December 2007: 12th National Conference of Youth Ending Hunger Concludes with Pledge

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The capacity-full wide and vaulted auditorium of Gonoshastho Kendra (Centre for People's Health Care – an NGO dispensing health care to the underprivileged) reverberated with a thousand jubilant young voices as the twelfth annual conference of Youth Ending Hunger got off to a very vibrant start. Lasting for two days the annual conference simultaneously marked the 12th anniversary of Youth Ending Hunger – the Youth wing of The Hunger Project comprising youths in their late teens and early twenties driven by the noble spirit of dedication to the cause of social reform and eradication of poverty and corruption. Organized and managed by the national committee set up for the anniversary the meet concluded successfully with all participants reiterating their commitment to the resolve ''we have awareness, so let us strive for an enlightened nation and a prosperous country.''

The inaugural session started with rendering of the national anthem with all participants joining the chorus. Other events of the day included addresses by distinguished guests, competition on extempore speeches, debate etc. The day-long program was rounded off with a very colorful cultural show.

At 10am on the inaugural day the 12th annual conference at the national level was declared open by Lt. Gen (Rtd.) Hasan Mashood Chowdhury, Chairman, Anti-corruption commission amid a very cordial atmosphere. At the very beginning all participants including the guests stood up and paid their homage to the memory of those who lost their lives in the recent devastating cyclonic storm code-named Sid'r. They also expressed their heartfelt sympathy for the families worst affected by the calamity.

The dignitaries and prominent personalities who addressed the inaugural session included renowned economist Professor Muzaffer Ahmed; renowned Cultural celebrity Selina Hossain; Chairman of University Grants Commission of Bangladesh Professor Nazrul Islam; Director of Transparency International Bangladesh Dr. Iftekharuzzaman; Chairman of Gonoshastho Kendra Dr. Jafrullah Chowdhury; Global Vice President & Country Director of The Hunger Project-Bangladesh Dr. Badiul Alam Majumdar; Director of Institute of Educational Development Mr. Mr. Manjur Ahmed; Professor of Dhaka University of History Department Mezbah Kamal; Joint Secretary of Education Ministry Mr. Nazrul Islam Khan; Aditional Secretary of Education Ministry Mr. Abdul Awal Majumdar; former Joint Secretary Mr. Iftikhar Ahmad; renowned columnist & researcher Sayed Abul Maksud; Director of Gonoshastho Kendra Mr. Saiful Islam Sisir; Social organizer Tajima Hossain Majumdar; Coach of Bangladesh Mathematical Olympiad Committee Dr. Mahabub Majumdar; Mr. Anir Chowdhury, Dr. Ferdousi Begum; Sormi Huda & Mr. Sattar Chowdhury.

Heartily lauding the efforts of the volunteer participants general M. Chowdhury said, ''I can visualize a resounding victory for our ongoing crusade against corruption with your spontaneous support which you have already lent me through your radiant faces beaming disapproval to all things and everything detrimental to social peace and harmony especially the gargantuan level of corruption that is threatening our very existence as a nation. It is the younger generation who can build unbreachable dams against corruption. So you should embark on a peripatetic mission that will take you to every village, every locality, every house hold to give a clarion call to all and sundry to unite against corruption in all its forms and configuration; to explain to all, irrespective of gender, age and social status how the cancerous cell of corruption creeps into our body-politic and eats away its vitals leaving nothing but infections skeletal remains. Today, standing here, in this podium, I lend my unequivocal support to all the commitment, philosophy, expectation and confidence that you pledge today to the land of your birth through this august gathering. So once again I call upon you to mount a peaceful but all out campaign against corruption.''

Echoing the forceful exhortation of Gen Chowdhury, Professor Muzzaffer Ahmed, an internationally renowned economist and frontline activist against all forms of injustice and inequity in the present day Bangladesh affirmed, 'Let this occasion be one of investiture for all of you to embrace the formidable task of ushering in a reformed society sans injustice, deprivation and malpractices. To reach that goal we should unleash the huge potential that is lying dormant in all of us, especially the younger generation, who and only who can make our dreams come true. The spirit of our liberation war that inspired us three decades and a half ago to free ourselves from the shackles of injustice, misrule and deprivation has deserted us because we could not adhere to its cardinal principles. Today, here in this gathering, you have unraveled before me the unique and successful example of participatory development effort amply manifested in the way you undertake well-planned programs and execute them purely on the basis of voluntary work making provision for gauging both success and failure using this kind of gathering as a forum.

In this speech Dr. Badiul Alam Majumdar, a noted scholar in development economics and Country Director of The Hunger Project-Bangladesh reiterated his confidence in the participants and said, ''This country belongs to us and we belong to this country''. So it is for us, none else, to see to it that our beloved mother land stays on course for our all-round development.

If only you, the more enthusiastic representatives of our younger generation, commit yourselves firmly to the formidable task lying ahead, I can assure you absolutely without any fear of being betrayed that our beloved country shall free itself from the bondage of immoral acts, injustice and above all the pervading scourge of corruption.

A senior member of Bangladesh Civil Service and a devoted social worker in his own right Mr. Abdul Awal Majumdar, Additional secretary ministry of education showered praises on the participants and organizers of the gathering and said, ''In my mind's eye I can see our beloved motherland marching forward towards the goal of development and prosperity through the determined efforts of young people like you who have not only inspired and organized yourselves and attained a high degree of self reliance but helped others to do likewise.'' Towards the end of his deliberations Mr. Majumdar took the position of the lead singer as if in a choir and articulated the slogan, ''nothing shall we demand if not permitted by law, nothing shall anyone get from us if not permitted by law''. All members of the audience rose in a body and chanted back the slogan in a full throated voice thus expressing their solidarity with the theme and its mover.

At the end of day one all the participants took part in soul searching after exchanging views among themselves and completing a very constructive evaluation of all their voluntary missions and achievements thereof. This session got to its start after a band of artistes from among the participants rendered patriotic songs followed by scintillating dances. In the first half of day two the centre stage was occupied by a highly brainstorming quiz program in which four groups each comprising a pair of contestants took part.

At the end of the closing session all the participants jointly charted a road map of expectations for 2008 the main objectives of which would be raising of mass awareness for building a self reliant Bangladesh free from hunger and poverty. The objective specifics spelled out in the said session are serialized as under:

  • Awaken and activate at least 100000 families against corruption prevailing at all levels.
  • Enlist as fellow combatants as many government, employees as possible against corruption and with their help inspire and organize at least one million people so that they can collectively raise their voice against all covert and overt incidence of corruption;
  • Raise a two hundred strong volunteer corps to accelerate the ongoing movement for quality education all over Bangladesh;
  • Ensure through voluntary efforts quality education from primary to university level in at least 50 educational institutions;
  • Create public opinion in collaboration with both print and electronic media in favor of the ongoing country-wide movement for quality education;
  • Strive towards declaration of 52 unions of the country free from child marriage and dowry encumbered marriage;
  • Raise mass awareness among people about various social and environmental issues;

Once again interlocking their hands and hearts for the noble cause for which they gathered at the idyllic expanse of GSK, Savar, about a thousand youths bade each other a tearful farewell holding out promise to meet again in the next year with greater number of success stories and an enhanced degree of commitment.

Bidhan Chandra Pal

(On behalf of Youth Ending Hunger Unit)

The Hunger Project-Bangladesh