Most people may assume that the main challenge facing children in poorer economies, such as Bangladesh, is that of poverty. While it is certainly one of the main challenges, poor transportation, lack of access to medical facilities, power shortages and more - all serve to exacerbate the trauma caused by poverty. Through the Every Last Child global campaign, Save the Children aims to provide support to all children, including those who are hard to reach and often forgotten. And bringing even greater innovation, in Bangladesh, in association with JAAGO Foundation and SHOUT, we have launched the ‘Bridging the Gap’ programme that mobilises the more fortunate youth to highlight the plight of those less fortunate.
Challenges on the ground
In Bangladesh, the most marginalized and the most deprived communities are either living in extremely remote and hard to reach areas or living in urban slums. For both the groups, access to basic services is a key challenge.
Tama Choudhury, an 18-year-old girl from a remote village of Habiganj, had to travel three hours one way just to get to her school. Her journey consisted of a 30 minute walk, followed by a 2 hour boat ride and then, another 30 minute walk. At times, there were no boats to take her, and on others, the fares were unaffordable. Worse still, there were days when the boat had capsized due to poor weather and Tama had had to swim back home and dry her school books, hoping they weren’t too damaged.
Tama’s story is one of the many brought forward to the general audience by the young volunteers of Bridging the Gap. By travelling to remote locations and through conversations with those less fortunate, the volunteers can better understand the challenges faced by the under-privileged youth. These volunteers then use various social media platforms to highlight those stories, in an attempt to generate an awareness among the general public. “Bridging the Gap should work like a philosophy for young people of Bangladesh. They meet so many 'last children' every day – on the streets, in their hometowns.
Approximately 60 percent of population in Bangladesh are youths, however, issues focusing on the youth, or drawing upon their experiences remains largely untapped. Not only are they deprived of access to basic facilities, they also lack a ‘voice’ to express their opinions and share their needs with public and to policy makers, in particular. Providing access to services is also a key enabler of multiple Sustainable Development Goals. Generating access will allow people—including girls and women, children and other inhabitants of rural areas—to use the available health and education services and experience a standard and rightful quality of life. Thus, providing access to essential services has a multiplier effect, improving standard of living for those in need directly, and garnering human capital to improve the country’s economy in the long run.
To ensure that access is created and is sustainable – it must be a political priority and hence creating a movement of millions to increase the share of voice of the issue on digital as well as non –virtual world. That is the essence of Bridging the Gap initiative. Along with JAAGO and SHOUT, we worked with 50 volunteers to showcase the lives of the less fortunate youth to those more privileged. At the launch, we were able to reach out to more than 4,800 individuals with access on Facebook. This outreach increased almost 500,000 on the final selection day, when 50 young volunteers where chosen to travel to and meet the youth from remote rural areas. These volunteers then shared their experiences on various social media platforms, and also in local daily newspapers and daily English newspaper. Bridging the Gap initiative is helping bridge the gap between the youth of the marginalized communities and the policy makers, so that national policies reflect the actual needs of those in need, instead of relying on blanket approaches.
Watch this video to know what the initiative is all about: