French Ambassador to Bangladesh Marie Masdupuy on Wednesday expressed her admiration for the youth of Bangladesh when it comes to Climate Action.

"We should take them as an example: they act decisively at local level, helping people to concretely adapt to the impacts of climate change in an efficient way," she said.

The French envoy said traditional politicians started to listen to them, and this will grow in the short- to medium-term future, no doubt about this.

"You might say they are far from grassroots politics. I don't think this is true. They are actually pioneering the future of politics: global problems, local solutions," said the ambassador.

HerNet Foundation hosted the latest episode of "Bangladesh Decides: The Youth Speaks" (BDYS) in Dhaka.

The event is envisioned and conceptualised by the founding CEO and MD of HerNet TV, Alisha Pradhan.

This event, co-funded and supported by the EU Embassy in Bangladesh, is a strong testament to their commitment to empowering the youth of Bangladesh, said the organisers.

Ambassador Masdupuy urged the youth not to wait but practice democracy in their early ages, by choosing their school and university representatives, avoid extreme thinking, study history, their own and that of the rest of the world.

"This will allow you to know better what are the best choices for your own village, town or country. And beware of the massive disinformation campaigns being waged on social networks," she mentioned.

Sharing her own stories, the ambassador said, "My dad was never enlisted in a political party, neither my mom. But we were having heated discussions when I was still a small kid and they were active in trade unions, in their respective professional branches."

She said it is a fact that youth, everywhere, feel underrepresented, massively do not cast their votes in any ballots and less and less adhere to political parties.

"This entails the risk that their opinions on various issues will indeed not be taken into consideration in the programmes of the political parties," said the envoy.

Ambassador Masdupuy said being challenged is always a good thing. "Remember our causes, ideals and goals in the 1960's and 1970's: for example, we wanted more rights for women and a reunited European family. We achieved the latter and saw considerable progress on gender equality."

The envoy said not only everybody has a voice which deserves to be heard, but the youth has a special responsibility in challenging the established people by questioning them about what they identified as main issues for the future, their future. "It is obvious today with climate change issues."

The ambassador said youth is quite leading in social protest movements, be it the MeToo movement, in France the yellow jackets protests or climate demonstrations.

"But still, they will feel being excluded from decision-making circuits and under-represented in elected bodies," she said.

She also said, "So, more and more, they consider abstention as an alternative way of contributing to democracy. They seem disillusioned."

The ambassador said one vote not casted means one person self-eliminated from giving a voice and a sacrificed chance of supporting the development of the country.

"It also gives an opportunity to the others to double down on the not-so-good idea as the best idea," Masdupuy said.

"Such a behaviour of abstention and disengagement from traditional politics is nowadays de facto facilitated by social media. Young people are the main age group active on social media," she added.

"I am not saying that we should stay far away from the narratives brought about by social media but rather that we should be educated about them, from early ages. What is at stake is indeed how to distinguish truth from lie," said the ambassador.

The event, "BDYS" was facilitated with the support of an array of partners: French Embassy in Bangladesh, Rotary Club, UNB, HerNet TV, Somoy TV, Bangladesh Pratidin, Gold Sands Hotel and Resorts, Kazi and Kazi Tea, Meghna Bank, HerNet BlissMind, Zonta, Blue Planet Group.

The dialogue was participated by six bright students from ULAB.

The topic for this episode was stated on "Power in Participation: Policy Making, Rule of Law, Human rights, Civic Education" from the perspective of Bangladesh.

Prof. Imran Rahman, Vice Chancellor of ULAB, Monir Prodhan, advisor of HerNet Group; Hosna Prodhan, chairperson of HerNet TV; Prof. Jude W. R Genio, Pro Vice Chancellor of ULAB; Jashim Uddin, president of SAARC chamber of commerce; Sheldon Yett, Country Director of UNICEF in Bangladesh; Shahjahan Mahmood, chairman of Bangladesh Communication Satellite Company Limited, Yousup Faruqu, Managing Director of Microsoft in Bangladesh; Dilruba Ahmed, President of zonta international; Kimiwa Saddat, deputy managing director of Meghna Bank, Zafar Sobhan, Chief Editor of Dhaka Tribune were present, said a media release.

Alisha Pradhan, founder of the HerNet Group and a leader in social change, moderated the dialogue.

The concluding episode of 'Bangladesh Decides: The Youth Speaks' - 2023 will be held on 23 December, 2023 at the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia participated by the students from North South University.

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