For the first time in Bangladesh, 300 children representing the same number of electoral constituencies of Bangladesh have come face-to-face with elected Members of Parliament (MPs) to voice their demands, concerns and aspirations in Dhaka during the first National Session of Generation Parliament on Thursday.
Generation Parliament – a joint initiative of UNICEF and Bangladesh Debate Federation – facilitates engagement of young people in discussion of policies that have direct impact on their present and future wellbeing. Around 600,000 young people aged between 13 and 17 years have joined this initiative through online platforms with 300 groups formed in line with the parliamentary constituencies.
Representatives from a cross-section of children and young people’s groups have been selected for the national session based on the frequency of their participation in the online groups. The child parliamentarians, among other things, pressed for policy review and increased public finance for children to overcome the impediments that continue to affect their development and growth.
The 15 issues discussed during group work included child marriage, child labour, health, education, nutrition, climate change, violence against children, road safety, psychological wellbeing of children, information and communication technology, youth and employability, children with disabilities, access to information, and increased budgetary allocation for children by the government. The findings were presented by the child parliamentarians before the Deputy Speaker of the National Parliament in a mock parliamentary session.
Attended overwhelmingly by children, the event was also attended by chief guest Deputy Speaker of National Parliament and Chief Advisor of the Parliamentary Caucus on Child Rights, Fazle Rabbi Miah MP, and by special guest President of the Parliamentary Caucus on Child Rights Shamsul Haque Tuku MP. Also attending were Maurizio Cian, Head of Cooperation of the European Union and (Officer-in-Charge) Representative of UNICEF Bangladesh, Veera Mendonca.
“This important initiative serves as a structured platform for the Members of the National Parliament to listen directly to the views, interests and concerns of children and young people in their respective constituencies,” said Veera Mendonca, adding “This is a unique opportunity for children, who represent almost 40 per cent of the country’s population. As they have no voting rights, they rely on others to respect, protect and fulfil their rights.
Lauding the inspired participation by children, Deputy Speaker Fazle Rabbi Miah MP, said “Bangladesh is currently passing through a demographic dividend. I am much relieved that the country’s youth-led demographic dividend rests on responsible young citizens like you.”
Generation Parliament aims to help children articulate and voice their demands and concerns. It builds a bridge between children and policy makers through online platforms as well as through face-to-face interaction twice a year.