Through over a decade of experience in Bangladesh, IRI has developed close partnerships with civil society organizations (CSOs) to empower locally-driven solutions to pressing community issues.
Of these CSOs, the JAAGO Foundation, a youth-oriented organization based in Dhaka, has showcased the collective power of youth civic and political engagement in a struggling democracy. The brainchild of Founder and Chief Executive Officer Korvi Rakshand (@KorviRakshand), JAAGO began by providing practical skills to children in the impoverished Rayer Bazar section of the capital, teaching young students English so they could eventually compete for well-paying call center jobs.
However, the organization saw much potential in engaging youth on a wider variety of issues and has diversified its programming in an effort to educate youth on the foundational aspects of what it means to be a good citizen through Volunteer for Bangladesh (@VforBD), JAAGO’s youth wing. Volunteer for Bangladesh’s national network of 23,000 youth leaders promote good governance, political participation, and transparency in their communities.
On a field visit to Gazipur, where Volunteer for Bangladesh members were monitoring local elections for IRI’s USAID/DFID-funded electoral-process strengthening initiative, I witnessed the dedication and dynamism of the volunteers firsthand. In an environment as politically charged and contentious as local-level elections, the volunteers were not afraid to ask questions to get the most realistic picture they could of campaign spending in Gazipur. Through this act of volunteerism, I was reminded that young Bangladeshis hold democracy as a core value, not wanting their country to languish under corrupt electoral processes. Rather, they want to be heard and form a movement to affect positive change. Their passion is a reflection of Volunteer for Bangladesh’s mission, principles, and values of promoting equality and volunteerism among Bangladeshi youth.
In a recent interview, Rakshand outlined how, despite the numerous challenges and roadblocks the organization has faced, JAAGO has been successful in providing Bangladeshi youth a voice and platform to improve their communities through Volunteer for Bangladesh.
“Being in a country like Bangladesh it is very hard for a young person to raise his or her voice,” Rakshand said. “[JAAGO’s] vision is to educate Bangladesh, to help children and to empower young people in this country. A lot of times young people think that their vote doesn’t matter or their voice won’t be heard or noted. The main focus is to give a platform for young people to raise their voice.”