With the theme ‘Rendering Tomorrow’, the 2017 edition of TEDx Dhaka was organised at Khrishibid Institute Bhaban (KIB) auditorium on November 18. The day-long event featuring 11 speakers and a band was attended by over 400 people.
While the speeches were enlightening enough, the best part of this year’s TEDx was the band Chitropot. This relatively unknown band of six members took the center stage twice and sang a total of six songs. They also shared the history of the formation of their band— Chitropot— so named because the band symbolises the canvas which shows the harmony between each of their respective skills.
Traffic solutions and creative conservations
Aside from Chitropot and their songs, this year’s best speech - judging from the visible responses of the audience - was probably delivered by Hussein Elius, the co-founder of immensely popular ride-sharing app Pathao. He started his speech with a question, the answer of which created the loudest moment of the day.
He asked, “Who here likes traffic?”
Then he set forth presenting the research behind his venture and portrayed a more coherent picture of the chaotic mess that is Dhaka traffic.
Elius concluded by explaining how he set out to solve a problem for himself and then ended up not only solving the same problem for others but also created opportunities for many more to make a living through this solution.
The speech of environmental conservationist Shahriar Caesar Rahman was also very moving. He gave a detailed description of a story that led him to be what he is today, involving an injured Hornbill bird in the depths of Bandarban forest. He rescued the rare bird but couldn’t save it in the end because its mate had died, and two birds depended on each other for survival.
His failure to save the bird, despite all attempts, had made him ask “are we doing enough for the environment?” He founded Creative Conservation Alliance (CCA) to find the answer.
Caesar talked about the tremendous man-made challenges that forests are facing, and how, in pursuit of economic development, humans have sacrificed our natural ecosystems. Through his speech, he reminded the audience that if forests are affected, sooner or later, mankind will be affected as well.
He also emphasised that protection of the ecosystem is not just a job of a conservationist - economists, politicians, and even security forces have a role to play.
Rohingya crisis: Dealing with dignity
The speech delivered by Hildegarde Thyberghien, deputy country director, Action Against Hunger, on the Rohingya refugee crisis made the audience ponder the magnitude of the crisis that is unfolding on the borders of Bangladesh.
With powerful and moving pictures and personal stories, she illustrated examples of ways through which people were giving aid—throwing clothes and food at seas of people—and the migrants fighting amongst themselves to receive aid.
“Where does the dignity of the refugee go?” she asked, and the resounding silence of the audience seemed to answer the question.
A humanitarian crisis, she argued, needs to be dealt with dignity.
“We forget to recognise that real people, with hopes and dreams, are involved. Forget the whole and focus on the individual.”
Cartoonist Mehedi Haque relied more on his cartoons to communicate rather than spoken words. As he said - words speaks to literates, whereas drawings speak to everyone. He cited instances when comic books were used to raise awareness, such as on the dangers of illegal immigration to potential victims of labour trafficking.
Faisal Ahmed, chief economist of Bangladesh Bank, pointed out a new term of looking at Bangladesh’s economic success—not as the “Bangladesh paradox” but as the “Bangladesh surprise” since this doesn’t diminish the enormity of the positive impact.
He outlined the challenges that Bangladesh is currently facing on the road to development, such as the impact of manufacturing industries on the environment and the low rate of tax collection, and how financial empowerment of women continues to contribute to our economic future.
Irinel Cocos, chief of Party of USAID’s Bangladesh Counter-Trafficking in Persons Program, talked about the misconceptions regarding human and sex trafficking, the lack of awareness on the extent of labour trafficking and the ignorance to the fact that the majority of victims are men. She emphasised the importance of prosecuting the assailants and broke down the consequences of failing to do so.
Among other speakers, Ejaj Ahmad, founder of Bangladesh Youth Leadership Institute (BYLC) talked about leadership, Tayeba Begum Lipi, a Bangladeshi artist, talked about using art to address gender issues and female identity, Dr Zeba I Seraj, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Dhaka and Jalal Ahmad, the Principal Architect of J. A. Architects Ltd talked about various impacts of climate change and Rubayat Khan, the founder of Jeeon, talked about health care in rural Bangladesh.