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Channeling Young People’s Energy from Militancy to Peace

13 December 2010 3 Comments

Raziq Fahim

Raziq Fahim
Pakistan

Raziq Fahim was chosen as an Honorable Mention for the 2010 Peace X Peace Community Peacebuilder Award. This award is given to a peacebuilder that is responsible for spearheading activities that promote a peaceful, just, equitable, and healthy community, and inspires others to do the same.

In a recent interview with Peace X Peace, Raziq shared the hope he has for young men and women in tribal regions of Pakistan.

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In 2009, I combined my 10 years of work experience with my passion for engaging with young people to conceive of a new organization—College of Youth Activism and Development. The organization focuses on working with the youth in Pakistan’s tribal societies, particularly those in the troubled regions bordering with Iran and Afghanistan.

At College of Youth Activism and Development our goal is to enable young people to emerge as youth leaders in their communities. We engage the youth in community works and provide them with training on citizenship, peacebuilding, interfaith harmony, gender, and masculinities. We also engage with some of the educational institutions to equip them with the skills and knowledge to deal with issues of peace, security, and identity.

Recently, I was delivering a training session for a group of forty young people. When we finished the training, one participant came to me and said, “I came to this training with another intention. I was sent to observe what kind of training you are providing because it occurs in a gender-mixed environment.”

He explained, “I’ve been trained as a militant to go to Afghanistan and blow myself up. But in this training, you encouraged me to see that there are more positive ways to channel my interests. I’m keen to understand more about how I can do this. You’ve triggered some of the key confusion in my mind.”

We went on to engage this young man and a group of 10 other young people who were being trained to take part in jihad. Before long, they became youth leaders in their community. And through them, we were able to identify more young militants and engage them in our trainings and practices.

This is just one of our success stories.

When I interact with these young people, it is clear to me that what pushes them to militancy are not big philosophical issues. They are minor physical and social issues. I believe that if we can help young people in their emerging ages to deal with minor issues, we can prevent major, devastating events.

One of the realities of the context we are working in is that it is entirely gender segregated. When you go to the markets and bazaars, you can observe that there are almost no women in these spaces. In addition, the participation of young women is often negligible in trainings like the ones we provide.

In order to deal with this, we’ve devised methodologies that both align with the social context and encourage families to allow their girls to participate. The key to our work is: showing religious understanding, building family support, and encouraging female self-awareness.

At College of Youth Activism and Development we’ve developed some practical tools and instruments that help us to deal with the religious stereotypes that restrict women’s participation in trainings. I personally studied Islam and the Koran in great detail in order to understand how religion is used to justify gender inequality. Through my interaction with communities, I’ve found that it is possible to help young people, their families, and communities understand that gender inequality is not part of the true sense of our religion.

We also engage intensively with families. By doing this, we’ve enabled support from the family structure that eventually extends to young women.

The third dimension of our gender-aware methodology is that we focus on self-awareness among the females. We provide skills, understanding, and tools to the female participants to help them counter stereotypes and develop arguments to go into dialogue with their family and peer groups. We believe that this will help women reclaim their humanity.

We also explore notions of masculinities. We’ve observed that as a result of this the interactions and responses of young men change over the course of the training. We hear the young men say, “We have a different relationship with females in our household now.”

I believe that it is because of the absence of opportunities in these regions that young people are manipulated. I think it is the responsibility of the entire globe to provide and equalize opportunities for these young people.

Helping young people to reassess their worldview and reflect on their behaviors and responses has a meaningful impact. It just takes providing a few minor things and you can observe the tangible change. The youth have energy and enthusiasm. Provided that we create opportunities for them, they will respond in positive ways.

It is the young people themselves that give me hope and energy.

The views and opinions expressed by the authors of Voices from the Frontlines do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Peace X Peace.

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3 Comments to “Channeling Young People’s Energy from Militancy to Peace”
  1. Baseer says:

    its high time such initiatives are not only embarked on, but to upscale it to the areas at risk to militancy.. Hats off to Mr. Raziq Faheem for the wonderful work he has been doing to transform the emotional strength of youth.

    Best wishes!!!

  2. Judy Lucas says:

    This is powerful. We can use this same concept in America with our gang members.

  3. zaheer abbas says:

    Raziq is a man of spirit and dedication. He has utmost love for the Pashtun youth esp who are trapped in these social dilemmas. I pray that he live long and continue with his outstanding difficult work…..to convince jihadis that this world is more beautiful than that of ‘hoor’ – the unseen paradise.

    Zaheer Abbas Maseed

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