Who will lead a nation? Who leads in a nation, where social policy, fiscal and monetary policy, welfare and income policy, regulatory policy, and foreign policy have to be made? How many roles do youth have in the decision-making process for the policies that are to be implemented for the welfare of a nation? Bangladesh is one of the developing nations that has played role in the empowerment of youth in not only decision-making but also took in hand the job of law enforcers. According to the UNFPA, some 47.6 million or 30 percent of the total 158.5 million people in Bangladesh are young (10-24 years), and it will be between 10 and 19 percent by 2050, according to it. Thus, development of the nation through youth empowerment is important. Not just heard, they should be politically taken into account for policymaking. Instead of suppressing them, we should open the platform for them to raise their voice. Then only they are empowered. They should not be confined to limited options. Their talents and capacity to play a role in the development of their own nation should not be limited. They should be given more and more options to change the world and make it according to their preference.
We now have a clear idea as to how youth plays a positive role in the decisions that are made in a country. Empowering youth will lead to the building of just and fair society. More importantly, empowering them in the political field will help them to understand and play an effective role in the progress of a nation through strong institutions and effective policymaking. But protesting and creating unrest or thinking of starting a remarkable revolution is not the real solution. Since if a new leader comes, who will they be? How will they be like? Before questioning the state, we should analyze ourselves first. Again, I am not saying that children and youth have taken a wrong step by protesting and taking the law into their own hand. They have done their best. But to bring their efforts into practice by changing the law and ensuring its efficiency, we need to bring many systemic and institutional changes.
Social media has played a crucial role in the student protest for the enforcement of traffic laws in Bangladesh. And no one denies this. But we should also be aware of the negative consequences caused by social media in the middle of this widespread crisis of a nation. Social media has spread many rumors without anyone understanding the severity of the situation. Before everything, we have to understand that social media is a wonderful tool to reach out to millions about what happens in a nation. We should also consider the negative consequences of creating more hype through rumors. This creates so much confusion among us all creating divisions among us. At the end of the day, with so much confusion we let go of the issue. So before dealing with the uncertainties of the free speech, we should definitely consult with the human rights experts and free speech advocates to understand the standards of using social media in a country. Since they will have a certain amount of idea as to how freedom of speech is practiced in a particular country. We don’t think about the protest seriously anymore letting go of the importance of ensuring proper justice in a nation.
Education is an important element of youth since from that institution we learn to distinguish between right and wrong. Through education, we can understand how to make important decisions in our lives. Through education, we can make progress in a nation through getting jobs. But the conventional education system has taught us that we should rely on the employers to choose us and we should solely focus on education. Liberal Arts colleges play an important contemporary educational institution for innovation and creative thinking skills by introducing extra-curricular activities and promoting critical thinking about self and the surrounding. This can happen by including various subjects beginning from the undergraduate where academic subjects consist of literature, philosophy, mathematics, and social and physical sciences. Asian University for Women, founded by Kamal Ahmed is one of the examples to provide a wonderful platform for youth to make use of the creative potential of women from the different ethnic background. By enabling each and every one to take leadership in their own field and interest, we can ensure that everyone participates in the welfare of the nation equally in different ways.
Social business is a non-loss, non-dividend company designed to address a social problem. This idea has been introduced by Professor Muhammed Yunus. Youth can play a very effective role in creating its own world by introducing a business that will not focus on profit, rather on the cause. They will think about an issue at hand and think of various ways to make changes and bring solutions which will change the world. Instead of waiting for an employer, we should make use of the creative energy that we youth already have.
Last but not least, the most important part is providing a platform for them to peacefully think about how to design policies, consult the experts and participate in a civil manner. This will only happen only youth are allowed to participate in many leadership activities like MUN Conferences, youth parliament and so on. In 2011, the UNDP Democratic Governance Thematic Trust Fund (DGTTF) issued a call for proposals from UNDP Country Offices in support of innovative and catalytic projects on youth to inform public policy-making, training youth as effective leaders, extending access to justice, opening space for youth empowerment and democratic governance from which 37 proposals were accepted. People under the age of 35 are rarely found in the formal political field such as Parliaments, political parties, elections, and public administrations. The situation is even more difficult for both young women as well as women at mid-level and decision-making/leadership positions. Considering the challenges, we should design the simulated conferences for them to understand how to participate once they become involved in the real world politics.
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Only when youth can raise their voice their thoughts and concerns, can we understand that youth are truly empowered. And this can happen when a lot of improvements are made in different things institutionally. It is also vital for the empowerment of youth since it ensures the achievement of internationally agreed development goals and to refresh the development agenda. Young people have demonstrated the potential to build bridges across communities, working together, helping to manage conflict and promote peace in various countries around the world. Young people are vital stakeholders in conflict and in peace-building and can be agents of change. Youth are essential elements of a nation since they can provide a foundation for rebuilding lives and communities, contributing to a more just and peaceful society. Without them, a nation cannot experience progress in every aspect, say it economically, politically or socially.
writer Jafreen Alamgir student, Asian University for Women Bangladesh