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Leadership initiative, reflection from RISE youth program

  • Published at 05:57 pm September 27th, 2021

Being an Environmental Sciences graduate, I already had theoretical knowledge of climate change, but this program provided hands-on practical knowledge and experiences

Being an Environmental Sciences graduate, I already had theoretical knowledge of climate change, but this program provided hands-on practical knowledge and experiences

RISE (Rethink and Innovate for a Sustainable Environment) is a climate change and project management-focused Youth Mentorship Program. This program aims to educate current university students the fundamentals of project management in the context of climate change. 

This initiative is part of the Climate Finance Transparency Mechanism (CFTM) project of the British Council Bangladesh's PROKAS program. Through this initiative, the students learned about the fundamentals of climate change, how to incorporate various socioeconomic factors into it, and how youth may participate in climate change action. As one of the PROKAS initiative's partner organizations, the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) hosts this mentoring program at the Independent University of Bangladesh (IUB).

I was part of the RISE-1 youth Leadership Program. I first heard about this program when I was a final year student of my bachelor's degree. Initially, I felt interested in the program because it emphasized climate change, but later on, I realized it was much more than that when I got selected for the program. Our first physical appearance was an inception workshop where we met the program's authority and the candidates and learned more about the program. The most exciting part of the inception workshop was the candidates from diverse academic backgrounds and how multidisciplinary backgrounds can work together to fight climate change and a better sustainable future.

After getting selected from this inception workshop through some assignments, 20 university students with diverse backgrounds came together, and our RISE journey started. This journey began with a three-day residential workshop at Nakshatrabari Resort, Gazipur. Multiple sessions were held on how climate change happens, developing and managing a project, storytelling through photography, and many more activities. 

During this workshop, we were given several assignments where we worked as a group, and each group was formed with students of different backgrounds. This set up of forming groups helped me to realize how people from different backgrounds can develop solutions to fight climate change and how knowledge from multidisciplinary experiences is necessary during project development. 

For example, as an assignment, we were supposed to make a project plan and in my group there were students from Geography, Environmental Sciences, Economics and Business Administration. We worked together to develop a project plan and during that, we shared our different academic perspectives and contributed and realized how interdisciplinary effort could bring out the best solutions. This residential workshop also allowed making new friends, to learn more about climate change and project management from professionals.

In this program, we also had a four-day field visit in Shyamnagar, Satkhira; one of Bangladesh's most climate-vulnerable coastal areas. During this visit, we got the opportunity to meet local volunteers, youth reporters, female village police, and a local NGO working with women. 

We also had a chance to visit two remote villages (Gabura and Datinakhali), which frequently get affected by cyclones. We talked with the people about their miseries during natural disasters. These young volunteers communicate with the local people to disseminate weather updates during cyclones, help them go to shelters, distribute food, medicine and necessary relief products. After knowing about their real-life work experiences, I realized how wonderfully they are doing their jobs despite having several difficulties and learned more about youth power and the magnitude of difference that can be created if young people of a community work together. 

The program also allowed conducting a focus group discussion with the local women about their experiences during cyclone Aila and Fani and the difficulties they face in terms of gender perspective. The focus group discussion reflected the social inequalities and burdens faced by the women and how it increases, especially during natural disasters. 

We also meet the Chairman of Burigowalini Union and Mayor of Satkhira Pourashava, who shared about several schemes which were running by the government to facilitate the local people with fresh drinking water and dams also shared their view on some future development projects which will change the socio-economic scenario of the locality.

Being an Environmental Sciences graduate, I already had theoretical knowledge of climate change, but this program provided hands-on practical knowledge and experiences. Not only that, but this program also offered a platform to talk in front of local people, to communicate with the social leaders and public representatives, to discuss ideas with experts and learn from the professionals. 

The opportunity to work with students of multidisciplinary backgrounds broadened my outlook and boosted my confidence to work as a team player. Working as a team, my leadership skills have been enhanced and gave me a great prospect of networking. Also, this program provided several learning opportunities from grass-root level young volunteers to professionals and experts of different fields. 

The achievements from this leadership and capacity-building program are currently helping me in my professional life in a lot more ways. This leadership program capacitated me to plan projects, incorporate socioeconomic factors into a project, conduct a focus group discussion, run a field visit and which social and cultural factors should be taken into account during data collection in a field visit.  

Currently, I am working as Junior Program Officer at ICCCAD with the youth team. In the future, I want to work with indigenous youth and explore more about their knowledge of climate change and the obstacles they face in their localities in terms of climate change impacts.  I also want to explore our national policies and how youth has been addressed in those.

RISE program has been an excellent platform for young university students interested in learning and working on climate change-related fields. It has been a great networking opportunity to engage with other youths of diverse multidisciplinary field who are eager to enhance their knowledge on climate change and its impacts.

Maliha Momotaj Himu is working in International Centre for Climate Change and Development as a Junior Program Officer, her research interest lies in Locally Led Adaptation, Youth in Climate Change. Can be reached at [email protected]

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