Ten human rights defenders from the grassroots level, two eminent social workers with international recognition, and a female football player were given honorary awards by Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) yesterday.
The works of the activists focused on land rights, prevention of violence against women, child rights, and the rights of the indigenous people.
The award ceremony, followed by a discussion on "future Bangladesh in the hands of the youth" was held at the capital's Bangla Academy, marking Human Rights Day.
The 10 grassroots activists were Jharna Ray, Madhobilata Chakma, and Nomita Chakma of Khagrachhari, Birendra Sangma of Mymensingh, Shafique Ullah of Noakhali, Kachhim Uddin of Tangail, Kananbala Gupta of Narail, Umme Kulsum Ranjana of Bogra, Kalpana Tirki of Rajshahi, and Rahela of Dinajpur.
Two social workers Jharna Dhara Chowdhury, chief of Noakhali's Gandhi Ashram, and Angela Gomes, executive director of Bachte Shekha, were also honoured along with Bipasha Mali, a young footballer who was recently called to play on the national women's football team.
Praising MJF's initiative and referring to the activists, Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury said, "They don't work for recognition. Yet when we value their contributions, it makes us proud and we get inspiration to work."
Shaheen Anam, executive director of MJF, spoke about MJF's initiative to recgonise the works of field-level activists for the last four years.
This time, the awardees were selected from 111 activists from all over the country.
Supported by UKaid and Australian Aid, the programme was presided over by Manzoor Hasan, member of MJF's governing board.
Sarah Cooke, country representative of DFID, said poverty would never end until inequality and discrimination was challenged.
Prof Mizanur Rahman, chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, stressed the need for elimination of corruption to build a just society.
At the beginning of the discussion, Shaheen Anam reminded the youth in the audience about the opportunity that Bangladesh would enjoy in the coming decade because of its young population.
Calling discrimination one of the biggest challenges ahead, she said, "The highest level of discrimination exists at home, against women."
Mahfuz Anam, editor and publisher of The Daily Star, told the youth, "If you are honest, fair and have the spirit to earn skills, then none can stop you, none can stop Bangladesh."
The last session on information and communication technology was chaired by Munir Hasan, coordinator, youth programme, the Prothom Alo, and Prof Shuchi Karim of Brac University.
Referring to sexual harassment of women on the internet, Hasan asked girls not to share their passwords with anyone and add anyone to their friend list.
Prof Karim said, "We need to develop the mentality that we won't harm others."