PR:  Oxfam in Pakistan, Project Jugnu, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Netherlands and the Embassy of France jointly organized a grand youth convention and festival to celebrate the achievements of Pakistani youth. The convention was held at the Pakistan National Council of Arts (PNCA) and featured panel discussions on youth and gender, theatre performances, talks by notable youth leaders and a documentary on youth by the French Embassy. Vibrant stalls with cultural food, youth exhibits and souvenirs greeted the guests and the closing ceremony featured a cyclothon lead by Abdur Rehman Palwa for youth solidarity.

During the welcoming speech, Oxfam in Pakistan’s Country Director, Mohammed Qazilbash remarked, “With their energy, skills and creativity, the youth of Pakistan has the potential to be a driving force for social change, strong economies and vibrant democracies. Pakistan at present has the largest percentage of young people with 64% of its population below 30 years of age. Harnessing the energy and strength of these young people and encouraging them to become active citizens, is the goal of Oxfam’s transformational change.”

Panel discussions were held on the issues of marginalized youth and their role in meeting the national agenda of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Vision 2025. The convention also featured inspirational talks by trans youth activist and anchor Marvia Malik and youth leader Ali Abbas of Sab Rang. The edutainment based theatre performance was followed by young leaders sharing their inspirational stories.

The French Embassy’s Head of Development and Cultural Affairs, André de Bussy, discussed the French perspective on youth and gender. He stated, “Last year France elected a young 39-year-old president. It was France’s message to the world that we support and encourage youth. We have implemented new policies to address gender inequality and to encourage inclusiveness.”

The Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Netherlands Ms. Josephine Frantzen applauded the efforts of Oxfam in Pakistan and said, “Netherlands encourages inclusiveness and equality, and so we are happy to sponsor this convention that has brought together men, women and transgender youth on one platform. We hope to promote tolerance and peace through engaging and empowering the young generation and we look forward to such activities in the future”.

Pakistan has around 56 million youth and youth spaces are shrinking day by day. There is a dearth for appropriate platforms where youth can express themselves and realize their potential in economic, social and political and civic spheres. There are no better investments to make in Pakistan today than investments in our youth. The three key investments of quality education, gainful employment and meaningful engagement will make a significant difference in the lives of Pakistani youth. Provide these and we will empower them to unleash their potential.

Oxfam aims to enable young people to fulfil this potential and to shape their own futures. We believe youth have the right to voice their needs, to hold their governments to account, and to be listened to as members of society and rights-holders; as active citizens. They can play a vital role in reducing poverty and transforming their societies. Oxfam intends to bring about long term change in communities by engaging and mobilizing the youth of Pakistan.