Mon. Feb 6th, 2023

The Men of Mountains on a Mission to Work with Youngsters

By Sarmad Soomar

Teenagers are the asset of any community. Pakistan, with a ‘youth bulge’ is not an exception. According to UNDP report titled “Unleashing the Potential of a Young Pakistan”, 64pc of the country’s 201 million people are below the age of 30, while 29pc is between the ages of 15 and 29 years.

In different contexts, the 10 – 21 year old are considered to be adolescents, sensitive, receptive to knowledge and eager to learn. Adolescence is the crucial time in any one’s life where they build education, strengthen capacities to growth and in Pakistani. Many youngsters in Pakistan  between 15 to 21 also start working for the very first time in their life. What is often ignored is the fact that the physical and psychological needs of this group grow with work and education.

Sarmad Muhammad Soomar, Sindh – Adolescent rights advocate and special educator conducting a training with community trainers at Gilgit Baltistan

This is a very sensitive time where youngsters face many personal challenges that not only impact their life, but also work performance, and educational interests.

Biologically, this is the age where physically a teenager enters into puberty or has already entered in the stage and going through changes. These changes are related to growth of body, emotions, and also, social connectedness. This is the highest time where concept of privacy is understood and struggled to be attained by most of your country’s youngsters. Also, at this stage do we see many social, cultural and family related myths and misconceptions that lead teenagers to a turmoil, which can obviously be heart wrenching, making them emotionally unstable.

Lack of knowledge regarding growth and development, changes in mood, academic under-achievements, personal relationships, and exploring their lives makes them highly curious about the extra ordinary secret concepts of human existence. This is the time where proper guidance and support from an expert is highly required to save our youngsters from peer pressure, academic stress, wrong eating habits, substance use, health issues and ultimately suicide.

Since suicide is considered to be a sin and nobody talks about it in our context, it continues like an open secret. Working with teenagers, my experience has provided me with an insight that if someone non-judgmental talks to them and guides them properly, then this part of life can also be a great time for them to execute what they want to do or pursue. This can also save definitely save them from troublesome experiences. Many teenagers I approached had issues related to conflicts with parents, studies, relationship that were new and growing, plans for early marriages, confusions about their bodily changes, and many other.

Teenagers’ health is highly dependent on their growth. Since in our context, understanding about all these issues that directly or indirectly impacts their lives is less in conversation, parenting skills are not up to the current status of child rearing, and also stigma has brought a sense of keeping shy and not speaking about these changes. Another element of respect for parents and elder siblings this is majorly seen that our teenagers cannot say anything or ask, if they do so it’s in the circles of disrespect. Adding into this more, the decision makers are men and the social authority to them is hierarchical. Since we all are following a conventional system our decision makers are head males of the families, even though if they are earning or not, or they contribute to our lives morally or not. Whatever happens has to be in the court of the male head of the home. Asking for a visit out to friend’s home is also not a thing where mother can permit and father has to respond. And unfortunately every time they think we have friends that are worse in the world and the decision is no always. On the other hand, it’s commonly heard that ‘don’t come crying to us if something happens badly’.

The teenager time is a period where strongly youngster needs support from parents and family. The conventional behaviours that we followed disturb our youngsters and that potentially bring harmful consequences.

Looking this high on patriarchy thing which is becoming more powerful with time. We decided to work with young males who will get their selves trained and work in communities to strengthen the role of males as decision makers in a positive manner. Also, enhancing capacities of youth through providing essential knowledge and understanding of their growth and safety as teenagers brought a huge timely change in communities. With span of time the leads and mentors have worked throughout the country to establish their local trainers who can also look towards possible ways of working with teen agers and their families, along with the community leaders to strength the web of support for their wellbeing and secure them from issues that might trouble them in future.

I am proudly adding that being a young male from Hyderabad, a city which usually people connect as a village or may not know where it is, I have grown much to work in sensitive fields of teenagers’ health and across the country in various parts the experience of growing youth and working with them was different. Every part has different virtues, ideations, morality and values but have similar kind of issues that really impact how they develop their youngsters.

In addition I must share that the team of males from various backgrounds has a good collection of young men whose roots belong to the mountains. These include guys from Afghanistan, Chitral, KPK and Gilgit Baltistan, who are enthusiastic to learn and promote the good will in their areas to establish youth support networks. These young men have keenly taken interest for a huge impact and sustainable change and not only in Karachi but in their areas they have struggled to work with youth and plan to do so in coming time as well.

Row 1 (L-R): Nadeem Ismail, Danyore Gilgit – Fida Muhammad, Karimabad Chitral – Ali Haider, Gilgit city – Raja Moin Wali, Ghizer Gilgit  Row 2 (L-R): Khalid Ahmed, Khal Lower Dir KPK – Murid Shah, Badakhshan Afghanistan – Touseef Alam, Oshkandas Gilgit

Through this blog, I am not only highlighting the efforts that are made but welcome the youth to be part of our loop and support in change. There are many pocket areas in our provinces which are neglected and can only be covered once youth from all these areas emerge and join the loop for mentorship and support. This will not only bring them to a national network, but it will also strengthen their capacities to empower the youth of their small unknown areas, will bring their voice to forefront, will connect them to experts for support help and emotional connectedness, lastly it will also be a great addition to their personal and professional growth. And I believe that our team is motivated and positive and they will be always happy to join the diverse face from the country and will work with them in their communities a swell to spread this important message.

Note: Other young males from the mountains are also doing great work in their areas. The people mentioned above have consented to be part of this blog. We appreciate all those young men and women who are struggling for improving perspectives around themes of youth, families, health, education and rights in their own capacities.

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