If you think today’s youth lack drive and dedication, think again. Asif Iqbal spoke to the young activist, Muntasir Mamun Imran, about community-based youth initiatives.
Undoubtedly, a nation’s youth are its most important resource, but they are not offered a platform to make use of their skills and abilities. In a recent survey, the British Council found that 76% of Bangladeshi youth believe they have very little influence on changing society, 70% are not involved in any community work and 41% want to live abroad for a better and secure life. These grim numbers will lead many to make negative conclusions about Bangladesh’s younger generation. 28-year-old Mamun, who went on a world cycle tour to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS, sheds a different light. The electrical engineer chose life as an activist to inspire the young generation to become involved. “I go on adventure expeditions. I am a graphic designer. I ride and take pictures. These are the ways I communicate to raise people’s awareness,” says Mumun. “In 2001, I was offered a scholarship from the Islamic University of Technology. During my study breaks, I went on expeditions. Over the next two years, I travelled to Mount Everest; photographs taken during my journey were exhibited in Dhaka, ever since I have used my activities to work towards community-based actions.”
In the decade since, Mamun has published a concept magazine, TRINO, the production of which creates zero waste, organised the youth group, Kewkradong, become the country co-ordinator for Ocean Conservancy and organises the BANFF Mountain Film Festival, which he has held for free in Bangladesh. That’s not all. In 2011, he will represent Bangladesh at the International Marine Debris Conference, the biggest coastline and water-body-related conference in the world. How did he manage all this in such a short time? Mamun smiles modestly, “Nothing happens overnight. I plan well ahead and each project opens more doors for me. In 2005 I mentioned to Ocean Conservancy’s coordinator I was interested in working with them and kept up my contacts so you see I built a lasting relationship.” Sceptics may say he is an exception but it takes an exceptional character to inspire many. Mamun adds, “Young people want to be more involved and active. A small number have been involved as volunteers to provide social services, but the majority are embarrassed to do such work. My initiative, the International Coastal Cleanup Day, started with only four people but this year there were 535 registered volunteers.”
So there is hope. In the same survey we find that 88% of Bangladeshi youth are happy, 79% are interested in development, and 41% look up to elders as the most influential people in their lives. The young can easily be drawn into activities that involve social work and awareness-raising campaigns. What is stopping them? Mamun opines, “The responsibility lies with the older generation, the leaders, institutions, and the authorities representing society to lead the youth. People come up with great concepts, but it is not always possible for a few youngsters to run them in the long-term, without the help of the state or bigger organisations. They need to be appreciated, adopted and helped, not always in monetary terms, but with logistics and other resources, and then many more people will come forward and get involved.”
Educational institutions and the workplace can play a leading role. In developed countries, volunteering is encouraged from an early age. Students volunteer as part of their education and employers give priority to students with such experience. “This should be introduced in Bangladesh, then students will want to volunteer and become more aware of the need to give back to society. Such changes, in turn, will benefit everyone across society.” With disappointment etched on his face, Mamun adds, “In reality, your CV will be laughed at by most Bangladeshi employers if you include being involved with coastal clean-up.” The change he seeks in people’s mind set may seem far-off but Mamun is hopeful, “So far, I have managed all the initiatives through sheer dedication and hard work, which has resulted in tremendous success over the years. My work gives me a lot of mental satisfaction and that is the key to success, it is determination and knowing your ability; those are my achievements.”
It is difficult to try and encourage young people to volunteer without some recognition but Mamun realised adventure and shiny imported gear sells. He proudly states, “Now mountaineering and photography are a phenomenon among young people because it meets their self actualisation and need for esteem.” Research and expert opinion indicates that Mamun is on the right path; Bangladesh has the potential to turn its greatest asset, its youth, into wealth, but the question remains, who else will start taking on this challenge, will you?
This article is quoted from The Independent. Follow the link to read the original article published 30.12.2010.
Thanks to Muntasir Mamun Imram for sending this article to the Views On Tourism Project. This article is uploaded by Majbritt Thomsen, administrator on ‘Views On Tourism’.