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The Power of Hope: Effective Approaches to Women’s Empowerment in Global Development

Discussion with Shameran Abed, Scott MacMillan, Manisha Shah and Pascaline Dupas

Following the publication of a biography of BRAC's founder, the Stanford King Center hosted a discussion on successful approaches to women’s empowerment.

Event Details:

Tuesday, October 25, 2022
5:00pm - 6:00pm PDT


United States


Gunn SIEPR Building


This event is open to:

General Public

“For too long, people thought poverty was something ordained by a higher power, as immutable as the sun and the moon. This is a myth. We would do well to start paying attention to the evidence, which says that giving people hope and self-esteem may be the greatest investment in human capital that any country can make.” – Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder of BRAC, the world’s largest nongovernmental development organization.

Following the publication of the biography Hope Over Fate: Fazle Hasan Abed and the Science of Ending Global Poverty, the Stanford King Center on Global Development hosted a discussion on successful approaches to women’s empowerment highlighting programs developed and tested by BRAC. The discussion covered the “science of hope,” Abed’s term for the study and practice of boosting people’s hope and self-confidence as a means to help end poverty, as well as the successful relationship between BRAC and academic researchers. 

Research shows that giving people hope for the future, combined with the right level of material support, pays large dividends. For example, in Uganda, a BRAC girls’ empowerment program pairs vocational training with “life skills” on issues like menstruation, peer pressure, sexual health and emotions. This program succeeds where standalone skills interventions often fail, with experimental research showing a 48 percent rise in income generation. Socio-emotional skills prove to be fundamental in helping adolescent girls and young women from backgrounds of poverty believe that the circumstances of their birth need not completely determine their destiny.

The discussion featured participants from BRAC and researchers working on women’s empowerment issues, and was moderated by Pascaline Dupas, Faculty Director of the King Center.


About the Panelists:

Shameran Abed, Executive Director, BRAC International

Shameran Abed joined BRAC Bangladesh in 2009 and BRAC International in 2012, and has been instrumental in bringing BRAC’s flagship programmes of microfinance and ultra-poor graduation to global scale. Under his leadership, BRAC International’s microfinance portfolio has seen impressive growth and a renewed focus on client impact. Since 2016, he has also led BRAC’s ultra-poor graduation work and played an instrumental role in setting up the UPGI to spearhead global advocacy and provide technical assistance to governments and other organizations.

Shameran Abed has significant Board experience on several non-profit and corporate entities, chairing the board of bKash, BRAC Bank’s mobile financial services subsidiary and one of the world’s largest mobile money providers, and serving on the boards of several institutions including BRAC Bank, BRAC Uganda Bank, and the Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV).

Shameran Abed is also chairman of the Microfinance Network and is a member of the Steering Committee of the Partnership for Economic Inclusion at the World Bank. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from Hamilton College in the United States and is a qualified Barrister in the UK.


Scott MacMillan, Director of Learning and Innovation, BRAC USA

Scott MacMillan is the director of learning and innovation at BRAC USA, an affiliate organization of BRAC, where he has worked since 2011. A former journalist, he served as the speechwriter of Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, the founder of BRAC, prior to Abed’s death in 2019. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and daughter, along with a cat, dog, and four horses.

Scott MacMillan is the author of a new biography of the BRAC founder, Hope Over Fate: Fazle Hasan Abed and the Science of Ending Global Poverty (Rowman & Littlefield, 2022). 


Manisha Shah, Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr., Endowed Chair in Social Justice and Professor of Public Policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs

Manisha Shah is Professor of Public Policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. She is also a Faculty Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), a Faculty Affiliate at UC Berkeley's Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA), and a Research Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA). She received her Ph.D. in agriculture and resource economics from UC Berkeley. Prior to joining UCLA, Shah was an assistant professor in the Department of Economics at UC Irvine. 

She is a development economist whose primary research and teaching interests lie at the intersection of applied microeconomics, health, and development. She has written several papers on the economics of sex markets in order to learn how more effective policies and programs can be deployed to slow the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections. She has also worked extensively in the area of child health and development. Shah is currently leading a randomized evaluation of a sanitation intervention in rural Indonesia to understand the causal impacts of improved sanitation on child health outcomes. Much of her research involves primary data collection and fieldwork, and she has worked extensively in Mexico, Ecuador, Indonesia, and India.

About the Moderator:

Pascaline Dupas, Professor of Economics, Kleinheinz Family Professor of International Studies, and Faculty Director, Stanford King Center on Global Development

Pascaline Dupas is the Kleinheinz Family Professor of International Studies, a senior fellow at both the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research and the Freeman Spogli Institute, and the faculty director of the Stanford King Center on Global Development. She is a fellow of the Econometric Society; an affiliate and board member of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab; a fellow at Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis of Development; a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research; a research affiliate at the Centre for Economic Policy Research; and an affiliate of the Center for Effective Global Action. Before coming to Stanford, Dupas was an assistant professor of economics at Dartmouth and the University of California, Los Angeles. She received her PhD in economics from the Paris School of Economics.

Pascaline Dupas focuses her research on scalable policies for improving household well-being in low income countries. Among other projects, she has conducted experiments throughout Africa to determine how best to price, target, and distribute essential health products. She received a 2019 Guggenheim Fellowship and was named the Best French Economist by Le Monde in 2015. She is a past editor of the Journal of Development Economics, and currently sits on the editorial boards of several leading academic journals, including the Quarterly Journal of Economics; and American Economic Review: Insights.


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