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Breaking Barriers at the TEDx Dhaka 2014
25 November, 2014
Ahnaf Ahsan Suny
The newly built KIB institute hosted the TEDx 2014 event for the first time or any other of its category since its inauguration.
It was a Saturday morning and the number of participants could be easily assumed by entering the façade to the whole complex.
Before explaining what had happened in the event, a lot has to be told on the early preparation the whole organizing team went through.
If you had been a participant this year, you would have wondered how they sent those emails reminding you that 22nd of November is closing in and you must be aware of what they were doing. To some extent, they were successful.
Volunteers were spread out throughout the complex. Once you have stepped in, you would have thought that you have entered a Video game where vegetable crates were scattered here and there and no one knew what they were meant for until the fellow organizer Mohammad Tauheed explained that they wanted everything to be green and recycled in the event.
It was exactly 10.00 am when a promo of this year’s edition was shown to the 800+ audience at the KIB auditorium by the CG Artist Zubuyer Kaolin from Ogniroth Studios.
Mr. Tauheed greeted the audience and then explained how hard they had to work to get the event into a reality and slowly, the lights were dimmed and the first speaker, Iqbal Habib was called on stage.
Iqbal Habib is the architect of the KIB complex and he is also a leading environmentalist of Bangladesh. He explained that only it is us who can push the government to take measures when it comes to saving the water bodies of Dhaka. He cited the examples of the Hatirjheel project by saying that “Hatirjheel was nothing but a wasteland and people were afraid of it. But it was us, who took on the initiative of making future as you know it now.” He also said “We are also planning for the same. We will change the way how you see the surrounding rivers of Dhaka and the project will soon be approved by the Government and the task will be undertaken by the Army.”
If you can recall one of the leading photographers of recent times, you can name Munem Wasif. Yes, he has been working on a project titled ‘Belonging’, which is actually a book and he has documented the old Dhaka for a span of ten long years. He showed a number of his photos in his slide presentation claiming that Old Dhaka, even though is clustered with age still gives him a sense of belonging as a Bangladeshi. “Old Dhaka is full of characters and the characters are not mere individuals. They are great actors and actresses of life.” Said Wasif.
The next speaker was young. A high school student, Shehzad Noor Taus all the way from International School Dhaka and claimed that programming/coding can change a lot of problems around you. He said “I learnt programming when I was ten and I made software for my Dad’s business with which he found it easy to process payrolls for his employees. If I can, why not you?” He also said that the ability to code will give speed up a multi-billion dollar software industry in Bangladesh. He urged all to code despite their profession.
Abrar Jawad and Safwan Rahman were two kids with a great fascination for Narnia. They said that they were into robotics and coding. The kid duo explained how they were students of a tech school where they were taught coding and playing with robotics instead of teaching boring math. They amazed the audience to the most.
Prof. Dr. Peter Eigen is the founder of Transparency International and he entered the stage playing his trumpet. He played a few lines and began his speech on how his organization helped reduce corruption in a number of countries by simply addressing a detailed research. He claimed that Transparency International is working hard to publish more detailed research in the next following years. “Corruption stands between the development of the world and it should be taken down” he said while concluding his speech.
Then came the Garbage Men, or so they claimed themselves to be. Iftekhar Enayetullah, a Civil Environmentalist and Maqsood Sinha, an architect and an urban planner. They shared their story of how they went on to willingly force the government to show some interest on their project on waste management centered on the Dhaka City and its suburbs. Sadly, they were refused always and they decided to put their ideas into reality by themselves. So their surprise, their waste management models were accepted by a number of South Asian countries and a Bangladesh also where they could use garbage as fuel and electricity.
Rosey Hursst was the next speaker. She was the founder and director of Impactt with a mission of improving labor standards in south Asia. She urged the audience to consider workers as humans, rather than mere objects. Changing that mindset changes everything, she concluded.
A session break was given and the audience chose to move around the complex and break their groups and meet new people. They did.
Farzana Wahid Shayan tuned the audience with her spiritual words for 20 minutes or so. She said that she was a nobody and her guitar meant everything in her life. She has a sacred relationship with her guitar and it is the guitar that gave her peace in times of adversity. She sang three special songs for the audience and the songs particularly dealt with life. She said “You have to give life a reason. That’s all you can do. You can move fast. You can work hard. But you should give it a pause and let life give you the direction.” Most of times, she claimed her speech to be eerily unfathomable but the audience stood up and gave her an honorary ovation.
The lunch hour was next and there were a number of reasons the KIB complex was brought to life. The audience who were there can only reason.
After that, Nina Smith, Executive Director of GoodWeave International, brought a GoodWeave certified wool rug to the stage and sat on it. She explained the relationship between slavery and holocaust and sadly recalled her memories from her family’s trouble during the Second World War Nazi Concentration camp. She said that she was a generation away from the holocaust and the memories still hunt deep into her life and this inspired to work for GoodWeave, an organization that frees young children throughout the South Asia. She gave statistics on how her organization helped reduce child slavery to 1% from a staggering 60% percent in three years. GoodWeave certifies rugs which is not weaved by enslaved children by adults. She urged the audience to buy GoodWeave certified rugs from today. She fought Acid Violence through her life and she termed the Acid survivors as her own children. Introducing Monira Rahman, a person solely behind the acclaimed Acid Survivors Foundation. Her lifelong achievement are the enactment of the Acid Violence laws in Bangladesh and the reduction of acid violence by 96% since 1999. She is an an active advocate for women’s rights and equality. Now, she is planning on to concentrate more on mental health of the population of Bangladesh.
Take an example of a small portable household generator. Or the engine of a Vespa. This is what beatboxer Moktadir Dewan Shanto compared himself with when he introduced himself. He explained beatboxing simply by making the exact tune of Michael Jackson’s ‘Billie Jean’ with his lips and tongue. As simple as that. He said that it was Michael Jackson who taught him beatboxing when he was a child. He said that beatboxing was always there but we did not know that we were beatboxing. Currently, beatboxing is the latest in the music scenario of Bangladesh and is making a hype all around.
Mohammed Anisul Karim thought that public health and child malnutrition is something rarely given a thought and so he began researching on it. Being a Doctor, he gave us examples showing how an educated and uneducated girl fought early pregnancy and ended up with different lives. The educated girl had lower risks of pregnancy risks and had a better approach towards life. So, the conclusion was that women literacy in Bangladesh should be addressed more than other similar issues. Education was related to a number of issues but the female population is more vulnerable to such cases. He said that education to a limited age is the only solution.
Being a Computer Scientist and an Associate Professor of the same at the Cornell University, Tanzeem Chowdhury broke grounds in helping mentally ill patients using computer technology. She urged the audience to raise their hands on how they were related to a number of popular diseases. Once she asked how many of them were taking care of mentally ill patients, none rose their hands. She therefore gave a conclusion that mental illness is something that should be cured and taken care of. Her company People Aware Computing Group is working with the latest mobile technology to understand the human psyche and provide necessary cure to them.
What does it take to leave your job and start building stupid robots? Asked Rini Eshan Khushboo and her mate Rakib Reza. Both of them were the founders of Planeteer Bangladesh, an organization that teaches people how to build robots. She told a simple story how an igloo ice-cream box became a robot with simple hardware the robotics couple bought and brought the biggest change in their lives. She encouraged others to lead a life with no vision as she believes that living today is beautiful enough. No tomorrow.
Meet Bangladesh’s most celebrated animators both at the print and electronic media. Manik and Ratan told a simple story on how to follow your passion and be passionate. They asked their parents to let them study animation and graphics design instead of Computer Science and they did prove that the decision was correct. They became the highest sellers in istockphoto.com. Their works were published around the globe. They also showed one of their recent animated short film which gave Goosebumps to the audience. They were the most celebrated speakers in the entire TEDx 2014 event.
The last speakers were Syeda Gulshan Ferdous Jana and Arild Klokkerhaug but they could not attend the event due to some reason. Instead, the organizers planned an alternative. Standup Comedian Yamin Khan rocked the stage with his humorous approach and helped the audience to grasp the previous speaker’s ideas in a different manner, a manner that incorporated humor and laughter. The audience loved him.
The event ended successfully and promises were made of a TEDx 2015 event as well. Whatever the speaker’s topic was, they truly broke barriers in terms of their live’s successes. It was an inspiration for all.