The future of a country largely depends on its youth population. Youth activism and engagement can bring about important social changes. During times of national crises, it is the youth who bravely stand up to the challenges and often sacrifice their lives for the greater good.
The history of Bangladesh could not have been written so gloriously without the contributions and sacrifices of youth. Be it the historic Language Movement in 1952, the mass uprising in 1969, the Liberation War in 1971 or the mass movement in 1990, the youth of our country always rose to the occasion and played powerful roles in each one of those historically important political events.
The young population across the globe makes up to 1.8 billion out of the 7.3 billion total population, and most of them live in developing countries like Bangladesh. About 30 percent of Bangladesh’s total population is young (10-24 years). They are full of promises and possibilities, and with proper guidance, they will be able to lead our country to the path of sustainable development. Many Bangladeshi youngsters are already making their mark worldwide and representing our country in a new, positive light. Youth leadership in our politics, economy, and social sectors is increasing as well.
History of youth leadership in Bangladesh. The contribution of youth in our liberation war is exemplary in world history. The young leaders built up a strong resistance against the Pakistani oppressors, and motivated people from all walks of life. Their combined effort gave us the independent country we have today. Even after the war, youth leadership was very prominent in averting many major national crises. The pro-democracy mass movement in the 1990s against autocratic ruler HM Ershad was organized and carried out by young leaders. After Ershad stepped down from power, youth leaders started working in various sectors of society. From then on, youth leadership flourished in politics, economy, and various social sectors.Youth leadership achieved particular success on social and economic fronts, and they presented Bangladesh in a new light in front of the whole world.
Unfortunately, youth leadership in Bangladesh’s politics has lost its way. In the past, skill, education, and intelligence were valued in politics. However, the scene is completely different today.
Most young leaders now have a strong financial motivation that precedes their sense of duty. A large number of them climb up the political hierarchy by serving big leaders and/ or through getting engaged in illegal activities. As a result, they have pretty much lost all credibility with the common people. Only a handful of young leaders in recent years have managed to show promise. Young leaders are being elected based on their obedience to senior leaders rather than their merit and talent. Honest and straightforward candidates are being neglected while flatterers are being given important positions in the party.
Qualification and skill were once the two most important yardsticks to be a youth leader. However, most of today's youth leaders are more focused on accumulating assets and social position. Hardly any of them have the mentality to sacrifice for the sake of the country. Student politics has lost its validity a long time ago. The student politics we have now has largely become a medium to abuse political power. Nepotism has become a norm in the country’s political tradition. Unqualified people are being given important positions in the party solely based on their family connections. As a result, qualified young people are gradually being excluded from politics.
In our politics, doctorate degree holders and barristers always have a special place. Many of the youth leaders are going abroad for higher studies. A large number of them are settling abroad. Among those who come back, only the flatterers get good positions in the parties. As a result, despite having a world-class education, many student leaders are not applying their minds in politics.
The contribution of youth in our liberation war is exemplary in world history. The young leaders built up a strong resistance against the Pakistani oppressors, and motivated people from all walks of life. Their combined effort gave us the independent country we have today. Even after the war, youth leadership was very prominent in averting many major national crises. The pro-democracy mass movement in the 1990s against autocratic ruler HM Ershad was organized and carried out by young leaders. After Ershad stepped down from power, youth leaders started working in various sectors of society. From then on, youth leadership flourished in politics, economy, and various social sectors.Youth leadership achieved particular success on social and economic fronts, and they presented Bangladesh in a new light in front of the whole world.
Badruddin Omar Writer, columnist and social thinker
Before the liberation war, the ruling governments deprived people of this country of their fundamental rights by stifling democ - racy and introducing various mechanisms of exploitation including discriminatory political and economic systems. The youth of that era valiantly fought against those injustices and led the country to its road to independence. They sacrificed their lives for the greater good of the country. Even after the liberation war, they built strong resistance against autocratic practices and social problems time and again. Unfortunately, we do not see that mentality in todays leader. Nowadays, the skills, qualifications, and dedications have been put into the back burners, and spineless flatterers have been given all the spotlight. As a result, our entire political system is crumbling down. This political practice will not bring any good to society.
Creating youth leadership is a duty of the state. When it comes to developing nations with large youth populations such as Bangladesh, investing heavily in the youth in order to improve their quality of education, job opportunities, skill development, etc., are essential for social development. A stable government can leave a positive impact throughout society. In a stable government, both the ruling and opposition parties perform their duties with responsibility and accountability.
This kind of political practice ensures a healthy environment in educational institutions, which is essential for creating good leadership. The student council system is also very helpful in creating proper leadership.
Our educational institutions no longer have any student councils. The student organizations have bitter rivalry among them. Most student activists are being used as pawns by senior political leaders. Promising and brilliant students are not being valued by parties. As a result, they are avoiding student politics altogether. Senior political leaders are solely responsible for this situation. The absence of the country’s brightest minds in politics is surely a great concern for our future. Corruption and bureaucracy are prevalent in our society and a few powerful families are controlling the country. The educated urban youth do not take much interest in politics and civil service. Proper leadership will not be created without their active participation in these important sectors.
Youth are the future leaders of any society in the world. Youth has to actively participate in the development of any society. A country can only improve if its youth work hard to build the nation. The enthusiasm and vitality of a young person are far more effective than a number of experienced elders. So, there is no alternative to the youth participation in leadership positions. Leadership must be ensured in social, political, economic, cultural, religious, and in every other sector.
Mujahidul Islam Selim President of Bangladesh Communist Party
The productivity of our farmer's and laborers is enviable. Our youths have played required roles in cultural activities, trade and commerce, social, and political movements. Despite having so many possibilities and so much potential, Bangladesh could not achieve the optimal level of success it envisioned prior to the liberation war. The mass people are still struggling with poverty. Many youths are representing Bangladesh in front of the world, but their successes are largely based on their individual efforts. The state and the government cannot claim any credit for their success. If honest, qualified, and intelligent leadership can be ensured in government and other important sectors, Bangladesh will completely turn over a new leaf one day.
Bangladesh formulated its first national youth policy in 2003. However, that policy failed to represent the needs and priorities of youths over the passing years. As a result, a revision of the youth policy became very urgent.
In view of that need, a new draft of the national youth policy was published by the Department of Youth Development (DYD) under the Ministry of Youth and Sports, soliciting public opinion in April 2015. The DYD organized several divisional and central-level consultations with different key stakeholders of the country. Following a series of consultations and an online call for feedback by the DYD, a large number of recommendations and feedback had been given by different organizations. At the end of 2015, the government's research wing Centre for Research and Information (CRI) joined hands with the DYD. In the latest phase, the CRI published a revised draft after incorporating some feedback from different quarters, including two ministries. A national level workshop on the finalization of a national youth policy was jointly organized in July 2016 by DYD, CRI, and UNFPA Bangladesh. Although the latest youth policy has been praised especially for the inclusion of public opinion, it still has a few limitations. For decades, youth organizations have been urging policymakers to include youth representatives during the formulation phase of the policy. Just like before, this demand has been largely neglected this time also.
However, a number of positive changes have been made in the latest policy. In accordance with the European Union policy, the new policy has reduced the age limit of youth from 39 to 35. Alongside, the proposals to increase training and incentives to create more young entrepreneurs have been appreciated by all. From the point of view of human rights, the revised draft is much more inclusive than the previous one. The promotion of youth’s engagement in environmental education and protection, ICT development, green technology, good governance, sustainable development, volunteerism, and youth work has been widely adapted.
The policy promotes youth exchange among different countries as well as between rural and urban youths in order to promote national solidarity, brotherhood, and cultural integration. The youth population has become an important factor in the last couple of elections. At least 40 percent of the voters are between the ages of 18 to 35, and they can influence the result of the election in a profound way. The ruling Awami League realized the importance of reaching out to youth. Keeping that in mind, the party had included a separate paragraph about youth in their previous election manifesto. It is a milestone in the history of youth development in our country. Prior to the election the prime minister’s ICT advisor Sajeeb Wazed Joy met and exchanged opinions with te youths who are not involved in mainstream politics but were active in social movements. The outcome of those meetings was visible in Awami League’s election manifesto.
From August 18-21, 2016, Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center (BYLC) hosted a three-day Youth Leadership Summit with the theme “Connect, Collaborate, Co-create”. Four hundred young delegates from Bangladesh and abroad participated in the summit. The summit features entrepreneurship, leadership, global citizenship, education and career, cliregulamate change, women and leadership, politics, and news media. The keynote address at the opening ceremony was delivered by Sir Christopher Ball, a former Warden of Keble College, Oxford University, who spoke about leading a life of purpose by maintaining integrity and leading by example. This summit also featured Ejaj Ahmad, founder president of BYLC, and Harvard professors Dr. Dean Williams and Dr. Hugh O’Doherty. The leadership sessions focused on examining the opportunities and dangers of exercising leadership, identifying boundaries, and collectively finding purpose. The summit also featured plenary sessions where leading experts shared their personal leadership journeys and discussed topics of interconnectedness, education, and entrepreneurship.
Dr. Zafarullah Chowdhury Founder of Gonoshasthaya Kendra
The aims and targets that once propelled the youth of this country to participate in the liberation war have not materialized. The Bangladesh we have today is not the Bangladesh we had in mind during the liberation war. Every sector of the society is being controlled by black money and muscle power. The leaders should be accountable to the mass people. Impartial, honest, qualified, and properly trained youths are essential to build up a proper public administration system. It is absolutely necessary to pick prospective youths for leadership positions based on their merit and commmitment. Unfortunately, none of the political parties have that in mind. Spineless flatterers are dominating our political spheres.
Omar Faruk Chowdhury Chairman of Awami Juba League
Youth are the lifeblood of Awami League politics. Awami League has always been the political party that has united the country's youth. Juba League is relentlessly working to build up the nation and meet the national targets. We are focused on creating youth leadership that can build up an educated and productive society. We are determined to bridge the gaps between rural and urban areas and establish a discrimination-free society. Age is not a factor when it comes to working. We consider honesty, merit and skill as the only qualifiers for creating leadership. In order to recover from the social unrests, we are trying to unite the youth population and turn them into organizational power. In that process, new leadership is being created.
Half of the county’s population consists of youth. We have a promising, creative and hardworking youth population. If they can be brought under a competent driving force, Bangladesh will not only become a middle-income country, but living minaccolade of police -- President Police medal (PPM).
Tasmin Mahfuz: Bangladeshi- American TV anchor and news presenter Tasmin Mahfuz works at the WAHG TV channel in the USA. In 2015, she was awarded the prestigious Gracies Award for Outstanding Producer of TV News. She also earned an award from the Utah Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Jahangir Alam Shovon: E-commerce business consultant, online writer, and social activist, Jahangir Alam Shovon undertook a project called “Dekhbo Bangladesh, Gorbo Bangladesh”. The project involved him walking on foot from the north to the east of Bangladesh, covering a distance of more than 1000 kilometers in 46 days. From February 12 to March 28, he crossed 1,176 kilome-ters, starting from the Banglabandha Zero Point and ending at the Teknaf border.
Shahida Akter Shorna: Shahida Akhter Shorna got international recognition as a child marriage abolitionist. Since she became involved with the children’s rights organization, Plan Bangladesh, at the age of 12, she has stopped 31 child marriages so far, including her own. She tries to stop child marriage by first persuading the parents of any underaged girl, and then by seeking support from teachers, members of Union Parishad, Upazila and police administration. A zoology student of Badre Alam Government College in Gazipur, Shorna is also an active member of the youth group, Wedding Busters, which advocates for the rights of girls through educational programs, theater, and door-to-door visits with community members. In 2014, she participated in the Annual Conference on “Because I Am A Girl”, a global campaign of Plan International. On that event, the Norwegian prime minaccoladeister Erna Solberg dubbed her as the 'Malala of Bangla'.
Dipankar Talukdar and Selim Shahriar: Dipankar and Selim are among a team of scientists and engineers, who received the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for their contribution to the detection of gravitational waves. They worked with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) team in the USA and made a significant contribution to gravitational wave detection. A.S.M. Mohiuddin Monem: Deputy managing director of Abdul Monem Group of Companies. He is also serving as the chairman of the business process outsourcing company, Service Engine Limited. In 2016, Service Engine ranked 12th best company in the “Rising Star” category of the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals (IAOP) “Global Outsourcing 100®” service providers list. The organization also won the National Export Gold Trophy for 2013-14 fiscals for its contribution to the country’s export trade in computer software.
Golam Faruque: An adjunct lecturer in the Department of Multimedia Creative Technology of Daffodil International University, Faruque won second position in the list of best illustrators published by Upwork, the world's most popular freelancing marketplace, third position in the list of best graphic designers, and fourth position in the list of logo designers. He is currently the best freelance designer of the country. Munzarin Mahbub Oboni: Bangladeshi model and student of Ahsanullah University of Science and Technology, Munzarin Mahbub Oboni represented Bangladesh in the “World Miss University 2016” beauty pageant. She ranked eighth in the pageant. She has many achievements in national and international competitions such as the winner of the Asia dance championship, ranked first in the international dance Olympiad, won the all India Theater Olympiad, and secured second prize at a global female folk dance competition. Recently she got first prize in the Bali International Dance Asia championship in the traditional dance category.
Paromita Mitra: In 2013, Bangladeshi-born U.S. citizen Paromita Mitra won the Miss Mississippi title. In 2009, she was crowned Miss Mississippi teen. She is the first Bangladesh-born woman to participate in the Miss America contest. Osama Bin Noor: Osama, the co-founder of Youth Opportunities, an online platform which advertises scholarships, internships, and conferences, and the resource coordinator of Volunteer for Bangladesh Dhaka District, which offers young people the chance to take part in community service programs, was awarded the prestigious British Queen’s Young Leaders Award in 2016 for his contribution to social development. Maksuda Akhter Prioty: Prioty won the Miss Ireland title 2014. She is the first Asian to win a European national title. She also won a host of other international awards, including Miss Universal Royalty 2013, Miss Hot Chocolate 2014, Miss Photogenic 2014, Supermodel of the year 2014, Miss Fitness 2016, etc.
Rushanara Ali: Ali is one of the most well-known Bangladeshi expats in international politics. She has made a strong position for herself in British politics over the course of the last few years. She has been a member of parliament for Bethnal Green and Bow since 2010. In 2016, the then British prime minister, David Cameron, appointed her UK trade envoy for Bangladesh as part of a cross-party trade envoy network. Nadia Shah: In 2016, counselor Nadia Shah became the first Bangladesh-born mayor of Camden. Councilor Shah represents Regent’s Park ward of Camden in London, UK. Colonel Dr. Nazma Begum: Dr. Nazma Begum is the first ever female to lead the United Nations Peace Keeping contingent mission in the history of the brave Bangladesh Army. She led a 56-member medical contingent, which was sent to Ivory Coast. She was the first female commander of 21 Field Ambulance in the history of the Bangladesh Army. She also served as assistant director of Medical Services at the 11th Infantry Division of Bogra Cantonment. Apart from this, Nazma has written 26 books, and is an enlisted lyricist for Bangladesh Television.
Wasfia Nazreen: Everest winning mountaineer Wasfia Nazreen became the first Bangladeshi to climb all the seven highest peaks in seven continents, also known as the “Seven Summits”. She climbed Mount Elbrus in Europe, Mount Aconcagua in South America, Mount Denali in North America, Mount Vinson Massif in Antarctica, Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, and Mount Everest in Asia. Mabia Akhter Shimanto: Weightlifter Shimanto won a gold medal in the women's 63-kilogram weight class at the 2016 South Asian Games at Guwahati in India. She also won a gold in youth section and two silver medals in the senior and juniors sections in the Commonwealth Weightlifting Championship in Pune, India in October 2015 in the women's 63-kilogram category. Ruqsana Begum: Bangladeshi- British professional kick boxer Ruqsana is the only female Muslim national champion in her sport. She is the current British and World Kickboxing Association female Atomweight (48–50 kg) Muay Thai boxing champion and captain of the British Muay Thai Team.
Sudarshan Das: Bangladeshi origin British Tabla player Sudarshan Das broken the Guinness Book of World Records of marathon 558 hours of tabla playing. He has beaten the record of Indian Tabla player Kuzhalmannam Ramakrishnan's 501 hours of marathon tabla playing. He started playing on 27th November at Saiva Munnetta Sangam UK hallroom situated at the Manor Park of East London, UK and stopped his performance at 4 pm on 22nd December. Every day he could take a 2 hours break for eating and taking rest. His whole performance has been recorded on several video cameras. Margarita Mamun: Bangladeshiorigin Russian gymnast Margarita Mamun won the all-round gold setting a new Olympic Record under the 20-point judging system with a total score of 76.483 points. She is the 2016 Olympic All-round Champion, twotime (2015, 2014) World All-around silver medalist, the 2015 European Games All-around silver medalist, the 2016 European Championships All-around silver medalist, three-time (2015, 2014, 2013) Grand Prix Final All-round champion and a three-time (2011–2013) Russian National All-round Champion. She is the current Record Holder under the 20-point judging system with the highest Allround total of 77.150 points, which she scored at the 2016 Baku World Cup.
Mahfuza Khatun Shila: Swimmer Shila won two gold medals in the 50-meter and 100-meter breaststroke swimming at the 2016 South Asian Games at Guwahati in India. With her win, Bangladesh broke its 10-yearlong gold drought in SA game. Shirin Sultana: Wrestler Shirin Sultana joined Bangladesh Ansar Battalion in 2009, and started participating in wrestling events. She achieved the place of the best wrestler for 8 consecutive years at the national level. She won gold in the 2013 Indo- Bangla international wrestling championship. Sal Khan: Bangladesh-American Salman Amin "Sal" Khan founded the Khan Academy, a free online education platform and an organization with which he has produced over 6,500 video lessons teaching a wide spectrum of academic subjects. As of December 2016, the Khan Academy channel on YouTube had more than 3 million subscribers and the Khan Academy videos have been viewed more than 1 billion times. In 2012, Time named Salman Khan in its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world.
Dr. Nina Ahmad: Dr. Ahmad became the first Bangladeshi to join Obama administration in 2014.She is the founding member of APA for Progress, a grassroots, Internetempowered, national network of Asian Pacific Americans and friends for Progressive Action. Ahmad is a court-qualified expert witness in forensic DNA analysis. She provides testimony as well as reviews DNA typing results and interpretations. She was appointed as the Asian-American advisor of president Obama. Minhaj Chowdhury: Bangladeshi- American entrepreneur Minhaj Chowdhury is the co-founder and chief executive director of a social enterprise called Drinkwell Systems. Drinkwell transforms arsenic-affected tube-wells into local profitable water enterprises by using proprietary water purification systems and the micro-franchise model. Over 2 million people are getting access to arsenicfree pure drinking water because of Drinkwell. For his efforts, Minhaj was included in this year's “30 under 30: Social Entrepreneurs” list of Forbes. He also won the first prize in the 2014 startup jackpot competition. Jawed Karim: German American Internet entrepreneur of Bangladeshi origin, Jawed co-founded YouTube and was the first person to upload a video on it. Along with YouTube, he also contributed significantly to the development of a number of other projects such as portable 3-D graphics, 3-D spring simulation, robotic webcam, radiosity engine, ray-tracer, life 3-D, etc.