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Kaaktarua: Seeing society through camera lens

Kaaktarua (meaning scarecrow in English), a Sylhet-based social organization got Joy Bangla Youth Award 2017 under the category of community development. Receiving the award from Prime Minister’s ICT Advisor Sajeeb Wazed was a moment to savour and it was the greatest of all achievements for the organization so far.

The journey of Kaaktarua started with the slogan- ‘Towards a habitable earth’ back in 2013. It adopted a different way to create awareness, that is through camera lens. It equips its members with cameras to capture and highlight any and all types of discrimination in society and raise social awareness.

Khalilur Rahman Faysal the founder and current president of the org. was inspired by the role played by kaaktarua in protecting valuable crops of farmers. He wanted to form a youth brigade who would stand against all irregularities in society. At the very beginning only a handful of youths joined hands with Faysal. Now the org. has more than one hundred full time members mostly students from institutions around Sylhet division.

They started with a campaign called Bangla Banan Shuddhy Ovijan (campaign for spelling correction). Since February 2014, the members have been running this campaign in streets, allays and public places in Sylhet. They have convinced shop owners, commercial designers and printing staffs about the importance of proper spelling.

Later the org. shifted its focus to creative representation of social issues for raising awareness in the public. The members were encouraged to make short film and documentary. Contemporary social issues like drug, question paper leak, food adulteration, gender-based violence, etc. were recounted to a large audience through a number of short-films. The short films received acclaim from the large youth community and cultural activist groups of Sylhet. Besides, Kaaktarua frequently arranges workshop and basic course on photography, videography and editing. The members have always shown keen interest in camera work.

High enthusiasm among the members and appreciation from society are keys to the success of their initiatives. But like other youth lead initiatives, they had to overcome social and financial challenges. They never had any financial backings from individuals, corporates or any kind government agencies. Their female members occasionally became subjects to criticism for being vocal on the streets and public places. They have learned to cope with such challenges.

They have a long to-do list. Documenting and digital archiving of the experience/stories of freedom fighters who are still-living and collecting folk songs and artifacts are at the top of that list.

Now that Kaaktarua have won such a prestigious national award as Joy Bangla Youth Award, it surely going to spur its members to achieve greater goals. Affiliation with Young Bangla, the largest youth platform in Bangladesh, will help them in this regard.