FEATURE: Satkhira, Bangladesh – Young people demonstrate initiative during crises
Young people have mobilised quickly to offer help to others in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis and tropical cyclone damage in Bangladesh – their capabilities are strengthening communities’ resilience. This story is the second part of last week’s story from Satkhira, Bangladesh and it is the seventeenth in the series of stories from Voices from the Frontline initiative by ICCCAD and CDKN.
Youth groups in Satkhira have been at the forefront of supporting the impoverished, climate-vulnerable communities and building their adaptive capacities and resilience in the past. Once again, these youth groups have shouldered the responsibility to support their communities during the current COVID-19 crisis.
Providing accurate information through community media
S M Shahin Alom, a local journalist and the Satkhira district coordinator for YouthNet for Climate Justice, came forward to provide support to his community during COVID-19. YouthNet for Climate Justice is a large youth network working to support coastal communities during humanitarian crises. The network aims to build community resilience and achieve climate justice by promoting youth leadership.
Shahin raises awareness of local community issues through an online news platform called The Editors. Information shared on The Editors is mainly targeted towards community members, including young people and local authorities, who are able to use the internet. Word spreads throughout the community from those who can access the platform. “By broadcasting news on a local online news portal, I have created awareness about my community, as well as amongst local leaders and officials about public demands within the communities in Satkhira. My intention was to hold local authorities accountable for their actions through this initiative,” he says.
Moreover, Shahin has also mobilised local youth volunteers, and orientated them on how to manage and curb misinformation and rumours during the crisis, and deliver support to the most vulnerable. The youth volunteers have addressed baseless rumours such as, “the virus won’t come to a poor country like Bangladesh” and “Muslims will not be infected” through local radio talk shows.
Tackling compounding shocks
Cyclone Amphan, the deadliest storm ever recorded in the Bay of Bengal, passed over Shahin’s community – and sadly, it was not spared the repercussions.
Shahin began to raise additional funds for his community. He organised Facebook live-chat sessions, Zoom calls with national and international partners to access funding support for the provision of emergency food, drinking water and medical supplies.
“We can raise funds to support communities during crises, but we should also encourage and promote the concept of community savings to promote financial independence” Shahin proposes. “Responses at every level must uphold the following principles: prioritise people’s health, provide support directly to the people in need, help frontline workers and communities and build resilience for future crises,” he concludes.
Shahin and Jannatul – the community organiser featured in the first part of the story from Satkhira, Bangladesh – are currently advocating for equitable and just recovery actions that reflect these principles.
Young people are always one of the first groups to respond to crises. Much like Jannatul and Shahin, many volunteers from youth-led organisations are serving their communities to tackle the pandemic. However, their voices are often unheard and not provided with a platform. Despite showing initiative to serve communities during crises, youth-led organisations struggle with access to resources, financial or otherwise.
If youth-led initiatives are further supported with capacity building, financial resources and such, they can continue to play an important role in building community resilience in the face of future crises such as climate change.
About the interviewer
Sohanur Rahman is the coordinator of YouthNet for Climate Justice, the largest youth network working to support coastal communities during humanitarian crises. He advocates globally on youth-based rights, especially in the areas of climate change, disaster risk reduction and global Agenda 2030.
About the interviewees
SM Shahin Alom is a 20 year-old young social activist and community broadcaster working with a local news portal. He is the district coordinator of YouthNet for Climate Justice and responds to community crises by raising funds. Through his activities he has connected with communities and helped manage the spread of misinformation during COVID-19.