UNDP’s Partnerships for a Tolerant and Inclusive Bangladesh (PTIB) has been organising Peace Talk Café since last year to give the youth a voice. Responding to the new normal, the platform once again took to the digital space.

Peace Talk Café - Presented by Digital Khichuri Challenge, organised an online discourse with the youth on the topic ‘Women in Pandemic: Survive - React - Evolve’, on May 14 from 11am-12pm. 

In this edition, Peace Talk Café focused on how women are creating a positive impact during the crisis, the evolution we are witnessing among women altogether, and how this pandemic has affected them. In these dire times, we cannot afford to exclude women from conversations related to growth and rebuilding, while bringing to the forefront the topics of the rise in domestic abuse and cyber harassment during this pandemic.

Shagufe Hossain, founder of Leaping Boundaries, a project targeting girls studying in madrasahs that aims to increase the visibility of madrasah students on platforms where they are underrepresented. On the topic, Shagufe mentioned “They [madrasah students] are not as backward as we think they are. There is not a world of difference between us and them. In fact, this ‘us and them’ dichotomy that we observe is problematic.”

Apart from increasing mainstream representation of female madrasah students, her organisation Leaping Boundaries has been helping over 100 children and staff members at partner madrasahs and 25 surrounding households in this crisis.

Tina F Jabeen, investment advisor at ICT Division’s Startup Bangladesh, emphasised the importance of empathy as we go through this collective traumatic experience. “Those of us with the privilege to stay home, and continue with our lives and livelihoods must remain empathetic and approachable. We need to expand our area of support and create access to provisions, wherever possible. This is the time for us to rise to the occasion,” she said. 

Hasin Jahan, country director of WaterAid, mentioned how her organisation is supporting 5 lakh people living in slums directly with handwashing facilities and awareness programs. “We are trying to promote and habituate rural and urban people to regular handwashing, which is the most effective preventive measure against COVID-19,” she mentioned.

Tawhida Shiropa, founder of Moner Bondhu also joined the discussion. Her organisation has been providing free counselling 24/7, via telephone and video conference to those whose mental health has taken a toll during this crisis. Explaining the surge in domestic violence during the lockdown, she said, “In any crisis, women and children are the most vulnerable.” 

Peace Talk Café was attended by Bangladeshi youth from all over the world who shared their remarks and shed light on initiatives they are driving to tackle the crisis. Sharnila Kabir, head of partnerships at Footsteps and Mithela Haque, co-founder of Stories For Peace, shared how they have been actively mobilising efforts in response to the Covid-19 crisis.

Footsteps has been bringing food and aid to marginalised, poor and vulnerable communities across the countries. Stories for Peace, on the other hand, brings stories from different cultures around the world to children and also conducts workshops for them.

This discourse is arranged every quarter to expand the space for dialogue between youth and speakers coming from diverse backgrounds, underlining the fact that building peace is not only the responsibility of technical specialists, rather each and every individual has a role to play. This is a part of UNDP’s ongoing Digital Khichuri Challenge, a youth engagement platform that aims to create a peaceful and inclusive society.

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