What happens when we invest in girls and women? Well, everything

Wednesday July 19 2023

BRAC’s economic empowerment initiatives, focus on education and skills development, and efforts to combat gender-based violence, livelihood, and healthcare programmes. PHOTO | BRAC

Everyone has the potential to transform their own life. What is often missing, for those living in poverty and inequality, is the opportunity to realise it.

At BRAC, a poverty-fighting organisation born in the global south, we invest in building hope, and people’s belief in their own capacity to change. We ensure access to knowledge and resources, and ignite the power of communities.

Our goal is for people to become self-reliant, and their own agents of change.

Power her potential. Invest in a force multiplier.

It is a straightforward concept: women equally being involved in decision-making results in more cohesive, peaceful communities. The challenge is that women’s voices - particularly those living in poverty - often go unheard.

Across Africa, millions of girls and women are changing this, by organising themselves against inequity.


Young women are stepping into girls’ clubs and learning about health and safety. They are darting into open fields with their sports groups, to build coordination and teamwork. They are joining savings and loans groups, to learn financial literacy and how to build their own businesses.

Grandmothers are taking loans and restarting their lives with brand new business ventures, proving that there is no age to take control of dreams.

Women are becoming health workers, mobilising their communities to be prepared against diseases of the body and raising awareness in the community about sexual and reproductive health and rights.

This July(17th to 20th, 2023), global leaders and experts have come together at Kigali, Rwanda, to highlight the remarkable stories of seemingly ordinary people, and the models that put women at the centre of everything.

The Women Deliver Conference is a global platform that convenes activists, policymakers, advocates, and stakeholders to discuss and accelerate progress on gender equality and the health, rights, and well-being of women and girls. The conference is addressing pressing issues and identifying practical solutions to advance gender equality and women's empowerment.

Join BRAC at the conference be part of conversations on powering investment in adolescent girls and young women in extreme poverty, through approaches with which they can empower themselves to overcome the social and economic obstacles they disproportionately face.

BRAC has an exhibition space, a panel discussion, a concurrent session, and a fireside chat throughout the conference days, showcasing and advocating for a southern development approach to create impact at scale. Our esteemed speakers include:

  • Jeannette Bayisenge, Minister of Gender and Family Promotion in Rwanda;
  • Dorothy Gwajima, Minister for Community Development, Gender, Women, and Special Groups of Tanzania;
  • Williametta Saydee-Tarr, Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection of Liberia;
  • Natalia Kanem, Executive Director, UNFPA;
  • Anita Zaidi, President, Gender Equality Division, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation;
  • Hana Brixi, Global Director of Gender, World Bank;
  • Rudo Kayombo, Regional Director of Africa, BRAC International;
  • Susan Bipa, Country Director, BRAC Maendeleo Tanzania.

As a global advocate for the eradication of extreme poverty and gender equality, we bring with us the expertise, development perspective and voices from the Global South. Our commitment to empowering women and young girls and advancing their rights aligns closely with the priorities of the Women Deliver Conference 2023.

BRAC’s economic empowerment initiatives, focus on education and skills development, and efforts to combat gender-based violence, livelihood, and healthcare programmes address critical issues that hinder gender equality and women's well-being.

In 2022 alone, nearly 7 million people in Africa partnered with us to change their circumstances by:

  • Investing in the future through education and early childhood development
  • Ensuring well-being through universal access to healthcare, and enabling environments in agriculture, food security and livelihood
  • Building resilience through disaster risk management
  • Expanding their financial choices through access to microfinance
  • Paving sustainable livelihoods and pathways out of extreme poverty through big push investments like the Graduation approach
  • Investing in the next generation by empowering the youth


I was orphaned at 13. Both my parents died from HIV/AIDS. I went from being adored to being abused. I carried heavy cans of water for hours each day and was beaten if I returned late. My uncle threatened to kill me when I tried to run away. I escaped, but then got pregnant twice, and the fathers abandoned me both times. I’m 17 and back in school now, a single mother with two wonderful children, and completely self-reliant.

Jenifer Manasa

Learner, BRAC’s community-based education programme in South Sudan

About BRAC International

BRAC was born in Bangladesh in 1972, and began its international operations after 30 years of gaining expertise in designing effective, low-cost and community-led development programmes. BRAC International (BI) started its operations in 2002 with programmes in Afghanistan. Today, BRAC International has presence in 16 countries across the world: Afghanistan, Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Liberia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda.

BI’s signature model empowerment and livelihoods for adolescents programme (commonly referred to as ‘ELA’ programme), which started its journey with Uganda in 2006, has been adapted and contextualised across Africa to drive the empowerment of youth and adolescents. Today, ELA has more than 150,000 alumni. It has been proven to support young women and their communities across a number of social, health, and economic metrics.

The model enables young women to engage in safe spaces and build strong foundations through obtaining life skills, pursuing a pathway to decent employment and creating sustainable income sources (formal, informal and self-employment), with a focus on continuing education for those in younger age groups and in school.

This approach is now being adapted and scaled through the Mastercard Foundation Accelerating Impact for Young Women in Partnership with BRAC - an integrated programme that aims to equip 1.2 million adolescent girls and young women across seven countries in Africa, with age-appropriate entrepreneurship, employability, and life-skills training, as well as the tools to start and scale their own businesses.

BI also supports the design, delivery, and implementation of the Graduation approach, which provides women with the resources and skills needed to overcome their social and economic challenges, develop resilient livelihoods, and create sustainable pathways out of poverty.

Renowned economists and academics, including Nobel Laureate Esther Duflo, have proven the approach works across different contexts and achieves long-term impact where participants experience continued increase in consumption, savings, and wellbeing up to 10 years after completing the program.

Since it was first established in 2002, the approach has been adopted by nearly 100 organisations in nearly 50 different countries, including an estimated 15 governments across Africa, Asia, and Latin America, according to data from the World Bank.

Rewriting their stories

For over 50 years, we have learnt one thing to be true: When people have access to all the services they need to meet all their basic needs, along with a belief that a better life is possible, they begin to rewrite their stories.

They are able to graduate out of extreme poverty, break social barriers, better understand their rights, fight gender discrimination and inequality, and are socially and economically empowered.

Our world cannot afford to thrive while excluding half of its population - women.  Invest in women and girls, ensure their access to healthcare, education and livelihoods, and watch what happens. It goes beyond an individual.

A whole society begins to transform.

Key achievements in 2022

  • 8.8 million people supported with social development initiatives.
  • 686,644 people (97% women) received access to finance.
  • 11,436 learners enrolled in 315 Play Labs in Tanzania and Uganda.
  • 14,696 adolescent and youth (91% women) including 14 people with disability registered in 532 safe spaces in Uganda, Tanzania and South Sudan.
  • Over 2.5 million people accessed healthcare services.
  • MoU signed with the Government of Rwanda to support their National Strategy for Sustainable Graduation, which was designed to support efforts to empower people in extreme poverty to develop sustainable livelihoods and break the poverty trap long term. This is part of the Government’s broader efforts to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030.

BRAC is an international development organisation founded in Bangladesh in 1972 that partners with over 100 million people around the globe living with inequality and poverty to create opportunities to realise human potential.