If anyone asks me to tell about the valuable resources of my motherland, I would not forget to mention “The Youth”. Bangladesh is blessed with nearly five million youth, who are at the front line of the struggle for better future for all. Young people are creative, innovative, determined and dreamer. If all these virtues exist in an individual, nothing else is needed to face any challenge. The young people should not only be heard and understood, they should also be allowed to lead.
The International Youth Day is being observed at such a time while the global death toll due to pandemic has crossed 4.3 millions and the number of infected person is more than 200 millions. The entire globe is now suffering from the scourge of Covid-19 pandemic. The world has not experienced such devastation in last many decades. The pandemic has created unbearable negative impacts on the livelihood of the entire population on earth and Bangladesh is not exception to that. The marginal population is the worst sufferer, whose movements was restricted, lost their jobs and could not earn the minimum to buy food for their families.
The UN system for obvious reasons, embraces youth as a positive force of transformative and positive changes. Considering the ensuing long-term pandemic, this year’s theme for the International Youth Day has appropriately been selected as “Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovations for Human and Planetary Health”. It is also believed by the leaders that such a global effort would not be achieved without the meaningful participation of young people by enabling them to contribute.
Food System is a vast issue, which tells us as to how we get food from farm to table, all of the processes and infrastructure involved in feeding a population and also the negative externalities that are generated during the process like air pollution, river pollution, ocean pollution and desertification. It is very likely that many zoonotic diseases may result from unsustainable or bad farming practices and may lead to climate crises. The youth should be made educated properly so that they understand the gravity of these problems and aptly handle them.
The ECOSOC Youth Forum in their discussion in 2021 recommended to work towards more equitable food system. They underlined the need for the youth to take informed decisions to choose sustainable options for both individual and environment and resilience of food system particularly in the pandemic and the subsequent plights.
The young people of the forum highlighted the impact of covid-19 pandemic and its effects on human being including severely affected environment and food system. It has also been identified that in order to ensure human and planetary wellbeing, there are needs of poverty reduction, social inclusion, bio-diversity conservation, migration due to climate change and health care. All these factors are directly or indirectly related to population health. At the same time, nutrition related chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases and some forms of cancers are major contributors to global burden of diseases.
Quazi Mohiul Islam is the writer of this article
Therefore population health is a key in addressing food system challenges. The world population would rise by 2 billion in next 30 years. The scientists are seriously considering that the only production of more food will not help restore the global climate; there is also need for selecting sustainable options which are friendly to earth without compromising to the future of our generations. Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the dire necessity for transformational change. In order to address the big challenges like existing inequalities in employment, gender, education, food security, loss in bio-diversity, population development etc., the participation of young people is imperative.
‘Population health’ has been identified as one of the most important factors in ensuring desired transformation of food system. Bangladesh also attaches substantial importance to the development of our population and ensure their well being taking in to account the economy, environment, capacity development and so on. In Bangladesh we have ample scopes to strengthen our activities to attain our national targets and the international targets as mentioned in the Sustainable Development Goals.
If we talk about improving the health of young and adolescents, including their reproductive health and nutrition, we can bring a sea change in service delivery. There are more than one thousand Family Welfare Centers under DGFP, in different parts of Bangladesh.
These centers are in operation, where the adolescents and young people may receive advise or counseling on SRH issues. To make the best use of these centers, enough advertisements of these centers should be made to inform all the stakeholders about the types of services that are offered. Necessary adjustments may also be required to be made regarding opening and closing timings of these designated centers so that the maximum number of young and adolescents may harness the benefits from these centers.
It is obvious that if the young and adolescents receive appropriate counseling from these centers, they may be able to help themselves as well as contribute in reducing other negative issues like child marriage, unmet need, gender based violence, drop-outs in using FP methods.
To bring synergy in these activities, some trusted male and female volunteers or mentors might be appointed by the DGFP in collaboration with interested NGOs, may be involved to motivate and train other young and adolescents in a particular locality on different issues like health, FP, SRH and other wellness. As a result these centers may become a common platform for the young and adolescents for learning and exchanging their views. This kind of platform may bring improvement in self confidence, self esteem and the habit of up taking services from the appropriate and authentic service delivery centers.
The world in 21st century is full of challenges, opportunities and probabilities; this century is for the youth community. The young people could be utilized in alleviating poverty, terrorism, corruption, addictions and violence, creating equal opportunity. Our Hon’ble Prime Minister, on many occasions, gave clarion call to the young people to become entrepreneurs. We need to focus on the entrepreneurship and leadership; we have to instill in the minds of young people to become an employer not an employee. Required support should be extended by the relevant organizations proactively to these young people so that they can start up their own business, own enterprise. This very step may contribute a lot in generating new employment avenues and reducing the curse of unemployment.
It is necessary to promote pro-social behavior among the youth—boys and girls. They may be trained and prepared to face the unforeseen disasters and calamities, inter alia, facing the pandemics or preventing denge or similar disease out-breaks. They should be able to tackle gaps in knowledge and common myths and misconceptions. It is the need of the time to work in partnership with youth organizations, private and public sectors, to identify gaps and link the available opportunities to help the youth. It would be worthy to promote dialogue between youth and community stake holders to raise awareness and to address the issues of youth related problems.
It is also understood that the young people alone cannot overcome various challenges mentioned above. They need allies and they should be given importance, they should be included so that they do not feel themselves estranged.
In conformity with this principle, the UN is working for and with young people and as such the UN Secretary General said “I urge everyone to guarantee young people a seat at the table as we build a world based on inclusive ,fair and sustainable development for all’’. He also mentioned that “All our hopes rest on young people”. The present Director General of WHO expressed his sincere confidence and trust in the young people and he always wanted youth led solutions, he wanted to learn from the youth and wanted to be guided by the young people.
The young people have their will-power and energy; we must educate, empower and inspire them by using proven models, innovations and life skill programming to enhance their ability to face challenges and become positive change makers.
Quazi Mohiul Islam is the writer of this article. He is the former DGFP