DhakaTribune and ActionAid Bangladesh (AAB) jointly organized a roundtable on how the National Youth Policy can be properly translated into an action plan, on August 5, 2019, at the Conference Hall of Dhaka Tribune. This was the second in a series of collaborative efforts between the two organizations, the majority of which is going to focus on the young people of Bangladesh
The dialogue was co-chaired by Farah Kabir, country director of ActionAid Bangladesh, along with Reaz Ahmad, executive editor of Dhaka Tribune and moderated by ActionAid Bangladesh Manager Nazmul Ahsan. Through these programs, we plan on touching upon the youth leadership and their participation in the decision-making process related to development, young people’s quality of life and work environment, and technical and vocational education. This dialogue, in particular, focused on whether the perspective of the young people of Bangladesh is being incorporated into the national youth policy action plan effectively, and what can be done to make this necessary improvement.
Farah Kabir, country director, ActionAid Bangladesh
When we talk about young people, we mean young men, women, transgender people, people with disabilities and people from indigenous communities from the age of 15 to 35, along with their various needs. We have to focus on having inclusivity as one of our primary goals and to be sensitive towards the needs of the young people. If this can be made true for education, human rights, growth, economic opportunities and social development, they will produce a life of dignity and self-worth. Every policy needs to have a political commitment and a budget, and needs institutions to implement it.
In order to mitigate the problems that the young people are facing in this country, relevant information needs to be made accessible so that the young people can be well aware of the policies, human rights and laws. They can then fully utilize this information when necessary. Civil and relevant education needs to be provided to the young people through an education system that not only focuses on academics, but on human development as well. We need to create a vision for the young people which will inspire them to dream big and help them walk towards achieving those dreams by creating opportunities for them. Furthermore, the young women, the rural, socially excluded or marginalized and all the other minorities need to be given equal importance. Corruption needs to be abolished and a political system that is fair and just needs to be created. The people of this country need to work on themselves as individuals and raise every child in their surroundings with the liberty to think as unique individuals.
Manabendra Deb, central secretariat member, Bangladesh Krishok Samity
The National Education Policy 2010 needs to be updated if we are to implement the National Youth Policy 2017. Along with that, we also need to make necessary changes to our labour law, our National Labour Policy and our National Agriculture Policy. We are witnessing a lot of discussions on various projects, but the real question is are these projects going to involve the views and opinions of farmers? This issue needs to be addressed before planning for any form of implementation. Without the direct involvement of relevant people, the outcome of any project will not truly serve its purpose.
Amina Ferdous Moni, senior manager, Plan International
Our national policies are often lagging when it comes to implementation. A majority of our young people leaves the country for better job opportunities, and the rest who stay back often take up corruption as a means to make easy money. The government falls short at providing adequate security and doling out proper punishment for crime and corruption, which is a huge deterrent for the youth to work diligently for the country. The political corruption and lack of jobs with proper pay discourage the youth from considering their homeland a secure place to prosper in, and this needs to be addressed and changed.
Tazeen Hossain, programme manager, VSO Bangladesh
Currently, although we see young people engaging in various political or non-political activities, I feel that this youth engagement needs to be more meaningful. We need to facilitate their ideas and thinking abilities instead of just using their energy for hard labour. We need to form partnerships with them and use their feedback to produce better results. We also need to recognize certain gaps in our policies and incorporate improvements so that the policies are implemented effectively. The action plan also needs to be guided with far more specificity and that includes individual focus from the ministries and departments of the government.
Shamima Nawshin, senior program officer, Oxfam
Human needs are constantly becoming exceedingly more diverse, which is why we need to be able to cater to the various needs of the youth. Our policy talks about a national youth council, and we believe this can be more effectively programmed if we provide more platforms of youth development through that youth council.
Shah Ali Farhad, special assistant to the prime minister of Bangladesh
As a part of a political party, we are working tirelessly with all that we have to provide the best resources for youth development. We have developed websites and communication portals to get direct feedback on the requirements and needs of our youth. The political will is to derive a well-rounded National Plan of Action, through which we can work towards increasing the welfare and further development of the youth of our country. By checking Awami League’s website, manifesto2018.albd.org, you can get a clearer vision of how dedicated we are towards working for the development of our youth. One of the major points of concern which we are working on is the youth’s abuse of drugs. For this we have opened mental health organizations such as rehabilitation centres to help them overcome their addiction. The mayors and political leaders in various districts need to be held strictly accountable to support our youth with particular problems. Also, whether its commercialism or entrepreneurship, the youth need to be trusted; they need to be given the moral support and confidence to do things by themselves and shine in their own ways. Furthermore, we will start working on the Census from March 17, 2020 and we will do our best to include the young people’s perspective in the National Youth Action Plan.
Rafayet Ara, youth program coordinator, Democracywatch
Information relevant to our youth needs to have a proper platform to create sufficient awareness. Most of our young people are not aware of the policies and laws, which restricts them from knowing what to do or make decisions for themselves. I believe our young people are in dire need of this awareness of policies and laws in order to have a significant impact on national decision-making processes
Reaz Ahmad, executive editor, Dhaka Tribune
ActionAid Bangladesh and Dhaka Tribune jointly organized this roundtable to discuss a youth-centric topic. At the moment, the majority of Bangladesh’s potential workforce lies within the age range of 18-35. In this world of constant automation and technology, where machines are taking over labour forces, there is a question of alignment that needs to be addressed. A recent study suggests that 65% of students between Grades 1-5 will end up working for jobs that have not been invented yet, which shows how the times are constantly changing with technology. Our aim for future generations should be to set up an accurate alignment of education with the future job market. Moreover, we need to ensure the employment of students from local communities instead of hiring foreign employees, which brings about an employment gap for the upcoming generations in the market.
Nurul Haque Nur, vice president, Ducsu
The government is always trying its best to work towards proper implementation. However, it takes a lot of money and time for any implementation process to fall perfectly in place. In order to implement one policy, there are a number of other policies that need to be taken into consideration and maintained. For example, this is why, raising the minimum wage for one job sector, has a chain reaction on the labour union in other job sectors, resulting in them asking for an increment for themselves. This, in turn, creates a domino effect in every sector. Bangladesh being a developing country is still struggling with finances, which is why our government needs more time and more support from its citizens. The government also needs the youth’s direct involvement, which is why it urges the youth to engage in helping the country achieve its goals.
Korban Ali, deputy manager, ActionAid Bangladesh
The majority of our global population is the young people and for developing countries, the youth community is the potential workforce that elevates the country to new heights. Bangladesh has adopted a number of policies in recent times. By the year 2030, the young people can play a pivotal role in achieving the 20 prominent SDG targets. More than one-third of Bangladesh’s population is the youth, and if they are not engaged with the development planning, implementation and monitoring process, demographic dividend can become a demographic challenge. The latest youth policy was adopted in 2017. The objectives of the policy included realizing youth potential and youth empowerment in every sphere of life, for the prosperity and growth of the country, health, security, employment growth, promoting young people’s initiatives in the economy and other areas, inclusive decision making, protecting environment and tackling climate changes, and keeping them away from criminal activities. The policy also works to empower niche subsectors like women, new entrepreneurs, migrants and rural youth.
Shammy Wadud, founding member, UNYSAB
The fundamental question I will ask is, “What is education?” The academic training given in schools nowadays is a plethora of information, but we don’t teach our young people to process that information. We need to train the youth about basic human rights, sex education, about the legal aspects of society and basic public manners. The government needs to work on ensuring health and safety in society for the young ones to look up to, and it also needs to take strict actions against violations of the law. This generation is all about thinking out of the box, which is why the government, which holds decision-making powers, needs to guide the young people in the right way utilizing strict laws and implementing necessary and relevant policies.
Toni Mathew Chiran, youth delegate, Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum
Bangladesh has a niche of young indigenous people with bundles of talent which is often neglected or never taken into consideration. The national policies often talk about uplifting the tribal groups through various healthcare policies, education and through financial support from banks, but when it comes to implementation, we are still struggling to help them. Instead of making statements, I believe we as a nation need to implement these ideas and thoughts and turn them into reality. We need to make sure indigenous people have access to quality education, quality finance and banking systems and healthcare facilities.
Samia Mallik, communication officer, WaterAid Bangladesh
Instead of filling up the young people with unnecessary information, the government and the society need to assist and direct the young people by providing them with relevant knowledge and sufficient opportunities. This will help them develop decision-making abilities for themselves. The young people face problems in two major phases of their journey: when they are starting out with an objective because of the challenges they face with something new, and when they are not successful in accomplishing their goal. The young people do not get the necessary acknowledgement while they are starting out their journey. They only feel acknowledged after having achieved success. Instead, we need to encourage them at every step of the way for them to make proper progress.
Sadik Khan, founder, Brihonnola
We work for the transgender youth community of this country where we try to build their inclusivity through various events and meetings. However, it is deeply upsetting how they are discriminated despite the depths of their talents. The transgender people should be included in the various important aspects of society, where they can obtain a proper education and earn their livelihood without having to depend on anyone. Our vision is to provide quality training, counselling, financial support and education in order to help them feel like an integral part of society. We also need to work on a proper medium for obtaining accurate data on them. One such medium could be a television channel exclusively on the young people.
Huraira Shishir, activist, Activista Bangladesh
The young women face disparity in the job sector in terms of pay, equal opportunities and acquiring the required education to apply for jobs. The sense of competition is high because of lack of vacancies, and lack of awareness towards information about opportunities and requirements. Therefore, facilities in terms of budgets need to be implemented in institutions for better training opportunities.
Sidratul Muntaha, secretary, Greenkeeper
I wonder if adaptation is possible under the current government influence. In my opinion, the government needs to incorporate more structure into minute details. Until then, individuals from the younger generation need to take charge of their matters and go after their dreams and rights on their own.
Sadat Rahman Shakib, founder and president, Narail Volunteers
We have been working on youth opportunities, and we believe major government officials in the 64 districts of Bangladesh need to motivate and support the young people by employing or engaging them. We are pitching for innovation centres that will help take new innovations by rural youth to the national credential levels.
Alamgir Kabir, member, Bangladesh Model Youth Parliament
Disabilities should never be used as a weapon to belittle someone. Young people who are differently-abled need inclusivity and acceptance from society to feel confident in finding their footing in society. We need to exercise more focus on the disabled youth in rural areas in order to help them reach their full potential.
Zaiba Tahyya, founder, Female Empowerment Movement
One of the core problems that we discovered through our research is that there are a lot of government policies and laws, but not everyone is aware of them. We need adequate platforms for data sharing so that we are well aware of our rights and policies. That is what inspired us to develop a blog called “I Know, Right.” Moreover, to make a living, women should have access to not only lower grade jobs but also to trainings that will help them acquire jobs with higher standards.
Sirajul Islam, youth leader, Tarunner Protik
The current sector of the workforce should capitalize on both experienced workers as well as the young people for innovative ideas. Young people are often not trusted with their ideas because of the lack of experiences; this needs to change. Hence, in order to work seamlessly, we should merge the ideas of the new as well as the experienced and celebrate both with confidence on one another. In countries like Bangladesh, people are easily demoralized because of social or peer pressure if they are not able to deliver an output within a short time frame. In my opinion, the young people need to be trusted with sufficient time to be able to build themselves. In order to inspire the young people to bring about new innovations, we should derive progress in terms of education or work by providing encouragement and support, instead of putting pressure on them to succeed fast.
Tahia Rahman, executive director, CMMS
We conducted a research in 2018 to explore what young people wanted to see in the national youth action plan if it was to be developed, to realize the National Youth Policy 2017. The research was conducted on men and women from urban and rural backgrounds. The result showed that 44.3% wanted quality education. The secondary requirements were for participation in sports and cultural activities, and for enforcing security, especially in coastal areas. Our research also showed how the younger generation is eager to stay back in Bangladesh instead of migrating, and contribute to the private sector, the agricultural sector, environmental protection, combating climate change, etc. The focus needs to be given on the quality of education, subsidizing education, vocational training, monetary encouragement, recreational places to help them strike a balance between a corporate and social life, equal opportunities for all genders, arrangement for marginalized work, sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) facilities, and global opportunities for globalization.