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Youth leadership: Driving force of change among young people in Bangladeshi communities

Dhaka, 2 May 2019

A Bangladeshi volunteer who campaigns against child marriage and violence against women – including running a sticker campaign on Dhaka public transport - has been named as a youth ambassador in a prestigious new programme celebrating and promoting the work of young people worldwide. 

Joseph Mahtab is one of 22 young changemakers becoming YouthLead Ambassadors, picked from nearly 1500 applicants around the world. Joseph, 30, from Barguna, is the president of the VSO Alumni Association in Bangladesh. He will now take his place as an ambassador for the YouthLead.org programme, founded by the United States Agency for International Development. 

The VSO Alumni Association in Bangladesh is a group of 450 young people who have completed a volunteer programme with the organisation. After their three month placement is over, the alumni continue social action within their local communities and at a national level. The association focuses on different social issues, including gender inequality, violence against women, dowry, poverty, sexual harassment, peace and justice. They are also contributing efforts to raise awareness on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in public universities and educational institutions together with civil society groups. 

Since the Alumni Association was established in 2015 they have reached around 4,000 people with their voluntary work to stop violence against women and prevent child marriage. Joseph has helped the association build partnerships with youth organisations and media outlets to promote the group’s awareness-raising campaigns on issues ranging from violence against women, to child marriage. In 2018, the team led a sticker campaign on public transport in Dhaka to raise awareness of a national helpline for survivors of violence to access justice. 

VSO Alumni Association Bangladesh President, Joseph Mahtab said:

"Child marriage is a big problem in our country, because people are living under the pressure of poverty. But change is happening by the year and the rate of child marriage decreasing because of activities in the communities."

The new YouthLead Ambassadors have a proven track record in mobilising other young changemakers and youth through their activities. YouthLead.org is a platform where young changemakers can connect with like-minded networks of young people, mentors, resources and events. They will add value to other changemakers’ professional growth, and generate local engagement and peer-to-peer networking.  As part of the programme, the YouthLead Ambassadors will implement local activities and contribute their ideas to make YouthLead more relevant to changemakers in their networks and communities. 

VSO Alumni Association Bangladesh has been playing an important role in youth engagement and network in Bangladesh. The work and outstanding effort of the 235 Bangladeshi volunteers who make up the VSO Alumni Association in Bangladesh were recognised through the Volunteer Team Award at the 2018 Volunteer Impact Awards event in London. 

VSO Bangladesh Country Director, Md Forkhan Uddin said: 

"VSO brings together over 1000 young national and international volunteers to work with 117 youth clubs across Bangladesh. Our youth intervention focuses on positive change on harmful attitudes as well as educate young people on a variety of topics, especially on sexual and reproductive health and rights."

VSO and its partners have been working closely with local authorities, young people and elders in communities to deliver important information with a focus on the risks to health of young girls and legal protection for child rights. VSO’s youth intervention is contributing towards better a understanding of sexual health and reproductive rights and awareness, challenging attitudes towards forced child marriage and dowries, sanitation and hygiene, and vocational knowledge and business support to support entrepreneurship and employment. 

- Ends -

Notes to editors:

Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) is the world’s leading independent international development organisation that works through volunteers to fight poverty in developing countries. Originally founded in 1958, VSO has been working in Bangladesh since 1974 to ensure that marginalised women and men in some of the poorest districts can participate in, contribute to, and benefit from the country’s economic and social development.

VSO's high-impact approach involves bringing people together to fight various forms of poverty by sharing skills, building capabilities, promoting international understanding and action to change lives to make the world a fairer place for all to live in. 

Joseph Mahtab is available for interview. For more information, please contact:

Mohammad Manna Rahman                
Research, Monitoring and Evaluation Manager, VSO Bangladesh
+88 01730739567 
manna.rahman@vsoint.org 

Teeraphong Kunklangdone                 
Regional Media and Communications Advisor (Asia Pacific), VSO International
+66 (0)81 266 5838
teeraphong.kunklangdone@vsoint.org

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