Debating for development: UNFPA Bangladesh Youth Dialogue

From November 12-14, 2019, the Government of Kenya, the Government of Denmark, and UNFPA are convening the Nairobi Summit, a high-level conference to advance the implementation of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action. The conference will offer an inclusive platform, bringing together governments, UN agencies, civil society, private sector organisations, women’s groups and youth networks to discuss and agree on actions to accelerate the implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action.

On September 6, 2019, UNFPA Bangladesh in collaboration with Bangladesh Debating Council (BDC) and Independent University, Bangladesh Debating club (IUBDC) launched a two-day debate tournament at the premises of Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB).

The tournament was organised with an objective to engage the youth, where the participants from universities – both public and private – can engage in an extensive discussion on how the realisation of the ICPD Agenda is intrinsic to sustainable economic growth for Bangladesh.

Their voices echoed through the debates on a range of topics that are close to UNFPA’s agenda. The ideas and recommendations of the participants will be presented to the stakeholders of national and international development to the Summit.

The debate tournament addressed real-world issues and brought out the voice of the youth on problems like disseminating messages on specific ICPD themes: sexual reproductive health and rights, maternal health, prevent violence against women and child marriage. To empower and involve them to disseminate these issue-based messages to their peers and to bring the attention of policymakers about the needs of youth-based SRHR services: prevention of child marriage, maternal mortality and violence against women. To build awareness among adolescents and youth about the opportunities and challenges associated with them.

To mark the Summit, 16 teams from reputed public and private universities from Dhaka, Rajshahi, Khulna, Sylhet and Chattogram were invited to participate in this competition, along with 22 most reputed judges in the debate circuit. The teams had four preliminary rounds of debate that were carried out on September 6. All the teams faced off against each other where the top four teams at the end of the preliminary rounds qualified for the finals held on September 7, 2019.

The championship went to Independent University, Bangladesh Debate Club (IUBDC) with the runners-up award going to IBA, University of Dhaka.

The debates were followed by a youth-centric plenary session opened by Dr Asa Torkelsson, Representative of UNFPA whose opening remarks echoed the vision of the UNFPA.

“UNFPA has been working with and for young people since our inception. Our partnerships with young people are, and must always be, based on their active and meaningful participation. In order to achieve the ICPD Agenda from 25 years ago, we need to take account of your experiences, concerns and stories to shape an inclusive future for you, who will also help us achieve the SDGs.”

She said

The speech was followed by a presentation on the topic by UNFPA Deputy Representative, Eiko Narita. Following that Sakib Bin Rashid, Instructor at 10 Minute School, Ashreen Mridha, Bangladesh Women’s National Basketball Team Player, and Umama Zillur, Founder of Kotha, led an interactive session covering youth leadership, women empowerment and sexual violence.

“On behalf of the entire English debating community of Bangladesh I am honoured that the UNFPA entrusted us to help crowdsource important ideas to be taken into consideration at Nairobi, this validates that the time the youth spend behind researching and generating discourse on these crucial ideas do indeed matter and has encouraged us all to keep the discourse going so that our ideas and voices can play a role in the ever changing global landscape.”

Said Fardeen Ameen, the Chair of Bangladesh Debating Council

This bamboo made school from Bangladesh just won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture

A very simple but quite innovative amphibious structure made of bamboo was adjudged one of the six winners of the 2019 Aga Khan Award for Architecture. It was announced Thursday in the Russian city of Kazan. The award-winning structure houses a school for underprivileged children in Bangladesh.

About the project

The Arcadia Education Project is situated on the bank of Dhaleshwari in South Kanarchar of Keraniganj. The award-winning structure for this project is constructed by Saif Ul Haque Sthapati and run by Maleka Welfare Trust.

But the most unique thing is, the project is built on a site that remains submerged by three-meter of water a third of the year on average.

The structure was built using very simple materials -different varieties of bamboo, recycled tires and steel drums. The innovative part of the structure is that it rises with the water level. The structure expands on about 486 square metres. 

Read more: Abandoned WWII airbase to turn into Bangladesh’s first Aeronautical and Aviation University

The innovation has paid off handsomely. The six winners of the Aga Khan Award would share the prize money of $1 million among them, as stated by a release of Aga Khan Development Network.

The release also added: “The modesty of the program, the use of materials and the construction method are all successful parts of building this amphibious school through experimental and collaborative teamwork. Though simple and compact, the project resolves complex issues – of buoyancy, anchoring against the river current and waste management.”

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How the structure is made

A traditional Bengali method was employed in the construction. The bamboos that were used in the structure were collected from neighbouring villages. They were then chemically treated and made waterproof by applying liquid made by boiling local Gaab fruits. Moreover, most of the joints in the structure used a rope-tie technique rather than steel wire which would corrode. This technique was a major innovation itself. 

“At a time of rising sea levels, this modest bamboo school illustrates how to build an affordable and viable solution with locally available materials.”

Said an official press release about the structure 

Read more: From slums of Dhaka to the USA, the incredible story of Siam

The people behind the project

The construction of the structure was executed by a team led by Pran Bollov Biswas from December 2014 to February 2016. For planning the building at the cost of $50,800, the designers had spent exactly two years from December 2012.

About the Aga Khan Awards

The Arcadia Project was not the only project catching limelight in the Aga Khan Awards. Bangladeshi project, Amber Denim Loom Shed in Gazipur, was earlier shortlisted in the final 20s for the 2019 award.

The other winners of the 2019 Aga Khan Award for Architecture are the Revitalisation of Muharraq of Bahrain, the Palestinian Museum in Birzeit, the Public Spaces Development Programme in Tatarstan of Russia, Alioune Diop University Teaching and Research Unit in Bambey of Senegal, and Wasit Wetland Centre in Sharjah of United Arab Emirates.

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