Young Bangla hosted a series Let’s Talk on ‘COVID-19 Recovery: Youth Development’ from September 4 to 6, 2020. The Let’s Talk featured five thematic sessions along with an opening and concluding plenary. Samdani Art Foundation, Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center (BYLC), Junior Chamber of Commerce (JCI) and Jaago Foundation were the organizing partners of the program.
Nasrul Hamid MP, State Minister, Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources (MoPEMR), and CRI trustee inaugurated the online series Let’s Talk. Young Bangla Convener and Member of Parliament Nahim Razzaq, in his opening remark elaborated on the purpose of the series Let’s Talk. He stated that Young Bangla is going to organize these events as part of its policy advocacy initiative in shaping the youth development agenda in the post-COVID-19 Bangladesh.
Senjuti Saha, Scientist, Child Health Research Foundation (CHRF); Salma Khatun, Captain of Bangladesh Women T20 Team, and Shakila Islam, Joy Bangla Youth Award Winner were present as a guest. They have shared ideas and thoughts regarding COVID-19 recovery and their plan.
The session was attended by Rajeeb Samdani, Co-founder of Samdani Art Foundation; Korvi Rakshand, Executive Director, Jaago Foundation; Imran Chowdhury, Senior Manager, Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center (BYLC); Sarah Kamal, President, JCI Bangladesh; and Humaira Farhanaz, Program Analyst, UNFPA Bangladesh. Korvi Rakshand and Sarah Kamal looked forward to the discussion which will lead to a well-defined youth development plan in the post-COVID era. Imran Chowdhury and Humaira Farhanaz shared their expectation that the event will create an opportunity for youth to connect with the policy makers. The inaugural session was moderated by Nabanita Chowdhury.
Let’s Talk on ‘Art and Culture: Visioning Post COVID-19’
The first of the thematic Let’s Talks ‘Art and Culture: Visioning Post COVID-19 with Creative Imagination’ was a lively exchange of ideas and thoughts among artists, academics, art organizers, and bureaucrats. The Let’s Talk discussion focused on the adverse impacts of COVID-19 on creative youths of Bangladesh. The participants came up with a number of suggestions to overcome the impacts.
Liaquat Ali Lucky, Director General, Shilpakala Academy; filmmaker Arifur Rahman, artist Bishwajit Goswami, actor Mohsina Akhtar, and Ismail Goni Himon, Joy Bangla Youth Award Winner joined as discussants. Rajeeb Samsani, Co-founder of Samdani Art Foundation, and Shibu Kumer Shil of CRI presented a keynote paper. The session was moderated by Nadia Samdani, Co-founder of Samdani Art Foundation.
The discussants were of the view that young creative people will play a key role in building the future of Bangladesh, and we need to build platforms to support them, especially in these difficult times when they have the least opportunities available to them.
The issue of decentralization of cultural events was elaborately discussed during the session. The national exhibitions and competitions are very centralized and most of the institutions are based in Dhaka. Divisional headquarters should have multi-functional space which should be properly equipped with galleries to create a platform for regional talents. Another point was raised that there are no seed funds or grants for the creative youths. A dedicated cultural budget can be introduced for the development of creative youth from the Cultural Ministry. The need of establishing a cultural council was also emphasized by some of the speakers. A cultural council under the Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Foreign Affairs would promote art and culture from Bangladesh and to initiate global exchanges. This council can employ leading international and local art professionals to administer grants to support artists, designers, musicians, filmmakers, and architects locally and abroad.
Let’s Talk on ‘Youth-Led Response and Resilience: COVID-19 Recovery’
The last Let’s Talk of the Day 01 ‘Youth-Led Response and Resilience: COVID-19 Recovery’ was another vibrant session where the focus of discussion was on how to utilize the country’s youth force in the process of recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The discussants and participants came up with a number of policy recommendations that will facilitate youth participation in the post-COVID rebuilding phase.
Dr. Enamur Rahman, MP, State Minister, Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief; Swapan Bhattacharjee MP, Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Co-operative, and Mohammad Jainul Bari, Secretary, Ministry of Social Welfare joined as discussants. Korvi Raksand, ED, Jaago Foundation together with Israt Farzana Tanni, Assistant Coordinator, Young Bangla presented the keynote. Kamrun Nesa Mira, Joy Bangla Award Winner, and Rafi Haque Antor, Organizing Secretary, Volunteer for Bangladesh also participated in the discussion. The session was moderated by Barrister Shah Ali Farhad, Special Assistant to the Honourable Prime Minister.
The attendee policy makers appreciated the contribution of youth during the outbreak of the pandemic. They also discussed creating opportunities to work for youth in the programs and projects run by their respective ministries. It was acknowledged that to ensure an inclusive and sustainable recovery, the voice of young people must be heard in all the necessary planning and decision-making processes at all levels. The agenda of youth recognition and funding also received due attention to the guest policy makers.
Let’s Talk on ‘Youth Skills: Post COVID-19 Resilience through Education’
Let’s Talk on ‘Youth Skills: Post COVID-19 Resilience through Education’ was the first session of the second day. The discussion was focused on the post-COVID-19 strategy for the national education system, soft and hard skill-based educational curriculum, blended mode of instruction, strategy for reducing the gap between industry and academia, industry demand-driven curriculum and education policy development, skilled labour migration, reskilling strategy for returnee migrant workers due to corona induced global employment crisis.
Dr. Dipu Moni MP, Minister, Ministry of Education (MoE), Imran Ahmad MP, Minister, Ministry of Expatriates Welfare and Overseas Employment (MoEWOE), Aminul Islam Khan, Secretary, Technical and Madrasah Education Division (TMED), Ministry of Education (MoE), Sonia Bashir Kabir, Founder and Chairman, SBK Foundation, Tanjilut Tasnuba, National Program Officer, International Labour Organization (ILO) joined the policy conversation as the distinguished panellist. Imran Mridha, Joy Bangla Youth Award winner also participated in the discussion. Ejaj Ahmad, President and Founder, Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center (BYLC), and Habibur Rahaman, Associate Coordinator, Young Bangla jointly presented a keynote paper. The discussion was moderated by Md. Faruque Hossain, former Secretary, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh.
The distinguished panellists acknowledged that the national education policy and the national curriculums for different levels of education need to revise and update. Moreover, they agreed to strategize the reskilling process of returnee migrant workers and integrate them into national development endeavours. The discussants also proposed a set of policy measures to be taken in terms of infrastructure and strategy and action plan development.
Investing in Youth Health and Sports: Post COVID-19 Wellbeing
Let’s Talk on Investing in Youth Health and Sports: Post COVID-19 Wellbeing was the next session in the roster. Post COVID-19 strategy for youth mental and physical wellbeing was central to the discussion. The youth segment of the population faced a tough situation due to the shutdown of academic and co-curricular activities in order to contain the spread of the pandemic. The sudden immobility has also been creating an adverse impact on youth mental wellbeing. Now, as the economy started recovering, the overall youth development and wellbeing issue need to be integrated into the post-COVID-19 recovery plan and strategy.
Zahid Ahsan Russell MP, State Minister, Ministry of Youth and Sports, Dr. MD. Shahadat Hossain Mahmud, Director General (DG), Health Economics Unit, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Rumana Ahmed, Bangladesh National Women’s Cricket Team, Dr. Helal Uddin Ahmed, National Institute of Mental Health joined the discussion as a panellist. Sazid Bin Zahid, Joy Bangla Youth Award winner also participated as a representative of the youth population. Humaira Farhanaz, Program Analyst, Gender, Adolescent and Youth, UNFPA Bangladesh, and Effat Ara Parvin, Coordinator, Young Bangla jointly delivered a keynote paper presentation. The discussion was moderated by Professor Dr. Mamun Al Mahtab, Chairman, Department of Hepatology, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU).
The youth participants came up with a set of recommendations during the interactive discussion. The discussants acknowledged the necessity of having separate youth health budget allocation. They also talked about the current government laws, policies, programs, and initiatives for youth development in the area of physical and mental health, sports, and recreational activities.
Let’s Talk on Youth Plus COVID-19 Recovery: Employment & Entrepreneurship
The last session of the day was ‘Youth Plus COVID-19 Recovery: Employment & Entrepreneurship’ another vibrant session where insightful dialogue took place on strategies to create an inclusive and employment-centric recovery from the pandemic induced job-loss and economic set-back. Each panellist brought their unique perspective and provided firm recommendations from their respective field of expertise.
Dr. Muhammad Abdur Razzaque MP, Minister, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh; Md. Ashadul Islam, Senior Secretary, Bank and Financial Institutions Division of the Ministry of Finance; Sheikh Fazle Fahim, President, Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industries; Farzana Chowdhury, Managing Director & CEO, Green Delta Insurance Limited joined as speakers. Keshab Roy, Joy Bangla Youth Award Winner also participated in the discussion. The session was moderated by Sarah Kamal, National President, JCI Bangladesh.
The keynote paper was presented by Imran Ahmed, Deputy Executive Director, Shakti Foundation, and Syed Mafiz Kamal, Senior Analyst of Centre for Research and Information. They argued that in the current recovery phase, new employment scopes can be created by extending policy support to the labour-intensive industry and projects and by disbursing cash to the entrepreneurs who are out of banking transactions.
The government has played a tremendous role in recovery. Restructuring of the banking model is necessary. The Circulars issued by the Bangladesh Bank are not being followed in most of the banks, despite all the support given to include the informal sector. Due to a lack of data in the retail sector, cash incentives could not be provided to this sector. E-commerce related warehouse and logistic support opportunities have increased along with the service sector during COVID-19.
Around 40 percent of the population depends on agriculture for their livelihood. Around 60 percent of the population resides in rural areas. Agriculture including the agro-processing industry has a very large impact on GDP. The government is providing huge subsidies to buy the machineries to farmers. In addition, further subsidies were given to the farmers in haor areas. Educated Youths are now interested in agriculture, we need to encourage this group and make access to credit much easier. Lack of skill is still a big challenge such as financial skills.
The Plenary Let’s Talk
The Series Let’s Talk concluded through a plenary session on September 6, 2020. M. A. Mannan MP, Honourable Minister, Ministry of Planning, and Dr. Ahmad Kaikaus, Principal Secretary, Prime Minister’s Office attended the session as distinguished guests. Autism specialist Saima Wazed Hossain, Trustee and Vice-Chairperson of CRI also attended the closing session of the Let’s Talk. The plenary was moderated by Nobonita Chowdhury.
Sarah Kamal, Junior Chamber International (JCI) Bangladesh, Ejaj Ahmad, Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center (BYLC), Korvi Rakshand, Jaago Foundation, Rajeeb Samdani, Samdani Art Foundation, Imran Ahmed, Shakti Foundation also present as the representatives of five strategic partners of the event. Young Bangla convener Nahim Razzaq MP also attended the session. From CRI and Young Bangla, Israt Farzana Tanni, Shibu Kumar Shill, Syed Mafiz Kamal, Effat Ara Parvin, and Habibur Rahaman were present. At the outset of the closing, the recommendations from five thematic sessions were discussed.
In his address, Planning Minister MA Mannan MP said, “We have the Eighth Five-year Plan ahead of us. Youth will leave their bold recommendations for that. We will incorporate your opinions in our plan. “A new world is in sight and we must be equipped to access that,” he said, adding: “Our youth will be able to harness that scope through technology.”
Dr. Ahmad Kaikaus, Principal Secretary, Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) shared his remarks at the plenary Let’s Talk. He acknowledged the youth employment challenges in the post-COVID-19 Bangladesh will require prudent policy interventions.
In her concluding remarks, Saima Wazed Hossain, Trustee and Vice-Chairperson of CRI, has called upon everyone to break the stereotype that age alone indicates one’s depth of knowledge. She called upon youths to dedicate themselves to the needs of the community. She talked about the recommendations arising from the discussions of “Let’s Talk” in the last couple of days. She said: “One of the biggest issues talked about was the education sector. Why are we imparting education to youths and sending them to schools? Are they ready for that? What are they learning from there? Are they simply studying or are they learning values? How can they contribute to the country? How will there be community involvement?” Saima Wazed Hossain thanked the strategic and media partners and the organizing team for their enormous support and cooperation throughout the event.