Youth Pledges: For a Better Pakistan Part-1
Youth organisations in Pakistan often receive bad press: they are criticised for organising conferences, seminars, and youth expos that allegedly have nothing to do with personal development or strengthening Pakistan and too often fall short of producing a long-term impact.
It is a sorry sight for Pakistan that youth representatives themselves remain confined to their comfort zone. Many events designed to inspire the youth take place in the air-conditioned boundaries of five-star hotels or venues where wall-to-wall carpets, expensive chandeliers, and youth with attitude mar the essence of the proceedings.
Among a plethora of such activities, the Let’s Think Pakistan (LTP) campaign offers a renewed energy and hope to the nation. Launched in August 2012, LTP uses social media as its weapon of choice to connect with the world.
Speaking about LTP’s objectives, Arsla Jawaid, the campaign’s director and executive producer, said: “Pakistan is a country full of potential and opportunities but we are also a nation that is increasingly forgetting its moral compass and duty to the state. We are so disillusioned that even though we talk about change, very few of us can identify how to bring change.
“With LTP, we wanted people to be able to look within themselves and ask what they can do for Pakistan, whether it is making a promise of not creating litter or to change their attitude towards women. At LTP, we believe that you don’t have to be a celebrity or CEO to make a difference. No pledge is insignificant.
“We wanted to create a platform where people can make a simple promise to their country, one that they know they can fulfill, and then bet on themselves and hold themselves accountable to follow through. This canvas not only serves as a strong support system for Pakistanis here and abroad but also highlights real-time change and dispels the international negative perception that Pakistan is victim to.”
With this in mind, Let’s Think Pakistan discusses ideas and provides suggestions to address realities on the ground easily ignored by others. The campaign invites Pakistanis to submit their pledges on the website. There have been numerous constructive pledges, including: “I will use literature to reflect the plight of my people” (Pledge 55); “I want to protect the coastline of Pakistan” (Pledge 60); “I will never waste my right to vote!” (Pledge 88); “I will pick every flag I find lying on the ground. Respect your flag” (Pledge 76); “I wish to teach in the schools in slums” (Pledge 147).
Jawaid says that perhaps the most challenging thing in life is to change a mindset, especially mainstream perspectives: “It will not happen overnight. With LTP we are hoping to see both tangible and attitudinal pledges that will inspire change and motivate young people to take individual steps towards positive development.”
The campaign offers a straightforward route to reshape Pakistan in two ways. First, it presents viable solutions to the concerned authorities, NGOs, policymakers, and youth organisations to stand up and make an effort to bring about a change. Second, it uses the “ordinary person” appeal whereby divulging the essence of Pakistan. The campaign invites regular people to make pledges instead of celebrities hijacking it.
The purpose of Let’s Think Pakistan is to gather as much pledges as possible and make people follow them, no matter how small or big they may seem; it’s the concept to do something positive that counts.
Although the campaign originally targeted ordinary Pakistanis, as the word spread through social media, Pakistani celebrities – from singers to TV anchors and writers – began pouring in their pledges. The campaign began from scratch and within months of planning on paper, it was making waves on Facebook and Twitter.
For Jawaid, the idea for the campaign came after she returned to Pakistan after studying abroad. “I realised that the country I love so much was struggling so hard,” she says. “The goal was never to attain something magnanimous like making a car that runs on water. Why couldn’t we do something simple like stop at a traffic light or turn the lights off when we leave the room? However, I was told by a prominent Pakistani anchorperson: ‘Stay here for a few months and you will stop talking highly about change.’ That was the moment when I realised how absolutely imperative it is for our generation to take individual steps and collectively change the fate of this country.”
Since August 2012, LTP has seen a range of pledges, from alleviating poverty, researching polio eradication, conserving electricity to promoting inter-faith harmony.
As Jawaid says, “The moment we hold ourselves accountable to the promises we’ve made to our country, we will change our fate for the better within a matter of minutes.”