April was the month of the Commonwealth. The UK hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, where leaders from across the Commonwealth gathered together. Being a Commonwealth country, Bangladesh was one of the participants. To resonate the global celebration the British High Commissioner to Bangladesh, H. E. Alison Blake hosted the Commonwealth Big Lunch to rejoice the Commonwealth at her residence in Dhaka.

Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury MP, Honourable Speaker of the Bangladesh Parliament, attended as Chief Guest. The event brought together 150 people, including the High Commissioners of Malaysia, Brunei, Canada and Sri Lanka, and Acting High Commissioners of Australia and Pakistan, representatives from the university and education sectors, NGOs and civil society, medicine, businesses, Bangladeshi Queen’s Young Leaders and Points of Light award winner and the British Council Active Citizens.

The lunch celebrated the diversity and achievement of the Commonwealth with this year’s theme of ‘towards a common future’. Discussion around education, business and trade, women empowerment and girl’s education, climate change, health and working children made the get-together more interesting for all. Our Active Citizens participated in the lunch as moderators of different discussion panels and exchanged their knowledge with people from different backgrounds. They generated ideas about existing policies, projects and development activities in the fields of education, women, economy, climate change and how these issues can be resolved by joint effort through inclusion of youth in the implementation process.The discussion brought out some pressing issues around global development; for instance, it has highlighted the actions to modernise and strengthen vocational education system to resolve the unemployment problems. Furthermore, introducing soft-skills training into modern curriculums would better shape higher education. On the other hand, the discussion around Climate Change brought out the use of renewable energy and solid waste management. Conversations also emphasised the importance of equality and diversity in the spirit of leave no one behind. 

Given the diverse assortment of attendants, the conversations were rich and highly engaging. Shadman Sadab, an Active Citizen, said, ‘It was indeed an amazing event. Such programmes are essential in bringing the community closer, building the network and letting us learn from the seniors of the country.”

Commonwealth big lunch was an opportunity to bridge the gap between the present generation with the people from the top of the hierarchy table to discuss and resolve issues around policy making and development process thus gauges the current challenges of the country and to look for ways to overcome those challenges in their future social action projects.

This lunch was one of a series held across the Commonwealth - launched by the Eden Project in partnership with the UK government - between 12 March - Commonwealth Day - and 22 April to mark the ongoing Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting where government leaders and representatives and civil society representatives from 53 countries have gathered in the UK to work together to address shared global challenges. Two of our Active Citizens were privileged enough to attend the Commonwealth Youth Forum to share their knowledge and become a part of the global movement.