The Centre for Public Policy and Governance (CPPG) Forman Christian College Lahore held a consultative workshop on “Positive Youth Development and Community Engagement” on October 12. This event was held with the support of the USAID.
The purpose of this event was to bring together youth leaders, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), development practitioners, the private sector, and government officials to discuss the issues facing Pakistani youth and to share lessons learned on positive youth development and community engagement. It was meant to be an informal opportunity for organizations engaged either directly or indirectly with the youth to learn from one another and to discuss policy prescriptions going forward.
Welcoming all the participants and panelists to the event, Dr Shafqat said that holding this workshop on Youth Engagement is an important occasion for the CPPG as we are also celebrating ten years of our program. Raza Shamsi, Regional Convener Lahore Chapter USAID Alumni Association appreciated the participants and gave a brief introduction to the activities of the USAID Alumni Chapter. Elizabeth Trudeau found the event timely and refreshing, particularly the presence and participation of the students. She said, “It is very clear that the future of Pakistan lies on what we offer the youth, the opportunities we provide but also how we listen to them”. She also said that the importance of dialogue could not be overstated when it came to youth development.
The second session comprised of a panel discussion. The panelists were Dr Iqrar Ahmad Khan (Ex-Vice Chancellor, University of Agriculture, and Faisalabad), Shahid Hafeez Kardar (Vice Chancellor, Beaconhouse National University), Salma Butt (Advisor to Minister Youth Affairs Punjab), Elizabeth Kennedy Trudeau (Consul General, US Consulate General), Lea Swanson (Provincial Director, Punjab USAID) and Syed Babar Ali (Leading Industrialist). Saeed Shafqat, Professor and Director CPPG moderated the discussion.
During the panel discussion, a number of issues such as lack of opportunity, limited skill development programs, marginalization of rural youth and gender disparity were raised, both by the panelists and the audience. A stronger role of the civil society, the need for standardized education and for raising political awareness among the youth, employment creation, linking education to employment, and the need for constructive activities for youth on and off campuses were some of solutions that were debated.
Swanson spoke about the power of individuals as the building blocks of society and said, “institutions and organizations – including educational institutions – are all made up of individual people so the change always comes down to how hard it is to change yourself and your own attitude.” Dr Saeed Shafqat said, “If the state abandons its responsibility, how do you revive it within the state? Is it society or is it the state that has to do something?” He also said, “When you look at the policies that the state has regarding youth, there is focus on skill development , but there is no mention of issues such as family planning, health, gender and rights. This is a serious gap that needs to be addressed going forward.”