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International Youth Day 2018: Are spaces for youths narrowing in Bangladesh?

  • Published at 02:17 am August 12th, 2018
Youth
Youths need safe spaces where they can come together, engage in activities related to their diverse needs and interests, participate in decision making processes and freely express themselves Dhaka Tribune

August 12 was designated as the International Youth Day by the United Nations in 1999 to recognize the role of young women and men as essential partners in change, and raise awareness of challenges and problems faced by them.

When almost all countries across the world are celebrating International Youth Day with the theme ‘Safe Spaces for Youth’, many Bangladeshi youths say spaces for them are narrowing. 

August 12 was designated as the International Youth Day by the United Nations in 1999 to recognize the role of young women and men as essential partners in change, and raise awareness of challenges and problems faced by them. 

The Dhaka Tribune and ActionAid Bangladesh, a non-governmental organisation, have jointly taken an initiative to find out youth opinions regarding safe spaces for them in the country. 

Many of them said the country seriously lacks safe spaces for its vast young people. 

Salika Akter, a 2nd year student of English department at Dhaka University, said: “What I understand about safe space is freedom and security. If we observe the recent situation in the country, we see our freedom is often violated in digital space. We cannot enjoy our freedom of speech in many cases.

“We need more awareness to ensure safe space. We should respect views of others,” she said. 

According to the UN, youths need safe spaces where they can come together, engage in activities related to their diverse needs and interests, participate in decision making processes and freely express themselves. 

There are other types of spaces like civic space, public space and digital space.

However, many Bangladeshi physically challenged persons say they do not have access to these spaces and are often neglected due to their vulnerable state. 

Jahangirnagar University student Nazmus Sakib Khan, a physically challenged person, said he faces discrimination when accessing to physical or civic or public space.  

“These spaces are not friendly and safe for me. I have little access to public spaces. There are many laws to ensure safety for physically challenged people, but the areas are being narrowed day by day due to lack of implementation of these laws,” he said. 

“Digital space is only one available for me but it is still not safe. We cannot place our opinions or views on virtual platforms for various reasons. Sometimes, we are neglected because of our physical vulnerability,” he said. 

Ananya, an indigenous girl who works at a beauty parlor in Dhaka, said they usually face two different problems -- gender identity and indigenous identity. 

“We are often called ‘Chakma’ or ‘Rohingya’. I do not know why we are treated this way as we are also Bangladeshi nationals, and most importantly we are human beings,” Ananya said.   

However, the government said it is cordial to youths and is running many programs for their development. 

The Department of Youth Development’s acting director general AN Ahmad Ali said the government is committed to the development of the youth. “The government is also sincere to ensure safe spaces for them. 

“Besides, we are arranging training for the youth and provide loans to them. We are creating scope for them both at home and abroad,” he told the Dhaka Tribune. 

Bangladesh already celebrated the International Youth Day. 

On August 6, the Ministry of Youth and Sports held a program at Sheikh Hasina National Institute of Youth Development in Savar to mark the day. 

UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth Jayathama Wickramanayake was present as the chief guest while State Minister for Youth and Sports Biren Sikder chaired the event.