Students against violence – Save Youth Bangladesh
January 12, 2023 - Action may speak louder than words, but speech, images, or coded language can still be deadly. Bangladesh has frequently faced public unrest and violence including political riots and sectarian assaults.
During recent periods of tension, a social media image posting triggered a series of group attacks, eventually resulting in at least 141 religious temples being vandalized, 9 fatalities, and 329 injuries across 29 districts throughout Bangladesh.
For campaigners trying to stem violence and resolve acute tensions, student organizations have played a crucial part in Bangladesh’s history – from the early independence movement through to more recent pro-democracy movements. Young people remain central to national events including recent tensions between ethnic groups and religions as well as political parties. In order to promote tolerance and non-violence, Save Youth Bangladesh works with students and other young people to promote resilience against conflict, both online and offline.
“In the context of Bangladesh unlike others, students are ideal. Our goal is to work with university students who are the most productive and have more time to give to society to prevent violence,” said Aynul Islam, national moderator of Save Youth Bangladesh, a peacebuilding network.
SAVE Youth started its journey on October 31, 2018 overall aim of promoting ‘youth proactiveness’ to build peace, tolerance and pluralism. SAVE Youth has since expanded its activities to 13 different university campuses and localities, with over 1700 youth leaders active in conflict mitigation and awareness building across the country.
“We define community is the unity of people who is trying to achieve a particular fundamental goal. Students represent different background, religion, gender, and social status. They are the ambassadors of their own community. It is the strength of them to overcome any form of challenges,” Aynul said.
With support from The Resiliency Initiative, Save Youth Bangladesh recently launched an initiative to tackle inflammatory speech. This new campaign looks to raise awareness about the effects of provocative speeches delivered online by well-known speakers. The goal is to educate young people about dangerous public speech that remains pervasive in Bangladesh. The aim is that rather than being vectors for bad actors trying to sow discord and violence, students can be a force of tolerance by understanding the risks and by proactively monitoring online sources for inflammatory and misleading speech.
Combining awareness raising and training events in campuses across the country with intensive online media, the campaign rapidly reached extensively across its core target audience of students. Over 25,000 people engaged online, and the more intensive real-world events worked directly with over 500 people. Feedback was positive in most cases, and careful assessment of impact enabled the campaign organizers to improve their content and messaging over time.
The campaign achieved one of its aims in gaining significant involvement among young women as well as men. Many campaign events, including an art contest drawing attention to the risks of dangerous speech by harnessing creativity, featured women students in prominent roles.
The anticipated outcomes are that network members will be able to recognize dangerous speech and produce early warning indicators, young people will be able to create and disseminate counter narratives against dangerous or hate speech, and the general public will be aware of the distinction between free speech and dangerous speech.