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‘Let Democracy Work’

A Civic Bangladesh Campaign led by Youth Right (YOUR) Alliance

 

This campaign of Civic Bangladesh is a response to Global Youth Democracy Campaign led by the World Youth Movement Democracy (WYMD) which is a youth wing of World Movement for Democracy (WMD). The Global Youth Democracy Campaign was launched in 2005. The WYMD participants have since been working around the world to promote and deepen democracy as well as inspiring the people in general. The campaign mobilizes youths to participate in non-violent actions to promote democratic values and concepts, educates them about the importance of human rights, press freedom, active citizenship and raises awareness of the positive contributions youth are making to democracy in the world. In this global context of democratic movement, Youth Right (YOUR) Alliance, a youth wing of Civic Bangladesh, calls upon the young democracy activists to take part in celebrating the World Youth Day for Democracy in Bangladesh as part of the Global Youth Democracy Campaign.


World Youth Democracy Day 2008


  • Practice democracy at home.
  • Promote democratic culture in political parties.
  • Boycott corrupt politicians.
  • Encourage politics of people dedicated to development and progress.

Youth Right (YOUR) Alliance, a youth wing of Civic Bangladesh, organized a discussion meeting on 18 October 2008 at Civic Bangladesh to observe the World Youth Democracy Day. Students of different colleges and universities took part in the discussion.

Mr Bayezid Dawla, Executive Director, Civic Bangladesh, inaugurated the discussion while Mr Abdul Hai, Convener of Youth Right (YOUR) Alliance presided over the meeting.

In the meeting the discussants said, we need change now. We need the practice of democracy in every part of our society. The political parties should practice democracy. To institutionalize democracy in our country the political parties should play the vital role, and we all should support them.

The students also said that people should boycott the corrupt political leaders, terrors and the black money holders in the election. The political parties should boycott these miscreants on the one hand and encourage the involvement of meritorious and dedicated people in politics on the other.

The meeting called upon the civil society members particularly the media and the NGOs to help institutionalize democracy in Bangladesh.


Ms Israt Zahan Anu, Student, Dhaka University

I think democracy means all are equal in rights. So, we should practice it. We should practice it in our family life, and then in organizations, in institutes and in societies. The policymakers of our country must be aware of democracy. They should practice and respect democracy. If we all are aware of this, I think we can build a democratic Bangladesh. To make this happen, the youth should work together.


Baki Billah, Student, Jahangirnagar University

To develop the democracy of our country the politicians should play the vital role. They should know what democracy is. A big number of our politicians are corrupt. Most of them do not practice democracy. They use muscle power to control politics and use politics to earn black money. These types of politicians get nominations and become members of parliament and ministers. So, the real politicians get no chance, and this created the situation of 1/11 (January 11, 2007) that replaced democracy with emergency. The political parties should understand it and take the proper steps to develop democracy.


Saiful Islam, Student, Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University

The political parties should practice democracy. They should form all committees in democratic ways. To do so, the politicians should change their mindsets. They must respect the verdict of the people.


Rakibul Islam, Student, ASA University

The politicians use the youth groups in violence. Most political parties use the student and youth wings in enforcing the hartals (strikes), blockades and so on. But they hardly think they can play a vital role in developing the society and can make huge contribution to developing positive politics. The politicians should realize it.


Imdadul Haq, Student, Prime University

There are enough positive roles of youth in our history. The students and youth led our language movement 1952, fought the independence war in 1971 and overthrew the autocratic regime in 1990. During those movements, the political leaders guided them to play the roles. But now most youth and student leaders are known as `cadre’. People do not like them at all. To change this negative notion about them, the politicians should change their minds at first.


Abu Younus, Student, Dhaka University

At first, people should avoid the negative politics. Youth groups, media and development workers – all of us should think of practicing positive politics. If we can do this then political culture must change.


Badal Sarker, Student, Prime University

Our main problem is corruption. A corrupt nation cannot gain the real fruit of democracy. So, at first we need to build a corruption-free society. We all should stand against this evil.


Abdullah Abu Kayes, Student, Prime University

To develop democracy the media should play a positive role. But our media cannot do that well due to their ideological differences. As a result of this, the media provide different treatments of a single event. Most of the time, they publish reports, especially the political ones with ideological bias. This is harmful for our democracy.


Zia Kabir, Student, Dhaka University

Democracy is a matter of practice. Every individual should realize it. They should understand the positive and negative sides of democracy but we should be aware of the public rights and interests. If we can avoid negative politics we can develop an effective democratic nation.


Russell, Student, Titumir College

We should change our political culture. The politicians should practice democracy and do politics for the people and the country. If they do so it will be a great achievement for us. The youth should step forward to set an example and change the trend.

 


World Youth Democracy Day 2007 Observed

‘Decision-makers should also listen to youth.’


Civic Youth Network for Democracy (CYND) which was renamed as Youth Right (YOUR) Alliance of Civic Bangladesh organized an open discussion on 18 October, 2007 to observe the World Youth Day for Democracy. College and university students took part in the discussion held in the office of the organization in Dhaka.

In the meeting the participants exchanged views on the democratic environment in Bangladesh, and discussed how youth right and participation could help develop democracy. They said to build a genuine democracy Bangladesh needs mass awareness, equal dignity and press freedom. To make democracy effective media, civil society, NGOs and the government should work together, they added.

Taking part in the discussion, Mr Md. Abdul Hai, a student of Atish Dipangker University, said the youth should know their rights including democratic right. The youth comprise a large section of the population, so the government should involve them in the decision-making process, he argued.

Ms Krisna Rani Singha, a student of Eden University College, said poverty, illiteracy, and the lack of awareness are the main barriers to democratic practices in Bangladesh. “We must overcome these to establish democracy in our country,” said she.

The youth need a common platform to express their opinions about any policy decisions of the government. The Ministry of Youth should create this platform for the youth, said Rakibul Hasan, a student of ASA University. He also said the Ministry of Youth should publish bulletins or magazines to inform the youth of their rights.

Subrata Saha of Titumir College said the religious leaders can play important and effective roles in building mass awareness of democracy.

The meeting recommended the following measures to develop the democracy in Bangladesh:

  • The political parties should practice democracy.
  • The political parties must avoid corruption and corrupt political leaders.
  • Meritorious students should come forward and lead student politics, and the political parties and the guardians should encourage them to do so.
  • Civil society leaders and activists including the media and the religious leaders should work together to develop democratic awareness at the root level of the country.
  • Youth participation in eliminating illiteracy and poverty should be encouraged and promoted to make democracy effective in Bangladesh.

To steer the Civic Youth Movement for Democracy (CYMD) on behalf of Civic Bangladesh the participants formed a 11-member committee as follows:

Mr Md. Abdul Hai Convener

Ms Krishna Rani Singha Joint Convener

Mr Shariful Islam Member Secretary

Mr Aminul Islam Member

Mr Shariful Islam Member

Mr Subrata Saha Member

Mr Faisal Ahmed Member

Mr Ashraful Islam Member

Mr Rakibul Islam Member

Mr Srijan K Mojumder Member

Mr Anisur Rahman Member

 


World Youth Day for Democracy 2006


To celebrate the World Youth Day for Democracy on 18 October 2006 in Bangladesh, Civic Bangladesh coordinated a number of events at the national and grassroots levels, and led an initiative to form the Civic Youth Network for Democracy (renamed as Youth Right (YOUR) Alliance), a network of organizations, students, and professionals interested in promoting democracy in Bangladesh. Their activities aimed to raise awareness of democracy issues and the role of youth as citizens, as well as to decentralize the spirit of democratic movement from the city to remote rural people, who are often unconnected from and deprived of civic opportunities, information and knowledge.



 
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MFA Forum Strategy and Planning Meeting in New York, 2008

Eliminate all forms of injustice against garment labourers.’



Mr. Bayezid Dawla, Executive Director, Civic Bangladesh participated in the International MFA Forum Convening events organized during 08 - 10 September 2008 in New York by Accountability. Mr. Dawla attended the Strategy and Planning Meeting as a participant of the MFA Forum which is working with the Garment and Textiles industries in Bangladesh.

The Strategy and Planning Meeting focused on building and developing a new strategy for the MFA Forum directly informed by the content of our impact assessment and evaluation, reflecting on the progress made since the last meeting in September 2007, as well as from the direct participation of the working groups during the 3-day event.

While representing to the international forum, the Executive Director of Civic Bangladesh called for global attention to the following demand:

  • increase the wage of the garment labourers;
  • improve their living standards and environment;
  • ensure safety and security of labourers in the garment industries; and
  • eliminate all forms of injustice against the garment workers.

The MFA Forum is a not-for-profit, participation-based open network established in early 2004 to address key concerns predicted with the end of the Multi-Fibre Arrangement (MFA). The Forum works as a collaboration of brands and retailers, trade unions, NGOs and multi-lateral institutions in the textile and garment sector with an aim to improve sustainability while promoting social responsibility and competitiveness in national garment industries that are vulnerable in the post-MFA trading environment.

The MFA Forum organizes 9-monthly international convening to meet with its participants to review the Forum's work and define a future strategy. This event involved discussions on the impact of the Forum's in-country engagements as well as the structuring of an action plan for the year to come. In 2008, the international convening and its associated meetings had taken place over three days in New York City.

 
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CAMPAIGN FOR RIGHT TO DIGNITY (CARD)

The Campaign for Right to Dignity (CARD) is led by Bangladesh Dignity Forum. Bangladesh Dignity Forum is an advocacy wing of Civic Bangladesh. The wing was created on a decision made in a roundtable meeting entitled `Democracy, Dignity and Rights’ organized on 8 December 2006 by Civic Bangladesh in its office in Dhaka.

 

Role of Begum Rokeya in Promoting Dignity of Women


Executive Director of Civic Bangladesh Mr Bayezid Dawla keynoted a discussion jointly organized on 12 December 2009 at Pairaband, Rangpur by Begum Rokeya Smriti Sangsad and Sheikh Russell Smriti Sangsad in observance of Rokeya Day.

In the keynote speech on the “Role of Begum Rokeya in Promoting Dignity of Women”, Mr Dawla discussed how Rokeya struggled to pioneer the cause of women’s education and how she strived to free women from the bondage of patriarchy. The speaker observed that the important role that Begum Rokeya played in educating women paved the way for promoting women’s dignity equal to men’s.

The discussion was addressed among others by Mr. Zahangir Alam Chowdhury and Mr. Rafiqul Islam Dulal. Mr. Dulal complained that the people of Rangpur had been branded as ‘Mofiz’ to lower their dignity, and that a section of vested interest group had been active to tarnish the image of Begum Rokeya by taking possession of her memorial.

Presided over by Mr. Golam Azam, the event was addressed by Mr. Zakir Hossain, Chairman, Mithapukur Upazila Parishad; Mr. Bishwanath Sarker Bitu, Chairman, Badarganj Upazila Parishad, Rangpur as special guests. The organizers also accorded a reception to Mr. AZM Nasimuzzaman, former Secretary to the Government of Bangladesh, for his contribution to cultural development during his service in the district.


Roundtable Conference on RIGHTS AND JUSTICE: The Dignity Perspective of Development in Bangladesh


Building a dignitarian society is essential for a healthy and functioning democracy and while exercising and accessing equal dignity is the prerequisite for institutionalization of democracy. To make people aware of dignity as their right requires the involvement of all concerned including the political leaderships, civic and development activists and religious leaders, said the participants of a roundtable conference entitled “Rights and Justice: The Dignity Perspective of Development in Bangladesh” organized on 3 February 2009 in the VIP Lounge of Jatiya Press Club, Dhaka by Civic Bangladesh.

Global campaigner of Dignity for All and author of All Rise: Somebodies, Nobodies and the Politics of Dignity, eminent scientist Dr Robert W Fuller keynoted the conference addressed by Mr. AHM Khairuzzaman Liton, Mayor, Rajshahi City Corporation as chief guest; and former Deputy Speaker of Parliament Professor Ali Ashraf MP and Ambassador Wali-ur Rahman, former Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, as special guests. Professor Claire Sheridan contributed to the roundtable as a guest speaker.

The roundtable was addressed, among others, by Mr. Farid Hossain, Bureau Chief of The Associated Press (AP); Barrister Tania Amir, Barrister Jenefa Jabbar, Mr. Kieron Crawley, Country Director, Concern Worldwide; Dr. Kamrul Hassan Khan; Mr. Azizur Rahman Khan (Asad), Development Consultant. Vision and Method; Dr. Nafeesur Rahman, Director, National Forum of Organizations Working with the Disabled (NFOWD); Mr. Sirajuddahar Khan, CEO, Interaction; Ms Afroza Rina, Women’s Right Activist; Ms Shamima Nasrin, President, Shadhin Bangla Garments Shramik-Karmachari Federation (SBGSKF); Mr. Moloy Chaki, Programme Coordinator, Bangladesh Disaster Preparedness Centre (BDPC); Mr. Badrul Hassan, Deputy Programme Manager, Save the Children (USA); Kazi Sufia Akhtar, Bangladesh Mahila Parishad; Ms Sonia Jesmin, Advocacy Specialist, Concern Worldwide; Dr. Anisuzzaman, Lecturer, Gono University; and Ms Kohinoor Mahmud, Karmajibi Nari. Mr. Bayezid Dawla, Executive Director, Civic Bangladesh moderated the roundtable conference.



Dr. Robert W. Fuller, Global Campaigner, Dignity for All

Rankism is an assertion of superiority. It typically takes the form of putting others down. It's what "somebodies" are prone to do to "nobodies."

Rankism is the source of most man-made suffering. If we could get rid of it, we would be a lot happier, healthier, and more productive. Rankism takes many forms. These include:

1. Racism--whites putting and keeping non-whites down;

2. Sexism--males limiting and disadvantaging females;

3. Ageism--patronizing the young, condescending to the elderly;

4. Classism--putting down people on the basis of differences in class;

5. Casteism--putting down people on the basis of differences in caste;

6. Homophobia--heterosexuals demeaning gays and lesbians;

7. Ableism--humiliating people with disabilities;

8. Colonialism--subordinating and exploiting another society or nation; and

9. Workplace and schoolyard bullying; sexual harassment, child abuse, and domestic violence; corporate, bureaucratic, and political corruption

Once you have a word for it, you see rankism everywhere.

Although all of these familiar isms persist, none of them has the force it did fifty years ago. Most of these practices are now regarded as grounds for dismissal. It is not utopian to think that we might be able to give up putting people down, not just people bearing a targeted trait (such as color, gender, age, class, caste, religion, sexual orientation, disability), but give up putting people down period. For any reason. Period.

As we target rankism, we create a world of dignity for all, not just for some at the expense of others. As we disallow rankism, we build a dignitarian world, a world in which, regardless of rank, everyone experiences equal dignity.

The Constitution of Bangladesh proclaims: "The Republic shall be a democracy in which fundamental human rights and freedoms and respect for the dignity and worth of the human person shall be guaranteed." Bangladesh is one of only a few nations that acknowledges that dignity is a birthright. I want to conclude with a question: Could Bangladesh lead the world in actually building a dignitarian society?

 


AHM Khairuzzaman Liton, Mayor, Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC)

The politicians have to work with people to develop their lives and livelihoods and create more opportunities for them to build a dignitarian society. The NGOs, media, religious leaders and the people in general should be involved in building a society based on the values of equal dignity, respect and cooperation. The media can raise mass awareness while the imams can lead social campaigns to influence the behavior of the community people. Thus we have to work together to build a society ensuring dignity for all.



Professor Ali Ashraf MP, Former Deputy Speaker of the Parliament

By equal dignity for all, I understand equal right for all. Its relation to democracy is that all citizens are equal, and we must value human dignity as a human right. A healthy democracy ensures the right of people while a dignitarian society is the precondition for for a healthy democracy. Without morality democracy is at fault and corruption gets the upper hand. Corruption is the result of the lack of access to equal dignity in the society. To resist the spread of corruption, building a dignitarian society remains the option, and to build a dignitarian society people from all walks of life have to join hands to work together.

 

Ambassador Wali-ur Rahman, Former Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

We fought for the dignity of our nation. We fought a war against Pakistan. During the war, the Pakistan Army killed our people – abused our girls and wives and raped our women, and thus violated our dignity as a whole. Ekhane prothom juddho shuru hoechhe, seshomoy bivinno onnayer birudhhe amra jege uthechhi (When the war began here we all rose up against all forms of injustice). To defend our national dignity, our people sacrificed their lives. At the end, we liberated our dignity from Pakistan. This is how we tried to achieve our dignity and democracy. Now we own a homeland of our own to allow for a secular democracy in a secular country. It is time to promote the dignity we have protected. We must fight to achieve a dignified independent Bangladesh.


CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS AND PROTECTION OF HUMAN DIGNITY


Barrister Tania Amir, Lawyer, The Supreme Court of Bangladesh

The people defended the honor and dignity of the country and liberated it on 16 December 1971 after the nine-month long genocide led by the Pakistan Army. After the independence of Bangladesh, the proclamation of independence was the first document of our nation which respects dignity, liberty and justice. This pre-constitution document is the embodiment of dignity and right which represent the spirit of our independence. I have not yet known any other country has that its proclamation of independence based on equality, human dignity and social justice. Within a year of our independence, our constitution was framed in the Assembly recognizing human dignity and its relationship with democracy in Article 11. Our constitutional right says that no person shall be subjected to degrading treatment meaning that dignity of individuals is protected constitutionally.


CONSTITUTIONAL AND LEGAL CONTEXT OF DIGNITY IN BANGLADESH


Barrister Jenefa Jabbar

Over the last 38 years, the constitutional principles have been hardly followed. Consequently, the institutions are facing problems, and individual indignity and institutional integrity have been lost. However, the dignity and respect for the individuals that had been lost are recoverable only through the political will of the government institutions. Over the last 38 years we kind of have a democracy, but we need more democracy to bring in dignity and respect. Respect starts coming from the family which teaches how to speak the truth, how to respect neighbors, and how to treat people. These things should be included in the school education because without proper education the discriminatory system of the poor and the rich will continue.


POVERTY AND INDIGNITY


Azizur Rahman Khan (Asad), Executive Advisor, Vision & Method

I look at poverty from the angle of dignity. Poverty is the outcome of unequal and discriminatory relation which is suppressive and oppressive. Literally, dignity means “honor”. In Bengali, when we call someone apni (you) it suggests we should show honor to the person but when we call tumi or tui it lowers the degree of respect gradually. Dignity works at the formal level and indicates the quality of our social status. Those who work hard manually, especially the housemaids who play important roles in our production process often suffer humiliation and physical torture.


INDIGNITY OF LOW-WAGE EMPLOYEES


Kohinoor Mahmud, Karmajibi Nari (KN)

The low pay for the garment workers remains a major obstacle to building a dignitarian society. They continue jobs without any letters of appointment, which eventually causes deprivation of the pay and facilities due to them. The pay scale announced in 2006 estimated the lowest pay at 1,662 taka per month which is quite inadequate for the subsistence of a garment worker. Organizations thus exploit the poor workers, and undermine their dignity a basic human right.


INDIGNITY OF THE GARMENT WORKERS


Shamima Nasrin, President, Shadhin Bangla Garments Shramik-Karmachari Federation (SBGSKF)

A big number of the garment workers are women who contribute to a significant portion of the foreign currency earned by the country but these women lead a subhuman, wretched life in the cities of the country. Many garment factories have not yet implemented even the lowest pay announced in the pay scale in 2006. Many workers do not get their pay on a regular basis. However, this reality of exploitation of the garment workers can be changed if the garment workers are treated with respect and their work is valued properly. The management policies of the garment factories will have to be changed to ensure their dignity, no matter whatever jobs they do. Dignity is the birth right of the garment workers too. Denying them equal dignity means denying them access to justice.


INDIGNITY OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITY


Dr. Nafeesur Rahman, Director, National Forum of Organizations Working for the Disabled (NFOWD)

My name is Nafisur Rahman. I have grown up with this name. Nobody gives me a different name but this happens differently to people with disabilities. If I were a blind man I would have been called ‘Kanaa Nafis’ or ‘Derbattery Nafis’. If I were deaf I would have been called ‘Thhosha Nafis’. If I were lame I would have been called ‘Khora Nafis’. This attitude of ours to people with some disability has thus been abusive. In the last parliamentary election on the 29th of December 2009, a voter with disability went to the counter but the polling officer said, “Where shall I put ink? You have no hands. Well, let me put it on your forehead.” I am sure similar instances happened across this country. If the dignity of the persons with disability is not recognized, we will not see any development. We seek the changes now.


INDIGNITY IN DEVELOPMENT PARTNER RELATIONS


Kieron Crowley, Country Director, Concern Worldwide

Currently, 65% of the people who have been living in the village area are getting the health facilities from the government health services. The people who have been living in the urban areas are getting more facilities. We demand village people have dignity and equal rights, but how much is the government providing? For the last 38 years, the policymakers could not give any health policy or plan due to the due to the control of the World Bank and the IMF.


INDIGNITY IN ACADEMIA


Sirajud Dahar Khan, Chief Executive, Interaction

Students are abused at schools where the institutions are supposed to develop knowledge and habit of dignity among the students. In a reputed school of the city (Dhaka), for example, the students are physically tortured and mentally abused. The teachers of that school molest the students in a variety of ways. They drag the students by the ear and hair, whip them mercilessly and intimidate those who ask questions in the classrooms. The girl students are forced to wear borkah (veil/scarf) and thus are treated with indignity and discrimination. Therefore, it is important to promote the knowledge and practice of equal dignity among the teachers and the students in all academic institutions.


INDIGNITY OF THE MARGINALIZED


Moloy Chaki,Programme Coordinator, Bangladesh Disaster Preparedness Centre (BDPC)

The minority groups have been the victims of inhuman torture, abuse and sufferings in Bangladesh though the country was liberated with the spirit of secularism. Secularism has been removed from the Constitution. The minority people have been tortured following the regime change in 1975, the razing of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya of India and the parliamentary election in 2001. During these times, many Hindu families have been forced to leave Bangladesh to seek refuge in India. This situation has been created as a result of the use of religion in politics. Therefore, it is urgent to ensure equal dignity and justice for all irrespective of class, creed and culture.

 

LETHAL IMPACTS OF INDIGNITY ON HUMAN BEHAVIOR


Dr Anisuzzaaman, Assistant Professor, Gono University

Human dignity and mental health are closely related because if anyone feels undermined this may affect the behavior of the individual and cause mental disorder of the person. Human behavior changes in accordance with the changes in the degree of dignity and indignity. The loss of dignity creates hostility in relationships but if the degree of indignity scales up this may create serious consequences ranging from mental disorder to suicide. Suicide occurs due to abuse and indignity even in many developed countries.


INDIGNITY OF THE EXCLUDED


Sonia Jesmin,Advocacy Specialist, Concern Worldwide

The dignity of sex workers should be given due consideration in the development discourse. The sex workers are treated as social outcasts and excluded. The people who are responsible for this deplorable condition of the sex workers do not lose their dignity and social status. We should recognize that the sex workers are also equal in dignity and rights, no matter whatever they do and wherever they live.


WOMEN EXPERIENCING HUMILIATION


Kazi Sufia Akhter, Bangladesh Mahila Parishad

The relationship of the women and the men should be based on equal dignity, and the equal dignity of men and women paves the way for building a digntarian society. It is encouraging that the women are now making good progress in all spheres of life, and they will make more progress if they are given equal opportunities to prove their competency. We have to identify the different obstacles to achieving dignity for women and engage all sections of people in overcoming them.


Farid Hossain, Bureau Chief, Associated Press (AP)

To establish an effective democracy, there is no alternative to building a dignitarian society because it is not possible to institutionalize democracy without ensuring equal dignity for all. Many political leaders who become ministers start wearing suits and ties and using luxurious and ultramodern cars but when they were out of power they used to travel by rickshaws or less expensive transports. This trend should be stopped to show respect to the millions who live in poverty, distress and indignity.


DIGNITARIAN MODELS BECOMING POPULAR IN THE USA


Professor Claire Sheridan, California, USA

In the USA, we have received hundreds of emails from people telling personal stories about how they have been treated as nobodies. And I am moved today by the stories you have told about the indignities that are visited upon the populations you are all trying to serve. Usually indignation is the result of rankism. Rank itself is OK, but it is the abuse of power inherent in rank that causes so many problems. To design effective solutions, we need to focus on the concepts of dignity and rankism.

 

DIGNITY, RIGHTS, DEMOCRACY AND DEVELOPMENT

Bayezid Dawla, Executive Director, Civic Bangladesh

Dignity is a universal human right endorsed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states in its article 1 saying: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” Even though it has been recognized as a human right, the existing social and political systems do not provide enough support for its institutionalization due to the abuse of power and systemic discrimination, domination and degradation.

Generally, we understand the scale of human dignity in terms of indignity, abuse and humiliation that we experience in the discriminatory social system, unequal power relations between the ‘somebodies and nonbodies’ and the rankist behavior that deny equal access to rights and justice. Humiliation occurs when human potentials are undermined and disregarded by accepting that our social and political relations generate benefits for the dominant groups and classes, and that cause deprivation for the excluded and marginalized sections of the society. Humiliation occurs when people cannot participate equally in the social and political systems and institutions. Humiliation occurs while one section of the society takes away the rights of the majority by influencing the policy decisions and exercising their unfair access to the policy benefits through unfair and corrupt means. Thus the access of ‘somebodies’ suggests the lack of access of ‘nobodies’ to the ‘democratic’ process that ‘works’ in different social, political and judicial institutions.

The unjust and unfair process of ‘somebodying’ and ‘nobodying’ creates, recreates and maintains poverty; widens gender discrimination; antagonizes the ethnic and minority groups; undermines the potentials of persons with disability; exploits the low-paid employees; and ‘indignifies’ our ‘democratic culture’.

The majority of the people who are thus denied access to basic human needs such as education and healthcare are the victims of humiliation as they are not consulted and heard properly in the policy making process of the political systems and institutions where the strong sections of the society acquire power through the ‘legitimate’ systems and processes to abuse the ‘weak’ and ‘voiceless’ other. This hegemonic process of social and political control weakens the majority voices to protect and strengthen the ‘minority interests’. Thus human rights are violated and dignity denied. This is indignity which means injustice. In other words, dignity denied is justice denied.

Therefore, it is important we build a free, fair and just society by combating rankinst culture in the social and political hierarchies to put an end to them as well as build a dignitarian society where all voices are heard, where adequate social tolerance develops to recognize the participation of the socially and politically excluded and marginalized groups and individuals, and where policies develop and are maintained to protect the dignity of individuals as well as the social and political groups, so they exercise their full freedom of choice in developing and maintaining the social and political institutions.

 

Dignity Campaign on TV and Newspapers

The campaign received extensive media coverage. Different TV channels as well as the Bangla and English dailies reported the roundtable. The ATN Bangla, a TV Channel, telecast an exclusive interview between Dr. Robert W. Fuller and Mr. Bayezid Dawla on 5 February 2009 while the NTV, in its “Frankly Speaking” programme, presented an exclusive interview between Dr. Robert Fuller and TV journalist Mr. Zahirul Alam on 10 February 2009.


Observing World Dignity Day 2008: Discussion Meeting


Bangladesh Dignity Forum (BDF) organized a consultative meeting on 5 December 2008 at Civic Bangladesh on the occasion of the World Dignity Day.

The meeting discussed the need for developing wider awareness of equal dignity through undertaking action-oriented programmes. In this regard, Mr Bayezid Dawla, General Secretary, BDF and Executive Director, Civic Bangladesh apprised the meeting of the progress made so far by the Forum.

The meeting notes that Civic Bangladesh is planning to launch a national campaign to promote dignity for all in January – February 2009, which is expected to mobilize participation of dignity experts Dr Robert W Fuller and Ms Claire Sheridan from the USA and of policymakers, NGO representatives, civic activists, academics, researchers, donors, etc, from the country. The plan includes media advocacy, university lecture programme, publication ceremony and a national conference from 31 January to 3 February 2009.


Meeting to Observe World Dignity Day 2007

Bangladesh Dignity Forum organized a meeting on 5 December 2007 at the secretariat of CIVIC Bangladesh to observe the World Dignity Day. The meeting attended by the members of the Forum underlined the need for mobilizing wider opinions and support around the ‘Equal Dignity for All’ campaign and decided to organize a civic dialogue to engage the attention of civil society actors in the campaign.


Civic Dialogue on “Rights-based Development: Equal Dignity and Justice”

According to the decision, Bangladesh Dignity Forum, Civic Bangladesh organized a civic dialogue entitled “Rights-based Development: Equal Dignity and Justice” on 18 December 2007 at the Conference Lounge of National Press Club in Dhaka.


The overall objective of the dialogue was to share views on DIGNITY as a crucial issue of development concern and explore how it could fit well in the development paradigm.

The specific objectives of the workshop were to:

· initiate issue-based thematic discussions about dignity as an issue of development concern;

· facilitate the experiential interaction among the participants and exchange information, views, and concerns;

· discuss its linkage to empowerment, equality, peace, diversity, pluralism, cohesiveness, tolerance, etc, as dimensions of social and political development; and to

· find strategic direction towards integration into the right-based approach to development.

The dialogue was presided over by Mr. Sirajuddahar Khan, Chief Executive, Interaction. Mr. Mosarraf Hossain, Country Director, Action on Disability and Development (ADD); Mr. Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, Executive Director, Coast Trust and Convener, Equity and Justice working Group (EJWG); Dr. Anisuzzaman, Lecturer, Gono University; and Ms Shamima Nasrin, President, Sadhin Bangla Garments Shramik Federation attended the dialogue as guest speakers. Mr Bayezid Dawla, Executive Director, Civic Bangladesh and General Secretary, Bangladesh Dignity Forum (BDF) presented the keynote paper.

Ms Shamima Nasrin, President, Shadhin Bangla Garments Shramik Federation, said equal dignity should be established to improve the nation. It is more important for the third world countries like Bangladesh where men enjoy more dignity than women do. This is harmful for development, she argued. She said, “To establish equal dignity in the society we should create a social movement for the women to access more opportunities. So, the policymakers should think how we could make it happen.

Mr. Mosarraf Hossain, Country Director, Action on Disability and Development (ADD) said, “To create an equal dignity movement at first we should think of people striving to exist. These people include persons with disabilities. In our society nobody thinks the people with disabilities can do something. Everybody regards them as a burden. We should change this mindset. We should create some opportunities for them. Not only the disabled but also other vulnerable, ignored and excluded sections of the society should be recognized and promoted. If we can’t do it, inclusive development is not possible in our country.”

Mr. Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, Executive Director, Coast Trust; and Convener of Equity and Justice working Group (EJWG) said, “To establish justice in our society at first we must ensure the equality of people. To ensure equality we must ensure equal dignity for all. To make it a social movement everybody should take part in this process. Bangladesh Dignity Forum is the first to launch this campaign in our country. We appreciate this Forum and call upon the Government of Bangladesh, media, the NGOs, academics and other civil society activists to extend support to this growing movement.”

Dr. Anisuzzaman, Lecturer of Gono University said, “To ensure dignity for all we should practice it. We should develop it as a habit at the family level. If someone practices this from childhood it will work in the future. Equal dignity should be practiced in the social, cultural and educational institutions. If we try to establish equal dignity as a social norm we can build a dignitarian society. Then everybody will respect it.”

Mr. Sirajuddahar Khan, Executive Director, Interaction, who presided over the dialogue said, “To promote human right and justice we must place top priority on equal dignity. It is impossible to promote human right and justice without equal dignity. So, every people should join the equal dignity movement launched by Civic Bangladesh and led by Bangladesh Dignity Forum. To develop our country we need to build a dignitarian society. We should practice it from at our individual levels. Bangladesh Dignity Forum is a platform for this movement.”

The participants of the dialogue said everyone enjoy the equal dignity movement. Every individual should respect the rights of others. Nobody should violate human rights. They thanked Civic Bangladesh and Bangladesh Dignity Forum for organizing the dialogue and for trying to build a socia5l movement to promote dignity for all.


Roundtable Meeting on “Democracy, Dignity and Rights”


Civic Bangladesh, a civil society organization working for the promotion of democracy, organized a roundtable meeting on democracy, dignity and rights at its office in Dhaka on 8 December 2006. Organized on the occasion of World Dignity Week – International Week for Social Justice, the meeting decided to form Bangladesh Dignity Forum with the Civic Bangladesh as its secretariat to promote human dignity as a precondition for democratic development. Civil society members, cultural activists, researchers, academics, journalists and NGO professionals attended the meeting. Discussing the factors and issues, which are constraining the democratization process in Bangladesh, they observed that it would not be possible to develop democracy as an institution in the society without addressing the issue of dignity because of its socio-economic and political background.