Punjab launches programme to encourage democratic leadership among students

Kinnaird College for Women in Lahore, in collaboration with the NGO Bargad, launched a capacity building project called ‘Democracy and peace-building for youth on university campuses.’

Sanm Malik

2009-10-21

LAHORE — Kinnaird College for Women in Lahore, in collaboration with the NGO Bargad, launched a capacity building project called ‘Democracy and peace-building for youth on university campuses’ for college students, said Bargad Executive Director Sabiha Shaheen on Oct 17.

Student politics has been dormant on college and university campuses since student unions were banned in 1984, but the government recently declared it would lift the ban, in principle.

“There is a need for all stakeholders in student politics to set a healthy agenda for future politics on campuses,” she said. “It would engender pro-peace, student-centred and women-friendly politics on campuses in Pakistan.”

Participants in the proposed training programme would gain both practical skills and theoretical knowledge about the connections between conflict management and resolution, peace-building and democracy. The skills to be developed would include facilitation, mediation, conflict analysis and conflict resolution, in the context of peace-building and democratisation.

“The project aims to instill democratic norms among students through training, dialogue and discussion,” Shaheen said. “Student activism has [in the past] led to clashes among groups with students at the receiving end.”

“The project is the best way to educate young people for participation in democracy,” she said. “The proposed programme aims to empower young democracy activists in Pakistan with practical skills and knowledge.”

Experts believe the campus violence a quarter of a century ago was the result of internal squabbles between students and faculty. The new programme will steer students towards a peaceful resolution of disputes on campuses, and foster their potential for substantive involvement in Pakistani politics in the future.

“[This] programme will demonstrate that conflict resolution skills are essential for leadership and governing in a democracy,” said Saman, a student of philosophy at Kinnaird College. On campus, it should have the effect of channeling potentially confrontational student-faculty exchanges toward greater adherence to democratic norms.

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