Australian Youth Ambassador in Bangladesh
Lucy Hopkins

For more information about Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development (AYAD) Program

My name is Lucy Hopkins, and I am an Australian Youth Ambassador for Development, working for the Bangladesh arm of iEARN for one year. I have been here since October 2006, and I am very much enjoying my time in Bangladesh, and at bEARN! bEARN has been a member centre of iEARN since 2004, however we are just starting to develop local initiatives for young people in Bangladesh. I am here as an Education and Research officer, helping to develop some youth programmes and facilitate a youth participation research project about the situation of young people in Bangladesh.

The research project, called Jubo Kotha: Amader Kotha, Amader Kei Bolte Hobe. (Raising Young Voices), is very exciting - we are currently in the process of recruiting young participants who will make up the primary research team, and be involved in all decision-making processes, project design, implementation and analysis. The team will decide on the research questions (what are we researching, and why), and the methodology (how) we will use. We are also in the process of establishing an advisory group of adult researchers and youth workers to provide training and advice to these young people.

The biggest challenge with this so far has been engaging young women, and has prompted me to lobby for the inclusion of a gender policy for the youth programmes that we are designing, to ensure that young women are empowered to participate in all our activities.

bEARN Executive Director (right) welcoming Lucy to bEARN with colleague Mr. Gulandaz

In addition, my counterpart, Munna bhai, and I have been busy developing a strategic plan for the next five years of bEARN activities, including making plans to develop a national youth network that acts as a peak resource, research and support body on young people's issues in Bangladesh. The youth network aims to link youth-organizations to a central body that can provide resources, support, training and opportunities for involvement in youth-related projects. The network will be run by young people, for young people, but will also make use of adult and professional expertise, by linking with specialist local, national and international organizations that can provide training and support for projects and advocacy. Through the youth network, bEARN aims to:
" build the capacity of youth-led organizations to undertake and participate in development projects, and be involved in advocating for young people's rights and issues affecting young people, with a focus on young women's participation;
" facilitate, promote and support youth-focused and youth-led projects that take an active part in sustainable development in Bangladesh;
" provide a forum through which young people, particularly young women, can raise their voices and share their ideas, innovations and opinions; and
" assist young people to advocate for youth issues.

Lucy with bEARN colleagues Munna (left) and Moni at the World Aids Day Rally 2006

At the World Aids Day Rally 2006

We have also coordinated some great activities for young people and volunteers while I have been here, the highlight of which was HIV/AIDS day on December 1 2006. With the YES alumni (US returned exchange students), we participated in a huge march and exhibition, which was amazing to see. Thousands of people, including those usually on the margins of Banglasdeshi society, such as Hijra and sex workers, turned out in force to promote HIV awareness.

Banlgadeshi US YES exchange students

The first four months of my stay here have been very exciting, and I am lucky to be working with a great team of young people at bEARN. I am looking forward to the next 8 months here, and hope that it will be as rewarding as the past 4 have been!

For more information or to join iEARN Australia, contact iEARN Australia