Rakib Islam and Shamim Islam, two twenty-three-year-olds honors candidates at Nabab Sirajuddaulah college of Natore, are visionary youth leaders. While still students, they have established a community library in their village.
“Donate one book and get the opportunity to read many more” is their slogan.
Rakib and Shamim had always wanted to undertake development initiatives for their community, but they did not know how to plan and execute such projects. When they heard of the Leadership Development Program (LDP) – a USAID funded project of Counterpart International – they signed up.
During the training, Rakib conceived the idea of establishing a library in their village as an outlet for young people to spend time productively, as opposed to engaging in drug abuse and other harmful activities usually prevalent in the village.
Rakib reached out to the local school headmaster to let him use some school space for the library. The headmaster agreed and allocated a room in the primary school for the initiative. The community members wholeheartedly supported Rakib’s endeavour, and Shamim got involved in implementing his plan.
In September 2013, their mini library was born.
To collect books, the duo personally went door to door in their community, and they have already collected more than 300 books of different genres. Daily newspapers are also available at the library, which people can read for free. Each day from 3pm-10pm the library remains open and 30-40 people of all ages come daily to peruse the books and newspapers.
The aim of LDP is to inspire and equip citizens with the necessary skills to become agents of change in the democratic processes and development for their communities. Under this program, training for youth leaders is imparted in three phases: action and advocacy, informed citizenship, and communication and leadership.
With the help of grants from Counterpart, Rakib and Shamim plan to expand their village library into a fully-fledged information center, with facilities such as: internet, photocopiers, printers and information on agriculture and health care. These may sound insignificant to the privileged, but such facilities are a novelty for people in their village, and their initiative is a necessary and commendable one.
The success of their first initiative has inspired these ambitious youth leaders to undertake further development projects.
The Department of Youth Development (DYD) of the Ministry of Youth and Sports has youth training centers in most areas, but they are often handicapped by a shortage of facilities and/or qualified personnel to impart training. In the near future, the duo intends to start adult education initiatives, farming schools and English language classes -- involving students from their university and other LDP leaders.
They also plan to spread social awareness in their community regarding issues such as child marriage, drug addiction and the dowry system – prevalent vices in their community.