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Youth Vows on Right to Food at a Mock Parliament

January 15th, 2015 by Posted in Resilience

Tanvir Mahmud, Md Abdul Quayyum and Mehnaz Tabassum

Youth at the Mock Youth Parliament on Right to Food

Youth at the Mock Youth Parliament on Right to Food

Youth Parliament on Right to Food, a simulation of our National Parliament, was an attempt to give real life feel of Parliament to the hundreds of students/youth so that the Parliament culture evolves among the future change makers of the county and also the issue of the right to food is highlighted.

Despite economic progress, Bangladesh still remains highly food-insecure as the country is ranked 142th out of 187 countries in the 2014 Human Development Index (HDI), Low dietary diversity is a persistent problem in Bangladesh. The poor in Bangladesh do not even meet the minimum nutritional requirement to maintain a healthy body. Hence, poverty in Bangladesh, as elsewhere, is synonymous with hunger and malnutrition.

Against this backdrop Oxfam and Hunger Free World took a unique initiative to raise the awareness on the implementation of the right to food in light of the commitments made by the State and why Bangladesh needs to move to quick implementation of the right to food in the country.  

Mock Youth Parliament

Mock Youth Parliament on Right to Food

On December 30, 2014, more than 100  students from 23 colleges/universities from all over the country, gathered at the Nabab Nawab Ali Chowdhury Senate Bhaban of Dhaka University, and participated in a mock parliamentary debate to bring out their questions and concerns regarding this burning issue of right to food.  The debate took place in front of real parliamentarians, including the Honorable Deputy Speaker, M Fazle Rabbi Miah, who was the Chief Guest, and the State Minister for Youth and Sports, Biren Sikder, who was the Special Guest. The event was chaired by Dr. Mizanur Rahman, Chairmen of the National Human Rights Commission.

The session started when a proposal was made by Nurul Huda Khan, acting as a member of the ruling party, who notified that the right to food is “mentioned” in the constitution, but there is no law to ensure or protect it. He also indicated that India had recently approved such a law and as Bangladesh now ranks 57 in the Global Hunger Index, and that means around half of the population is still starving or in hunger; it is high time for us to enact such a law.

Members of the ruling party supported this proposal and showed their support by stating the particular circumstances in their respective regions. Shanta Islam Mou, representing Khagrachari, supported the proposal by mentioning that the constitutional right to food will help in mitigating the number of crimes, since most of those are initiated from hunger.

S.M. Jewel, representing Bhola, asked the concerned to take necessary steps to ensure the trouble-free transportation and availability of food. He said, “The prime concern of the people of Bhola is river erosion, which is worsening every year. Our farmers grow enough food to meet the needs of local people, and even to export to other places. But this does not happen as we do not have proper transportation facilities to deliver the food while it is still fresh.”

The members of the opposition party also raised arguments to point out the gaps in the proposal and other scenarios. The key concern of the opposing party was the proper distribution of food.

After a successful debate session with constructive arguments, the Minister for Food, Mohammad Salahuddin, at the Mock Parliament, presented the bill to the speaker for approval. A draft of this bill is planned to be presented to the Honorable Speaker of National Parliament, Shirin Sharmin Chowdhury.

Md. Fazle Rabbi Miah, Honourable Deputy Speaker of Bangladesh Parliament

Md. Fazle Rabbi Miah, Honourable Deputy Speaker of Bangladesh Parliament

While sharing his experience about the Mock Youth Parliament, Md. Fazle Rabbi Miah, Deputy Speaker of Bangladesh Parliament, said, “the role of youth in Bangladesh economy and democracy is crucial and Youth Parliament allows them to actively engage in citizenship, cultural understanding and democratic practices. Bangladesh Parliament will explore the possibility of the necessity of enactment of the right to food act in due importance.”

Bangladesh National Human Rights Commission Chairman Prof. Dr. Mizanur Rahman, while chairing the event said the government’s fundamental responsibility is to ensure safe and nutritious food for the country’s people. He also said, “Right to food does not mean the country should feed everyone, but the country must ensure food is available in the market and people are able to buy it.” That is economic development, in a true sense, he added.

State Minister for Youth and Sports, Shri Biren Sikder

State Minister for Youth and Sports, Shri Biren Sikder

State Minister for Youth and Sports, Shri Biren Sikder asked the youth to retain this network and to continue the campaigns on national and international issues related to end hunger and poverty.

Talking about the strength of youth, Snehal V. Soneji, Country Director of Oxfam in Bangladesh said, “Youth aged between 18-35 years comprise over one-third of Bangladesh’s population and it will continue to grow. The growing young population, therefore, provides a window of opportunity to create a mass  mobilization in ensuring right to food for the citizens of Bangladesh.”

Snehal V. Soneji, Country Director, Oxfam in Bangladesh

Snehal V. Soneji, Country Director, Oxfam in Bangladesh

Hunger Free World, Country Director Md. Ataur Rahman Miton and Policy Advocacy Manager of Oxfam in Bangladesh  Monisha Biswas also spoke at the event. The event was moderated by Tanvir Mahmud, Advocacy Coordinator of Oxfam.

For a country like Bangladesh, where over population, natural disasters and poverty are part and parcel of people’s lives; the right to food to be constitutional has become the urge for the mass. The mock youth parliament, led by the potential future leaders of Bangladesh, raised their voices to make sure no one will go to sleep with hunger, not in the Bangladesh they are going to lead.

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