Apia Marandi (19) and Shikha Hasda (21) from Damkura Union, Poba Upazilla in Rajshahi District work as volunteers with MAASAUS under Bangladesh Firestarter Initiative (BFI) since 2016. Being indigenous community, previously, they were unaware about the opportunities provided by local administrations. In fact, they never had the chance to talk to local administrations, elected representatives and outside their communities. Ever since they engaged with MAASAUS organisation, Apia and Shikha learned about the equal rights in public services.

Young People of Damkura union discussing on the challenges of their community

Their knowledge strengthened after getting the training of advocacy and lobbying and leadership training from BFI and eventually became more interested on local structures and their functional mechanism. Researching on the existing local elected government structures and resource mapping, interestingly, they found that every Union Parishad (UP) has a standing committee where no young people are included. They talked to the UP Chairman and discussed how to be part on it and significantly provided their opinion on the yearly budget of UP.

As UP Chairman already knew their intervention in the community development, he included Apia and Shikha on the social welfare and community centers and health, family planning and epidemic control respectively for 2018. Then, they identified who do not get the Vulnerable Group Feeding (VGF) Cards and state sponsored entitlement for the elderly and vulnerable people despite being eligible. They submitted a list to the UP chairman and committed him to provide VGF cards. The chairman also committed to allocate 2 deep tube wells who are deprived from safe drinking water.

Membership in the standing committee empowered Apia and Shikha to be as community leaders and to provide key decisions for their community and country in large. In future, they want to continue their irreversible support for social cohesion.