March 23, 2012

A Road to Civic Education in Bangladesh

Tanbir ul Islam Siddiqui of Bangladesh has been selected as the U.S. Department of State’s Alumni Member of the Month for March 2012 in recognition of his tireless efforts to support civic education, human rights, and good governance. Siddiqui took part in a 2004 International Visitors Leadership Program on the topic of ‘Civic Education in the United States.’ After returning from the program, he transformed the focus of his organization, Change Makers, towards youth civic education and is a dynamic advocate for the issue throughout his country.

“When I was in the United States, I saw seasoned lawyers giving up their weekends to teach children between ages of 5 and 10 about the Constitution, how it works, and what they could get out of it. It was truly amazing and inspiring for me to learn how they value the Constitution and that the age of 5 is not considered too young to teach civic education.”

Siddiqui’s organization, Change Makers, has partnered with the American Center in Dhaka to carry out numerous civic education programs since his return to Bangladesh. In one case, he collaborated with the American Center on the traveling program, “Road to the White House,” an initiative focused on comparing the democratic practices of Bangladesh and the United States. His organization convened nationwide workshops to discuss the American election process including electoral rules and regulations, democratic norms and practices, democratic institutions, and the Constitution of the United States of America.

In 2006, with the support of the American Center, Siddiqui organized a nationwide program titled “Institutionalizing Democracy in Bangladesh: A Civic Education Program for High School, College and Madrasa Students of Bangladesh.” Through this program 10,000 young minds across Bangladesh received training and materials on civic education.

In 2010 Siddiqui led a project entitled “American Voices: A Civic Dialogue.” This project engaged youth in discussions of topics such as the American system of government, the U.S. Constitution, and U.S. foreign policy, lifestyle, culture, and society. A Bangla version of the U.S. Constitution was published for public distribution as part of this project.

Siddiqui is also deeply involved in several civil society and anti-corruption movements. He is an active member of Transparency International Bangladesh, the Right to Information Forum, the Bangladesh Migration and Development Forum, the National Press Club, and the People’s Forum on Millennium Development Goals. He regularly contributes columns to national dailies and has frequently appeared on television talk shows discussing issues such as the Bangladesh Constitution, civic education, good governance and democracy, human rights, human trafficking and safe migration, corruption, and politics. He has also provided technical support to The Asia Foundation and trained about 1,500 Imams under their Leaders of Influence (LOI) program supported by USAID.

In addition to his numerous civic education accomplishments, Siddiqui always steps forward to support initiatives of his fellow exchange program alumni. He frequently volunteers as a speaker and moderator in alumni programs and provides mentorship and advice for young alumni and alumni projects. Currently, he is serving as a supervisor of the Bangladesh Youth Environmental Initiative, a winner of the 2011 Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund competition.