The premises of the Krishibid Institution echoed with the energetic strides of more than 300 youths from across the country who gathered to participate in the Youth Festival on 26 November 2023. Organised by the Right Here Right Now (RHRN2) project of BRAC's Social Empowerment and Legal Protection (SELP) Programme, the purpose of the event was to engage bright young minds in conversations on child marriage, gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and gender equality.
BRAC’s Senior Director for People, Culture, and Communications, Moutushi Kabir expressed her thoughts in the inauguration session by saying, "In the educational or social environment in which we grow up, we are not informed about the right to question, especially when it comes to sexual or reproductive matters. Any young man and woman has questions. However, socially, these questions are often suppressed or deemed inappropriate. Perhaps, it is implied that discussing such matters is a thing of shame and should be discussed. She added, "It is nice to observe your open-mindedness in posing questions here. By questioning your rights, you contribute to the potential for change. Without such questioning, how can progress occur? How can an equitable world be established?"
First Secretary - Human Rights, Humanitarian Affairs and Gender of Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Jan Swillens also shared insights into the significance of the event. He expressed that youth and adolescents can utilise social media as a powerful tool to bring about social change and ensure gender justice. He further emphasised, "The contemporary world extends beyond national borders; we are, in fact, global citizens. This means that our ideas and initiatives have the potential to instigate change not only within our country but on a global scale.
Md. Masudur Rahman, National Coordinator, RHRN Bangladesh Coalition, stated, "We have provided direct leadership development training to almost 1,000 young individuals. Additionally, we have collaborated with 25,000 students across various secondary and higher secondary schools, offering training to enhance their awareness of gender equality and address issues related to sexual harassment.
The day-long programme featured a thought-provoking panel discussion titled ‘Implementing Comprehensive Sexuality Education in Bangladesh - Challenges and Way Forward’. Representatives from government, Non-Governmental Organisations, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) experts, and a youth volunteer actively participated. Additionally, a participatory session on 'Understanding Gender, Feminism, and Countering Backlashes' was facilitated by Nazia Zebin, Executive Director, Oboyob, and Shashwatee Biplob, Programme Head and In-Charge of Social Empowerment and Legal Protection (SELP) Programme at BRAC.
One of the panelists, Mazharul Huq Masud, Assistant Director of Training-1 at the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education (DHSE), stated that the effective implementation of the new curriculum will only be possible through collaborative efforts from students, parents, teachers, community members, and especially civil society organisations working towards the sustainable education and reproductive health of the future generation.
In the afternoon, the theme of gender equality and feminism was creatively highlighted through fascinating artwork by the renowned artist and social media influencer Morshed Mishu.
The programme concluded with a closing remark by Dr. Tasnim Azim, President, Naripokkho.
The cultural programme, presented by the youth member of RHRN, Lalmonirhat, and a captivating performance by musician Minar, added an entertaining touch to the festival.
The RHRN project, a multi-country coalition led by BRAC in Bangladesh, is funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and executed by Rutgers. In its second phase (RHRN2), spanning from 2021 to 2025, the project operates in 10 countries worldwide, including Bangladesh. Coalition members of this projects in Bangladesh include Nagorik Uddyog, Naripokkho, Oboyob, Wreetu, and Youth Policy Forum (YPF), with BRAC as the lead. RHRN seeks to amplify the voices of young people and strengthen the agency of girls, young women, young people in all their diversities, including those who are gender-diverse, and other groups living in vulnerable situations.