Interseliger 2014: A lively gathering of 4000 people including 800 International participants

I have never camped before, not with 4000 people together!

This week has been amazing as I have been traveling inside the Russia. This year, I have been invited along with 800 international participants to be part of interseliger 2014, an event going on for the last 5 years. From Bangladesh there are 4 invitees, of which 3 came to the place. 

The atmosphere is incredible, though it is a lot hot than I expected. For 6 days, international participants will learn about Russian culture, their ways and other educational forms. 

The first day was insightful as AIESEC president Vinicius Tsugue and UN youth Envoy  Ahmad Alhendawi talked came to share their enthusiasm and joy. There was a global village organized by the OCs where different countries presented their culture. 

In the second day, I chose PR and media for Lecture and it was a good one as you can see. 

I will try to keep posting,as the rules are stricts about class and time for shower, eating, charging devices is limited. 


Experience of Youth Leadership Summit 2014: Relevance

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend Youth Leadership Summit 2014 organised by Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center in Dhaka. 450 delegates (both national and international) and 50 speakers took part in the Summit. The delegates were selected out 2000 applicants. The delegate group consisted college (12th graders) to Masters students and young professionals. I tried to live blog each of the days, you can read more about those by going to day 1, day 2 and day 3.

Delegates of Youth Leadership Summit 2014. Credit: BYLC Facebook Page
Delegates of Youth Leadership Summit 2014. Credit: BYLC Facebook Page

The first point I would like to point out here that this youths represent a biased portion of the society due to couple of facts: 1) Unlike other BYLC summit this time, there was a fee of 3000 Taka to become a delegate, which for many was too high. Specially for those studying in public universities. 2) Application was received from 2000 youths out of millions, which does show only the portion willing to come were there. So, when these delegates are treated special, I beg to differ. Also, there were outliers like me who went in there to witness what the summit or the delegates have to offer.

Most were university students, specially from undergrad level. A few were Master’s students and young professionals. According one such graduate student:

I felt that the summit was suitable for college and first or second year students, not for people who are in masters level or doing jobs.

Next comes the point of relevance. How relevant the model of the Leadership Summit is in the context of Bangladesh? Many would just feel stunt of me making the question. But bear with me for few minutes.

If you ask a Bangladeshi about a leader, he or she would point directly to any politician. That may lead one to the conclusion that politicians and leaders are the same. Are they?

No they are not.  Jim Sniechowski, one of the Linkedin Influencer pointed out the differences well in his post. The post uses good example to explain. He also tried to find if there is any common area/interest/role among the two. He wrote:

Can a leader, as I define it, be a politician? Yes, but the combination is infrequent. Can a politician be a leader? Of course, but again the combination is infrequent, because he or she by character is more attracted to the nuts and bolts of carrying out operations than that of dreaming, musing, envisioning what is not yet in practice.

Now, the reason I bring this point in the table is—in a country where most do not know what role is played by whom, are they sure whether they want to be leaders or politicians? Or both?

Though a number of political party leaders and government officials were present in the summit, I did not find any youth who is affiliated with political parties or with government agencies. Two points can be made out of it: 1) No one with that population group is involved with political parties or with government agencies. or 2) They do not care about summit’s like this.

So a group is excluded from the process when you leave the youths who are in politics, who may become future leaders, policy makers and officials for government. How does it effect the whole process of Leadership enrichment should be explored in future.

I did have the privilege to attend two of the summits organised by BYLC. In both of the times, I tried to understand what did I learn, or what changed in me or what effect did it do. As Ejaj Ahmed, founder of BYLC repeated pointed it out that each year youths come in, get motivated during the sessions and pledge to change a lot of things. But after a week of the summit, everything goes back to as it was.

Learning includes what they take as motivation, the links they build and the certificates they take with them after the completion of the summit which may help them in career.

So, what is not clicking?

I talked with few delegates who also thought about it and turns out that these youths are already motivated. What the summit does is increase adrenaline. What these youth require is the guidance or learning the process to use their motivation to something substantial.  As I wrote what one foreign delegate commented:

It feels like they are just touching the surface, but not going to the root of the problem.

Also the sessions need to be planned with a different approach, it should not necessarily follow a model that is too much pre-designed. Even during the sessions, I found two sessions with speakers who were not ideal to talk about the topic. I think next time the organiser should think about a different approach rather than going for a north-american or European model.

Now, back to the point of relevance. I must share two experiences I had during the summit, here. After the first session of the first day, I went to the Gent’s Toilet to urinate. And I found the toilet left dirty by my previous user which reminded me what Gowher Rizvi just about half an hour ago in his inauguration speech said—to think and care about others!

The next experience I had during the afternoon tea break where a line was formed in front of the queue where tea was served. I was in line and to my surprise people just came in and took tea without caring the line. I did try to ask them after the incident what they think of their action. They did say sorry, but I feel they do not feel it by heart.

Though both of the examples are small and simple, but there are coherent and correlated. They show that we do lack the practice even though we complain about bribes, corruptions, misuse of property.

The change should be brought in at personal level first. They should know who they are, why they are doing what they are doing and how. Self-realisation is important. I found many lack knowledge about leadership, what leader is, the stakeholders they want to work with and most importantly the process they want to work. I found many with dreams of working on different topics without knowing the basic facts (Such included: Minority rights, traffic condition, bicycles, youth empowerment, energy condition etc.)

I heard almost all wants to do something for the country, and everyone, even the foreign delegates appreciate that. But the gap between reality and dream—how to mitigate that should be the focus of a Leadership Summit if such again takes place in future.

Please do comment if you think something fruitful can be added or some of the facts that can be argued about. I believe the intention is there, but the execution is not bringing the desired result. So I would love to hear what you think.

BYLC Youth Leadership Summit 2014: from ‘one of the best experiences’ to ‘Are we unwanted?’

The following has been written based on social media comments and comments given in person at the summit by different delegates.

One of the Best Experiences                                                                                                    Are We Unwanted                                                                                                    

BYLC organised the third Youth Leadership Summit from 11-13 June 2014. I was selected along with 449 other delegates where the actual applicants were close to 2000.

During the three days, I tried to follow what delegates had to say both in person and online. Here is a glimpse:

One of the Best Experience

from Nepal shared his excitement while waiting for registration:


The summit took off on 11 June at 10 am with inauguration speech by Gowher Rizvi, Adivosor to Prime Minister of Bangladesh.

 working for UNDP and as a facilitator for BYLC did a great job by asking delegates about their passion, what they liked about sessions and their experience:

was also vibrant in twitter:

About the first day  and  tweets:

Also about the debrief session,  quotes a delegate:



Are We Unwanted

After the lunch of the final day, I was waiting downstairs of Bangabandhu Conference Center Dhaka where the summit took place. I was thrilled to come across a conversion which led me to dig deep. (For confidentiality reasons and upon request, names of the delegates opined are not mentioned)

The conversation was about the attitude of the facilitators. The discussants were talking about rude behaviour that they received from the facilitator was unexpected. Two of delegates said they were mocked by facilitators for not knowing something. They opined, “If we knew so much, would I have come to the summit? Are we unwanted?”. One eye witness of an incident said that there was a delegate who recently joined university and she did not have any kind of id card. It may seen to many that how it is possible. But considering Bangladesh’s context it can happen. As she is not old enough to get a national id and she did not make a passport nor she had student id. She was harassed at the queue of registration.

Also they mentioned that during the application process they were asked to send money to Bkash accounts for which they called many times to BYLC office and no one answered. Also, one delegate mentioned that she came from Chittagong and was supposed to give interview. She missed the call in the first place and when she called back she was faced with unprofessional behaviour and words. The process of BKash was not clear to many and the time given to make the payment was not sufficient as it required to send from a merchant’s account. They also said the two emails sent created confusion. The second email should have been the only email in the first place. Later others joined, some of them were foreign delegates. One shared, “Own professional development is not happening, no strategy. They are just working on the motivation. They energy is there, but not the person to show the process.” One added, “It feels like they are going over the surface, but not going deep.”

I just want to write one thing that I found I can not ignore is that, in the boy’s toilet I found few were vomiting after the third day’s lunch. I asked others about the food, some did say they felt bad, some even skipped certain part of the meal. I think the food should remain a priority as more than 500 people being served in each of the summit days.

The discussion was spontaneous. However afterwards I tried to ask others about their experience, those are not mentioned here. I did ask to the discussants why then twitter feeds and other social media not showing such remarks. Those along with my own experience of the summit will be portrayed in the next blog and I will try to analysis whether it really helps the youths or not.


I missed the first session due to a last moment schedule of a presentation for my masters thesis. But here is a glimpse of the feed that went in social media:

Youth in Politics panel included Shahriar Alam, Mahi B. Chowdhury, Tarana Halim and Nasiruddin Ashim.

Sustainable Development panel included mahabub hossain, runa khan, binayak sen, and shykh seraj.

education and career panel included Omar Rahman,Maimuna ahmad, Fahima Aziz, and Amyn Saleh.

Gender and Leadership panel included Sara Hossain, Nihad Kabir, Luna Shamsuddoha and Anneli Lindahl Kenny.

second session just started. 
I am in the Innovation panel which focuses on ‘Breakthroughs for the public good’. Will keep on updating.
Update 1

The panel consisted Tamera Abid of BRAC, Anir Chowdhury from A2I, PMO, Iffath Sharif from World Bank and Pias Islam, Pi Strategy consulting.

Tamera Abid talked about two of BRAC’s innovation or findings which happened because of the people working at the root level. These two include: Amzad Hossain who made sure that everyone in his community gets vaccination. And the second thing was using Bananas to keep the vaccines cool.

Iffath Sharif talked about three challenges with government’s Social Safety Net (SSN): 1) Equity 2) Efficiency 3) Transparency. But she emphasised on public initiatives and partnerships.

She talked about to pilot project that World Bank experimented with. 6000 beneficiaries were given phone for business and communication purpose in 2 upazillas. 4000 people are still using working, shows the efficiency of the project. In another project 4000 beneficiaries were given post cards by local post offices. The project showed that time and cost both went down because of using the tools. She also informed that the government’s SSN programmes have efficiency of 30% which means a lot being wasted.

Pial Islam talked about digical=digital+physical which is the new theme as digitalisation cant only ensure development. There is a shift from thinking of products+user to Network+user.

Anir Chowdhury talked about the process of A2I and he said the primary approach was totally wrong. Then they started focusing on action plans rather on policy making. An initiative was taken to make government officials to work on only a big idea for eight months. He also stated that government is willing to test new ideas and things. He mentioned:

The session was informative but I never heard these examples before. So I asked the question why these information are not easily accessible? And I felt that people at field level are innovative cause they worked with real people and real time data which became information.


Neal Walker opens up the curtain of day-2 of the BYLC summit 2014. He gave three practical examples from his life which included his job experience in Kyrgyz Republic. He suggests the followings to the summit delegates:
1) be positive
2) have courage
3) focus on what is important
4) get great people, help them to do the job
5) keep your attitude positive, enable problem solving
6) always assume responsibility for what is your to bear
7) vision-let it lead you.

He discussed the points taking Bangladeshi framework into account. He talked about Bangladesh’s achievements like MDG 2015, poverty alleviation, economic growth.
He found the followings as challenges for Bangladesh:
1) Maximising the youth dividend
2) economic growth with equity
3) achieving stable and inclusive democracy
4) address climate change
Putting the points forward, he asked two questions to the delegates: 1) what would you like to fix or change about Bangladesh?
2) Who inspire you as a leader and why?
He finished his speech spreading his core idea about leadership, “Leadership is something that you earn by action.”
Next Brittany Smith started, will keep you updated.

Brittany is working with UNDP Bangladesh. She talked about human rights. She talked about local human rights present in the constitution of Bangladesh. Bangladesh has signed all the international human rights except, Protection of people from enforced disappearances.

She asked three questions about violence on women, “does this bother you?What can you do about it? What are you obliged to do?”
She asked everybody to become responsible to protect and promote human rights. And we should have active voice.
Neal Walker then described why UNDP has selected the violence against women as a representation of ‘I to we’. He said, “Violence on women is a global problem, and for this we need to be united. We need to become-I to we.” He introduced Dr Sayed Saikh Imtiaz, Associate Professor at the Department of Women and Gender Studies, University of Dhaka. He shared some shocking global data about violence.

87% women in Bangladesh, according to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics face violence at home by their husband and family members. NHRC reports that number to be 62%, 18% of which seek justice, 30% do not at all come to the system.
I do have my own comments about the matter as I am working on gender sensitivity of public toilets. And it had brought me to some important findings. I will try to share those later on in a blog.
The second session started around 11:30am and the speakers were Kashfia Nehrin, URP student from BUET, Tahmina Shafique coordinator of VDAY and Mashroof Hossain, Assistant Police Commissioner of Cantonment Zone. Kashfia Nahrin, I guess was quite nervous, as her speech was not much clear. But the goal was understandable-to illustrate the role a woman can play.
Mashroof Hossain has been doing something no other police ever done in Bangladesh. Socialising and reaching out to people. The following tweet will give you an idea about how Mashroof felt about police before joining:

He talked about steps taken by police to stop violence against women. The DMP (Dhaka Metropolitan Police) has an app and it has a dedicated section where violence on women can be reported. He emphasised on speaking up. Though there is corruption and problems with authority, but someone in the chain will definitely help. Not all are corrupted.
Opinion: Listening to people and trying to communicate.

Youth Leadership Summit 2014 kicks off (live blogging)

“To be effective competent, compassionate are not the only  things needed today. You need to grow personal relations, links.” states Ejaj Ahmed, the founder of BYLC as the summit kicks off. 450 delegates are present in the summit.

The keynote panelists include Gowher Rizvi, advisor to Prime Minister, Secretary Nur Mohammad from Ministry of Youth and sports, and Sarah Cooke, Country Representative DFID.
As a introduction of Gowher Rizvi, Ejaj describes a discussion that they had, “To be honest I came back to Bangladesh to serve the interest of the common people-this indicates how dedicated he is.
Gowher Rizvi, in his speech calls the youths to use the opportunity that given to them. He asked them to stop for a while, and reflect on what they are doing. “Mahatma Gandhi had a dream. And he did not let anything get anything in between. He had a vision, no other had in the sub-continent at his time.”
“We can all be leaders. It is changing, what has not changed is need for passion, need for vision, commitment and desire to go beyond oneself. Leadership is very different now. Leader is someone who can bring out the best in others. Leaderships is not being a macho man. Leaders may not have the formal authority but they can create own authority.”

“To lead, is not a top down process. It is as Ejaj said leaders should be able to create network of capable people  and resources and to give their best.”

“You have to prepare to make make sacrifice. Mahatma Gandhi Made sacrifice, Bangabandhu made sacrifice. But the sacrifice asked from a leader should not be of pain, it should be joyful and sacred. Bangabandhu sacrificed a lot, half of his life in jail. He has been charged for treason. But he did not flinch. ”
Sarah Cooke in her speech talked on three points: 1) why UK government is funding the summit 2) Why it is important and 3) Her personal story.
She informed that UK government is committed to support the development programmes for betterment of the people of Bangladesh. UK has donated 262 million pounds last year as bilateral donor. By 2015, UK funded programmes will be supporting half a million children to become literate, 1.3 million to get clean water, 1.5 million people to be free of poverty.
Nur Mohammad, described the work that BYLC is doing to help formulate the youth policy. He also announced the opening of the summit 2014.

Higher Study Abroad, Bangladesh chapter

(This blog has been published in Dhaka Tribune blog)

When Siam Mosharraf Hossain founded Higher Study Abroad (HSA) Bangladesh Chapter, he did not know that it would create such impact. Now, with more than 70000 Facebook members in the group and a website dedicated to help students all the time, Higher Study Abroad stands as a bridge between Bangladeshi abroad and students willing to go for higher studies abroad.

It all started in 2009, the whole history of this organisation can be found here. A lot of effort have been put into the group and website. Anyone who joins the Facebook group can see this. The whole process of application for higher studies in different countries, preparation for tests like GRE/IELTS/GMAT and experience of people is well documented by HSA and maintained by a group of dedicated volunteers. What makes the group so effective is that, people share problems, opportunities, questions regarding higher studies and solutions are provided by the group members themselves which makes HSA a hub. If an inquiry is placed in the group, it is answered by many experienced and helpful people, who are termed as ‘Altruist’ by HSA.

HSA has tutorials and two published books for IELTS and GRE which is helping many students to perform well in the tests. It has 1300+ hours of video content and has plans to prepare tutorials for GMAT as well. The website contains 200+ articles about higher studies abroad. It recently has published its first online magazine ORKO. Additionally HSA is working on ORKO to make it a multimedia project on the website so that it can feature video and audio interviews among other things.

It also has offline activities such as organsing seminars in universities where students studying in different universities abroad share their experience and the process they went through to be where they are now. More than 30 seminars have been organised in different parts of Bangladesh.

Recently, Saleh M M Rahman and Ragib Hasan has joined as advisors of HSA. “I think HSA has a very positive impact on the students seeking higher education. Lack of information and guidance have prevented many students in the past from getting admission. HSA has filled this gap and has successfully formed a bridge between current students studying abroad, and those seeking admission. Students from other countries have been doing this for a long time, and that is a big reason why they have a big presence in universities in the US and other places. It’s great to see Bangladeshi students and altruists coming forward to help other students,” said the founder of Shikhok and Advisor of HSA Dr Ragib Hasan.

The first time I came to know about Higher Study Abroad was in 2011 through the Facebook group. I joined the group and I was really amazed to see the amount of help people got from this group. Later I found out that it had a website. Effort is ongoing to make the website more organised and effective. And needless to say all of this will be done by volunteers. For the last 5 years, Higher Study Abroad is playing a significant role yet not advertising their activities which is unique.

President and Founder Siam Mosharraf Hossain says, “”When I’d started HSA I just wanted to inspire students about higher studies. I, myself, had to go through hard times when I was applying to universities abroad- so wanted to share the knowledge. Now, HSA is the largest expatriate connection of Bangladeshis with people from academia and industries abroad. Through this network, we dream of uplifting Bangladesh by reinvesting our skill sets in different areas which require development.”

US election…DHaka perspective

It’s pretty early over here in Dhaka.exactly 7:26 AM now.

Right now I am attending U.S. Embassy Election Gala at the Westin.It’s a different atmosphere over here. One that I have been seeing for the last 5 or 6 hours on CNN.

Right now Romney is leading 54 to 46.

It’s been a different election day along the US. the weather been different and the voting continued even in bad weather condition.

But for the Sandy hit state NY, NJ the big question was will the citizens of these 2 states be able to vote?

Some experts said the problem is people are facing crisis of food and shelter. And midst of this, it will be quite different scenario in case of turn out.