In 2010 the British Council published a Next Generation report for Bangladesh, which revealed that 76% of young people felt they had little or no influence on government decisions and were unsure about their capacity to influence.
Four years later – early May 2014 – the first ever Bangladesh Child Parliament Session was held at the National Parliament, organised by the British Council Bangladesh and strategic partners, UNDP and Save the Children.
The British Council Bangladesh brought 154 children between the ages of 14 and 17 from across the country to the National Parliament, including 20 children from ethnic minority groups.
These young people received capacity building training in democratic processes, understanding the value of difference, using dialogue to resolve conflict and the use of social action projects to serve their communities. Our delivery partners, the Hunger Project and BRAC have done a remarkable job to establish local councils at district levels and caucuses in seven divisions, finally bringing them to the National session.
The Child Parliament sessions debated two bills (i) Establishment of a National Child Rights Commission and (ii) Stopping Physical and Mental Torture of Students at Institutional level. The key outcome of the national sessions was to ensure that the bills go forward in the main parliament for endorsement.
The session was inaugurated by the Honourable Speaker of the Bangladesh Parliament Dr Shirin Sharmin Chowdhury and attended by Chief Whip and a group of MPs of the house. Acting Director of the British Council, Brendan McSharry, addressed the child delegates and senior Parliamentarians: 'Youth parliament enables young children to be active in public-political debate and policy making in a systematic approach'.
The Deputy Speaker of the Parliament, Fazle Rabbi Mia, enthused: 'This youth parliament is the pathway towards national parliament making new policies for the next generation'.