ActionAid’s Firestarter Initiative in Bangladesh
‘We’re putting young people at the forefront of change.‘ explains Priyangbada Chakma, the project manager of ActionAid’s Firestarter Initiative in Bangladesh. ‘Bangladesh is sometimes quite a hierarchical country and there is a perceived idea that young people can’t do things.’
The Firestarter Initiative is challenging that idea by providing small grants to innovative youth-led groups and organisations which run advocacy projects outside Dhaka – in particular, those working on gender issues. The project builds the capacity of youth-driven organisations, provides peer–to-peer learning and sharing opportunities, and offers mentorship and coaching by dedicated personnel.
Sheuly Khatun runs SBMSS (Secchasebi Bohumukhi Mohila Somaj Kalyan Samity) which works with disadvantaged young women to help them become more economically empowered. Lots of young people are unemployed in her community and many think that the only employment opportunities are working for the government. Sheuly wants to encourage young people to think more broadly and consider other opportunities for generating income.
Sheuly explained that in her community many children are forced to work to help provide for their families. Through her work she has been able to get more of those young people to get an education instead.
Jasmin Uddin Monna and Asma Min Hosan work for the Rohingya Refugee Crisis Response project which offers support to Rohingyan refugees in a number of ways. The project offers psycho-social and primary health support, provides a breastfeeding and child care corner, and teaches women and adolescents life skills. They also offer tailor and sewing training to help refugees build employable skills and enable them to find work.
M.D Hasin Habib’s project is based in Rajshahi Division, Northern Bangladesh, and works to end child marriage and violence against women. The project works by having three watch groups, each with 9 members, work together to find out specific issues within the community. They then discuss these issues, such as child marriage and violence against women, with community members and local authorities. Their approach is educative and through discussion they hope to achieve concrete solutions within the community.
‘Child marriage and violence against women is a big issue in Bangladesh’, Hasin explains. ‘It’s very harmful and affects the most vulnerable in society.’ When he works he puts himself in the shoes of young people forced into marriage. Or he thinks of his sister and how other girls her age are being abused across the country, inspiring him to push forward with his work.
All of these incredible projects receive support and funding through ActionAid’s Firestarter Initiative. As Project Manager Priyangbada explains, the initiative is‘investing in young people because they have the solutions for a better future.‘
ABOUT THE QUEEN’S YOUNG LEADERS GRANTS PROGRAMME
The Queen’s Young Leaders Programme has awarded grants to eligible organisations in selected countries across the Commonwealth.
These projects are led by, or focused on, young people and provide opportunities for them to learn new skills, secure employment, create enterprises or have a say in decisions affecting their future.
The Programme is working with young people in Bangladesh, Jamaica, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, the United Kingdom, and Zambia. Our grants aim to ensure that young people are better qualified and able to articulate their needs, so they can influence key decision makers and create lasting positive change in their communities.