the World Together
Council has seldom been more lively. Debate, discussion, music
and laughter of scores of youth filled its auditorium and
grounds last week.
put henna on our hands, painted our faces and listened
to baul music! It was a lot of fun!" says Sonia, a student
of Dhaka University.
was one of many young people who attended the recent British-Council
organised Connecting Futures Festival from March 25 to 29.
Hundreds of youth from around the country -- as well as a
handful from abroad -- gathered on the Fuller Road grounds
last week to celebrate the common bond of youth, irrespective
Futures (CF) programme was started in Bangladesh in 2003 by
the British Council Bangladesh with the aim of learning as
well as building mutual understanding and respect between
young people from different cultural backgrounds.
of the CF programme believe "There is a growing need
for societies at many levels to engage with and learn from
each other. Bringing people together has never been more important
or as necessary as today. Every individual's energy and ideas
are needed to build a global community that solves problems
together and respects and learns from the diversity of cultures."
last two years, the programme has built several networks between
young people in the UK, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.
week's festival was organised in order to bring youth from
around the country along with representatives of partner projects
in the UK together to discuss local as well as global issues
such as human rights, ethnicity, gender equity, democratic
values and cultural appreciation. A variety of programmes,
from discussions and workshops to debates and theatre were
organised surrounding these and other issues.
partners present were Working for Better Life (WBL), Centre
for Communication Development and Policy Studies (CCDPS),
Centre for Development Communications (CDC) and Democracywatch.
participants included Changemakers and the Scottish Youth
Parliament. Changemakers was started with the belief that
students in the UK went through the whole education system
without really learning much about the world around them.
It aims to teach young people to tackle social problems and
to help them lead the way to change. The Scottish Youth Parliament
was started in May 1999 and meets three times a year to assert
the collective voice of youth in Scotland.
the inauguration of the festival on March 25, a Bangla debate
by students of Dhaka University, Stamford University and Rajshahi
University was held on whether "right now, true leadership
is what is needed for a better Bangladesh". This was
followed by "Adda" sessions on religious, political
and social tolerance-- what they mean and how they can be
brought about -- through education, knowledge-sharing and
cultivation of an attitude of mutual respect.
meaning an informal discussion in Bangla, is a unique concept
in the CF programme, aimed at involving youth in dialogue
where they can express their opinions on different social
and global issues. Students from schools in Kuakata along
with university students from the UK participated in the adda.
They recognised the importance of diversity and, along with
it, the need for tolerance between diverse groups in different
societies around the world.
is a young concept in the UK, said participants from the University
of Bath. It started only last February, but members have been
meeting up each week since, talking about things like religion,
tolerance and immigration. The students from the University
of Bath also expressed their hopes of getting a creative writing
group to write up a script of their adda and turning
it into a theatre production in the future so as to reach
out to a wider group of people.
day of the festival, March 26, was dedicated to the Independence
Day of Bangladesh, with presentations, film shows and a musical
programme on the theme of the Liberation War, followed by
a quiz and cultural programme in the evening.
three days of the event featured a number of discussions on
different issues, a photography workshop and various cultural
programmes, including dramas by the participating groups and
a band show. A number of sessions were also spent in charting
up future action plans for the CF project.
titled "Hard Talk" featured a live interview of
two politicians, members of parliament from the ruling Bangladesh
Nationalist Party (BNP) and opposition Awami League (AL) who
faced a number of questions on politics and youth posed by
interviewer Muhammad Jahangir as well as the young audience.
All parties stressed the importance of free, fair and healthy
student politics. The interview session showed that the youth
in Bangladesh are a force untapped since the Language Movement
and Liberation War of the nation.
interesting segment of the festival was the experience-sharing
between the young people visiting from the UK and local youth.
Differences were apparent when the two groups were made to
write down their feelings on various matters. While the UK
students finished the sentence "I am . . ." with
phrases like "global citizen" and "agent of
change", the Bangladeshi group emphasised their "Bangladeshi"
nationality the most, along with "fighter" and "the
future". Other such descriptions of the education system
in both countries ("free for all until age 18" and
"apolitical" for the UK group and "struggling
for betterment" in the Bangladeshi group and family values
("moving away from defined gender roles" and "equality
of adults and children" in the UK group and "vital"
in the Bangladeshi group) made an interesting contrast and
brought out a number of differences in the attitudes of the
festival was a huge success not only because it drew huge
crowds of youth but because they were able to express and
share their feelings and perspectives on different matters
and learn from each other in the process. The Connecting Futures
festival showed that, by being allowed to freely voice their
thoughts and opinions and to move towards change, young people
can play a major role in bringing people together and changing
the world for the better.
(R) thedailystar.net 2005