Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, February 5, 2009

By Anika Tabassum and Nayeema Reza

We Bangladeshis thought, debated and finally elected. Who says our generation is politically and socially unaware? If the colossal number of youngsters turning out to vote for the first time during the election did not change this perception, our survey certainly did. We were surprised by the vibrant energy and long passionate responses we received from a wide variety of people. The future is bound to be good, because our generation is waking up.

With the new government claiming to make things better this time, we asked our generation what they think the new government should change to make our country a better place to be in.

1. Education is the key
Education and literacy tops the list of expectations that the young generation wants the government to address. Everyone agrees that education is the key to a more enriched Bangladesh, and if we want to catch up with the tech-savvy and developed nations, the first thing we have to do is ensure education for all. The dropout rate of kids, especially girls, from primary education, must be stopped and poor children should be given a sound education to keep them away from crimes and give them better lives. Schools with greater facilities should be established and libraries need to be established in major cities to make sure even those who cannot purchase all books can study from the library. Another issue of concern that came up was the acute shortage of seats in public universities, which should be able to accommodate more

2. Security, security, security.
Security is such a huge concern in Bangladesh- no wonder it comes in at number 2. This really doesn't need to be explained much. Innocent students end up as victims in the brutal student politics. Girls cannot travel without a tinge of fear after evening falls, and even if they do, they are subjected to snide comments and other such nonsense. People get mugged in empty streets, or sometimes, even in broad daylight. These are only snapshots of the whole picture of the lack of security that our countrymen find themselves in.

3. The Dirty Issue
Even though the capital of the country has been relatively cleaner in the past few years- it still isn't clean enough. Drains are still out in the open, dumpsters are still overflowing with garbage and we people still come across trash scattered on the pavements. All this ends up providing breeding grounds for the bloodsuckers (mosquitoes, not vampires) and people refuse to walk even a short distance out of the fear of stepping into something repulsive.

The government can at least put those city corporation trucks that are supposed to pick up all the trash every morning into a more effective use to ensure the proper disposal of garbage and they surely have enough money to install dustbins throughout the city (so that people don't have to litter anymore). And even though there are obviously more ways (like recycling) for them to keep our city and country clean, we are only asking for things that are not too hard to implement because a cleaner and thus healthier Bangladesh is what we demand.

4. a) Kick out corruption
Most of the youngsters we talked to felt strongly about the need to exterminate corruption from our system but some seemed to have concluded it as a hopeless case too. The way corruption has become the blood running through our country's veins is frustrating and outrageous. You cannot trust the police, the doctors or even a mere shopkeeper with their integrity. Perhaps things would have not gotten so out of hand had the people ruling our country had used their brains or at least borrowed ours. The least they can do now to stop it all would be increasing the wages of police officers (so that they stop taking bribes) and doctors (so they don't go about giving wrong treatments for money). As for those people who are working for our government and are more than dishonest themselves: its time to wake up and do something right for a change because it's only a matter of time before the common people turn to violence to get what they deserve. “Corruption is ingrained in each and every corner in Bangladesh. It needs to stop so that the rich stop getting richer and the poor poorer,” states Nisma (age 19) and we all second that.

Tying with the corruption issue at number 4 is 4)b)poverty eradiction. More jobs should be created to completely erase poverty and more people should be employed according to their qualifications, because given that people are trained properly, everyone will have something to offer. Also, foreign aid must be utilized properly and the government must establish more orphanages, free schools and old homes. Pay scales must be standardized, and where possible, increased, which will in turn eliminate dishonesty and vices such as bribery.

5. Equal rights for women
Long gone are the days when women in our country were thought to be destined for housework and babysitting only.

Today, over a million women are working in garment factories and our Prime Minister is one of the eleven female world leaders. However, despite their abilities and accomplishments, many women in our country are discriminated. We still see them being underestimated and treated unfairly; if not at office then at home. There are families where the consent of the wife is of no importance, where daughters are married off without a thought and where women on the whole are crudely dominated. All these occurrences imply that many people in our country, both men and women, are still oblivious to the term 'equal rights'. That is why the government should take steps to create awareness on the topic so that women can work and live at peace.

Even though the changes discussed above are the top 5, there were a lot more topics that came up: starting from pollution, traffic congestion to public toilets, banning aunties from gossiping, infrastructure facilities and birth control. The list of required changes is long and perhaps never-ending, but if the government achieves even a portion of what the list demands with our help then Bangladesh has a future,. A very good one.

Above everything else, we truly 'need to be heard', as Rehnuma Jahan Islam opines, echoing what, I'm sure, we all feel. Our voices need to reach the government and they need to listen to what we have to say.

We would like to thank everyone who took part in the survey and shared their valuable views with us.



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