Young people, particularly the grassroots young people and the young women, are excluded and marginalized among the spectrums of population, in many ways. Although the government mechanism is the core in providing the key public services to the marginalized community they often lack efficiency to the desired level. On the other hand, excluded communities are assumed not fully aware about the available public services that they are entitled as per the government policy provisions and suffered from the little confidence to negotiate with the respective service providers, accordingly. Currently in Bangladesh, though the young people are widely treated as change agent they are neither well mobilized nor organized to raise their voice, as active agency, and take the expected leadership at all levels. These overall situations often resulted in the local level plans are not informed, as well, from the needs and demand of the marginalized communities, particularly for the young people.
Toward a Solution
Bangladesh is going through a demographic dividend around one-third of the total population are youth. To make the desired and sustained change young people are critical to mobilize and capitalize with due attention. ActionAid Bangladesh mobilize young people in Bangladesh from local to national level to engage them with the community stakeholders and relevant government service providers to challenge stereotypes and make the government services more responsive and demand driven.
Capacity development is the key for driving the change
Young people, particularly those who are living in various forms of marginalization and young women, are trained on the government law, policies, structures and public service delivery mechanism. They are also capacitated on soft skills such as communication, leadership, mobilization and advocacy skills. Along with that, they learn how to engage with the respective service providing institutions to represent their constituency and the community for enhancing the quality of public services while acting as bargaining agent.
Developing youth platform and their organization for the sustainability of social movements
The trained young people starts to mobilize their fellow friends to develop their platforms, expect to transform into organization gradually. The members of the youth platforms develop their knowledge base, analysis and collective leadership as constituency to fight against the marginalization and enhancing right realization process. Afterwards, they take various initiatives in community and with the various service providing institutions to challenge the harmful traditional practices such as child marriage, violence against women and sexual harassment etc. and improve the quality of public services particularly in the areas education (skill development) and health sector. Most of the cases these initiatives lead to influence the local government’s plans and budget for more allocation to respond from the youth and gender responsive public service perspective.
Dialogue with the respective service providers for improvement of services
While exercising this process young people and their platform yield few steps. They meet with the peer groups and community to collect data and generate evidences on the existing status of the public services and relevant needs for unlocking the potentialities of them to grow and living a dignified life. Along with their own team, they engage with the relevant community stakeholders such as civil society member, journalist, politicians, elected representative and other professionals etc., as part of development of solidarity networks and to take up a specific action plan. This team start to communicate with the respective service providing institution to organize an evidence-based consultation for making the community aware on the available services and enhancing the quality of public services as per the policy provisions, as well. And hence, the consultation process usually ended up with a plan developed on how to improve the status of public service providing initiatives with the distinction of roles of service providers, the young people and community members.
A blended approach of social accountability
This practice of improving public service initiatives originally taken up from the idea of’ ‘social accountability’ exercise, however, has been improvised by ActionAid’s practice called Reflection-Action process, focusing on plan-act-reflect cycle while giving emphasis on using participatory methods and tools. This process helps the young people to develop their analysis and collective leadership to start negotiation with the greater community and service providers. This process also contributes preparing themselves in taking the leadership position in the various formal and informal forums for holding their issues up to push through.
Focusing to the agendas 2030 to achieve
Through this process young people contributes to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) while focusing in the governance issues of the service providing institutions. They contribute to increase the awareness of the community members on SDGs and the commitments of public and private sector for achieving it. Along with that, they support the local government to make their plan responsive according to SDGs and contribute to design national level advocacy agenda for strengthening the policy reformation process.
Some of the immediate outputs of the process
- Young people mobilized and collectively develop their platforms and organization to deal with their issues and rights consistently.
- Relationship among the respective service providing institutions, young people and community increased; more people are aware about available public services to claim.
- Young people taking more position in the various formal and informal decision-making forums for pursuing change.
- Respective government service delivery institutions are becoming more active, efficient to the response to the needs of the young people and community, according to the government policy and law.
- Because of the improved services health situation of the community enhanced and more young people have access in quality and skill development education.
- Young people challenging harmful traditional practices and making the respective service providing institution responsive according to the national law.
In conclusion, this youth led social change initiative is quite replicable to the other context to challenge the context specific problems, building political awareness among the young people and making them capable for leading their issues to achieve SDGs.
Countries/ territories involved: Bangladesh
Implementing entities: ActionAid
Supported by: N/A
Project status: On-going
Project period: 2010-Present
URL to the project: https://www.globalplatforms.org/bangladesh
Md. Nazmul Ahsan
Manager-A4I project, ActionAid Bangladesh