Pakistani women mean business when it comes to tackling social issues head on.
Islamabad-based Safa Iftikhar aged 22, and 20-year-old Sara Waqar from Karachi have been selected out of 5,300 applicants from Pakistan to attend the Telenor Youth Forum, a year long programme which kicks off in Oslo this December during the Nobel Peace Prize events and is run by the Telenor Group in collaboration with the Nobel Peace Center (NPC).
The girls will be working alongside 22 young individuals from around the globe on ideas that contribute to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
Telenor Youth Forum is a global platform for future leaders to ideate and create a positive change in the society through dialogue and engagement. Every year, it brings together young talent from 12 countries where Telenor operates, and challenges them to find ways to use digital technology to tackle social challenges around the world.
Sajawal Waseem, who was the Pakistani delegate for Telenor Youth Forum last year, was part of the winning team at the end of their programme as they showcased their idea ‘greencred’ to tackle the effects of climate change at Telenor’s first digital exhibition. Sajawal and his teammates worked on this project for ten months.
Sajawal will visit Oslo again this year as featured speaker. Apart from being part of the programme, Safa and Sara will also be participating in the Nobel Peace Prize festivities to explore how digital technology can be used for achieving world peace.
Sara is currently pursuing a BSc in Economics & Finance from the University of London.
According to her, power cuts were a norm while she was growing up in one of Pakistan’s largest cities, and hence she wants to work on a project that aims to create a rural energy network for affordable and renewable energy distribution.
“The guilt of having the privilege to afford an electric generator during a power cut never leaves me. It is a daily reminder of my good fortune that enables me to sleep at night during a prolonged power outage, and I want to do something about it,” says Sara.
She says that she needs the support of local entrepreneurs as well as international investors to address the issue of power crisis in Pakistan.
Sara would be raising this issue at this year’s youth forum in Oslo, finding contacts and raising investment for the purpose of building a smartly distributed, viable sustainable green technology network in Pakistan’s rural segments. Being passionate about bringing a social change, she aims to work on other similar issues as well that can contribute towards social good as part of the Telenor Youth Forum.
While Sara wants to work on energy conservation, Safa wants to improve the local educational curriculum and battle against mental health stigma in Pakistan.
“Telenor Youth Forum is a great opportunity for any young adult who wants to contribute to the United Nations’ sustainable development goals, because it inspires youth led change and global collaboration,” says Safa.
A young graduate of the NUST Business School, Safa and her friends started a first-of-its-kind awareness initiative ‘TabooTalk’, an online platform for mental health awareness in 2014 as a school project. Now she has launched the platform as a personal startup to fight against the stigma associated with mental health in Pakistan.
She is keen to do something in the education sector, and wants to create an inclusive curriculum for quality education in Pakistan assisted by Virtual Reality, and will be working on this area as well as more as part of Telenor Youth Forum.
A digital exhibition will be organised at the end of the programme in 2018 as well, documenting the work of the teams as part of the forum, the social challenges faced and the progress made throughout the year.
“I congratulate both our delegates Sara and Safa and wish them all the best in their journey through TYF,” said Irfan Wahab Khan, CEO of Telenor Pakistan. “I also congratulate Sajawal Waseem and his team on winning the TYF exhibition. These young leaders hold a lot of promise and are entirely capable of using their talent and passion for making a difference for their country and the world; proud to see Pakistani delegates shining at TYF. We are excited to get started on another year of improving lives and reducing inequalities through innovative digital solutions.”