ASA (Association for Social Advancement) a non government organisation, was formed in 1978 by Md. Shafiqul Haq Choudhury to extend assistance to poor and deprived people of the society. From its inception ASA targeted its activities to poverty stricken people. They were organized to participate in various social events relating to poverty alleviation up to 1985. During this period, ASA tried to extend legal support to them and organized awareness campaigns. It also trained up many journalists on poverty alleviation. From 1985 to 1991, ASA’s main fields of action were education, micro-credit, small farming, women development, health services and training programmes. About 6 million people in Bangladesh are enjoying the benefits of the program. Besides, Asha is providing technical and knowledge assistance to 2.5 million people in 13 countries of the world in poverty alleviation. Asha has been selected as the 1st (highest) taxpayer in the individual sector in the tax year 2020-21.

At present (2021), its priority programmes are mainly microcredit oriented. Poor women, both from rural and urban areas have been involved in its network. ASA also conducts small-scale savings and insurance schemes and medical grant programme for its members. To provide support to the entrepreneurs of small and medium scale ASA introduced a program called MSME in 2017 as those are considered as the engine of the economic development.

Headquarters of ASA is located in Dhaka and it has countrywide branches. Two field officers, District Manager and Regional Manager are responsible for making liaison between the headquarters and the field offices concerned. Team building, taking deposit for savings scheme from members and distribution of micro-credit are prime functions of the branch offices. Each branch office is managed by one Branch Officer and on an average four Loan Officers. Each Loan Officer generally supervises 18 teams and each team comprises of 20 members. There are 256 staffs in the ASA headquarters headed by the President, who works with the support of four Executive Vice Presidents and a few Directors.

Fund of ASA’s micro-credit programme comes from its own income, savings of members and loan from Palli Karma Sahayak Foundation (PKSF). At present (2021), ASA has 3073 branch offices throughout 64 districts of Bangladesh. It has 24 thousand staffs to run these offices and to manage about 6.8 million clients. ASA established an Old Home at Chunarughat in Habiganj district in 2009 and built up a complex to provide medicine, computer training and remittance services to people of all walks of life.

ASA set up another organisation to extend and implement micro-credit programme around the world in 2007 named ‘ASA International’. Registered in Mauritius ASA International received a fund from a Netherland-based equity organisation named CMI. At present ASA international is conducting micro-credit programmes in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Nigeria, Ghana and Cambodia. ASA founded a University in Bangladesh called ASA University to provide higher education to wards of poor and low-income families. Over four thousand students are now studying in graduation and post-graduation programmes of ASA University. [Shamsul Huda]