Leaders are the custodians of the society, they are the guardians of the future. Leadership is an independent attribute which cannot be restricted. It can be found throughout the stratification of society, among all sorts of people, from different walks of life, backgrounds, professions, ethnicity and age groups.
For some reason, whenever we think about leaders, we cannot help but imagine individuals of great experience, caliber, with in-depth knowledge of their field and remarkable portfolios. We think about politicians, successful CEOs, major heads of different organizations but the reality is that leaders come from everywhere and they are all not necessarily CEOs nor politicians.
This February, on Valentine’s Day weekend, I fell in love all over again, with possibility of a better Pakistan. They say that Pakistan’s future is bright with the majority of it’s population comprising of youth, that there is room for immense prosperity and growth. And, I truly felt it as I attended the Emerging Leaders of Pakistan Fellowship reunion in Islamabad.
Emerging Leaders of Pakistan Reunion- Islamabad — Feb 2016
This was my second reunion with Emerging Leaders of Pakistan. The first time I attended was in February 2015 and I was very new and unclear as to what I am doing. It had been only three months since I finished my Fellowship. However, this time I knew exactly what to do,where I was headed and how I could contribute.
My entire weekend was packed with spending time with the most authentic and inspirational of youth leaders from all over Pakistan, meeting with the US Embassy Islamabad’s Community Engagement officials as well as being part of workshops, including with Blair Glencorse, Executive Director of Accountability Lab.
In the past two years, I have had the privilege to meet leaders from across Pakistan, who are working towards making their communities better in the simplest yet the largest of ways.
I have had the honour of meeting the young female pilot — who is the first female paratrooper, the peace makers working on inter-faith harmony, photojournalists promoting the beauty of Pakistan, human rights lawyers, social justice activists and entrepreneurs using performing arts for social change, young parliamentarians and research officers to the National Assembly, environmental activists, mental healthcare activists and so forth.
The ELP Fellowship is a lifetime of an experience. Rafia Saleem (2014), an Environment Activists writes that “this Fellowship transformed me into a more tolerant and inclusive human being. To this end, this will always remain an unforgettable experience.”
Rafia Saleem and I were part of the 2014 cohort. I would have never imagined that I would meet someone as honest and humble like Rafia. I remember it very clearly that while planting trees with D.C Parks and People and Green Corps, I truly appreciated and realized the impact of work Rafia does and how crucial it is for all of us to collectively protect our environment.
The duration of the Fellowship is only three weeks yet the impact it makes cannot be quantified. Ali Haider (2015), Editor-in-Chief of Humans of Pakistan describes his experience that he went “as a photojournalist but came back as an entrepreneur, development practitioner, human rights activist, environmentalist and educationalist. It gave meaning to many more years to come.” Ali has interviewed more than 2,000 people across Pakistan, featuring numerous stories on Humans of Pakistan about peace, diversity, tolerance, bridging the gap between Pakistan and other countries.
Hassan Raza (2014), the journalist behind The Huffington Post’s How One Pakistani Town Mastered Religious Tolerance, and Dawar Shah Akhtar (2014), financial mastermind focused on improving operational sustainability in philanthropic and educational projects, both says that “these are not just random 15 individuals coming together, these are 15 leaders of Pakistan coming together, collaborating for the better future of Pakistan.” Dawar, states that “These random 15 strangers end up becoming your guidance and support system for future — you will find a friend in each one of them.”
Hassan and Dawar who were both part of my cohort, couldn’t have described it more perfectly. Being part of this Fellowship means having a permanent family. The emails will keep on coming, your WhatsApp group will always buzz with something happening, you will form ideas, trips and collaborations over night and you will always have a group of specialized individuals from almost all professions. In this Fellowship, you will make friends who will stay with you for the rest of your life.
Every year, each of these 15 fellows have their own inspirational stories — stories which makes them who they are, which are deeply connected with why they are doing what they are doing. “For me each one of the fellows has been a chapter.” Says Iqra Rehman (2013), a poet from Mianwali who published her first book Reflection, which is now a required reading at New York University.“Being a poet I love to listen to different views, thoughts and observations.” Each year’s cohort forms a mini family under the big ELP family tree. We are indeed constantly growing.
These young leaders get the chance to meet with policymakers, community leaders, diaspora communities, entrepreneurs, and regional experts, among others. Danial Shah (2014), a travel & documentary photographer and writer wandering tirelessly around Pakistan for positive stories, says that “ELP means a strong network within Pakistan and good networking opportunity for me in the USA to grow my work.”
First time I spoke to Danial it was all about how can I buy a right camera, little did I knew I would end up finding a friend, a teacher in him. He is not only my go to person for all the help I need with photography and blogs but also taught me how to be tolerant, how to enjoy the culture and the moment I am in. Danial taught me how to celebrate diversity.
“This is not only a leadership opportunity to interact with many policy makers and civil society organizations” Imran Khan (2012), the Country Director for Seeds of Peace, states that “ This program has given me a new perspective and a platform where I can share my ideas, learn and share my perspective.”
There is no denying the fact the ELP Fellowship has a much deeper and personal impact on all of the fellows. “The entire ELP experience was instrumental in my growth and development, both personally and professionally.” Huda Ahmed (2013), ToT Consultant — The Citizens Foundation.
“These three weeks spent in a complete hustle and energy, with 15 of the most inspirational people, have such an impact on you that once it’s all over, you feel the effect. You have undoubtedly, grown in ways which you yet have to register and acknowledge but you have grown and its effect will occur in the future, reflect in you. I, personally, time traveled between different worlds of ideas and perspectives it seems.” — Nazish Tariq (2014), Research Officer National Assembly.
Nazish and I, lived every minute of our Fellowship in the constant rush to the fullest, we were learning so much everyday, becoming more aware of ourselves, our goals.It was a period of constant growth. The Emerging Leaders of Pakistan Fellowship has become an inseparable part of me and there is so much I have learned from my year’s fellows. It has immensely helped me with my personal and professional growth.
Roughly 75% of Pakistan’s population is youth — this means that 75% of Pakistan’s population is capable of being the next change makers, policy makers, dreamers, poets, writers, lawyers, photographers and so much more. That 75% of Pakistan’s population if given the chance, if given access to quality education and equal fair opportunities, can be leaders of Pakistan.
This 75% can be the leaders of tomorrow.
The ELP Fellowship brings immense opportunities with itself. It can lead to pathways and doors which will take you to the next step and help you reach out to your goals. The Fellowship ensures personal growth, development of leadership skills and developing engagement within the civic society and beyond.
As of now, the Emerging Leaders of Pakistan family comprises of Harvard graduate, Atlas Corp Fellows, Asia Development Fellows, WISE Learner’s Voice Program Fellows, Country Directors, Ambassadors, Community Builders, Educationalists, Pilot, Award-winning Journalists & Photographers, Lawyers, Psychologists, Environmentalists, Human Rights Activists, Women Rights Activists and Entrepreneurs- to name a few.
The ELP Family is constantly growing, progressing and reaching out to the youths of Pakistan, to empower their dreams. Huma Haque and Nazia Khan at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center along with all the sponsors and supporters make Emerging Leaders of Pakistan Fellowship possible. Their dedication and hard work has been instrumental to the Fellowship and have helped change the life course of many Fellows.
This post was originally posted on Medium by Mahnoor Rathore. See the original post here.