It was only moments before the start of history in the making (in my region of the world), as youth from across the globe set into the capital of Pakistan, Islamabad also known as “The city of Green”. Over 60 youth activists from countries like Thailand, Somalia, Mauritius, Jordan, Indonesia and Sri Lanka among others all gathered to be part of Pakistan’s first International Youth Conference and Festival. With the current nexus of security threat engulfing Pakistan, it was quite hard to imagine how such a huge event took place. Well the answer to that is simple it was done by none other than the youth of Pakistan themselves, who hold a 62% majority in the country. But even with having the majority, youth participation in Pakistan has been very limited and so youth like me have to express ourselves through the few youth bodies in the country, such as the likes of “Khudi” and “Miradore Productions” that put together this remarkable event.
The main objective of the conference was similar to the maxim Voices of Youth follows which is to create a platform of dialogue between the youth of developing nations, while also to strengthen goodwill and foster mutual understanding between them. I along with other youth activists from all over the globe had the opportunity to talk about and resolve feasible small-scale solutions to the various issues faced by the youth today such as Climate Change, Youth empowerment, Child abuse, proper representation and Youth participation. The conference was attended by many frontline entrepreneurs, social reformers and politicians, and attracted the headlines of most national news agencies. The event was also partnered by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Ministry of Youth affairs, which gave the local participants who had come from all over Pakistan a chance to put forth their queries and suggestions to the governmental based officials.
On the global side of the conference, organizations such as Google, YouTube, Facebook Causes and AYM (Alliance for Youth Movements) sponsored the event and also sent delegations from respective organizations to meet with the youth delegates. This was truly inspirational especially for us as the Pakistani youth as it was the first time such a large group of delegation from anyone of these organizations had come to Pakistan. Many noted social reformers also attended the conference and gave the youth members a chance to share about their activism and to expand their projects onto a bigger platform by providing them with the necessary financial support. The conference also gave us the opportunity to be part of projects such as “Safe Injections for Pakistan” which is an initiative by Mark Koska to implement the use of auto-disable syringes, which eradicates the possibility of syringe re-use and saves million of lives in the process.
In light of the festive part of the 4 day event, the attendees enjoyed a concert by Ali Azmat (a famous Pakistani singer) and a special performance by Todd Shea, who is an American musician who came as a volunteer to Pakistan after the 2005 Earthquake and came back again after the devastating floods that hit Pakistan recently. There were also colorful and exuberant fashion shows and cultural performances by the foreign delegates during the misty night fog of Islamabad, along with rap performances by the youth singers. I along with the other locals of Punjab also had the chance to share our cultural stance by teaching the foreigners some local moves such as the celebrated Punjabi Bhangra (a provincial dance).
By the end of the 4 day international conference all of us who had participated in the event stood as friends and strengthened our resolve of creating a bond of unity as Abdi Rizaq, a delegate from Somalia, shared his feelings by saying “This conference is a bridge between our Worlds”. This held truth to all the participants of the conference which ended with great success on national and international grounds. It also showed how wrong our preconceived ideas, stereotypical thinking and misconceptions about each other’s countries were and broke down all barriers of differences. Most importantly is showed how the youth from country’s like Pakistan, which is criticized by international media due to certain elements, come out to be leaders of harmony and peace in the globe.