A student club bearing the name “Peace Cafe, BRAC University” was inaugurated through a ceremony at the Mohakhali campus of BRAC University on 28 September, 2022. Peace Cafe is a creative and pioneering program that promotes peace and social harmony by fostering and mentoring female-led civic engagement and social entrepreneurship. The aim is to instill skills in students that foster the notion of empowered persons and help them become peace ambassadors.
Professor Vincent Chang, Vice-Chancellor of BRAC University inaugurated the ceremony. Manzoor Hasan OBE, Executive Director, CPJ, Dr. Dave Dowland, Registrar, BRAC University, Tahsina Rahman, Joint Director, Student Life, BRAC University, Rokeya Kabir, freedom fighter, women and human rights activist and Founder of Bangladesh Nari Progati Sangha, and Tania Sharmin, Programme Analyst, Women Peace and Security, UN Women were also present.
In 2019, the CPJ facilitated the establishment of two such programs at Begum Rokeya University, Rangpur and Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University, Mymensingh and another two in 2021 at the University of Dhaka and BRAC University. The decision on the formation of the student club “Peace Cafe, BRAC University” under Student Life was taken against the backdrop of a large number of positive responses from undergraduate female students.
Professor Vincent Chang, Vice-Chancellor of BRAC University, said, “Peace Cafe is a core component of BRAC University. In my interpretation, Peace Café is a BRAC University’s version of Peace Corps for women. BRAC University is a student-centric university and one way to make the university better is to have many meaningful programmes for the students. This is definitely one of such programs which is fresh and we would like to carry it forward. I personally believe that the value of Peace Cafe goes beyond the classroom. Sitting in the classroom and taking notes are not enough. From the BRAC University perspective we would like to carry this initiative because this is good for your education, good for yourself and good for the university as well.”
Addressing as special guest, Dr David Dowland, Registrar of BRAC University, said, “The works of the CPJ are creative and it creates a constructive network that has the potential to become a movement. The Peace Cafe is a means of collaboration of the universities across Bangladesh; which can also go international. Peace Cafe attracts people who are interested in the issues of social justice and also those who want to get engaged in social activities for achieving gender equality. There are huge disability inclusion challenges in Bangladesh that Peace Cafe might want to address. We are constantly reminded that society is very fragile. However, every individual can make a difference. This is the power that we have and I am always ready to support you on your journey.”
Rokeya Kabir, freedom fighter, women and human rights activist and Founder of Bangladesh Nari Progati Sangha, and Tania Sharmin, Programme Analyst, Women Peace and Security, UN Women, spoke on the inception of Peace Cafe and how its goal and vision would progressively foster social cohesiveness among students. There was a question and answer session afterwards. Furthermore, the club’s committee 2022-2023 was announced by Tahsina Rahman, Joint Director, Campus Life, BRAC University.
Presenting the closing remarks, Manzoor Hasan OBE, Executive Director, CPJ, started that it was a very emotional moment for him. “I see a social movement in the future. When it will start, it will start with faces like this institution. We started the Peace Cafe initiative not at the BRAC University. The challenge was to take it outside the capital. In a very short time we achieved a lot. We are now 50 years old as a country. In the last 50 years the women empowerment movement in Bangladesh has changed and became so strong. We want to see it move forward. Peace Cafe is one of the vehicles through which it can happen. Not just in the country but spread all over South Asia. This is the dream that all of us have. The young men and women will take this whole issue forward so that Bangladesh can lead something visionary for the rest of the world.” He wished the Peace Cafe members all the very best on their future endeavors.
The ceremony ended with a cultural program with the participation of Peace Cafe, BRAC University members. The daily “Kaler Kantho” and “The Business Standard” were the media partners of the event.