International Youth Day, established by the UN general assembly is celebrated every year on 12 August. This initiative’s purpose is to bring issues surrounding today’s youth to light and celebrate the contributions and achievements of youth all over the globe.
The theme of this year’s International Youth Day is “Intergenerational Solidarity: Creating a World for All Ages”. Intergenerational Solidarity refers to the unity and respect between different age groups and generations. This issue covers subtopics such as ageism. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines ageism as “the stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination directed towards others, or oneself based on age”. Despite the lack of attention to the issue of age-based discrimination, the UN believes that cohesion between generations is a key step to successfully achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Ageism and generational discrimination are persistent problems in Bangladesh. While the elderly, youth and children, all face discrimination, it is more violent and hazardous for senior citizens. Aged parents living with their off-springs are often considered to be burdens on the family and are treated with contempt. They often suffer from elderly abuse including family violence, verbal assault, isolation, threat, reduction of personal freedom, hazardous living conditions, lack of supervision, lack of healthcare etc. For these reasons, elder people are often subject to mental health issues such as depression. They also have to work dangerous or underpaying jobs to support themselves due to the lack of care from their family.
Children are also victims of age-based discrimination. They are often deemed vulnerable and easy to exploit. They also have lesser demands than fully grown adults and are thus targets for thus sought out for underpaying jobs such as domestic labour. This hinders their education and growth, consequently putting Bangladesh several steps behind on its mission to become a properly developed country. The youth are the future of this country, and neglecting their wellbeing and education means many great minds are not given the tools or platform to make changes to their community and make it a better place to live. Youth are also questioned whenever they try to work for positive change, based on bigoted mindsets that suggest that wisdom comes with age, so young people are not fit to lead movements or bring about beneficial change in society.
At JAAGO, the workplace culture has been modified to go beyond these barriers. Everyone is considered equal here, and JAAGO promotes an equal voice, regardless of age. Employees of different age groups are often seen working together and brainstorming ideas with respect for each other, and working to improve ideas and initiatives of the organization.
JAAGO’s Youth Development Programme is a prime example of going beyond intergenerational solidarity. JAAGO has mobilised more than 50,000 volunteers under this program, Volunteer for Bangladesh (VBD). VBD aims to empower the youth, facilitate volunteerism, foster self-resilience and growth, and equip them with the necessary tools. The youth volunteers in this programme come from different age groups but work together collaboratively for various projects under the SDGs, despite the age gaps.
JAAGO has taken multiple initiative to eliminate intergenerational hostility to help make their workplace a more comfortable and diverse place for all their employees and volunteers alike, and will continue to do so.