Youth are the future leaders. Ensuring their participation in free and fair elections is a political and democratic right they enjoy as citizens of Bangladesh. Particularly the young and educated groups of voters are showing increasing distaste for our present political culture. In a nationwide youth survey conducted in December 2011 by Institute of Governance Studies in BRAC University, about 80 percent youth showed repugnance for student politics and a general distrust of the present political parties. With the recent political upheavals on the issue of war crimes tribunal and caretaker government, there are reports that many young voters would prefer not to cast their voting rights or retain the provision of ‘no’ vote as a means of expressing their discontent. That’s why this project has been devised to evaluate the general perception of the new generation of Bangladeshi youth about their expectations from Bangladeshi politics and also find out their general acuity on election process, democracy and national political culture.
The purpose of this program was to find out the changed perception of the new generation of educated youth about the practice of democratic rights in the country and their expectation from the existing political parties in the country. Through this project, we understand what this vast population of youth has to say regarding matters that benefit their welfare, both as citizens of Bangladesh and as change makers for tomorrow.
This study aims to analyze the perception of the youth in the context of the current socio-political scenario across seven divisional districts of Bangladesh – Dhaka, Barisal, Chittagong, Khulna, Rajshahi, Rangpur, and Sylhet. Additionally, to assess youths’ career aspirations and perception towards their country, leaders and local community.
The project has two components – research and campaign which was conducted in three phases:
The research was conducted in 7 universities in 7 divisional districts Barisal, Chittagong, Dhaka, Khulna, Rajshahi, Rangpur and Sylhet. The research tools used in this phase are mainly FGD and Survey. A total of 45 FGD discussions were held across the seven cities. On average, 20 participants were present in a FGD discussion. Nationwide around 900 people took part in these FGDs. The participants were randomly selected from a group of people aged between 18 to 30 years and residing in all divisional districts.The FGDs have been chosen to articulate their general perception on political culture, election and democratic process in Bangladesh. Quantitative data have been collected through surveys from 1,450 respondents in seven divisional districts. The survey was focused on their expectations and social, economic and political rights that youth have in the current global environs. This phase is focused on researching the perception of youth voters on the political culture and democratic process in Bangladesh and the needs and expectations of the new generation of voters.
Developing ‘Youth University Democracy Network’
In this+ phase we selected 5 youth ambassadors from each university (35 ambassadors in 7 districts) based on their merit, response and activism based on a screening test. Five youth ambassadors from each of the 7 districts were trained in a different session on concepts like democratic principles and practices, peace and conflict resolution, role of youth and student leader, use of social media, project management (focusing on social campaigning projects) etc.
According to the research outcome we prepared campaign messages, AVs (audio visuals) and social media campaigns which went live from April 2014. We launched a customized website and facebook page for reaching the youth voters. Our marketing campaign was separate for urban and rural regions. In the urban region, our focus was on facebook and websites and in the rural region we relied on leaflets and handouts for raising awareness among the voters. The AVs were made to target the youth in general throughout the country. The youth ambassadors were given the responsibility for campaigning in their respective areas.