Learning team was both practical (learning from problems) and strategic (aiming for structural change): reflecting and embodying Maxine Molyneux’s framework of "practical" and "strategic" interests of women. The results of the Gender Quality Action Learning project are impressive, as well documented in this book. The challenge for BRAC is to sustain the gains made in gender equality while also tackling other inequalities: as the lives and work of women in poor households in Bangladesh are shaped not only by patriarchal gender norms but also by class interests, corporate practices and economic policies." – Marty Chen, International Coordinator of the WIEGO Network and Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, USA who helped start BRAC’s Women’s Program in the 1970s

"This book is about one of BRAC's transformational projects in advancing a gender equality and women's empowerment agenda in Bangladesh. It shows that significant headway is possible to change poor women's condition and position and in mainstreaming gender equality in a large organization within a patriarchal society". – Ahmed Mushtaque Raza Chowdhury, Vice Chairperson on the BRAC Board of Governors, Bangladesh

"Advancing Gender Equality in Bangladesh: Twenty Years of BRAC’s Gender Quality Action Learning Program by Rieky Stuart, Aruna Rao, David Kelleher, Sheepa Hafiza, Hasne Ara Begum and Carol Miller (Routledge 2017, forthcoming) provides an in-depth analysis of the history and impact of an extraordinary twenty-year experiment in mainstreaming gender in one of the world’s largest NGOs, while also offering readers a practical, tested methodology for building cultures of gender-sensitive change applicable to other organizations. The approach facilitates locally-led problem solving and adaptation to addressing discriminatory gender norms. It starts with problems or issues rather than ready-made solutions, lending itself well to contemporary calls for approaches to development that prioritize learning and adaptation. The authors provide evidence of the link between investments in internal organizational change efforts and changes in program quality and program outcomes for women and communities which have sometimes been illusive in work on gender mainstreaming. The book will be extremely valuable for those researching gender and institutions as well as those working inside organizations to make change happen." Professor Naila Kabeer, London School of Economics, UK