K. M Khalid, the State Minister for Cultural Affairs of Bangladesh has inaugurated 'Peace Caravan'. Peace Caravan is a project initiated by a youth-led social enterprise 'Gen Lab' and supported by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Bangladesh. Diversity for peace (D4P); Partnerships for a Tolerant and Inclusive Bangladesh (PTIB) from UNDP are responsible for coordinating the campaign. The program is also partnered with the Ministry of Cultural Affairs of Bangladesh, IPDC Finance Ltd, and The Pipeline Engineers and Associates Ltd. Bangladesh Employees Welfare Board (Ministry of Public Administration) is providing necessary support to the successful implementation of the campaign as well. Also, Poriborton Foundation & Bangladesh Photographers Group are partners of the campaign, states a press release.
Gen Lab has initiated this urban art & campaign-based program to inspire and educate urban youths and professionals to adapt to inclusive and peaceful community living through means of art and digital presence. In this particular program, Gen Lab focuses on – Religious Harmony, Peaceful and Inclusive Societies; which are Sustainable Development Goals, Gender Equality, and a strong focus is also on the accessibility of transgender and disabled people to work & employability.
To bring about these changes in society and spread the knowledge amongst the highest number of people of all ages, the particular campaign is designed to curate creative artworks through numbers of government & private owned buses, rickshaws, and other transport media inside the Dhaka metropolitan area. The artworks are meant for promoting peaceful and inclusive community living, religious harmony, equal rights and empowerment for women, and accessibility of persons with disabilities. Along with an offline art-based campaign, it will have an online debate tournament, quiz contest, policy talk, and exclusive content-based campaign in social media such as Facebook, Instagram and, YouTube which will promote Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) number 5 and 16, with a hope to spread tolerance, inclusivity, and harmony they hope to inspire.
K.M. Khalid the State Minister for Cultural Affairs of Bangladesh congratulates Gen Lab and UNDP Bangladesh for having such an idea and for working towards this project even amidst a global pandemic. The very idea of a project like Peace Caravan residing in the hearts of the organizers and hoping to build a better, secular nation was also appreciated. "This project is not only to empower women and youth but also to work for the Third Gender; a community of people that are ignored and even deprived of their fundamental rights," said Mr. K.M. Khalid. He then addressed the need for them to have a term they could proudly use and expresses his hope in the Peace Caravan project and youth of Gen Lab to work in cooperation with the government and attain the long-cherished dream of the father of the Nation in turning Bangladesh into "Shonar Bangla".
Rob Stoelman, Project Manager of Partnerships for a Tolerant and Inclusive Bangladesh (PTIB), United Nations Development Program (UNDP) mentions the growing intolerance towards different communities and ethnicities which is often spread through the outsiders using online tools and media not only in Bangladesh but throughout the world. According to him, in order to counter these divisive forces, it is very necessary to acknowledge diversity as a strength, support the struggling minorities, and give them the chance for equality. He believes Peace Caravan through art and culture will successfully showcase the beauty of diversity to the people of Dhaka city.
"Young generation should be included in peace projects, where they will learn about subjects like diversity, negative externalities of social degradation and harmony; from which they will become an asset to the nation," said Mahbubul Alam Hanif MP, the Joint General Secretary of Bangladesh Awami League.
This thoughtful and necessary initiative has also been praised by Satya Brata Saha, the Director-General (Secretary) of Bangladesh Employees Welfare Board, Ministry of Public Administration. He mentioned how the mass population in Bangladesh is yet to get aware of the aforementioned SDGs despite several efforts from the government. He highly appreciates the steps taken by Gen Lab in order to make this information more accessible and understandable for most people. He also added that it is his privilege to be a part of this project that would bring forth and shed light on the struggles of marginalised people and how those people would be benefited from this Peace Caravan Project.
'In order to create a peaceful and humanistic society we must work towards building an inclusive, equality-based community first which can be obtained by mutual understanding and empathy, said Mominul Islam, the Managing Director and CEO of IPDC Finance Limited. He entrusts his hopes to the youths for building that ideal society and encourages Gen Lab for working to empower the next generation.
'Solely depending on the constitution or the government for developing the society and educating the youth is not enough if individuals, in general, do not partake in it', said Barrister Farzana Mahmood, Advocate of Bangladesh Supreme Court. She also believes that to establish religious harmony mere slogans or terms like 'Dhormo jar jar, utshob shobar' is not enough. We also need people from every sphere of life to actually understand the meaning they carry.
MP, Kazi Nabil Ahmed, Vice president of the Bangladesh Football Federation, also appreciates Peace Caravan for taking the initiative to include the young generation in peace-building activities for the society. 'Peace process of often incomplete because it did not contain everyone's involvement. Thus, In the 21st century, participation from every age, occupation, and community is necessary if we want to establish peace and ensure rights for everyone, said Mr. Kazi Nabil.
Peace Caravan will make its journey towards building an inclusive, equal, and peaceful society. Using its several creative and digital approaches, Gen Lab hopes their project will allow people from all backgrounds to understand the message and bring about harmony amongst everyone irrespective of caste, class, religion, or gender.