International Youth Day: saluting Education Youth Ambassadors in Pakistan

By Baela Raza Jamil, Director Programmes ITA (Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi)

International Youth Day 2015 is a special occasion in Pakistan and globally, since it comes just prior to the world signing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their targeted actions.

Today, with more than 60% of the Pakistani population being under 30 years of age, we have Reached a tipping point in this country, in our South Asia region and across the world. We are living in times of unimaginable possibilities of the mind and heart, spurred by technology, social media and enterprise.

Our experience with youth – through the amazing Education Youth Ambassadors (EYAs) initiative at ITA, pioneered by Sarah Brown and her team at A World at School – has been absolutely dynamic. AWAS  launched the Global Youth Ambassadors (GYAs) programme, mobilising 500 GYAs across the world and many from Pakistan as thought and action leaders influencing the global development agenda and SDGs.

Pakistani schoolgirls sign #UpForSchool Picture: ITA

A selected group of GYAs have been members of the Youth Advocacy Group (YAG) speaking at the United Nations General Assembly, the sustainable development talks at Incheon in South Korea and at UN special sessions, making their voices heard for action NOW. We are fortunate that Pakistan is represented on YAG as well. Our youth do us proud.

The EYAs have participated in life-changing movements in Pakistan, starting as a support and voice group for the tragic event on December 16 at the Army Public School in Peshawar, when more than 130 children were murdered by terrorists. They rallied around the affected families and the school every day, holding jirgas and public gatherings to mobilise public opinion and action.

They have helped in the #UpForSchool Petition campaign, mobilising to help get signatures from more than two million Pakistani citizens – from  FATA to Peshawar to Killa Saifullah to Shikarpur/Ghotki and Muzaffargarh. This is their right, demanding that ALL children of Pakistan aged five to 16 need to be learning and are entitled to quality education as per article 25 A of the Constitution of Pakistan.

Baela Raza Jamil talks to a young boy Picture: ITA

The EYAs have led campaigns to improve rundown government schools; on interfaith harmony; on enhancing the budgets for education; ending child marriages and child labour in Pakistan.

They have participated in the Annual Status of Education (ASER) gatherings/baithaks in the communities – seeking from parents, youth, teachers and concerned citizens actions and resolutions to make quality education possible for their children and to become responsible for marked improvements in governance and outcomes of the education systems.

The EYAs have boldly gone to parliamentarians and ministers of education and finance to persuade them to sign the #UpForSchool Petition and sought commitments for implementing what they promised in their poltical manifestoes. Some have become associated with creating Child Marriage Free Zones (CMFZ) in Pakistan so that we can drastically reduce the current estimate of 40% girls married under 18 years of age.

Anushe Bakht, Pakistan Representative for YAG, talks to EYAs about how to design advocacy campaigns Picture: Right to Education Pakistan

The EYAs have participated in the Jawn Pakistan campaign by the United Nations Development Programme as “voices” in the upcoming National Human Development Report (NDHR), which is focusing on youth.

They have been involved in recommendations for the National Education Policy 2016 through ITA and the Ministries of Education across Pakistan, articulating their role in the policy and the Sustainable Development Goals.

They have, and will continue to, volunteer in the Children’s Literature Festivals in Pakistan, the ASER survey on children’s learning and now in the Teachers Without Frontiers blended learning programme for teachers. 

Education Youth Ambassadors present an advocacy campaign plan on gender equality Picture: Right To Education Pakistan

We are proud of all our youth who continue to give quality time to many campaigns, demanding action for a new world and a new Pakistan, believing in justice, learning for ALL, tolerance for diversity, peace, responsibility, protection, participation and progress for all citizens – especially children and the most vulnerable.

Today we stand tall because of our youth and our Education Youth Ambassadors.

Find out more about International Youth Day here. And read a blog by A World at School’s Madeline Serena on how young people have the power to change millions of lives.