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Friday, January 1, 2010

Abed Sir becomes Sir Abed : Problem Solved, Poverty Alleviated

Its a matter of great pride and rejoice that our beloved Abed Bhai or Abed Sir is officially going to become Sir Abed. He is going to become officially knighted by Her Majesty the Queen of the Commonwealth Rani Mata Elizabeth Part II. Please note the difference it makes when Abed Sir becomes Sir Abed, how a mere reordering two words changes the landscape.

Of the many good things the British left for us as colonial hangovers other than English language, railway networks etc. is the term 'sir'--to use as a sign of respect to professionally superior, respected personalities, teachers, bosses etc. The three-letter word is expected to carry a lot weight when it comes to branding a person's capabilities, experience, expertise. The term 'sir' has great powers to please your boss, to oil him, to pretend as if you respect him and his (mostly shallow) knowledge (about which you care little). So here we are, the first Bangladeshi to become a 'Sir', or a 'Mohashoy', 'Jonab' in local lingo. Its interesting how we don't become 'bhodrolok' or 'gentleman' unless 'bideshis' label us for our whatever achievement. However I would carefully leave aside any critical discussion and analysis on Sir Abed or on his brainchild BRAC, as not only I am under qualified to talk about these but also there are many sage word and wisdom traders in the country who can do the honours. I would rather make merry of the fact that this has given us another opportunity to broadcast brand Bangladesh, brand BRAC and another brand ambassador in the form of Abed Sir..thukku..Sir Abed, proudly seconding champion boxer Muhammad Ali in the field of micro-credit...Dr. Muhammad Yunus.

There is no surprise we only recognize our own potential and brand icons mostly after foreign friends recognize and appreciate it. I am sure even though we have the option to look at the good side of Mr. Abed's receiving this recognition, there would be thousand voices ready within Bangladesh to belittle or question his contribution in the form of BRAC. As it happened after Boxer Yunus received his Nobel trophy. Inspite of home-grown allergy to global success by Bangladeshis, I think its a great opportunity to establish BRAC brand as the pioneer in the field of poverty alleviation, international development. BRAC is an export ready (already exported to 8 countries in Asia and Africa) Bangladeshi brand, the visibility of which is mostly limited to development practioners in the West. I wonder how many of us and non-Bangladeshis actually know that BRAC is the largest development organisation in the whole world? We can discuss later what 'large' means and how and why it effects on our lives but for now, eat the fact that this is the biggest mark in this field and you can stop guessing names such as ActionAid, CARE, Oxfam etc. Though I get a feeling that BRAC genuinely cares more about alleviating poverty and being recognized in the process through genuine contribution in terms of poverty research, action plans, success stories etc. They might not be that bothered about how their brand value could be extended on a global level so that other Bangladeshi brands (both belonging to the NGO and non-NGO sectors) can piggyback on the excellence of achievements that BRAC has bagged globally. BRAC and Mr. Abed's contribution in this field is another testimony of the fact other other than exporting Taslima Nasreen, hoard of illegal immigrants, Islamic fanatics, stories of floods and cyclones, Bangladesh also exports iconic brands such as BRAC and icons such as Mr. Abed, Yunus and hopefully there are many more in the making.

I also think however that we should come out of this notion and euphoria of us being awarded by friends and well-wishers in the West. Although many claim that I live on pots, I still hope for the day when BRAC will give an award to an NGO in Africa or to a development researcher in a UK/US university for their (his/her) notable achievement in the field of poverty alleviation. The award will be called BRAC Poverty Alleviation Excellence Award to be given by Great Sir Abed Part I. Award recepients need to travel to Bangladesh and receive it. We can also start giving away 'Bhai' awards or 'Kutub' awards to foreigners in this field. Say Ban-Ki Moon receives 'Kutubhood' or 'Bhaihood' from Sir Abed for the former's contributions to some field related to he comes Kutub Ban-Ki Moon or Bhai Ban-Ki Moon.

I admit though that if Bangladesh becomes the center of excellence for poverty reduction strategies and initiatives then it should become a rich country before any other. Why this is still not happening is a fact well known and not much worked on (please refer to our 'khaslots'). Its very paradoxical that the places that produce top-notch brains to tackle poverty are themselves one of the most impoverished. Keep getting awards and remain poor and wait for foreign instructions and aid. A bit of a dog and pony show for this sector that is.

Key take aways for this post:

--BRAC is world's largest development organisation
--Dr. Muhammad Yunus is Made in Bangladesh, as his side-kick, the Bangladesh production also features Sir Fazle Abed, the founder of BRAC.
--Please share this with your non-Bangladeshi friends.

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