Young leaders conference 2012 kicks off with 300 in attendance -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Young leaders conference 2012 kicks off with 300 in attendance

Karachi: A total of 300 girls and boys from 40 cities and villages, each of them brimming with energy, attended the inauguration of the 11th Young Leaders Conference (YLC) by the School of Leadership (SoL) here on Sunday.

The theme of this year’s conference is “dream the unseen, believe the unknown, achieve the impossible.” The event attracted students from all walks of life. “There are sons of farmers, cobblers and labourers joining us this time,” said Shireen Naqvi, Director SoL.

The six-day conference will be divided into five sessions: environment, economics, inter-culture, society and politics. Each session will be mentored by specialists from their field.

Activities will range from yoga, to eating daal-roti to walking with tied feet: the idea behind these activities being to create empathy. “The child with two normal feet should know what it is like to be physically challenged.”

While selecting room-mates, Naqvi made sure each group had a child from each social stratum, so that the participants could learn to celebrate their differences. “There are times when a child from a high-end school comes to me with complaints of a student from a village who does not know how to use the toilet. My response would be: ‘since you know how to use one, teach him too’.”

For Umair Jaliawala, a trainer at SoL, this year’s conference is particularly significant because “the YLC enters its next decade”. For him his most memorable moment in the journey was 2003. “I received a phone call from an interested participant who told me that had walked for two hours to find a phone booth to call me. He belonged to a small village.”

More than 75 percent of the participants received scholarships, but as a rule no one was given a free entry. Children were asked to pay whatever they could to inculcate a respect of labour in the participants.

Students as far as Gilgit-Baltistan attended the conference. For Sunil Parwani, who hails from Mithi, this was an opportunity to interact with youth from all over the country. “Karachi is a wonderful place, it’s huge.”

Jan Ali, a visually-impaired computer-whiz, found out about the conference from the internet. “I tried to apply this year because I liked the theme.”

Students are divided in 20 groups; each consists of 15 participants, and is headed by a young facilitator, who has to undergo tedious training and is required to be an YLC graduate.

“We basically counsel them, show them around and lend them a friendly ear throughout the six days of the conference. It’s kind of like raising a family for a few days,” said one young facilitator with a laugh.

During the inauguration ceremony Minister of Youth Affairs Faisal Sabzwari said, “The YLC has partnered with the department of youth affairs for the last three years, their efforts should be appreciated as it [the YLC] inculcates positive energy through mentoring.”

He appreciated how civil society today invests in its youth. “In our days we roamed around in the streets, and learnt from trial and error.”

The minister, along with his secretary Shoaib Siddiqui, sat with young leaders and mentored them during a session.

The News