With the National Poll 2018 knocking at the door, the election has garnered plenty of expectations and interest, especially among the young population. The first-time voters are surely going to play a vital role in shaping the ruling body this time. Moving around the city, we spoke to young, new voters about their views on the upcoming election.
Singer Sabrina Porshi is a voter from Uttara. “I will definitely attend vote and encourage people to do the same,” she asserts. “A friendly, understanding and optimistic candidate is what I am looking for who will try reaching out to the youth.” Sabrina further wants to work on creating awareness about traffic rules, as she feels that traffic congestion is one of the major issues in Bangladesh. Similarly, Tahmid Zaman Khan, a student from the University of Dhaka, who will be voting from Dhaka - 15, wants to see the broadening of roads and the eradication of temporary shops on footpaths, which often lead to the violation of road laws. He believes that patriotism should be one of the defining characteristics of a leader. “The current online climate allows young voters to form a fuller picture of the candidates and their platforms in a medium they're familiar with,” he adds.
Besides traffic laws, an area of concern for the young population is the safety of women and girls on the streets. For Ruponti Priya, a salesperson in a cosmetics shop, women's safety is a priority when it comes to choosing a leader. She is a student and service holder at the same time. “I have to stay outside for a long time quite regularly. But our roads are still largely unsafe for women,” she states. “I will vote for someone who will ensure women's safety, and take practical steps to implement laws for it.”
Meanwhile, many voters are hopeful about seeing improvements in the education system. Independent filmmaker Vicky Zahed will vote from the Dhaka-6 area. “As a first-time voter, I wish the young candidates to be successful, as they will know the needs and demands of the youth,” he says. “My strong preference will be to bring changes to the education system. If students are taught well and prepared well for the exams, no one will need to cheat. This is a chain process and it begins from the school years. The whole education system needs to be more careful and pay attention in teaching morality.”
Moreover, the present government has given people of the third gender the right to vote for the first time. Jannat, a young transgender woman, is a first-time voter from Dhaka-16. “The government has provided us with many jobs, and in fact, many of us were given the opportunity to be candidates in this election. I am very happy that my vote will be counted,” says Jannat.
On the other hand, perhaps one of the most pressing demands among the underserved community and working-class sector of the nation is improved living conditions. While some are excited to see certain improvements, others are not so open-minded to voting. Anwar Hossain, a road-side hawker earns a living by selling chickens on the roads and comes to Dhaka, every three days by train, from Narsingdi. “I have seen people in my area starving for days, which makes me cry my heart out,” he expresses. “I think that voting is a waste of time because we poor people are never benefited and our struggle remains the same.”
Md Shohag Hossain, a private car driver, who grew up in Saltha, Faridpur, sees the voting day as an exciting occasion. “I want my leader to be honest and the one who listens to problems even after the election. If I were a leader, I would facilitate the farmers by bringing them improved machineries,” he says. Julekha Begum from Mymensingh, who has travelled away from home to earn a living as a house maid in Dhaka, wants to vote for a candidate who will ensure safety and good health for the people of her hometown. She wants to see improved lifestyles for her people, so that no girl has to live away from her family to earn money.
Speaking to all the young minds from different walks of life, a rather optimistic energy seems to surround the spirit of the youth across the city regarding the upcoming election.