The Issues we address:
Pakistan has the fourth-largest population of South Asian countries, and 70 percent of the population is below 30 years of age, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics. Almost 80 percent of these young people are excluded from meaningful educational opportunities. In the nation’s poorest and ignored province of Balochistan, 68 percent of students do not complete primary school.
Pakistani youth aspire to participate in community leadership and social change, but due to lack of necessary knowledge, skills, and safe environments, they are unable to achieve these aspirations. Family is the most important unit of Pakistani society, considered the first institution of learning and socialization for youth. However, family units have been largely unrecognized, isolated, and ignored by educational institutions and development programs. Without proper attention to strengthening family units, domestic violence, child labor, early child marriages, gender based inequalities, illiteracy, maternal and infant mortality, and honor killings have reduced the efficacy of youth to be active contributors to their society. Communities overlook their role in poverty reduction and social development, and local governments are not engaging the country’s legislative process to effect policy changes geared toward youth opportunity and development. Despite a mandate in the Constitution of Pakistan to provide free and compulsory education to all children between 5-16 years old, only 66 percent of children in this age group regularly attend school and literary rates for the population hover around 57 percent. Furthermore, mainstream media groups support the agendas of corporate interests over issues of social and economic welfare. These groups have fueled civic differences, isolation, disharmony, and violent resistance movements in various part of the country.
Together, these conditions rapidly breed extremism and terrorism, and over the last few decades, Pakistan and surrounding countries have faced the phenomena of rising militancy and intolerance. A survey asking young Pakistanis for their motivations in committing acts of violence found that 42 percent engaged in violence to escape from poverty, 24 percent did so because they want money, 17 percent did so to defend their own honor and that of their family, and 12 percent did so because they are unemployed.[i] Various developmental, educational, and political institutions that are intended to direct the collective energy of the country’s youth in a productive manner have displayed apathy to fulfill their responsibilities. Therefore, while these populations are normally considered a huge asset to driving forward the development of a given state, they are considered a hindrance rather than a driving force for Pakistan’s national development.
IDSP opens Learning Spaces for this young majority population to empower them for generating and regenerating responses to the existing challenges. Through its Open Learning Spaces, IDSP provides engaging courses in critical thinking and leadership, as well as professional development to shape a meaningful career path for youth. Learners acquire knowledge and skills necessary to promote human rights, political participation, gender equality, and global citizenship–all of which will help them to improve safety and development in Pakistan. Standards of living and harmony within family units is considerably improved, resulting in lower domestic violence rates, a decrease in early child marriages, shared decision-making, and better social and financial support for all family members. Communities practice conflict resolution, promote youth civic engagement, expand the infrastructure and advance technologies of sustainable energy services, protect children from child labor and exploitation, and adopt sustainable agriculture techniques to improve their local economies. Local governments enhance their human resource capacities to better support progressive polices on public health, community development, and education. Civil society organizations consult lawmakers in their planning and policy making efforts.
Overall, public and private sector partnerships — both domestically and internationally — help educate and empower youth at risk of militantism and extremism to become active political leaders and entrepreneurs that help drive economic growth. Media organizations document and broadcast this positive shift in equilibrium to drive systems change.
[i] Next Generation Voice Report of British Council, 2014