Young Students Pen, Paint, Draw Democracy

ISLAMABAD, March 29, 2017: Young students, representatives of youth organizations, scholars, media persons and civil society activists gathered here Wednesday to honour 10 young girls and boys from across the country who won art and writing competitions on culture of democracy, tolerance and inclusion.

Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability – Free and Fair Election Network (TDEA-FAFEN), hosted the event, which organized the competitions as part of its larger campaign titled as “Sab Ka Pakistan” ran between August 2016 and March 2017. The organization through Sab Ka Pakistan campaign promoted pro-democracy narrative through social media campaign, establishment of a Democratic Pakistan Forum, organizing debates around challenges to democracy and operating space for civil society, dialogue sessions with journalists and young students in 32 districts across Pakistan.

The young participants of the competition from colleges, schools, universities and religious seminaries depicted their understanding of concepts of inclusive democracy, tolerance and respect for diversity through their artwork and writings, which were exhibited during the ceremony.

FAFEN Chairperson Sarwar Bari, who chaired the ceremony, emphasized the role and power of citizens especially the youth to serve as a catalyst for positive change. He said womenfolk did not enjoy freedom of choice in the electoral process and were found missing from the democratic discourse in Pakistan. Bari also called for inclusion of weaker sections of the society in governance to realize the dream of real democracy.

TDEA-FAFEN Chief Executive Officer Shahid Fiaz congratulated the winners of the essay writing and art competitions and expressed pleasure that students from far flung districts had participated in the competition and depicted sound understanding of democracy and culture of tolerance in their artwork. “World considers Pakistan a homogenous society but there is a lot of diversity in this country which is our strength”, he stated.

Chairperson of the State Commission for Women, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Maria Iqbal Tarana recalled the constructive role that student unions played in promoting democratic discourse among the youth. She urged the students to revive positive tradition of student unions so that these could serve as nurseries and inculcate in them democratic traditions for promotion of democracy in the country.

Executive Director of Chanan Welfare Organization Muhammad Shehzad Khan urged the students to appreciate diversity of cultures in Pakistan and actively engage and contribute to the democratic processes. He asked the eligible voters to review the election manifestoes of political parties prior to casting their votes. Zaheer Abbas Maseed of College for Youth Activism and Development also spoke on the occasion and advised the students to understand their role and responsibilities as citizens of the state.

Team Leader Rashid Chaudhry briefed the participants about TDEA-FAFEN’s engagement with the youth during DESP project and informed the audience that dialogues with young students had been arranged in 32 districts across four provinces of the country to initiate a discourse on tolerance, democracy and social inclusion. These dialogues engaged 7,000 youth, with more than 45% girls getting enrolled in various educational institutions including schools, colleges, religious seminaries and universities. The students from across the country sent 135 entries to TDEA-FAFEN’s Secretariat.

Laiba Saeed, Rida Zahra and Farhat Shaheen received cash prizes of Rs. 50,000 and Rs 25,000 each in essay writing competition. Hira Bibi, Asif Sultan and Aarti Partaap were winners of Poster Designing and Photography competitions while Sadaf Hanif, Muhammad Arslan, Iqra Samad and Muhammad Adnan were winners of the Drawing competition, who also got similar cash prizes. The winning students belonged to Sahiwal, Faisalabad, Rajanpur, Mardan, Kambar Shahdadkot, Swat, and Sukkur districts.

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