By Roy Lie Atjam.
It was on a quiet autumn afternoon in The Hague where I met Sadat Rahman. This Bangladeshi teen has won the 2020 International Children’s Peace Prize for setting up the social organization and mobile app “Cyber Teens”, which is designed to help in the fight against Cyberbullying in south-western Bangladesh. The Children’s Peace Prize is an initiative of the international children’s rights organization known as Kids Rights. The prize was first launched in 2005 during an International Conference of Nobel Peace Laureates in Rome, chaired by Mr Mikhail Gorbachev.
There were 142 applicants from 42 countries that took part in the 2020 contest. The Kids Rights’ Expert Committee selected Sadat Rahman as the winner. By winning the award, Sadat Rahman now has an international platform from which he will be able to spread his message worldwide. The prize is presented to the winner by a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.
The Kids Rights organization described Sadat Rahman as a changemaker and social reformer. Sadat was prompted to action after a 15-year-old girl committed suicide due to cyberbullying. He started a social organization called ‘Narail Volunteers’ with the help of his friends. This organization won the ‘Youth Innovation Challenge 2019’ of the non-governmental organization Action Aid and got the funding he needed to get his project off the ground. Sadat Rahman has been presented the Joy Bangla Youth Award for his work in 2018.
The International Children’s Peace Prize was presented to Sadat Rahman in The Hague on 13 November 2020 by none other than Human Rights Activist and Nobel Prize Winner Malala Yousafzai. The prize consists of a trophy and a sum of Euro 100,000 which is to be used for the financing of projects. In 2019, the Swedish child environmentalist Greta Thunberg and Cameroonian Divina Malam jointly received the prestigious award.
Sadat Rahman is a man of many talents. He is a phenomenal, vigorous and courageous young man with a keen sense of humor and always wears a friendly smile. This bright 17-year-old studies Arts-Humanities at the Abdul Hai City College in his hometown of Narail in south-western Bangladesh, where he has embarked on the initiative to tackle the emerging problem of cyberbullying in Bangladeshi society. Sadat is very pleased that he was able to make a small indirect contribution to the Bangladesh Vision 2021 – Digital Bangladesh. He even had the opportunity to meet the Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina some time ago. Prime Minister Hasina’s ICT advisor, Sajeeb Wazed referred to Rahman as one of the country’s silent young changemakers.
Sadat’s philosophy is that one should “believe in yourself and not to wait for anyone, not even the government to assist you” Take the initiative and get moving, kindred spirits will automatically join. When asked where he gets his inspiration from, he responded with a smile and said “the creator gave me a brain and I am making good use of it.”
Sadat Rahman receives a lot of co-operation from the local police superintendent. He mentioned that whenever he would approach the police with evidence of wrongdoing, the police is willing listen and takes the necessary action. Sadat also noted that when teenagers are facing problems, they hesitate to approach parents, the police or other adults. They would rather prefer to approach their peers. However, teenagers need emotional assistance and mental support. When Cyber Teens is unable to offer the needed assistance, these teenagers are referred to the professionals. Sadat added that it is often sufficient to lend a listening ear that would allow them feel safe so that they will confide in you.
The police may not always have the time to do this and there is also the element of shame among those suffering from cyberbullying. As for the phenomena of Cyberbullying, parents and police are not trained to deal with such problems, and at the moment, The Criminal Investigation Department of the Dhaka Police(CID) is the only institution that investigates Cybercrime. Cyberbullying starts with parents buying their children fancy mobile phones, games and PCs but they are not always aware of the capabilities of these devices. Therefore, a balanced approach is required when considering what type of device that a parent should get for their child.
As a result of parents lacking the needed insight, they are unable to monitor their children’s activities and are unable to guide, instruct and protect them from the potential dangers in cyberspace. Cyber teens seek to fill that void. According to Sadat Rahman, there are four cardinal agents that ought to be considered in helping to prevent teenagers from falling prey to cyberbullying. These are Awareness, Empathy, Counselling and Action. These are the main drivers.
Cyberbullying needs to be combated, according to Sadat Rahman, “it is a war and I am a warrior.” To date, the Cyber Teens app has reached about 450,000 teenagers and brought 300+ cases of cyberbullying before the police of which eight cases have been arrested. Evidence has thus proven that the cyber teen approach is effective. Furthermore, Sadat Rahman has been promised support from international organizations, including Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency.
Sadat Rahman, the man, can be characterized as energetic, unfazed, dedicated, genuine, good-humored, cheerful, jovial and charming. Sadat Rahman concluded his discourse at the prize remittance ceremony by stating: “I feel proud to represent Bangladesh to the world with my work, my ultimate success would be when one day, no one will need to use my app and there will be no cyberbullying anymore.”
It has been an enormous pleasure working briefly with Sadat Rahman. We wish him every success with his present and future projects.