Wednesday, January 06, 2010

One of the first Bangladeshi son to be Knight

Photo: Sir Fazle Hasan Abed

S M NAZER HOSSAIN

FAZLE HASAN Abed, founder & chairperson of world’s largest non-governmental organisation BRAC, is a visionary whose relentless efforts and innovative ideas have changed life in many ways as far as the poor in our country, and beyond, are concerned.

Abed - who holds dual British and Bangladesh citizenship - will be knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 2010 for services in tackling poverty.

The awesome news is Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth of Britain has taken note of Abed's services to humanity and decided to knight human honour bestowed upon only truly remarkable personalities. Abed's name was included in the Queen's New Year's Honours List.

He Abed is to be made a Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) and is the first person of Bangladeshi origin to be honoured with a knighthood by the British Crown since 1947.

Abed is the second person in his family to be honoured with a knighthood. His grand uncle, Justice Nawab Sir Syed Shamsul Huda, was knighted by the British Crown in 1913.

Needless to say, Abed belongs to that rare genre of committed human beings who love to work for the less fortunate, happily and selflessly. He has also been awarded for empowering the poor in Bangladesh and globally.

BRAC is the largest NGO in the third-world working in three continents. That alone tells Abed's success story rather convincingly. He has been able to bring about a quiet revolution in Bangladesh villages and elsewhere.

"I now want to build on this success to continue Brac's fight against poverty not only in Bangladesh but in eight other countries in the world where we are involved - Afghanistan, Uganda, Tanzania, Southern Sudan, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Sri Lanka," he told BBC journalist from his headquarters in Bangladesh capital Dhaka.

The challenge of alleviating poverty in Bangladesh must have been alarming one in the early 1970s. BRAC has shown the way to millions of rural poor and instilled in them the confidence to come out of the vicious poverty cycle which was a stumbling block in the way of development. But men like Abed never give up. He has proved that concerted and planned action can help overcome the biggest odds. BRAC is now globally recognized as a pioneer of poverty alleviation. He has shown that Bangladesh can indeed be a model to all developing and underdeveloped countries fighting poverty.

The fields in which BRAC works are many and all of them have been selected in light of our socio-political needs. For example, BRAC's non-formal primary education programme, which targets the under-privileged children, expanded to a point where it had 37,500 primary schools in June 2008 and it continues to grow. Its public health care programme is now a major service provider in the health sector for more than 92 million people. The programme includes some vital components like immunization and services for mothers. The child immunization drive has been a huge success. Yet another health campaign also drew attention of the international community for providing knowledge and training to combat diarrhoeal diseases by simple oral saline solution of clean water mixed with salt-sugar.

The recognition given to Abed once again reminds us that dedication, commitment and integrity are always rewarded in the long run. When BRAC formally began in 1972, it was a modest beginning for the organisation.

Though BRAC did not exist, Abed’s first experience with disadvantaged people was during bloody war of independence in 1971. He brought aid to thousands of refugees who fled north-eastern region of Bangladesh and took refuge in India. He sold his house in England, quit his high-paid job and joined hands to alleviate the disadvantaged population in post-war Bangladesh. His intervention was very crucial.

But Abed's leadership and guidance has elevated it to the position that it has now. We congratulate Fazle Hasan Abed on his being honoured by Her Majesty and believe that it will only further encourage his determined spirit to continue to work for emancipation of poverty-stricken population in Bangladesh and in other countries in Asia, Africa and South America. #

S M Nazer Hossain, Executive Director of ISDE Bangladesh, Chittagong and could be reached isde.bangladesh@gmail.com

Edited by: Saleem Samad, with reports from BBC online