Hundreds of youths at a conference in Dhaka have pledged to end all forms of discrimination in the country, as well as promote inter and intra faith harmony and social inclusion.
They have also made four specific recommendations for the government in order to achieve these goals.
The two-day Youth Conference in Bangladesh - with the theme “Be Bold. Be United. End all forms of discrimination” – started at the capital’s Chhayanaut Sangskriti Bhaban on Monday.
The conference – a joint initiative of “I am One I am Many (IOIM),” “Empowering Youth for Work (EYW)” and “Creating Spaces (CS)” projects of Oxfam – will end on Tuesday.
Addressing the conference, chief guest and Chairperson of We Can Alliance to End Violence against Women Sultana Kamal said youth representatives around the country must understand the spirit of the 1971 Liberation War first to end inequality and discrimination in the society.
Illustrating on the Liberation War’s spirit, she said: “The war was for all. In his historical March 7 speech, Bangabandhu had shared his insight on equality and made it clear that no one will be left behind, everyone will enjoy their freedom and rights. The speech did not express any discrimination towards anyone.”
“But nowadays we can hear the March 7 speech in every corner of the country and somehow it has lost its appeal to the youths. This was not supposed to happen,” said Sultana, also chairperson of Transparency International Bangladesh’s Board of Trustees.
The youth representatives at the conference also admitted that they do not pay much attention to the speech.
Sultana added: “Our fight is not against religion. Youths need to understand that some of dishonest people use religion for their own benefit. If there is discrimination of identities, dignity and equality, then this is not the Bangladesh that was promised.”
Before her, Dr Khalid Hossain, program manager of Oxfam in Bangladesh, said: “The government should utilize the demographic dividend. Youths should get the opportunity they deserve.”
Bangladesh Nari Progati Sangha Executive Director Rokeya Kabir said: “Youths can ensure right to equality and they can play an important role in empowering others, but it will only work when they are in an enabling environment in the family, society and the state.”
The four recommendations the youths made for the government are:
1. Start mass awareness campaigns, involving the youths, to stop communal violence and increase communal harmony.
2. Include secularism studies in the country’s education system and take steps for implementations.
3. Try cases of communal violence and torture immediately via Speedy Trial Tribunals
4. If found guilty, deliver swift and exemplary judgment and punish the accused.