KARACHI: Sindh’s first ever youth policy officially launched in presence of hundreds of youth participants including provincial minister, government officials, international donors and members of the civil society here in a local hotel on Friday evening.

The much-awaited policy drew technical support from Bargad and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), while Oxfam, RHRN and Civil Society Programme (CSSP) and a number of other civil society and youth organizations, government bodies spurred the process.

Speaking at the Event, chief guest Youth Minister Abid Hussain Bhayo said that the government of Sindh is cognizant of the sheer number of young people in Sindh and is working towards radical changes that would transform their potential into a driver of growth for the province.

He announced that under the Sindh Youth Policy, a Youth Development Commission and a Youth Venture Capital Fund will be established by the government. “Student Unions will be revived and remodeled to promote pro-peace, women-friendly and student-centered activities on campus. Five percent seats will also be reserved for young people in local bodies,” he said.

The minister further told the audience, that under the policy, youth will be engaged in decision-making at the municipal and provincial levels while community-service and volunteerism will be promoted. “Through youth-led campaigns, inter-faith harmony will be encouraged,” he added.

Youth Affairs Department Secretary Dr Niaz Ali Abbasi announced the establishment of the Government of Sindh e-Rozgar scheme, which will provide job opportunities to youth without formal education and said the Sindh Youth Policy is result of a province-wide consultative process involving multiple stakeholders and most importantly youth. “Efforts will be made to encourage youth entrepreneurship through trainings at incubation centers, market linkages and partnership with educational institutions,” he added.

Bargad Executive Director Sabiha Shaheen congratulated Sindhi youth for being given a comprehensive framework aimed at their social, economic and political empowerment. “From 2012 to 2015, over 5000 youth participated in the consultative process. The policy, devised in light of suggestions and needs of Sindh’s youth includes a clear roadmap, time-bound strategies, quantified targets and potential partners,” she said.

Oxfam Country Director Mohammed Qazilbash said that harnessing the energy and strength of young women and men to become active citizens is core to Oxfam’s goal of transformational change. “Young people in Sindh face multiple forms of inequality and grapple with challenges inherited from previous generations. This policy ensures youth have the necessary skills and opportunities to define the future for themselves and their province,” he said.

Dr. Kaiser Bengali, Economist and Dean SZABIST shared, “It is important to know where we want to go. For this it is important to know which us to take. A policy tells us which bus to take and where we want to go. Sindh Government and Bargad deserve credit for formulating the Sindh Youth Policy.”

RHRN National Coordinator Faisal Shabbir applauded the Sindh Youth Policy for envisioning, supporting and enabling a positive policy environment for adolescents. “I hope the policy will make way for provision of adolescent and youth friendly health services in primary health care system and will initiate youth-led campaigns to promote youth health and their rights,” he said.

Noor Muhammad Bajeer, Chief Executive Officer of Civil Society Program (CSSP) expressed hope that the Policy will bridge the urban-rural divide by initiation of collective youth actions of the youth of Sindh and has opened many avenues for youth of far flung areas of the province. He appreciated that the government plans to promote active citizenship, volunteerism and respect for rule of law among youth.

A youth representative Abdul Bari said that the spirit of the formulative phase of the Policy will be sustained and an alliance of government, private sector and civil society organizations will put the youth at the centre of the policy implementation in Sindh.

A woman youth representative welcomed move by the government to appoint ‘Youth Ambassadors’ on boards of all autonomous bodies and state owned enterprises and would ensure reservation of 10 percent employment quota for female youth and employment quotas for the disabled and minority youth.

An intensive social media campaign was also held during the event to reach to a wider audience. The hashtag #SindhYouthPolicy trended on twitter in multiple cities of Sindh.