Transforming Lives and Empowering Dreams in Bangladesh

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The World Bank's RAISE project has interventions to address constraints by offering a range of support for those who need it. Many young adults in Bangladesh face significant hurdles in accessing quality employment. The World Bank financed RAISE program helps to remove these hurdles. Photo: Nushin Subhan / The World Bank

“I have been given the opportunity to pursue my dreams.” Those were the words of Kaniz Fatema, a 20-year-old female whose education was halted by her parents during middle school. Her parents could only afford to invest in the future of one child, so they chose her brother instead. For Kaniz, her parents expected her to settle down and start a family. From a young age, Kaniz was fascinated by computer-based designs. She spent hours at her friend’s place playing with colors on the computer designing posters for school functions. Unfortunately, Kaniz lacked the means and skills to pursue her passion for graphic design. 

At the market one day, Kaniz came across a leaflet about the World Bank supported Recovery and Advancement of Informal Sector Employment (RAISE) program, which offered business development and apprenticeship programs through partner organizations of the Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF). Curious, she visited the local partner organization and learned that the program catered to young individuals like her aiming to acquire skills for better livelihoods. It felt almost too good to be true. 

Kaniz was offered counseling to discuss her interests and aspirations and linked to a master craftsperson (ustaad) with over a decade of experience in the graphic design trade. Over the course of six months, Kaniz had the privilege of acquiring advanced graphic design techniques and how to run a business from her ustaad through on-the-job training, while also receiving a stipend to cover her costs. In addition, she attended training on life-skills to learn about how best to interact with clients, how to conduct herself professionally, and how to develop confidence and perseverance. 

Today, Kaniz runs her own small business, leveraging social media to showcase her graphic design expertise and products. Her vibrant banners and logos have gained significant popularity, enabling her to earn more than US$182 per month.

Like many other young adults in Bangladesh, Kaniz faced significant hurdles in accessing quality employment, due to low educational attainment, limited networks, and financial constraints. Consequently, the vast majority of Bangladeshi youth are working in the informal sector or are self-employed, with low income and low productivity. For young women, this situation frequently leads to becoming dependent on their families or entering early marriages.

RAISE interventions address these constraints by offering a range of tailored support, including training in technical and soft skills, mentoring, and microfinance loans for economic inclusion. The program facilitates apprenticeship opportunities with master craftspersons, combining trade skills with life skills training. PKSF’s extensive network of 70 partner organizations in 300 sub-districts has played a crucial role in outreach and awareness campaigns, leading to over 15,000 youths enrolled, with a notable 77% being women. Successful apprenticeships with 1,500 master craftsmen have resulted in 95% of graduates securing employment.

We had the opportunity to meet other young men and women who told us about their challenges in accessing economic opportunities and how RAISE helped transform their potential and future livelihood. Despite humble backgrounds, their enthusiasm and dedication are shaping their futures.

The World Bank's RAISE program helps facilitate training in technical and soft skills, mentoring, and microfinance loans. The World Bank supported RAISE program helps facilitate training in technical and soft skills, mentoring, and microfinance loans for economic inclusion. Photo: The World Bank

Raihan was another such individual that we met. Educated up to class 8, he worked with his father in the farms and faced financial struggles and uncertainty about his future. Facing social pressure to get married and settle down, he desperately sought avenues for more productive employment. A lifeline came from the National Development Programme, a partner organization under RAISE. Raihan enrolled in the welding apprenticeship program where he was connected with a seasoned ustaad and mastered techniques, tools, and designs of light engineering. Today, Raihan is a contented married man earning US$110 every month. Inspired by his mentor, Raihan dreams of opening his own workshop, envisioning a future where he contributes not only to his family but also to the community, marking a transformative journey of  newfound purpose.

Alpona, a young mother who set up her own business through RAISE support, beautifully captures the program’s mission, noting, "All I needed was opportunity, guidance, and encouragement. RAISE showed me the way. I am no longer just a wife tasked with cooking and cleaning; I can provide for my daughter too."

The stories of Kaniz, Raihan and Alpona echo the sentiments of many others who have been given a chance for a better life through RAISE, and PKSF’s wide network. The program’s comprehensive approach, combining various forms of training and credit, enables it to address the varied challenges faced by Bangladeshi youth in pursuing livelihoods, getting good jobs and providing for themselves and their families. By giving young men and women the potential to improve their livelihoods, it also empowers them to pursue their dreams.

Nushin Subhan

Operations Consultant, Social Protection and Jobs

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