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6 Youth Leaders Who Made A Difference This Decade

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The outgoing decade has seen a number of youth leaders coming to the forefront. These people have not only struggled to mobilise the youth to raise their voice for issues plaguing the country, but have also managed to inspire people by how they live their life. Through their struggle, we now see an increased participation of the youth in the affairs of the country. Moreover, how they have managed to defeat adversity has also aspired young people to continue following their aims and aspirations undeterred by their circumstances.

Malala Yousafzai

World’s youngest Nobel laureate, Malala Yousafzai, started her activism when she was just 11 years old, when she started writing for BBC Urdu about her life under the Taliban. Her activism brought on her the wrath of the Taliban, who shot her in a failed assassination attempt in 2012.

The attempt on her life did not dissuade her, and she has from then on become an activist for the right to education, particularly of young girls. She has spoken at prestigious settings such as Harvard University and the Oxford Union and has raised her voice for various oppressed communities throughout the world, including Rohingyas and Kashmiris. Her most important contribution has been through the Malala Fund, which fights for the right of girls to acquire education, and through which she has built schools and fought for girls’ rights throughout the world.

In 2014, she was given the Nobel Peace Prize for her fight for the right of education and against the suppression of children.

Malala was also recently declared the most famous teenager in the world of this decade in by the United Nations in its News Decade In Review.

Jibran Nasir

Jibran Nasir was thrown into the spotlight when he led the protest calling for the arrest of Lal Masjid cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz, following the Army Public School massacre. Jibran has brought to light and has been outspoken about various issues that people refrain from, particularly minority rights, sectarianism, gender-based violence.

In 2015, he led a series of protests against violent extremism, in which he called for, amongst others, the government to take action against banned organisations.

Jibran’s ‘moment of truth’ came when, while campaigning for the 2018 elections, he had to face religious extremists and their calls for him to declare Ahmedis non-Muslims. Jibran stood his ground, and despite his corner meetings and rallies being attacked by religious extremists and him getting death threats, he did not pay heed to their demands.

Ammar Ali Jan

A Lahore-based academic, Ammar Ali Jan is known for his struggle to make students more engaged with the socio-political and economic affairs of the country. Last year, he had been fired from the Punjab University after being accused of giving ‘unnecessary encouragement to students and making them needlessly vocal’. He had also been arrested early this year for taking part in a protest against the killing of a Pashtun activist, Arman Luni.

Ammar played a key role in organising and mobilising students for the Students Solidarity March held last month. The march saw students putting forth a comprehensive set of demands for greater political and academic rights, something that was unseen in recent history of student politics.

Ahmed Nawaz

Ahmed Nawaz was fourteen years of age when he survived the horrifying terror attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar. Ahmed was taken to the United Kingdom for treatment and started touring schools to share his experience and made efforts to prevent students from being radicalised. In 2019, Ahmed was honoured with the Princess Diana Award for his anti-radicalisation campaign, an award which recognises those youngsters who have made extraordinary difference to their communities.

He was later honoured with the ‘Legacy Award’ by Prince William. Ahmed Nawaz has toured schools across the United Kingdom to save students falling prey to extremism and radicalisation.

Shehzad Roy

When one talks about Shehzad Roy, people think about his greatest musical hits. But Shahzad Roy has put an equal amount of effort into struggling for the problems of the common man. The most important part of his struggle was the establishment of Zindagi Trust, which aims to improve the quality of education in the country. One of the trust’s contributions was the paid-to-learn initiative, which was formed with the aim of giving alternatives for child labour to working children.

Shehzad Roy also made efforts to raise awareness about child sexual abuse, particularly after the Zainab rape and murder case in Kasur in 2018.

Maria Toorpakai Wazir

When it comes to ‘breaking stereotypes’, weightlifter-turned-squash player, Maria Toorpakai Wazir is the accurate example of the phrase. Maria’s athletic endeavours have been a struggle not just because she is a woman in a extremely patriarchal society, but because she hails from the relatively conservative region of former FATA.

Her being a woman athlete who played in shorts was particularly problematic in society, but she did not deviate from her goals. A year after turning professional, she received death threats from the Taliban. She subsequently locked herself in her house for three years but did not stop practicing. Maria left for training in 2011, and a year later became Pakistan’s top ranked squash player.


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Naya Daur