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By Dawar Adnan Shams, 34 years, YABC peer educator and trainer and deputy director of youth and volunteering development, Pakistan Red Crescent Society.
How you define your role as youth leader?
Being a youth leader in your national society is a mentoring role that requires for us not only to be the best person that we can be, but also to guide the youth of our country to make the right choices for themselves and the society.
On the other hand it also requires for us to constantly learn from them and to use their ideas and their strengths in making a difference to the society. Thus, I am a teacher and a student simultaneously.
How you define youth leadership and youth engagement?
Youth leadership to me is not only to provide our youth with a platform to make decisions, but also to empower them with the tools that will enable them to make educated choices and decisions. ”The youth of today is the future of tomorrow” is a misnomer to me, because they are our present, not future. We need to invest in them today, and to engage them.
I was very inspired by a video that surfaced today in Pakistan from a troubled area of Lyari in Karachi, where for the past days, violence has ruled the streets. A group of 13-year-olds got out on the street, holding hands, in a heroic display for all to see their message was one of peace. That is the power that the young ones do have and all they need is for us to channel it.
How do we develop an environment that nurtures youth engagement and leadership?
The key word is what do you mean by “we”? If you mean me, or the management of the national society or the government, then you have it all wrong. You cannot think of meaningfully empowering the youth without considering them capable enough of participating in their own empowerment.
I listen to a lot of speeches where all of us, the grown-ups, give our views on how to empower the youth. I disagree with most of them. You cannot empower them without taking their inputs. You should not take the burgeoning youth population as a challenge, as most of us do, but a solution to the problems that humanity faces today. That is the environment and the mindset within which you can nurture true leaders.
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