Bright minds to provide solutions for reducing inequalities

Shanjida Hossain | Published: October 10, 2018 22:28:18 | Updated: October 13, 2018 15:08:40

The winners of Telenor Youth Forum 2018 (Bangladesh)--Sameen Alam and Saima Mehedi Khan-- with the dignitaries at the grand finale of the event that took place recently at GP house, Bashundhara

No matter to what extent scientists claim that technology has diminished a lot of burden of this world by making several tasks easier for human beings, there is one aspect that technology fails to reduce. The term is 'inequality'. The world has made significant technological advancements, but it is difficult to deny that with an ever-increasing dependency on technology, a proportion, not significantly large, of the entire humankind is forgetting what hard work, persistence and stress mean. It is as if a particular sector of humanity is getting the glory of using technology whereas the other segment is being deprived of it. If we consider from this perspective, the introduction of technology has given birth to more inequalities.

This is where Telenor Youth Forum (TYF) emerges. TYF is a global platform that operates over the foundation of ideas from the talented young minds, working together to reduce inequalities. Collaborating with the Nobel Peace Prize, TYF aggregates young leaders around the globe to propose digital solutions for reducing inequalities and empowering societies. This year's TYF was also launched with the same motive and the two winners, Saima Mehedi Khan and Sameen Alam, both undergraduate students from the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), University of Dhaka, will be representing Bangladesh in Oslo, Norway in December 2018.

The two winners will be joining the selected TYF delegates from seven other countries in Oslo this year December, where all the TYF delegates will commit to the programme for six months. These seven other countries are Norway, Malaysia, Sweden, Thailand, Pakistan, Denmark and Myanmar.

 This event aims to revamp the world by tackling social challenges via digital solutions. The exhibition will be demonstrated both in the Nobel Peace Prize and online.

To know more about the ideas and concepts, Shanjida Hossain interviewed the two winners regarding their attachment with TYF 2018.

Question (Q): Can you please share your idea? How did you come up with it?

Saima: My idea is about improving the lives of farmers. I aim to solve the income inequality that exists among farmers by redistributing resources from the financially solvent persons. The name of my idea is KrishiNet, a platform to connect farmers with investors and buyers. I came up with this idea because I believe farmers are critical to our economy and not much facilities or assistance are being provided to them. I thought about coming up with such an idea by playing a small role in bringing a change in their lives.

Sameen: Throughout the last year or so, every time I turned on the news or looked through Facebook and YouTube, it seemed like another story would break of a celebrity (usually male) being accused of sexual harassment. I think most people, including myself, had no idea how widespread this problem was and it made me concerned. Even in developed western countries where the media is reliable and judicial systems are more potent, these problems for many years swept under the rug.  I began formulating my idea of lowering the barrier a woman has to face to report a case of sexual harassment. Project Shurokkha was born, where the basis was to create a platform to report instances of sexual harassment and to build a network of 'helpers' such as law enforcement, legal counsel etc.

Q: If implemented, how do you think your idea will help the stakeholders?

Saima: If implemented, my idea will help farmers by improving their livelihoods. It would help the investors by giving them a source of income as well as allow them to help the people in need. Finally, my idea will help the buyers by offering a direct connection with farmers.

Sameen: Throughout my research, I found that the rate at which women report cases were meagre. Social stigma, unhelpful responders and a bunch of other issues were at the root of those numbers. I think if Project Shurokkha can create a thriving network of responders, then it may come to the benefit of millions of women, not just through active use but also through the knowledge that they know where to turn to.

Q: Please share your experience of TYF 2018, particularly the grand finale.

Saima: TYF 2018 was a fairy tale for me. I was knocked out after the semi-final and then went on to become the winner through a wild card entry. I can never forget those moments of uncertainty. I did not know I was the eighth finalist until the day of grand finale. The grand finale was quite smooth despite little preparation. I had to present quickly because I had to convey a lot of information in just five minutes. A little bit of practice would have helped, I guess. But I think all's well that ends well.

Sameen: Well, TYF 2018 was hectic for one. I remember for one round, I had to go to university at 8 am, finish a class, go to GP House, made my presentation and then came back to the university by 2 pm to appear a midterm exam, all at the mercy of Dhaka traffic. The grand finale was unsurprisingly grand. The vast cardboard caricatures, the rock star like entrances and the novelty of using one of those hands-free microphones were all exhilarating. I remember sitting on the sidelines listening to the other presentations and thinking, "Wow! Everyone is doing so well. This will not be easy." However, I got up, gave the best I could in the allotted five minutes that I had. When they announced my name, it was a moment of real euphoria.

Q: You will be representing Bangladesh in Oslo. Have you started preparing for it?

Saima: I am extremely excited about representing Bangladesh in Oslo and taking part in the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. Telenor is helping me prepare for the trip in every possible way. It is indeed a wonderful organisation. It is going to be very cold in December, so I will have to get a lot of winter clothes, and I am quite excited about seeing snow for the first time as well. I would love to thank TYF for this fantastic opportunity.

Sameen: Well, yes and no. It is still too early to deduce the exact nature of our work in Oslo. There will be sixteen delegates in total and I, together with Saima, will have to work alongside them on the tasks that TYF has planned further down the road. At this moment, everything is still at an introductory phase.

The interviewer is a first year student of BBA programme at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), University of Dhaka. She can be reached at

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