BUILDING YOUTH CAPACITY TO CONDUCT CIVIC EDUCATION AND ELECTION AWARENESS PROGRAMS
In a democratic system, every voter has the right to participate in the election in a peaceful and safe environment. However, political violence remains inseparable from Bangladesh politics and election violence is an integral part of that violence. The intensity and severity of this has also increased in the past few elections. Consequences include casualties, interference during election campaigns, destruction of property and economic loss.
Opportunities for youth to engage in governance and participate in political and decision-making processes depend largely on the political, socioeconomic, and cultural contexts where social norms in many parts of the world result in multiple forms of discrimination against young people. Both the 2014 and 2018 elections fell short of being celebrations of democracy. In the last 2018 election in t,erm the voting base disengaged if not disinterested — this is bound to happen when citizens, specifically the youth who counts more than 45% of the population, are fed inaccurate and asymmetric information — a classic example being the Election Commission’s assessment that the 11th parliamentary polls held in December 2018 witnessed a voting turnout of 80%. On one end, television reporters showcased empty polling booths and citizens facing a barrage of hurdles when voting — while on the other, voters were being fed outrageous statistics regarding turnouts. Therefore, the participation of voters in the electoral process is deteriorating — both tangibly when it comes to casting their votes, and symbolically, when it comes to being active participants in narrating the needs of the country.
In Bangladesh young people between the ages of 15-24 years make up nearly 20% of the population; with the total population of Bangladesh expected to reach 220 million by the year 2050, even if replacement level fertility is met today.
Young people in Bangladesh are poised to be a decisive factor in general elections in 2023. Bangladesh is currently going through a demographic dividend where most of the population falls between, the age of 18-35 years. Young voters, most of them are not directly engaged with politics. These youth see themselves as ‘global citizenships people, studies say, feel their needs have to be given priority if they are to be attracted as voters. However, the national election commission of Bangladesh has no initiative and or activity to attract the young voters such as “why voting is important?” “Why youth vote matters?” the information available is individual age 18 or more can vote that is also informed through registration process and different guidelines. The youth of the country need to be involved in the election and decision-making process to bring change in the issues that concern them. Youth needs to come forward and make their voice count in the electoral process. It is important that youth go vote and are free to do so and there is no harassment and intimidation. So that they are confident that they are casting their vote, and nobody is casting their vote.
One of the major reasons behind low turnout of youth voters are due to lack of trust on the government system and lack of knowledge around the importance of voting and right to information. The focus on youth, in terms of their engagement in the political arena, is extremely timely now, particularly in light of recent socio-political hidden unrest and lack of democracy prevailing all over the country. To ensure meaningful youth participation and leadership the young people must come forward and get involved in the democratic system. Realising young people’s right to participate and be included in democratic processes and practices is also vital to ensure the achievement of internationally agreed development goals and to refresh the development agenda.
To increase understanding and attitudes to learn about values, ideas, and participation in responsible citizenship among school children, youth, and communities.
To provide youth with a sense of belongingness and building awareness about the significance of youth voice in shaping Bangladesh’s democratic and political future.
Activity – 01 – Project Inception meeting and Capacity building workshop
Act – 1.1 – Knowledge dissemination content and material development
Knowledge dissemination content and materials for the trainings will be developed by experts
Act – 1.2 – Project Inception Meeting
Before initiating the groundwork, a project inception meeting will be arranged in JAAGO Head Quarter, Dhaka. All the project staff including divisional level project officers will join the meeting to review the activities and differentiated responsibilities. With this meeting, the project activities will be officially inaugurated.
Act – 1.3 – Training of the trainers –
In order to directly engage in the program activities, JAAGO Foundation will register a total of 128 youths from all 64 districts of Bangladesh as master trainers. 2 youths from each district will be selected through a call for application. As a certain number of youths of different ages from each district worked in donor supported community action projects, we will prioritize them who previously worked in promoting democracy, governance, active citizenship, and the importance of voting. A 2 day long residential workshop will be arranged in 8 divisions of Bangladesh. The workshops will focus on the issues around the significance of voting, good governance, and democratic right practice as well as how to design and implement a community campaign to raise awareness and train the local youth leaders.
Act 1.4 – Training of the local youth leaders –
After the divisional training, the master trainers will return to their communities and host day long district training sessions involving 20 youth from each district (1280). The workshop will discuss the issues around the significance of voting, good governance, and democratic right practice.
Activity 02 – Community Mobilisation:
Act 2.1 – Community mobilisation through youth action
Right after the workshops, trained youth leaders from 64 districts will conduct community sensitization campaigns on “My Voice My Choice”. Youth leaders will design and implement awareness campaigns based on their local political structure. Each of the districts will receive some seed money for implementing the community initiatives involving more youths and communities. Youth volunteers will also share their activities on social media using hashtags to make the campaign viral.
Act 2.2 – Community Mobilisation through media campaign
a) In addition to the social media posts shared by the youth leaders, JAAGO Foundation will run social media awareness campaigns throughout the project period to raise awareness among the wider audience. Contents around will be shared from all JAAGO Foundation and Volunteer for Bangladesh social media sites to increase youth participation in national elections through a huge
array of awareness building within community engaging activities by mobilising youth. Awareness materials such as videos, static posts, youth perceptions will be shared through this campaign. A total of 5 videos (before election), 80 social media static posts will be shared. A song will be developed around the theme and will be circulated through social media. Series of online Facebook dialogues will be arranged the questionnaires will be designed by political experts.
b) Radio talk show – Prior to the election, to raise awareness and reach wider youth, a national radio talk show on the significance of voting, good governance and democratic right practice will be organised that will discuss youth perception around voting and why youth vote is critical to the 2023 National election. In addition to this, radio commercial adaptation will be aired in the top tier radio of the country.
Activity 03 – Post Election Scorecard Implementation
A post-election Scorecard will be prepared by experts and shared with the participants for further activation.
Act 3.1- Capacity building training on Scorecard activity
The goal of the post-election scorecard activity is to measure the progress of actions of the newly elected public representatives based on their pre-election commitment to the communities. In order to implement the activity, we will train the same 128 youth. A total of 128 young leaders will be capacitated in all 8 divisional workshops. The selected youths will be instructed to collect their local elected representative’s election manifesto for their own communities. On the first day of the training, youths will learn about the definition of scorecard and how to build contextual scorecards. After learning the basics of the scorecard, participants will create a scorecard based on the work that has been done after the national election 2023. The trainer will actively support the participants while developing the scorecard. The workshop will allow the youths to create tools for collecting necessary data from their communities’ using scorecards.
Act 3.2- Data Collection
After preparing the youth led scorecards, all 128 trained youths will be circulated to their districts in order to collect data using scorecards. They will primarily connect with other youths of their community and motivate them to fill out the scorecards. Each of the youth leaders will motivate youths from their own localities. Data will be collected through online and offline activities. We will inspire the beneficiaries through promoting the scorecard activity in social media platforms. A website will be created to manage the data collection and analysis process. Also, the trained youths will run campaigns in their own communities and to motivate others to fill out the scorecard. Approximately, a number of 4000 scorecard data will be collected through the activities.
Act 3.3- Data Analysis
An external data analysis expert team will be hired to analyze the collected data from the communities. The compiled data will be segregated according to all 64 districts so that a comparative analysis can be prepared around the local elected representative’s pre election commitments and their post election actions.
Act 3.4- Knowledge dissemination Workshop
After preparing the comparative analysis of the districts, a national workshop will be arranged in the capital city of Dhaka to disseminate the information among national level stakeholders and policy makers. Representatives from relevant ministries, related government officials, community leaders and youth leaders will be actively present in the dialogue. A minimum of 30 participants will be present in the national level knowledge dissemination dialogue. The workshop will be a platform to share the key findings with the stakeholders who are responsible for community development and policy change.
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