At one of Raziq Fahim’s first Youth Forums in Baluchistan, Pakistan, a young man sat in the audience, planning to detonate a suicide bomb. But as he engaged in the conversation that was taking place, he changed his mind. He realized that the participants and organizers were working to find solutions for his community. Today, the would-be suicide bomber and former militant is active in Fahim’s program.
Building peace in Pakistan’s most impoverished region can be dangerous work, but Fahim is taking it one person at a time. Fahim founded the College of Youth Activism and Development to encourage young people to take leadership roles and find constructive solutions to the problems within their communities. Over 900 young people have participated in Fahim’s program since it began in 2008.
Raziq Fahim grew up in Baluchistan and worked for many years to improve education in his homeland. Baluchistan, Pakistan’s largest province, is a rugged, arid region that shares long borders with both Afghanistan and Iran. It is the poorest and the least educated province in Pakistan with an overall literacy rate around 34 percent, compared to a national average of 52 percent. Widespread complaints of marginalization from young Baluchistanis make the region prime recruiting ground for militants.
Each year, Fahim chooses approximately 100 promising young men and women to take part in a youth fellowship program designed to teach the skills necessary to be a community leader. The new fellows then return home to develop a community-based initiative and pass on their skills.
Fahim’s work is part of a broader and growing trend in youth community development. In many parts of the developing world, young people between the ages of 15 and 24 are by far the largest age group, making them key to any development solutions. The UN-HABITAT Youth Empowerment Project (YEP) in Afghanistan, for example, follows a similar model to Fahim’s. Over the course of the YEP project, 2,600 young girls and boys from 60 rural and urban Afghan communities have been trained in civic education. These young people have raised funds for and implemented over 150 projects in their communities.