A symposium for young leaders from 45 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab was organised by the UK’s Department for International Development’s (DFID) AAWAZ Programme.
Participants were made-up of leaders under the age of 25 who are working to reduce gender-based violence, or those who have faced discriminatory social norms. Young leaders shared their inspirational stories, learned from each others’ experiences, discussed national youth policy and made pledge to participate actively in the upcoming elections. This conference is part of DFID’s 16 days of activism to end violence against women and girls.
British High Commissioner, Mr. Thomas Drew in his a statement said “A stable, inclusive and tolerant democracy in Pakistan will be achieved when women and minorities, who together make up more than half of the population of Pakistan, are given equal opportunity to participate as active citizens of Pakistan in decision making processes having implications on their live. It’s so encouraging to see such enthusiastic participation from young people, including women and those from minority communities, in the 16 days of activism.”
Head of DFID Pakistan, Joanna Reid said “I am delighted to know that young people, specifically girls from various parts of Pakistan, are fighting gender based violence and challenging norms which hinder development and growth. You all are leaders because you have the courage to speak about taboos and guide others to respect human rights. A country cannot prosper economically or socially when half of its population face some sort of violence.”
Surrya Bibi from Khushab told the conference about how she became the first lady youth counsellor of her area, despite facing cultural and societal hurdles. She said that: “I was encouraged by AAWAZ which gave me strength to face the resistance and I managed to get elected as Youth member- which has never happened as only boys had been given that seat.”
The KP Assembly Deputy Speaker Ms. Mehar Taj, the guest of honour, addressed the symposium. She urged women and young people to question the norms that threaten the principles of empowerment and equality for all. She also spoke about her own journey of breaking the glass ceiling and emerging as a role model for other women in her province. The symposium was attended by representatives of DFID, Executive Director Aurat foundation Mr. Naeem Mirza, Member KP provincial assembly Ziaullah Bangash amongst other representatives from United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Development Alternatives Inc (DAI).