Some 4,500 young people across Bangladesh have been supported in the past two years to enhance their leadership skills and identify innovative, sustainable solutions to local and global challenges. Forty experienced professionals and leaders from the Bangladeshi diaspora community in the UK have volunteered mentorship support to young Bangladeshi leaders under the British Council's 'Leadership for Advancing Development in Bangladesh (LEAD Bangladesh)' project.
After receiving the training, the young people initiated 240 social action projects (SAPs) in three critical areas of Bangladesh's development linked to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including Social Entrepreneurship, Climate Change, and Civic Engagement, benefiting more than 80,000 community members.
On International Youth Day 2023, the British Council celebrated the success of the young people striving to bring positive changes to the country through their social action projects. Aligning with the theme of this year, "Green Skills for Youth: Towards a Sustainable World", the outstanding successes of five social action projects young people are implementing to make the world sustainable are presented here.
Polythene-free Karnaphuli bazaar: Being one of the busiest marketplaces in Chattogram city, every shopkeeper of Karnaphuli bazaar depends on polythene bags for daily trading. The Youth Power in Social Action (YPSA) project team ensured that the ward councillors, bazaar committee members, and community members were sensitised to the harmful effects of polythene bags. Through their continuous advocacy, every shopkeeper now uses eco-friendly bags for trading, and the bazaar committee president is actively monitoring and implementing the reduction of polythene usage.
The key stakeholders, like the government representative and the community, contribute to making this polythene-free Karnaphuli bazaar initiative sustainable.
Bihongo - safe shelter for birds: The trained 13 youth members implemented a unique social action project initiative on the sanctuary of birds on the BL College premises in Khulna. After getting approval from the local government and college authorities, they purchased raw materials for making bird shelters. Afterwards, they continued sensitising the people and initiated social campaigns on the importance of the sanctuary for birds. The impact has been visible. The breeding of birds has increased, and the area is now full of birds chirping. People enjoy the vicinity, and most importantly, young people have been motivated to make further bird shelters. No children or adults hunt or kill the birds here, but they are committed to protecting them. This project is now seen as a model example of wildlife preservation by local governments and college authorities.
Starting from zero-- a farm to produce authentic products: Given the issue of reduced immunity at an alarming rate due to heavy consumption of adulterated food, the young people of the Chuadanga district came up with an idea. The youth started producing high-yielding fodder, soilless grass, or hydroponic grass as cattle feed on their farm. Furthermore, they started utilising vermicompost instead of chemical fertiliser in the fodder field, which became popular among local farmers as amending soil with vermicompost makes seeds germinate more quickly, enhances seedling growth rate, increases root numbers, improves root stress tolerance, leads to earlier flowering of plants, and increases plant yields. As a result of their advocacy, 32 people in the locality have already received advanced livestock training, and vermicompost production will soon start collaborating with the government's livestock department.
'Community Model Garden' team promotes healthy living: The Community Model Garden project team has raised awareness of rooftop gardening among 1,000 people in Khulna to create a beautiful and safe environment that benefits our planet and people regarding livelihood and nutrition. The team conducted courtyard meetings with local community members, meetings with local government representatives, and discussions with various stakeholders to encourage them to set up gardens on rooftops and courtyards. One of the project participants, Khadijatul Johra, has planted different species of trees, including aloe vera, flowers, medicinal varieties, and native vegetables, with the support of the upazila agriculture extension officer and the project team. She has become a role model for the community by making rooftop gardens.
Anirban - the unquenchable: The social action project 'Anirban - The Unquenchable' team aims to raise awareness among the marginalised community in the largest slum areas beside Khulna Railway Station about the impacts of climate change. Youth leaders sensitise the people about the harmful effects of plastic on the environment, the importance of tree plantations, and using separate bins for biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste. They conducted an awareness-raising campaign among the community with the support of the local government representatives, taking effective preventive measures against climate change in the area.
The writer is programme coordinator (Non-Formal Education) at British Council Bangladesh