Say yes to YES
It was 8:oo am when groups of aspiring and committed young people started to arrive at the Bangladesh-China Friendship Conference Centre. They were full of hope, with large bright eyes and even larger and brighter dreams of sending corruption to museum so that people can breathe easily. It was an opportunity for YES, which stands for Youth Engagement and Support, to demonstrate their commitment towards eradicating corruption from our society.
“Jago Manush-Durniti Protirodhe Jago…”, with this slogan the annual convention of Youth Engagement and Support (YES), comprising promising, energetic volunteers of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) who are working under the guidance of Committee of Concerned Citizens (CCCs), was held at the Bangladesh-China Friendship Conference Centre on February 10th 2008.
The programme started sharp at 9 am. Lt Gen (retd) Hasan Mashhud Chowdhury, Chairman, Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) was present as chief guest of the program while eminent writer Prof. Dr. Mohammad Zafar Iqbal was the special guest. Other notables present were Advocate Sultana Kamal, Member, TIB Trustee board; Dr. Iftekharuzzaman, Executive director, TIB; and Conveners of different CCCs.
The grand event began with the National anthem followed by TIB's theme song “Jago Manush.” Then a total of 1,247 YES members from all over the country took anti-corruption oath along with the guests. TIB Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman then delivered the welcome speech where he mentioned, “Youth can do anything and everything because you have the potential, and corruption is very little in comparison to that potential”. ACC Chairman then formally inaugurated the annual meet, congratulating the young volunteers for their efforts in the anti-corruption social movement. “In moments of dire need the country has always looked up to the young generation. So it is you who can do the best job in preventing corruption in the country,” he said. The ACC chairman urged the youth to be vocal against corruption. “You'll always find me beside you when you need me to fight corruption,” he said while replying to a question.
Prof Zafar Iqbal said the new generation could make the dream of wiping out corruption from the country come true. Sultana Kamal, former adviser to the caretaker government said it is time to fight corruption and injustice. She called upon the youths to defeat the corrupt people.
The inaugurating session came to an end with the thanks giving speech of Iftiya Wahab Toki, a YES member of CCCs, Rajshahi. She thanked the distinguished guests for supporting the youth all the way in the war against corruption.
The working session started with the presentation of a YES work paper by 8 volunteers. The paper placed the main focus on the young generation and the future of Bangladesh, challenges and obstacles of the YES movement, different anti-corruption projects etc. After this presentation, Dr. Zaman conducted a question answer session where he answered different queries from the students about corruption. While replying to a question he said, “If we can't ensure equal rights for men and women, we will not succeed in our anti-corruption social movement”.
After the lunch break, YES members Hridoy Ranjon Halder from Pirojpur and Sabiha Sultana Sweta from Rajshahi presented this year’s declaration where the main attention was given on ensuring human rights by fighting corruption for the betterment of the society. This presentation was followed by the thanks giving by this writer. She mentioned that it is because of TIB that all the volunteers are working despite many social obstacles.
Then the audience enjoyed the main attraction of the evening - an anti-corruption cultural function in which the YES members from different CCCs expressed their hatred towards corruption through their performances.
Corruption pushed Bangladesh to top position as the most corrupt country in the world. The state of corruption in our country has gone from bad to worse. It was the masses of people who were the worst victims. But it is the youths, who can always bring about changes in times of a national crisis. Keeping this in mind, TIB started the YES program with the slogan-“Invincible Youth Will Surely Resist Corruption” in the year 2006. This program consisted of TIB volunteers, working young people, students and members of various cultural and sports organizations ranging from 15 to 35 years. As the name suggests, YES is an energetic team of youth volunteers who promised themselves to say yes to the anti-corruption movement. TIB believes that YES is a dream, a dream of a young generation who can surely resist and overcome corruption.
TIB firmly believes that YES is a groundbreaking effort to turn all the impossible dreams into a successful reality. The main aim of YES program is to make the large, talented and promising youth of Bangladesh aware about the curse of corruption and motivating them to participate wholeheartedly in the anti-corruption social movement of TIB.
The emerging young generations, who form about one-third of the total population of Bangladesh, offer the nation the greatest source of hope and inspiration it can expect. When all the effort fails, it is always the youth who can light the candles of hope.
TIB had trained the YES members so that they can work efficiently in the national level in informing the youth society about democracy in the educational and professional fields, and encouraging them to speak out against corruption. TIB believes that in the near future YES can create young leaders capable of leading the anti-corruption movement in Bangladesh.
TIB has created a special procedure and guideline for YES to carry on its work. YES runs its work in 36 CCCs where the volunteers point out the major problems of the locality arising from corruption. The volunteers also try to sort out the solutions of these problems. The major problems that the volunteers have faced so far include corruption in the primary and secondary educational sector, police and land administration, health sector, electricity department, local government, passport offices, use of illegal drugs among young people etc. YES also works in other areas of a locality that are inflicted with corruption.
When working, the main challenge these volunteers face is their age. Because they are young, people ignore them most of the times citing that they have little knowledge about what they are doing and are not experienced enough. They do not pause to think that without getting opportunities to prove their ability, the youngsters cannot become experienced. But the fact that these volunteers never stepped back from their aim is indeed laudable. Though there are huge obstacles in the form of family bindings (especially for girls), lack of social security, interference of powerful dominant persons, influence of ruling government and the non-cooperating mentality of the administration, these volunteers made a year planner to carry out different activities like campaigning through the information desk, cycle rallies, human chains, distributing leaflets, posters, organizing seminars, different competitions, discussions with the relevant authorities etc. YES also conducts surveys to be aware about the public perception regarding their work. CCCs, with the support of TIB monitor all the works of YES.
The YES group of Rajbari introduced a junior volunteer team named Junior “Shechchashebok Dal” on January 2007 to spread the message against corruption among the budding citizens aged within the range of 9-14 years. Presently there are 14 members in this talented group. Although all the present members are boys, efforts are underway to involve the girls too. This year some of the kids attended the convention. “I want to establish the anti-corruption social movement in my country” said Md. Ramzan, a member of that group who studies in only class six!
This year, TIB tried to bring the volunteers closer through this daylong event, so that they can work hand in hand to resist and overcome corruption. The volunteers rediscovered their capabilities to fight corruption in a friendly atmosphere, and learned to believe that they can bring about the necessary change. The volunteers learned more on this day that they would have even after reading 10 books or searching long hours in the Internet on the topic. However, for YES to be successful, the support and love of the mass people is essential. So, say yes to YES, and help us to get rid of corruption once and for all.
(The writer is a third year student of Department of Law, University of Chittagong and YES member from CCC, Chittagong Metropolitan, TIB)