Creating Gender-Responsive Branch Office of BRAC: Assessment of an Intervention

During 2017–2018, the Gender Justice and Diversity (GJ&D) division of BRAC implemented an intervention in the organization’s 170 branch offices located in seven districts. The aim of this intervention was to create gender-responsive branch offices based on ten selected indicators. To evaluate the effectiveness of this intervention, understand the process of change, and identify challenges, we performed this mixed-method study. Significant differences were found between the treatment and control offices regarding gender-responsive structural changes, such as creating breastfeeding corner, separate toilets for female staff, etc. Some factors, however, such as excessive workload and social stigma appeared to have prevented female staff from taking benefits of different affirmative action policies.

Researchers: Samir Ranjan Nath; Rumana Ali

Timeline: 2018-2019

Status: Completed

Contact: Samir Ranjan Nath;



As a part of its commitment towards gender equality, BRAC took an initiative to make its branch offices located in seven districts—Dhaka, Tangail, Jamalpur, Rajbari, Jessore, Jhinaidah, and Kurigram—gender-responsive. Ten indicators were set for all the offices to achieve. To achieve these indicators, eight steps were followed. These include providing gender integration training (GIT) to the staff members, identifying the gaps in the selected indicators to create the desired office, developing an action plan to work on the gaps, selecting gender focal point (GFP), forming gender focal committee (GFC), arranging coordination meeting with GFPs and dialogue with Area Manager (AM) and Branch Manager (BM), and follow-up of the intervened offices by the Head Office to monitor the change and activities. But whether this plausible initiative has been successful or not needs to be assessed thoroughly.


The specific objectives of this study were to understand:

  • the situation of the selected branch offices on the ten indicators set for GRBO;
  • the effectiveness of capacity building through exploring the behavioural changes towards the gender-responsive working environment;
  • how the participants translate their knowledge into practice;
  • the barriers, if any, participants are facing in achieving the indicators; and
  • whether the intervention results in any changes in the commitment and motivation of staff members to achieve the organizational goal of gender equality.

This study is relevant to SDG 5 (Gender Equality), particularly to achieving gender equality and empower all women and girls


For this study, we followed both qualitative and quantitative methods. First, we selected 30 branch offices on a random basis as our treatment group from the 170 offices that received the intervention. Then 30 more nearest branch offices were selected as the control group. Data were collected from each of these two groups through observation, documents review, survey, and in-depth interviews.

Findings and Recommendations

Our findings show significant changes between the treatment and the control group, indicating a positive organizational achievement of the intervention in creating a gender-responsive working environment. These changes can be categorized into two classes: structural and behavioural. Among the structural changes, there were breastfeeding corners, separate toilets for female staff, sitting arrangements for community members, etc. Moreover, the organizational policies were more visible to the staff of the treatment group than the control. But not all the branch offices were able to bring all the structural changes required by the indicators. Though some branch offices performed better than others, the difference between the treatment and the control group was visible.

Meanwhile, not much difference, in many cases no differences at all, in terms of behavioural changes was found between the treatment and the control groups. One of the reasons behind this could be that the staff from both groups have been pro-women since long before the intervention. Nevertheless, the qualitative exploration conducted in treatment offices revealed that though staff members understood the need for organizational changes, prior to the intervention, they did not know how to bring about those changes. The intervention both inspired and trained them to work on the organizational goal of creating a gender-responsive workplace.

But in the process of bringing changes, many of the intervened offices faced challenges. Excess workload as well as the social stigma attached to menstruation, for instance, prevented women from taking the benefits of deskwork and maternity leave. The half an hour given to women with babies for breastfeeding is also insufficient. Moreover, women’s acceptance of a subordinate position, their tendency of hiding the incidents of sexual harassment, and the culture of official language rooted in the patriarchal values were found to create barriers for women to take the maximum benefits of sexual harassment elimination policy of BRAC. Meanwhile, housing in rented space also created challenges for some offices to work on the indicators requiring structural changes.

In this condition, BRAC needs to revise some of its policies like deskwork and extra breastfeeding hour. It needs to ensure that its branch offices are located in a place where it is possible to implement all the structural changes. It should encourage women to voice their opinions and complaints more and overcome the fear of social stigma. And finally, BRAC should develop follow-up and monitoring mechanisms to continue or monitor the progress of the intervened offices.