Tanjila is a One Young World Ambassador from Bangladesh currently working for BRAC. She is passionate about female empowerment, education and facilitating dialogue between marginalised minority groups.
We have reached the 43rd anniversary of our national independence, but what was it all for?
Bangladeshis all around the world boast about how our forefathers fought for our right to speak our mother tongue. We take immense pride in how our countrymen fought fearlessly during the 1952 Language Movement and 1971 Liberation War - so that we can speak, sing and share our happiness in Bangla.
So many mothers lost their children in the struggle to achieve freedom, so many wives lost their husbands, husbands lost their wives; brothers lost sisters and sisters lost brothers; some lost their best friends, some lost the love of their lives. All these martyrs who gave up their lives! What was their goal?
Have we really been able to safeguard our freedom?
I belong to a country that paid a heavy price to win the freedom we are supposed to enjoy today: the freedom to talk in our mother language, the freedom to choose, the freedom of sovereignty. We achieved this freedom at the cost of millions of lives. Our forefathers entrusted this freedom to our generation.
Bangladesh in 2015: A bus burns on the streets and its passengers burn alive inside it. These passengers are being deprived of their basic right to life because of an ego clash between our so called "politcal leaders". But our leaders don't care - because the victims of violence are still screaming in Bangla! When the fire kills a 10 year old we can hear her scream in her native tongue - but what was the point of the struggle for her freedom if her life is cut short so violently?
Victims of political violence
I go out on the streets every morning thinking that it might be my last day on Earth. Taxi and bus drivers work the streets knowing that this could be the last day of their lives. You never know when some hooligan will throw a petrol bomb at your vehicle. Why would they do such a thing? Because the opposition party has called for a nationwide strike which means that nobody is supposed to go to school or work.
What if you don’t support them and go to work anyway so you can feed your family? Well, you might be killed on the streets and become another statistic, another nameless victim of the political unrest in Bangladesh. I would like to believe that Bangladesh is better than that. I would like to believe in the words of our national anthem “Amar Shonar Bangla” (My Golden Bengal).
Wake up Bangladesh! We need to stop all this bloodshed. If you don’t act now, the next person screaming in Bangla might be someone from your family!
What can we do to change the situation?
In Bangladesh, ever since I can remember, either the Awami League or BNP has been running the country. There is no other option for the voters other than these two big political parties. The political structure has been constructed in such a way that it is nearly impossible for a neutral third party or an independent candidate to be represented at parliament. We do not have any other option but to bear the tantrums of whoever forms the parliamentary opposition.
We have allowed the creation of this system so it is our responsibility to make it right. There is a severe lack of qualified youngsters joining the Bangladeshi political establishment because talented graduates tend to go and work for big companies rather than taking responsibility for political leadership.
This has led us into a severe leadership crisis. We say that we are unhappy with the leaders, but since we don’t have options we vote for them anyway. Under the current circumstances it is essential that Bangladesh creates new leaders. For that to happen - educational institutions, Non Government Organizations and families need to encourage students to get actively involved in politics and the development sector. All of us need to act and be a part of this change. Why you? Because if not you, then who?