“We are each one of us a narrative, to be unlocked and amplified so that others can be moved, touched, inspired. Like that feeling when someone makes a spot-on analogy, and you realize that in all this diversity there is a common string of experience uniting all 7 billion of us. And our stories are marked by courage, nerve and a fair amount of recklessness. These stories unravel in the telling because we are not islands – we are reverberating, pounding, shouting, shining, beings – living out loud.”
This year’s TEDxDhaka will be taking place on Saturday, December 10, 2016.
Our fourth and final session of the day was more light-hearted than the former ones, yet full of life. We began with a dreamer and achiever in the field of robotics, followed by an amazing cartoonist duo, who captured the attention of the attendees with their magical animation. Last, but certainly not least was Yamin Khan, the popular Dhaka comedian.
KHUSHBOO & RAKIB
The first speakers for our final session were Kushboo and Rakib.
Almost every 90’s kid is familiar with the popular science fictional character, Robocop. Khushboo was no different; she was fascinated by robots and all things science.
Kushboo’s journey began with her spouse who is also a tech lover, in their small home lab. Her first invention was a “vanilla ice cream box.” Kushboo quit her day job and the pair set off on a journey filled with robotic endeavors.
To this day, Khushboo and her husband Rakib, have had a few many breakthroughs. Their biggest achievements include participating in the NASA Lunabotic Competition, where they designed a robot that can collect soil samples on the moon. “We wish to make an advanced self-configured robot in the future,” she said.
“People often ask me, what’s my vision?” Khushboo reflected. “We don’t have any vision; we do what time requires of us.”
MANIK & RATAN
Our second pair of speakers in this section were cartoonists Manik and Ratan.
“We doodled everywhere,” they began. At a young age, they would draw in any blank space they could find.
Their cartoon journey began when they sent some of their regular artwork to Unmad, a cartoon magazine. Soon enough, they got a call from Ahsan Habib, a professional cartoonist.
However, the pair faced an obstacle: their parents wanted them to become computer engineers. In their final computer class presentation, their software project was a flop, but their animated cartoon work was a huge hit.
“We realized that we were not on the right track,” explained one of the twins. “We had to switch to something we were passionate about.”
Eventually they convinced their parents to let them switch to graphic design. Now, they are some of the top global digital artists. Their work has been featured in Forbes, the Huffington Post, and even the TED website.
“Everything was possible because of the courage we had to choose our own path and pursue our own dream,” they said.
Last but not least, comedian Yamin Khan took the stage to close out TEDxDhaka 2014.
“As far as I know, I am Yamin Khan,” he began. “Among all the speakers, I am the one with the least accomplishments.”
He revisited the previous speakers’ achievements, inviting a round of applause for all of them.
Session 3 of TEDxDhaka featured talks about tackling child labor, physical abuse in the form of acid attacks, mental illness, child mortality and, a little off-topic, beatboxing. The talks from this session focused on the body and the mind.
Our first speaker during Session 3 was Nina Smith, Executive Director of GoodWeave International.
Smith narrated the story behind the intricately designed rug she was standing on, which was handmade in Kathmandu and was comprised of over 500,000 individual knots.
“I love hand made things; I always have,” said Smith.
Unfortunately, handmade goods can also have a dark side. Sanju, an 11-year-old from Nepal, was stolen from her home and taken to a weaving facility far away. She was forced to work day and night, in inhumane conditions. Deprived of her childhood, Sanju was trapped until GoodWeave, an organization working to eradicate child labor in the rug weaving industry, found her. Stories like these are widespread in South Asia and around the world.
“The only thing modern about modern slavery is that it is happening now,” Smith continued.
Smith invited everyone to look beyond these handmade goods to realize the struggles behind them. Initiatives like Goodweave give a market-based solution to a global problem. GoodWeave works to raise awareness and promotes ethically made carpets that are not the product of child labor or slavery. A GoodWeave label indicates that the rug is made ethically. Check before you buy!
“What do we do? Wage a world war?” asked Smith. “No, not with the experience we have.”
By making the market-driven system more popular, Smith reiterated the possibility of eradicating child labor from the rug industry by 2020. Already, GoodWeave has reduced child labor in South Asia by 75%.
“May it be by our order that they gain freedom” Smith said.
The Talk Video
Our second speaker after lunch was Monira Rahman, the first executive director of the Acid Survivors Foundation.
According to Rahman, between 1999 and 2013, over 3000 people were attacked with acid in Bangladesh. A majority of these victims were women, but children, and to a small extent men, were also attacked. Acid attacks are mostly driven by money, property gain, or vengeance over failed love proposals.
Rahman started working as the first executive director of the Acid Survivors Foundation in 1999 to tackle this social problem. The organization provides education to acid attack victims about emergency treatment and implements programs to prevent acid attacks in future. The Acid Survivors Foundation involves communities, activists, victims, and doctors to help stop this violence.
During her talk, Rahman shared outstanding stories of courage and bravery. Nila, a 15-year-old girl was married off to a man working overseas. She was a skilled dancer and was very beautiful. However, her husband was jealous that she might look at other men and threw acid on her face to destroy her beauty.
“What if you looked in the mirror and did not recognize yourself?” Rahman asked.
Now, the Acid Control Act (2002) and Acid Crime Control Act (2002) exist to help convict perpetrators. Unfortunately, because the majority of attacks are carried out by people victims know or love, the conviction rate is extremely low. The Acid Survivors Foundation’s relentless efforts to prevent acid attacks have helped reduce the number of such attacks to less than 100 in 2013.
“We want to shut down the Acid Survivors Foundation because we do not want acid attacks to take place in Bangladesh,” Monira declared.
MOKTADIR DEWAN SHANTO
Well known beatboxer Shanto was next in our line up. “Life starts with a beat,” he began.
According to Shanto, beats are natural. Even a heart has a beat. People begin making sounds from a young age, when crashing toy cars and playing with dolls. Shanto encouraged everyone to ignore people who call others weird, awkward or stupid because they do things in a different way.
He spent the bulk of his presentation showing off his beatboxing skills, looping one beat on top of another.
MOHD ANISUL KARIM
Our next speaker, Anisul Karim, is a researcher with the Transform Nutrition Consortium.
The reasons behind child mortality and maternal ill health, two of the Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations, are interestingly simple, according to Karim. Historical data shows that women who are educated experience reduced child mortality rates and improved maternal health.
“Education empowers from within. It helps in making the right choices,” Karim explained. “The mother is more aware of nutritional needs if she is educated.”
Studies have shown that Bangladesh has the fastest prolonged reductions in childhood stunting in recorded history. Bangladesh surpasses Pakistan and India, even after spending less on public health.
So what did Bangladesh do right that neighbouring countries did not? A female secondary school stipend program launched in 1990 made all the difference. The program was so successful that Bangladesh women now surpasses men in secondary education.
Karim warns us that Bangladesh’s current rate of child mortality (41%) is still high. Bangladesh is still one of the bottom 10 countries in the world in this regard.
“We need a paradigm shift…we need an approach that is holistic,” explains Anisul, referring to his diagram of a 360 degree nutrition scheme.
Our final speaker from Session 3 was Tanzeem Choudhury, director of the People-Aware Computing group.
“How many of you have taken care of or supported a person with cancer? With a heart disease? With a mental illness?” Tanzeem Choudhury asked.
Not surprisingly, the numbers for the last question were staggeringly low. “Mental illness is an illness,” confirms Tanzeem. “If treated, people who are mentally ill can be successful, powerful, productive, and brilliant.”
Around 1 in 6 people suffer from mental illness. Signs of mental illness include unusual sleeping patterns and behavioral factors like the pace at which we speak and how we walk.
Amazingly, people look at their phones 100-150 times per day. This gives researchers the opportunity to use technology as an early indicator that something might be happening to a person’s mental health being.
However, even with technological support, treating mental illness is multidimensional and requires social participation. Tanzeem reminded the audience that there is nothing to be ashamed in regards to depression.
TEDxDhaka 2014 Session 2 featured speakers who are trying to make the world a better place with ground breaking solutions to ensure transparency, green efficiency, job satisfaction and social activism.
Peter Eigen, founder of Transparency International (TI), spoke first in Session 2 on the art of antagonistic cooperation. He began his talk dramatically, walking on stage playing a silver saxaphone.
According to Eigen, good governance has become something close to a myth with all the corruption and greed underlying the system. He believes that by employing a multi-stakeholder approach, in which all participants work independently from one another, integrity and accountability can be ensured. The three actors of governance, the state as prime actor, plus the commercial sector and civil society organizations, can break the barriers of corruption and exploitation by playing their separate roles.
The Garment Industries’ Transparency Initiative, is one such effort to identify separate stakeholders to prevent incidents like Rana Plaza and ensure the long-term betterment of laborers in the garments sector.
IFTEKHAR ENAYETULLAH & MAQSUD SINHA
Next on stage to talk about the transformation of urban waste were Iftekhar Enayetullah and Maqsud Sinha.
Enayetullah and Sinha make a compelling duo, with experience in civil / environmental engineering, urban planning and architecture. They call themselves ‘Garbagologists’ (in a good way) and describe waste as being raw material in the wrong place.
Did you know? Urban areas of Bangladesh currently generate 20,000 tons of solid waste per day! Historical data shows that this waste is following an upward trend and has a positive correlation with increased population and economic development.
“We believe that waste is not a problem, it is a resource,” claim the duo.
Their initiative, Waste Concern, is a simple solution to this problem. Using a decentralised mechanism to collect waste from developing countries like Bangladesh, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Vietnam, Waste Concern turns biodegradable waste into organic fertilizer.
“Sometimes people call us garbage men,” says Maqsud Sinha.
This is an initiative that has created jobs, ensured soil well being, and is producing tons of organic food for people in South Asia.
Our seventh speaker of the day was Rosey Hurst, founder of Impactt.
According to Hurst, garment factories are tainted with unmotivated workers, going about their work mechanically everyday. They fail to connect with their organization and the job they do. A lack of purpose and belonging affects both businesses and workers’ lives.
Hurst believes that all of this can change. Bangladesh, home to one of the largest garments industries (second only to China), can become number one in the world by empowering its workers to reap more benefits from the market. How?
“It takes two to tango,” says Hurst.
Benefits for Business and Workers (BBW) and UP! are organizations working to address the problem of dehumanization in the workplace by building warmth and competence through interactive sessions between line workers, supervisors, managers and welfare officers.
“A few tiny changes can make all the difference,” affirms Hurst.
The Talk Video
FARZANA WAHID SHAYAN
Farzana Wahid Shayan took the stage with her guitar for our final presentation before lunch. “Hello people. My name is Shayan and I am a nobody,” she began.
Shayan quickly captured the attention of attendees with her spontaneity. Holding her guitar, she talked about the deep relationship she has with her instrument.
“I have found my home, my universe… around this guitar,” she said.
Shayan’s songs are thought provoking and discuss changes in society. She touches on the deep questions troubling many of us: What is the purpose of life? Does God exist? What is morality? Is there an universal answer to these questions? These are questions that perplexed Shayan for years. Her answer to these questions is that there is no answer.
“There doesn’t need to be a reason for everything….you do not have to understand life to enjoy it,” she explained.
Shayan shared three of her songs on stage with the audience, including the Bangla song “Ami Gachi Shobar Jonno,” which she composed herself.
“It’s okay to be a nobody,” she said.
As an advocate of life, she urges everyone to do to whatever they want to do. She insists on enjoying life by indulging in the little pleasures it offers. Her last song was about her personal life. She sang this final song with an added instrument, her harmonica.
Speakers from this first session of TEDxDhaka 2014 are focused on breaking barriers of discrimination, traditional education, and the way we view a fading historic place.
Our first speaker, Iqbal Habib, spoke on inclusive housing and living conditions in Dhaka.
According to Habib, the urban slums in Bangladesh house some 60% of the urban population. They are vast areas of notoriously unplanned establishments where inhabitants live in dire conditions. With little to no ventilation, unhygienic facilities and insufficient space, the slums of Dhaka are home to the poorest of the poor. Though often overlooked by policymakers, these slum inhabitants contribute an amazing 10% of total GDP due to their hard work and resilience.
”We have forced them to live like this,” says Iqbal Habib, an urban population activist.
The key to addressing these citizens’ critical living situation is convincing policymakers to adopt a more inclusive attitude. Habib, when contributing in the construction of the Hatirjheel Begunbari Integrated Development Project, set out to break traditional perceptions about slum dwellers. He proposed that the government build a housing complex for anyone forcibly evicted because of the project. Because of his vision, the Hatirjheel area now showcases a scenic bridge over a lake and is notably devoid of congested slum areas. Near the lake, a tall residential building is under construction for the 256 evicted slum dwellers.
“Wasteland can be a dreamland,” maintains the architect.
His initiative broke barriers of non-inclusive housing policies, and triggered awareness among policymakers. According to Habib, the poorer tiers of the population can comfortably pay for their own housing, with interest, in a period of 10.5 years.
Garments industry leaders in Bangladesh who employ millions of people, are now undertaking housing initiatives for their workers. Policymakers have provided investment incentives to make this possible.
Iqbal Habib reminds us that “Once you raise your voice, changes will follow.”
Next onstage was Munem Wasif, photographer of enchanting Puran Dhaka.
Once the capital of Mughal Bengal in the 17th century, Old Dhaka (Puran Dhaka) is now a subset of Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh. It is a fascinating place, filled with old mughal buildings and narrow alleyways. Wasif was first drawn to the place by its mysticism and liveliness. He yearned to discover the depths of Puran Dhaka. Meandering down its winding streets, Wasif began to capture a series of images of people going about their daily lives. His photos capture vivid images of Puran Dhaka’s inhabitants. He displays their emotions in a brilliant play of light and dark.
SHEHZAD NOOR TAUS
Our third speaker of the day was high school student Shehzad Noor Taus. He took the stage to discuss innovation and the future of technology.
According to Taus, technology transcends all disciplines. From businesses managing big data, to mathematicians solving problems, medics taking medical information, and people engaging in social media, technological development is helping across numerous fields.
At the core of technological advancement lies software programmed to work in specific ways. Taus, one of the youngest Zend certified coders, believes that technological innovation can happen only when the barriers between disciplines are broken. A software developer will not be able to build a software that understands the problems faced by a doctor when treating patients. Only a doctor can truly understand the actual problem and therefore, he or she should be the one to develop a software catering to the needs of the profession.
But, only 0.3% of the population produces software. This means the majority of the world’s population are ill-equipped to find software-based solutions to their problems.
“Learn how to code and become a software innovator because the world needs you,” Taus urges. “Software innovation is easy, do-able, and anyone can do it.”
The Talk Video
ABRAR ZAWAD & SAFWAN RAHMAN
Our last two speakers from session one are two tech savvy youth, Abrar Zawad and Safwan Rahman.
Aged 9 and 12, Abrar and Safwan connect their talk back to the Chronicles of Narnia. They compare their own experiences learning to use technology with the experiences of their favorite storybook characters.
According to Abrar and Safwan, with the right platform, kids as young as 9, can come up with groundbreaking innovations. Both attend The Tech School and have fostered an interest in technology from a very early age. The two already actively participate in tech competitions and are coming up with their own inventions. The Batman Gadget they designed detects obstacles in front of whoever is wearing it. “The purpose of the gadget is for playing outdoor games and in maze solving,” explains Abrar. “But later on, after further development, it can be used as an aid for the blind.”
Abrar and Safwan thank The Tech School for allowing them to approach education in a new way. The afterschool program allows its students to participate in professional projects. “Students are trained so they can soon become apprentices, teachers, or developers,” says Safwan.
TEDxDhaka is back! We are breaking barriers by spreading worthwhile ideas that demand actions beyond the ordinary and that create positive change in our communities.
On November 22, 2014, we will welcome a number of outstanding figures from diverse fields to the stage at the Krishibid Institution in Dhaka, Bangladesh. From human rights activists like the founders of Transparency International and the Acid Survivors Foundation to beaming tech enthusiasts under the age of 18, this year’s TEDxDhaka will dig deep into the local and global issues that matter most.
As the big day approaches, we feel growing excitement and anticipation for the event. Our army of young volunteers and organizers are working day and night to prepare for the arrival of our 800+ excited guests. Everyone is waiting to share, learn, and discover ideas that have the power to break the barriers of discrimination, distance, and more!