This interview is from the series, the Bangladeshi Perspective.
Who is Manik?
Makshudul Alom Manik is the co-founder of Youth Opportunities, a Global Shaper (Dhaka Hub) at the World Economic Forum, and a Partnership Management Consultant at Business Finance for the Poor in Bangladesh. This is his story, written by Taqiya Ehsan.
The lack of opportunities
According to a recent report from UNFPA, 20% of the total population of Bangladesh are aged 15-24. That amounts to around 32.9 million young people in Bangladesh as of August 2020. This means there are currently 33 or so million up-and-coming leaders in the country putting the prospects of massive development of Bangladesh at a pretty high probability. But evidently this is far removed from the status quo. One main reason behind this unfortunate reality is the lack of youth empowerment opportunities in the country. Enter Makshudul Alom Manik, a young entrepreneur who aims to properly empower young people, not just in Bangladesh, but worldwide.
Manik’s early education and background
Manik, as he likes to go by, did his Bachelors in Business Administration, Finance, Branding and Human Resource from the Institute of Business Administration in 2013. However, even as a freshman just starting out in the real world, Manik had craved for opportunities to better himself, for personal development. This is when he felt an acute lack of adequate information for different youth opportunities around the world. He felt like there was no proper platform for the very prospective youth of Bangladesh to be accurately informed and accordingly trained to avail of several opportunities around the globe. That is when Manik, along with his friend and partner Osama Bin Noor, came up with the idea of Youth Opportunities, abbreviated as YO.
What is Youth Opportunities?
Youth Opportunities is an online platform launched in January 2012. The platform acts as a resource for accurate information on different awards, grants, conferences, workshops, scholarships, fellowships, internships, and exchange programs happening across the globe. It works as a discovery platform for youths across the globe providing equal access to global opportunities for young people to explore and prepare themselves to excel in their careers, ambitions and passions. There is provision to post about different global opportunities on the platform, which are later published upon proper verification. So as a global platform, YO not only focuses on empowering youths but also on connecting local youths to the global generation, and at the same time, bridging between opportunity providers with seekers.
In 2011, YO started out as a Facebook page. Today the website is visited almost 1.2 million times per month by citizens from over 200 countries of the world. Initially, only Manik and Noor used to gather information on different events and post updates on the website; today YO has over 30 official partners that contribute information to the hub, including ADB, World Bank, and the European Union. In 2017, YO launched its mobile app version and in 2018 it launched its Bangla website. Moreover, since 2017, YO has also been working with the ICT Division of Bangladesh Government to integrate youth empowerment initiatives intp the national policies.
My chat with Manik
It’s hard to find Manik for an official interview, as his colleagues and friends would say. He avoids press coverage and social media for personal reasons.
Often times social media ends up using us and we aren’t aware of it.Makshudul Alom Monik
When discussing facilitating knowledge and the innovative ways to encourage youth, he talks about how important it is for a mentor who is somewhere a mentee wants to be, to point out the commonalities between the two individuals, something he learned from the co-founder of Youth Policy Forum and a visionary, Abir Hasan Niloy. The relatable positions between the mentor and mentee inspire the most. The fact that maybe both people gave the same boarding exam in grade 12 and went to the same school inspires the most.
Why Start Youth Opportunities?
Talking about the initial motivation behind YO, Manik had said that they wanted to “ensure greater awareness and easier access of several national and international opportunities to rural and urban Bangladeshi youth.” He noted that although the youth of Bangladesh have the depth of knowledge to compete at international events, they often feel inhibited because of the lack of certain skills, like English communication skills. The purpose of YO is to break these inhibitions by giving access to resources that will help them overcome their lackings. However, today, YO has transcended regional boundaries to a more global level. Manik reminisced in an interview about a young girl from rural Afghanistan, who needed help with information regarding higher studies. It was extremely difficult for her to continue studies in that area due to utter lack of safety. She needed a scholarship to go abroad for her studies. YO corresponded with her through emails to provide her with all the necessary information.
For all of YO’s contributions to global youth empowerment, Manik and Noor were honored with many accolades, most notably the Queen’s Young Leaders Award from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. They were also enlisted in the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for individuals in Asia.
A long way ahead
Manik dreams to make Dhaka a more inclusive city by working in the fields of art, development, entrepreneurship, climate change, human rights, engineering, education, architecture, and animal conservation. Makshudul Alom Manik is the epitome of an empowered youth.
This article was written by the wonderful Taqiya Ehsan, student at Rutgers University.
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