in Bangladesh Myth or Reality By -Mahfuz Molla


Youthocracy is a word unknown to many of us although Youthocracy is a reality in Bangladesh along with many developing countries. Youthocracy denotes the idea of ‘ruling by youth’. When youth play a vital role as a big community in a country and supposed to take part in decision making physically or as a pressure group ,for their widespread presence, then there will prevail Youthocracy. Youthocracy is not good or bad in its inherent characteristics rather it is characterized by the authority or people who leads.
I came to know about this word in a youth-led program. There was a slogan about Youthocracy.  Unfortunately I can’t remember full slogan but it was somewhat revolutionary. I pondered over this word, the context in which the word was being used and the purpose behind the using of this word.
Then, I experienced with many youth led programs and knew many youth-based organizations. They are aiming at youth and their skill development. These programs or organization are teaching soft skills, leadership qualities. They teach how to engage with society and lead community activities. They talk about change and the role of youth in changing the community. I don’t blame all these activities or dig for a conspiracy theory rather I will concentrate on ongoing rise of youth importance and the demand for their participation in socio-political activities.
It will be very befitting here to discuss some common trends which indicate the rise of youth importance. If we see the advertisements made by corporate houses or to be precise by mobile operator companies, it can be seen that they talk about youth and their friendly relationship. They use youth symbolically in their TVC to attract youth. In Bangladesh who are increasing in number.
There are many government or NGO enterprises to attract youth. Government initiated youth development programs under a department and offer many training programs.  Many NGOs have their youth wing or plans to engage youth in their activities. They take initiatives for development, human rights and women rights activities as prescribed by UN and its organizations. Many newspapers have ‘youth’ page which deal with inspirational speeches, features and career related issues. They have also readers organizations which are mostly youth led organizations aiming social changes in respective newspaper’s socio-political agendas.  And Very interestingly, a renowned newspaper has its youth development programs coordinator.
Demand for youth participation in socio-political activities can be seen in a clear attempt of Bangladesh awami league’s think tank center for research and initiatives (CRI) to engage general young people in their political activities in a sophisticated manner. They initiate many programs to attract youth beside their student organization. To name some, Young Bangla, let’s talk, policy café. Other political or cultural parties also have plans for attracting youth in their activities.
But what is the reason behind these types of youth importance and the demand for their participation?

Demographic dividend matters:
Demographic dividend, as defined by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) means, “the economic growth potential that can result from shifts in a population’s age structure, mainly when the share of the working-age population (15 to 64) is larger than the non-working-age share of the population (14 and younger, and 65 and older).”
Bangladesh is now facing shifts in population age structure . for the  declination of Total  fertility  rate (TFR) , infant and under-five mortality rate and increasing of life expectancy at birth , Bangladesh is experiencing more population in working age than dependant age. In  demographic transition, a country will gain population in working age more than dependant age for some decades only ,then it will decline by increasing of population in dependant age. It is reflected in UNFPA report .According to UNFPA report in 2014 , 47.6 million or 30 percent of the total 158.5 million people in Bangladesh are young (10-24 years), and it will be between 10 and 19 percent by 2050. Although, I don’t want to discuss this matter of ultimate declination of young population, but it is very important to note that, the rise of youth will prevail for upcoming two or three decades only. So, this youth power in this age is very crucial as they will be the real heroes of socio-political transformation in coming decades. Here Youthocracy prevails as this huge number of young people are the sole catalyst for future transformation in Bangladesh.  UNFPA Bangladesh Representative Argentina Matavel1 observed ‘If they are equipped with necessary skills, good health and effective choices, they present an enormous opportunity to transform the future,”
In this transitional moment in Bangladesh’s demography and rise of young population, all parties irrespective of different political ideologies and platforms want to use this population in their vested interest. As I showed in aforementioned discussion regarding corporate houses, NGOs and political organizations.

Youth as political tool:
In recent days , the term populism is very common to the people who observe the world politics . It denotes the idea of ‘ support for the concern of ordinary people’ and supposed to make political ‘other’ to support popular concern.As a political term it implies that ‘ it is a doctrine which proposes that ordinary people are being deprived or exploited  by a community ( Elit or it can be another political organization), thereby make that community  ‘other’ in a society and manipulating popular concern against them’. The idea of populism can be found mainly in america and western europe , but it is not absent in this sub-continent.
In Bangladesh it is being practiced in many ways. Here, I want to take other word ‘mobocracy’ in consideration. Which means ‘rule or domination by the masses’. When mass play a vital role in making or altering political or even judicial decision by pressurization. This mobocracy concept and its implication in Bangladesh is very important in this discussion. Because in Bangladesh, as we showed UNFPA report, young population is catalyst of socio-political transformation. They played a vital role in populist concern through ages.
If we look into the’ Shahbagh movement’ which is perfectly described by faheem haider in’ foreign policy blogs’ as-  the “youth” of Bangladesh have ebbed and flowed in the hundreds of thousands from the neighborhood of Shahbagh, in Dhaka. An occupying protests begun by bloggers, the Shahbagh Movement quickly consolidated around the populist demand that rajakars (local intelligence for, and collaborators with, the Pakistan army’s genocidal turn against Bengalis in 1971) aligned with the Islamist political party Jamaat-e-Islami must face the death penalty for their crimes against humanity as adjudicated by the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT). In this movement led by some blogger,  we can find the presence of ‘youth’ by a manipulating group, who played a successful mobocracy by pressurizing supreme judicial authority and thereby paved the way for altering  decisions  according to populist concern.(although it is debatable ,whether it was people’s concern or a certain political group’s vested interest). This event will be an example of political manipulation of youth in Bangladesh.
In this discussion, I pointed out commercial, cultural and socio-political trends and events related to Bangladeshi youth, who are going to be increased in number by coming decades although this increasing will be stopped in certain period. Till that time, we have a huge number of young population. They can be an important and positive catalyst for socio-political transformation of Bangladesh. If they can be honest, skilled and patriot, they will transform Bangladesh as an affluent Bangladesh.

The writer is an undergraduate student at the University of Dhaka.

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