“As companies operating in Bangladesh, we have to keep local needs, values and ethos in our mind and design our CSR activities.” – Major General Sheikh Md Monirul Islam (retd), Chief External and Corporate Affairs Officer, bKash Ltd
What is the take for bKash on CSR?
As an institution, bKash works to support marginalised people. So, we can say that CSR itself is embedded within the culture of bkash. We always looks for sustainable and impactful CSR activities that can bring about change or enhance the development of society.
What motivates you to focus your interventions on education?
In our traditional education system, students go to school, read the textbooks, give their exam and qualify. This is one aspect of learning. But we thought that students should also read outside of their textbooks, on topics such as literature and history, so that their reading skills improve. So, in order to develop this habit and to provide students access to even more books, we partnered with Bissho Sahitto Kendro. With an average of 40,000 new books distributed each year, bKash has distributed around 253,600 books, benefitting 2.6 million students from around 2900 Institutions
in the past 7 years. This programme targets students aged 11 to 18, and encourages them to read as a sustainable long-lasting process, while updating their schools about their progress. Bissho Sahitto Krendo also helps schools by introducing new books and refurbishing or replacing old and worn-out books in the school libraries. About 200 new books are read each year by students under this programme. Also, our studies show that students who read outside of their school textbooks perform better in exams and as well as in essay competitions compared to those who do not.
What role did bKash play during the Covid-19 pandemic?
We all know the whole globe was stunned by the Covid-19 pandemic and Bangladesh is no exception. Our CEO reached out to our partners and parent company, and we coordinated with the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders to import essential medical equipment from China. bKash donated around one million pieces of equipment which included PPE, face-shields, surgical masks for frontline workers. bKash also funded 40 ventilators, which was provided to Dhaka Medical College, CMS, police hospital and Shishu hospital. Moreover, bKash also tried to support the families affected by Covid-19. To this measure, we provided 10 days of relief packages to 10,000 families distributed across different districts in the country, with the help of Sena Kollayan Songstha. On top of this, bKash’s donation feature in the app allowed thousands of people to contribute to helping Bidyanondo build a hospital in Chattogram.
How can other sectors help companies create more effective changes to our communities?
Different sectors are under different regulatory bodies. For example, banks and MFS come under the regulatory authority of Bangladesh Bank. So, when it comes to any form of collaboration, coordination and alignment, the regulatory bodies can always sit together with CSR personalities and higher authorities to distribute the activities amongst the companies involved. This will ensure the participation of the necessary sectors. If all relevant sectors are not involved, then we are not realising the potential of CSR.
What are your thoughts on the future of CSR in Bangladesh?
When it comes to CSR activities it mostly depends on the local context and understanding. As we are the companies operating in Bangladesh, we have to keep local needs, values and ethos in our mind and design our CSR activities accordingly. If we can do so, I believe that would uplift and enhance the living standard of the people of our country.