Narail teen among 3 top contenders for Int’l Children’s Peace Prize 2020

The KidsRights International Children’s Peace Prize is awarded every year to a child involved in promotion of children’s rights and protecting vulnerable children. Last year, Greta Thunberg of Sweden and Divina Maloum of Cameroon won this prize. This year, Bangladesh’s Sadat Rahman, a 17-year-old from Narail, has been listed as one of the three finalists. The list was announced by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, patron of The International Children’s Peace Prize and KidsRights.

Sadat launched an app called “Cyber Teens”, where victims of cyberbullying can report their cases and get help. His work with Cyber Teens has made him stand out in a group of 142 nominees from 42 countries, to be named a finalist in this year’s International Children’s Peace Prize. We talked to him about how it all started, and how this service has since managed to help hundreds of people.

“My friends and I set up an organisation called ‘Narail Volunteers’ back when I was in Class 9, where we mostly did social work. Last year, however, when I found out about a girl in Pirojpur who took her life after a stalker threatened to circulate fake photos of her on social media, it really made me think about the dangers facing young individuals on the Internet. Young people, especially girls, find it hard to ask for help in situations such as these. They are scared of the social stigma, and local police departments often don’t take these crimes seriously or aren’t equipped to do so,” explains Sadat, giving context to the beginning of Cyber Teens’ journey.

Cyber Teens bridges this gap by directly being in contact with victims and law enforcement who do have the capability to resolve these issues. It began its journey on October 9, 2019. Since then, with the help of Narail Police Super Md Jasim Uddin and Narail Zilla Police in general, they have managed to resolve more than 60 complaints, and eight perpetrators have been brought to justice.

“Our first action is to provide mental support. Teenagers and young people often have trouble sharing their problems, so we help them with that. We have a small team of IT experts who help victims recover Facebook IDs and take measures against other tech-related cyber bullying. When there is criminal activity involved, we forward the cases to Narail Zilla Police,” says Sadat.

Asked about the impact Cyber Teens has had on the locality, Sadat believes it has empowered victims to stand up to their bullies and stalkers, “There have been instances where the perpetrators have stood down when the victim indicated they may come to us. We protect the identities of the victims as well, so they feel safe coming to us for help.”

Cyber Teens has also raised awareness about cyberbullying, with internet safety seminars organised in schools and colleges that have reached over 45000 students. Sadat is currently working on a campaign called “Safe Internet, Safe Teenager”. Narail Volunteers is also organising e-safety seminars and workshops, with the aim of creating a digital literacy club in every school they can reach.

Being listed as a finalist for the prestigious International Children’s Peace Prize along with other child activists from Mexico and Ireland is a matter of pride for Sadat Rahman, especially because of where his is from, “As you know, Narail is a remote part of Bangladesh, so it was quite unthinkable that my work here would get global recognition. I don’t know if I’ll win, but I am confident. The more important thing is that this might help me expand Cyber Teens beyond Narail and help more and more people going forward.”

This year’s winner will be announced on November 13, during a ceremony in The Hague, by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and winner of the International Children’s Peace Prize 2013 Malala Yousafzai. Sadat has requested everyone to keep him in their prayers.

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