Volunteers act first
Volunteers – crisis managers and life savers at the time of need. Nothing short of superheroes, one might add. Their most defining quality is that they act first. And to acknowledge their courageous and selfless contributions, every year on December 5, the United Nations observes the International Volunteer Day.
This year was especially grand as UN Women Bangladesh and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), along with other Volunteer-Involving Organisations (VOI) joined together to disseminate knowledge about the value of volunteerism as well as host the finale of the Youth Video Contest 2017 at EMK Center in Dhaka. In addition, they conducted '16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence' starting from November 25 to December 10.
The event commenced with speeches from members of Youthopia.bangla (a joint project of UNDP and UNV), UN Women and UN Volunteer Bangladesh, followed by the screening of videos made by the Youth Video Contest 2017 finalists. The two categories for the videos were 'Preventing Sexual Harassment against Women' and 'Volunteers as the First Responders in Crisis'. Out of a total of 35 submissions, 12 videos qualified from the first round for the first category, while 3 videos qualified for the second.
In between the screening of the videos, Linda Germanis, Innovation Hub Project Manager, UNDP-UNV shared her own experiences as a volunteer and what it really means to be one. In her speech, Germanis mentioned how she had started out by volunteering for a few months and then going back to her work as a management consultant, but later realised that she wanted volunteerism to become a part of her daily life. She also emphasised on the importance of acquiring necessary skills in order to create substantial impact through volunteerism.
She said, "For a long time, entrepreneurs and artists have been reminding me of volunteerism. After researching, I found out that they all have something in common. The CEO of Nike, The Wright Brothers, the author of Harry Potter – they all really started voluntarily, freely to take part into an enterprise, to chase a dream, but not only that, they really wanted to do that with quality and impact."
In the second half of the event, the young volunteers who were present in the audience exchanged their own views and opinions on volunteerism with Fabio Rodriguez, Project Coordinator of Youthopia.bangla. Rodriguez mentioned, "I am always surprised by the energy, initiative and resourcefulness of the youth of Bangladesh."
And finally, the winners of the Youth Video Contests were announced. In the first category, Youth for Change in Bangladesh won first prize for its film "Stand Strong: The Time is Now", while Md. Sadat Rahman Shakib bagged second prize for his film "Aparajita". The third prize was awarded to Fahim Ahmed Shuvo for his film "Respect for Woman".
For the second category, Abdullah Al Mamun Arin won first prize for producing his film "Humanity", Mohammad Shazed bagged second prize for "Story of First Responder of Rana Plaza Tragedy", and Rashid Shahriar won third prize for the film, "V Fact".
The first, second and third prize winners of the best videos for each category received a DSLR, a compact camera, and an action camera respectively. The winning videos will be shared through Youthopia.bangla as well as social media channels of UNV and UN Women to raise awareness among the youth on gender-based violence and volunteerism.
All in all, the event was a great way to acknowledge the Bangladeshi volunteers who have been working tirelessly to address social problems. It also provided a platform to educate and inspire young people to actually go out and create impact through volunteerism, besides collecting funds and being active on social media regarding social issues.