Active Citizens

Last month the British Council ran a youth symposium in Islamabad. Faiza Inayat, a British Council project manager, blogs about the inspiring determination she witnessed there.

  1. We are unique, yet have common interests.
  2. We believe in shared humanity and valuing diversity.
  3. We want to be part of the decision making process.
  4. We should consider the long term impact of our actions.
  5. We will stand together for change and will empower others and ourselves.

These ambitious statements aren’t taken from a manifesto written by country delegates at the UN, nor by heads of state at a G20 summit.

These words were written by young Active Citizens at a recent British Council symposium ‘Youth in Action for Global Change’, which took place in Pakistan.

It didn’t take months of closed meetings, furtive consultations and the endless nitpicking associated with drafting international statements to come up with this mini-manifesto.

It took a group of young people just two days of focused discussion and a true commitment to the values embodied in these statements.

Presenting their hopes for the future at the concluding ceremony were six social activists from Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Myanmar and the UK.

  • Cathy is an Active Citizen from Myanmar and she stands strong in her resolution to bring democracy to her country;
  • Maihan is a medal-winning female athlete from Afghanistan who has braved the trauma of a civil war and foreign invasion, and is committed to the advancement of women’s rights;
  • Saquib represents Bangladesh and is a genuine example of a community volunteer;
  • Parbina, a young female activist from Nepal, feels passionately about her right to be a part of the decision making process after watching her people struggle to get their voices heard;
  • Irum is a young volunteer from UK, keen on building bridges between communities and people;
  • and Hina and Rashid, representing Pakistan, are young volunteers conscious of their roles as global citizens and actively engaged in fighting social and religious prejudice.

This was an event high on energy, reflecting the dynamism of the new generation.

An exhibition at the event allowed the participants to showcase the ways they are targetting issues such as

  • underage marriages in Bangladesh
  • educating women in the tribal belt of Pakistan
  • teaching English to newly immigrated South Asians in the UK
  • setting up free medical camps in Nepal
  • and fixing street lighting in Pakistan.

Cultural stalls, comedy sketches and performances entertained the international delegates after the workshops and debates.

It is humbling to see these teenagers and young adults take on huge responsibilities and deliver on their promise to be Active Citizens.

If this globally connected community of young people one day takes over the halls of the General Assembly in New York and the International Court of Justice at The Hague, I have no doubts that their manifesto of international commitments will actually be followed through.

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