This 22-year-old ex-crime reporter from Bangladesh has nurtured more than 300 child journalists in his country and is on a mission to empower teens through his initiative. What bothered him a lot is that teenagers were choosing the wrong track for themselves and getting addicted to drug addiction, pornography or getting involved in gang-related violence.
Jumping to demographics, 2000 census of Bangladesh mentions that Mirpur had a population of 1,074,232, of which males constituted 54.15% and females 45.85%. 610,270 were over the age of 18, and the average literacy rate was 68.9% (7+ years), compared to the national average of 48.6%.
In a heart-warming conversation with Life Beyond Numbers, the founder of Bangla Initiator, Sabuz Shahriar Khan says, “I strongly believe that by making children aware of social responsibility at an early age, it can have a significant impact on societal development. It is for the progress of these children that I strongly advocate for.”
Born and brought up in Bangladesh’s Mirpur, Khan shares his memory of violence during school days. “I have seen a fight break over something as small as a game. A gang intruded and beat the child very badly. Also, while I was 14 years old, one of my classmates was murdered by a 9th-grade student. This shook me from the core,” he recalls.
Bangla Initiator for Children
Bangla Initiator is an organization that promotes child journalism and provides training for children interested in writing about the social injustices they observe around them.
“Child journalism has been my utmost passion for youth development and hence Bangla Initiator was created and there are now over 150 creative artists and 60 campus ambassadors, who are associated with the organization,” he says.
The programme helps children to become more aware of their surroundings and develop their interrogative skills. Through the medium of child journalism, a teenager does not only get a glimpse of the existing problems in the society but also allows them to actively participate in bringing a sustainable solution.
The organization frequently conducts workshops in the underprivileged schools where students have rare access to social or academic opportunities. “We encourage them to actively participate in society and exercise leadership capabilities. So far we have conducted sessions for over 10000 students in 50 schools,” he says.
Social Media for Social Good
Individual social responsibility is a moral belief that every individual has a responsibility toward society. “Individuals should feel accountable to fulfill their civic duty. Actions of an individual must benefit the whole of society,” says Khan.
Utilizing energy, time and resources in a positive manner can put an end to distorted thinking and this is where social media acts as a catalyst. It makes easy for us to connect with people who share the same passion for social change. Therefore, social responsibility has become network-based nowadays.
Journalists should have accountability and only through impartial reporting, we can build trust and confidence amid readers.
“I strongly believe that teenagers who are going astray, need a focus and purpose in life and empowering them through journalism can be an attractive alternative. Making them conscious of their surrounding may help them distinguish right from wrong,” says Khan to LBN.
Pay Attention to Youth Power!
Youth have the power to make or break society. Therefore it is essential that they get the right guidance to avoid the wrong track. Youths can think beyond boundaries and that is their biggest strength.
Schools and colleges sometimes pull students back from associating with our organization. “They need to understand that there is a world beyond textbooks. It is essential for overall development,” says Sabuz.
Two young journalists who are associated with this welfare organization has found a new purpose in their lives.
17-year-old Nuhiatul Islam Labib was introduced to Bangla Initiator 2 years back. While talking to LBN, this elated child says, “It is the best thing that has happened to me. As a teenager, you are curious and knowingly or unknowingly one ends up doing wrong things. Working on stories related to social issues have given my life a new meaning and I was extremely happy when my first story got published. Couldn’t ask for more.”
Another teen, Sabbir Rayhan Opy (16) says, “Before joining the organization, all I did was browsing the internet and chat with my friends. I felt important after coming here and understood that I have a responsibility towards my society. Instead of wasting my time, I give my 100 percent to bring a positive shift in the society by organizing workshops and leading my team.”
Due to a shortage of funds, the organization is unable to start their rehabilitation programme.
“We don’t know what future will taste like, but definitely we want to build a society where everyone will be a leader and work effectively to solve social injustice,” concludes Sabuz.