Imagine a TV reporter is interviewing you and suddenly he asks, “Who’s your role model and why?” You are on camera and have only the fraction of a second to come up with a name. What would your answer be? If you stumble and struggle before uttering a name, you are not alone. Most of the youth of our generation are on the same boat, where we are not sure if we have a role model or not. Recently, I had the opportunity to interact with students of different universities from divisional cities. What I found common among them is the absence of role models in their life.
No doubt the role models significantly influence a person’s personality or behavior, however, role models have a bigger role for the community to create positive trends. Role models work as a catalyst to bring about positive change in the community, leaving strong legacies for their followers. This leads to healthy competition in the community, which brings out the best performance from their followers. Interestingly, there are many incidents where successful people claim that they’ve turned their role models into their competitors, being influenced by the work of their role models.
One of the main causes of having lack of role models among youth is lack of effective platform for youth engagement in districts and sub-districts in Bangladesh, where youth can interact with fellow youth from diverse backgrounds of the community, discuss on national or global affairs, participate in community-led initiatives, receive skills training, and meet their role models. Lack of proper guidance limits career choice of these youths, and makes them intellectually inactive. In the worst scenario, frustration creeps into their life, which leads them to get involved in various anti-social activities.
We’ve seen a paradigm shift in Dhaka when it comes to creating mainstream platforms for youth engagement, particularly in last 8-10 years. Besides academic pursuits, young people have the access to diverse youth engagement platforms where they can explore different avenues: music, sports, arts, cultural activities, coding, voluntary work etc. to discover their interest and passion. At BYLC, while I was attending Building Bridges through Leadership Training program and working in the alumni network, I had the opportunity to work with bright youth from diverse backgrounds, which brought new perspectives in my life when it comes to approaching my career.
While talking with some university students from different Upazillas, I was thrilled to hear the stories of their real-life struggles which they had successfully overcome to get into the university. Some students have admitted that their advice nowadays carries a lot of weight in any decision-making process of their family, which was completely unimaginable few years ago. Whenever they return to their native villages during holidays, people often visit their place to seek advice regarding higher education of their family members. Despite having sound academic backgrounds and immense leadership potential, these youth often fail to assert themselves only due to lack of right guidance, motivation, and training. What can be done to motivate these youth groups?
Firstly, these capable young people should be given necessary training, so that they can become more competitive and competent. Then, they should be provided engagement platforms in their native communities where they can transfer those skills to fellow peers to the best of their ability. Such training can not only bolster the leadership acumen of promising young people, but also inspire fellow youth of their respective communities to engage in meaningful activities. This platform can transform youth with great potential into role models, who can create positive impact in the communities.
It is a clarion call for all concerned stakeholders to invest in creating youth engagement platforms for our young generations. Media can play an instrumental role in recognizing these local youth-engagement platforms, and giving proper traction to the meaningful work of these potential youths. Besides, youth organizations can connect these inspiring youth with celebrated youth icons of our country by providing them space to exchange views and motivation. Leadership institutes like BYLC can offer leadership training to them for building their leadership capacity. Also, NGO’s, government and private sectors can join hands together to lend infrastructural as well as financial support to create such engagement platforms for youth, especially in peri-urban and rural areas. If we can transform these inspiring youth into role models, we will automatically find solutions to various social problems of our time.
The author is an Officer at Social Innovation Lab, BRAC