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OP-ED: A true changemaker

  • Published at 02:09 am November 24th, 2020
Sadat KidsRights International Children's Peace Prize

Sadat Rahman’s efforts to fight against cyberbullying should inspire all of Bangladesh to eliminate it

“I live in a remote area, and I am a very ordinary boy. If I can save teenagers from cyberbullying, why can’t others?” 

This is how Sadat Rahman, a 17-year-old teenager from Narail who recently won the International Children’s Peace Prize 2020, expressed his thoughts. I would like to congratulate Sadat for winning the award. His contributions and innovative ideas have lifted Bangladesh to new heights. 

The prize is an annual prize run by the Netherlands-based KidsRights foundation. Its past winners include Malala Yousafzai, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, and the students who organized the “March for Our Lives” after the deadly mass shooting in Parkland, Florida.

 On November 13, Sadat was presented with the award by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai during a ceremony in Hague, the Netherlands. He was awarded the prize for his involvement in setting up a social organization and mobile app “Cyber Teens” to stop cyberbullying and violence against children.

Sadat’s efforts to educate young people about cyberbullying are truly astonishing. A story about a 15-year-old girl who took her own life after suffering from cyberbullying moved Sadat. Later, he formed his young team “Narail Volunteers” and created the anti-cyberbullying app “Cyber Teens” to give helpless teenagers a place to go for help. 

Cyber Teens bridges the gap created by the stigma of talking about cyberbullying and incompetence of local law enforcement authorities. As stated by media reports, since October of last year, with the help of Narail Zila Police, they have managed to resolve more than 60 complaints.

Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai described him as “an inspiration” and said in an online speech: “He is calling on young people all over the world to stop cyberbullying and to help peers in their community who suffer from mental and emotional violence. Sadat is a true changemaker.”

Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, former captain of Bangladesh cricket team and incumbent lawmaker of Narail-2 constituency, wrote on Facebook: “This international recognition of yours is a source of pride and joy for every person in Narail.”

Why is this important?

In recent times, cyberbullying has emerged as an alarming trend, especially against women, as victims and accused in many incidents are routinely abused by a section of netizens. 

It can cause profound harm as it can quickly reach a wide audience, and can remain accessible online indefinitely, virtually “following” victims online for life. 

A section of social media users post distasteful and obscene comments and also drag people’s personal life and family life onto social media platforms. In this digital world, cybercrime is a complex psychological nuisance. Its victims are people of almost all ages. However, adolescents and women are the most affected.

In 2019, a study conducted by Unicef said that at least 32% of children between the ages of 10 and 17 in Bangladesh are vulnerable to online violence, cyberbullying, and digital harassment. According to the study, about 25% of the children (ages 10-17) started accessing the digital world before turning 11. 

What is even more alarming is that a large majority (63%) of them use their own room as the primary internet usage point, implying the prevalence of a “bedroom culture” which allows less supervised internet use.

Working together

We need to keep fighting online abuse involving children until it is eradicated. In this age of information and technology, the fight against cyberbullying is like a war, and in this war, Sadat is a warrior. 

“If everybody keeps supporting me, then together we will win this battle against cyberbullying,” said Sadat in an impassioned speech after he was handed the award. Bangladesh is moving forward as a digital country and Sadat is real proof of that. I hope other young people will come forward to see him, and they will build Bangladesh in a new way.

Md Jahid Hashan is a student of political science.

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