Jahin Rahman: The Rising Youth Activist in Bangladesh

From Bangladesh comes one activist who is making strides for young rights. To celebrate International Youth Day, we meet Jahin Rahman, a rising star in the sub-continent.

Marking International Youth Day, Youth Time is pleased to bring to you another extraordinary young activist improving the lives around him. Let’s meet and celebrate Jahin Rahman.

His childhood experiences in Dhaka, Bangladesh made him understand that lives around him were in danger.

Jahin Rahman, a high school senior in Queens and the founder of Efforts in Youth Development of Bangladesh (EYBD), did not give up on the harsh reality surrounding him as he grew up. As he immigrated to the United States, his journey to help young people, and especially girls in his home country, had just begun. 

EYBD improves the lives of street and orphan children, who are often denied basic human rights such as shelter, education, and dignity.

Besides, Jahin led the team that took first place in the Citi Gender Equality Challenge during the 2019-2020 NFTE World Series of Innovation (WSI) with Emerge – a youth-led non-profit that undertakes educational, career-training and social entrepreneurship projects to help young people in rural Bangladesh.

Sitting with Youth Time, he describes his journey from Bangladesh to New York, speaks more about both initiatives and believes that one of society’s top priorities should invest in, acknowledging, and celebrating young people and their accomplishments.

 

Bangladesh and Queens

Jahin grew up in Bangladesh, where, in his own words, often things in-front of him were unjustifiable.

“My best-friend in Bangladesh was a girl named Zareen. She was forcefully married at 12. In third grade, my friends and I were attacked by a group of 25 men during a violent political protest,” he initially recalls.

As they ran, the men followed and threw stones at them.

“That day, I saw injured people on the street, blood…and I saw street-children who were wounded and crying; mobs attacked them constantly. These events moulded my perception that lives around me were in danger. 

“Fulfilled with wisdom, I founded the EYDB-with a motive to get at-risk and street-children off the streets through opportunities of free permanent education and development.”

He further elaborates on how EYDB and also Emerge benefits rural youth in Bangladesh. 

“It [EYDB] hopes to provide quality education and opportunities of development and safety to street and underprivileged youth of Bangladesh so that they can leave behind their poverty-stricken past and march towards a fulfilling life.”

EYDB considers that by believing in and supporting the next generation of Bangladeshi change makers, the future of economic and social development of Bangladesh will move in a direction of prosperity.

“This is the overarching belief behind all our projects.”, he goes on.

“Some projects that EYDB has recently completed and currently working on are building libraries, literacy programs, a school for street children, a stipend based educational program for child servants, day care centre, computer lab, donation drives, bathrooms for rural schools, and a drug rehabilitation centre.

For more, please see this article.

 

Reducing or Eradicating Girl Child Labour in Bangladesh

In this part of our conversation, Jahin sheds light on the importance of another great initiative he contributes – Emerge.

Developing South Asian nations cannot achieve social and economic prosperity when much of the population is denied the opportunity to contribute, Jahin says. 

“Yet this is the reality for rural Bangladeshi girls who become domestic servants because their families cannot afford to keep them in school. When employed in urban households, these girls earn an average monthly salary of 1000 takas (approximately 12 U.S. Dollars) and serve as a source of income for their families despite their young age.”

Once they reach their late teens, he adds, their servitude is halted so they can be taken back to their native villages. 

“Forced marriage and domestic violence are not anomalies, but rather the dangerous reality because of depriving these young girls of their fundamental right to education and self-empowerment.”

Hence, Jahin and his team, in their WSI entry, proposed a framework for reducing or eradicating girl child labour in Bangladesh.

Approximately 420,000 underage Bangladeshi girls and young women fall into this category, and 90% are between the ages of nine and 18.

“They grow up in rural villages, then migrate to urban centres–such as the capital city of Dhaka–to serve as domestic workers, and they do so at the expense of their liberty. Though many of these girls often display an interest in going to school and pursuing a future career, they lack educational opportunities.”

Whereas, this solution targets child domestic servants from Rangpur, an impoverished Northern Bangladeshi village with child labour conditions that can only be described as abysmal by United Nations development standards.

The socio-economic dynamics of Bangladesh and other South Asian countries can only be improved if young girls can pursue an education.

Ultimately, they developed the idea for “Emerge,” a training program that would give adolescent girls, who would otherwise work as domestics in cities like Dhaka or Chittagong, an opportunity for education and training in their native villages.  

 

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“Currently, parents refuse to send daughters to public schools, let alone pay for their education. They expect their daughters to contribute to the family income by working as domestic servants before they are married.”

However, what would happen if the girls could earn through education, Jahin asks.

“This is our idea: a simple, practical way to provide quality education and vocational training to rural Bangladeshi girls while also freeing them from domestic child labour. 

Emerge will be a stipend-based program through which girls can pursue a quality education from their native villages while subsidising their families.

“We have contacted NGOs such as Agami, Universal Help Hub (UHH), and Apon—that aim to provide Bangladeshi children with a quality education—and have gained their agreement to help us. Student volunteers from prestigious Bengali institutions lead many of these organizations, such as the University of Rangpur and the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, who make month-long expeditions to rural villages.”

They will incorporate these university students into the project.

Jahin shares that the students have agreed to conduct daily sessions in village schools for rural girls, teaching mathematics, science, English, and Bengali.

“To compensate families for sending their daughters to these educational sessions, a monthly payment of about $20 (approximately 1,700 takas) will be made. This will appeal to parents, as their daughters will stay at home rather than migrate to Dhaka as domestic servants. The student volunteers will also hold weekend sessions for farmer parents about the demand for the education of girls.”, he explains.

 

Celebrating Youth Day

As August 12th is an opportunity to celebrate and amplify young peoples’ voices, as well as their meaningful engagement, on a conclusive note, Jahin shares his message for this day.

“When you [young people] begin working on a project that is aimed at bringing about a change in your community, the most troublesome part is getting started.”

So, do not be too discouraged by any initial failure that comes in your path, he demands.

“Young people are the future generations of change makers for our society, and it’s high time we value them and the amazing work that they are doing around the globe.”

He believes we should definitely appreciate youth more- adding here that this generation of youth possesses power, skills, and a vision that will help to solve many of our present societal problems in the future.

Youth Time will keep you updated once Emerge starts implementing its amazing mission.


 Throughout Youth International Day, Youth Time is running articles celebrating those making a difference around the world. 

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