Nafiz Imtiaz is one of the founders of UNYSAB and later became President. He is currently working as a National Coordinator of Activista, at ActionAid Bangladesh. Nafiz has extensive experience of working with youth and also of launching multiple programs to engage and empower young people.
As part of our conversation with youth leaders to better understand this generation we sat with Nafiz in a fine evening and we spoke about his passion, personal experiences, youth, entrepreneurship, success and many more.
Please briefly tell us more about yourself and your Passion.
I’m Nafiz Imtiaz and currently working as Activista national co-coordinator at ActionAid, Bangladesh. Activista is the global youth network of ActionAid which is currently working in 30 countries all over the world. I'm also co-facilitator of Asia Pacific Youth Network.
I like to think myself as a social worker and I have been working as a social worker for the last 10 to 12 years. I was involved in different co-curricular activities .In school, I was with scout and in college and University I was with BNCC. In University we have initiated United Nations Youth and Students Association of Bangladesh (UNYSAB).
My passion is to work for the humanity and society. I believe, as a social being every person has some social responsibilities. Say, I have graduated from a Public University. Who actually funded my educational expenditure?
It’s Govt. of Bangladesh and its people; so, I certainly owe some responsibility to them. It is like a loan that we have to pay back. In every steps of our life we take loan from the people around us. How can we repay the loan? I think, it can be possible in two ways. If I have a huge amount of money, then I can spend some portion of my money for the betterment of humanity or I can render service for the society.
What was the underlying motivation behind doing what you are doing now, although you had better options to take?
I have already mentioned that it is a matter of loan which I have to repay to the society. I have already received enough services form the society and from the people and I need to give the services back to the society. From this inspiration I have determined myself to serve the society, to give the services back to the society.
I think, there must have some people who will burn themselves to enlighten the society, for the greater welfare of the society. If there are no people who want to burn themselves as fuel, how will the society be enlightened?
You see in society, the devils are always united, they have strong network. But, it is rare to see a network of people who think for the betterment of the society.
No person can live well only by himself and also you can’t live well only with your family and you can’t live well only with your neighbor. To make a blissful society we have to come forward and work together. History says, society changes by the effort of an organized minority, where majority try to resist change. To bring change we don’t need everyone out there.
How did you come up with the idea of UNYSAB and Activista?
The starting of UNYSAB was interesting. I was a debater and general secretary of Notre Dame College Debating Club back in 2001. Then in University, I became a member of Surjasen Bitarka Dhara, Surja Sen Hall, Dhaka University and
I was the captain of the debate team in different level competitions. But I saw that debate arena has been politicized, I mean negatively politicized. Another thing was that, we were just doing debate after debate but there were no solution. After awhile we became frustrated because of mighty politics’ intervention in Debate and its inability to offer any solution to the problems what we were debating on.
Then, for getting solution we were organized with some of my seniors who had a mindset like me. We were united to create a platform where we can flourish our intellectual capabilities as well as can involve in social work. We were also searching over websites to find out what the other countries’ youths were doing.
After much effort we found that some developed countries were organizing Model UN conference. It is like a simulation of UN assembly. We found that there was no such activity in entire South Asia. We found that they follow an organization called UN students’ association backed by the ECOSOC, UN Economic and Social Council. We studied such type of organizations and found that only developed countries have these organizations.
Then we thought that why we don’t establish such organization in Bangladesh. We tried to find the ways to form it.
Then we somehow managed to get contact information of UN Economic and Social Council. We wrote to them and then we found feedback from them. We had to contact with United Nations Information Center (UNIC) in Bangladesh and United Nation’s Association of Bangladesh (UNAB). Those people helped us a lot to form UNYSAB .Then we contacted with the chief of UNIC, Dr. Kazi Ali Reza. He is still there. We had a meeting with him. He said this can be a very good initiative in Bangladesh. That is how it started.
The interesting part was, we started it as UN Youth & Student Association of Dhaka University. Then we realized that, why we don’t make it a national organization? Then we renamed it as UNYSAB.
Starting of Activista is a different story. Last year, I got a scholarship from Action Aid. The scholarship was a 3 months long course on leadership and campaign designing. I went to Nepal to attend the course. We had to organize a campaign in Nepal where participants from seven different countries participated in that campaign.
Then after coming back from Nepal, I asked ActionAid to initiate Activista in Bangladesh to work on poverty alleviation which will ensure youth involvement. Then I made a proposal and design a 2-year strategic planning on how it will be formed, how it will be carried on. ActionAid liked that proposal and I have initiated it in
Bangladesh with support from Action Aid. After that I finalized our plan and started to work. We are now organizing training for youth on how to be a good campaigner and to work with society and to be active citizen. That’s how it was started.
What were few major obstacles you faced in your journey to date? And how did you overcome them?
For me, the major obstacles were obviously, the family pressure, peer pressure, and societal pressure. For example, my family always pressurized me to be a doctor or to be an engineer. They questioned me “Why are you running behind all these rubbish things?” But what I really believed was that, if you really want to be someone who will be remembered for years for hundred years you need to serve the society.
I mean who will forget Nehru, who will forget Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman? All these people were the representatives of an organized minority and they gave really something to the society.
Think, if you are a service-holder, you will serve a company. Well, how many people you can take care of? It is only your family. But if you are an entrepreneur you can serve hundreds of families by providing employment you can serve hundreds of people and their families.
Since I was a debater, I read a lot of books. I have a passion to read the auto-biography of great people. They inspired me a lot. What I see is that who are relatively great had a different career, different way of life. If you want to be great you really need to think in a different way.
[blockquote source=]Our problem is we want everything to happen overnight. But success does not come over night. You have to build your empire gradually and it is a process.[/blockquote]
What are the few obstacles for a young Change maker in Bangladesh?
People’s perception is the major obstacle in our country. Why am I saying this? For example, who firstly shape your mind? Certainly, it is your family. Your family will advise you to be a doctor, to be an engineer or to be a government service-holder. When your parents always push you to be a doctor, to be an engineer or to a service holder-how can you think of anything else?
Entrepreneurship is not well recognized in our country. Most people don’t like entrepreneurship. Yes, they salute successful entrepreneur but they don’t want their children to be an entrepreneur. This is a huge barrier.
If you are given a chance to start all over again what would be the three mistakes you would avoid and what are the three positive things you would do first?
First thing I will spend less time watching TV and sleeping. Then I will spend more time on reading and enriching myself and developing my skills.
What are the few traits, you think, a youth change maker should have to become successful?
First thing you need to have is belief in yourself. Secondly, you must have patience and must work hard. Our problem is we want everything to happen overnight. But success does not come over night. You have to build your empire gradually and it is a process. Thirdly, manage your time well and be honest with your purpose. You have to be honest to yourself. Fourthly, Chances never come, you need to create chances. People often blame and whine of not having things but God has given you brain, you need to use it.
Every problem has multiple solutions. The problem is when we face obstacles we get frustrated and eventually give up. But we don’t think that it can be the beginning of something better.
Every journey has ups and downs. There is no lack of examples out there. Founder of Monno Ceramics, Harun-ur-Rashid Monno started it with only 75 Taka. Today Monno is one of the biggest players in ceramic sector. Didn’t he face many ups and downs? But he didn’t give up. Our problems are our opportunities in disguise.
[blockquote source=]I have learnt that you need to plan. Plan your every move. A good planning is half of a successful mission.[/blockquote]
Please share few lessons you have learned from your journey as a youth leader.
We don’t need to depend on others; wait for others rather we need to depend on ourselves. In work and in life we should be proactive. Unfortunately, most of the peoples in our society are reactive. Life is yours and you will define your path. Your parents, friends, relatives are important but they are not going to live your life.
I have learnt that you need to plan. Plan your every move. A good planning is half of a successful mission.