A beacon of hope from Pekua | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 20, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, September 20, 2018

A beacon of hope from Pekua

The strength of youth has a universal presence of energy that can dispel any atrocity if channelled properly. Its omnipresence can be felt anywhere and Tanema Afroja from Pekua, Cox's Bazar proved this to be so.

A second-year college student of Shahid Ziaur Rahman Upakulio College, Tanema has made an exceptional move in countering behaviour typical of leading towards violent extremism. Her story focuses on a young person in her community known as Rakib. Rakib held severe frustrations as he could not land a job despite his qualifications. He was showing behaviour related to radicalisation and Tanema was quite concerned. She could identify these behavioural traits from a skill session held by Torun Alo (a project under Manusher Jonno Foundation, funded by GCERF). She went on to talk with Rakib several times based on her learning from Torun Alo and eventually was able to steer him away from the dark spiral he was being drawn into. Not many are as blessed with such capacity of conviction as Tanema.

She did not just keep this story for herself and her community, she penned it into an essay for a competition. This competition was announced by the European Union and was held throughout July 2018 for the GCERF involved countries. Her confidence in describing her approach plus her final successful outcome was more than enough to earn her the top position. She has been invited to join the ongoing 73rd United Nations General Assembly in New York, USA in two side events — “Listen! A Youth Perspective on Preventing Violent Extremism” and “New Partnerships for Countering Violent Extremist Narratives” — to meet and greet other inspiring youths from different countries while sharing her story.

Sitting with Tanema Afroja for a quick chat on her amazing achievement, anyone could see she radiated with excitement, “Does anyone even know where Pekua is? And here I am, going to the UNGA as a representative of my home!”

She is an HSC candidate for 2019 and she already has a shining badge of achievement on her. As a regular participant in various extra-curricular activities and seminars in her college, her mindset is of forward facing growth. When asked about what she'd like to say to other young people, she emphasised on balancing studying with regular activities, in particular by involving the community. There simply is no better solution to improving the society and eventually a country without involving the positive power and energy of the youth, and Tanema Afroja stands as a testament to that.

While there are many stories that are yet to surface, we congratulate Tanema on her achievement and wish her bon voyage on her journey into life and inspiration.



Torun Alo (Light of Youth) is a project under Manusher Jonno Foundation and is funded by Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF), which is based in Geneva, Switzerland. The project works for a pluralistic society where communities are capable in nurturing and promoting harmonious living with tolerance. Their initiatives involve young individuals from school, madrasa as well as youth not in formal education, aged between 15 and 25 to be empowered and technically equipped to develop their self-confidence, aspiration, and a positive self-image to combat violent extremism. Torun Alo's geographical area of focus is centred in Cox's Bazar, particularly on the upazilas of Cox's Bazar Sadar, Ramu, Pekua, Chakaria, Moheskhali, and Kutubdia.

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