• By: Sumera Shah
    IM Sciences Peshawar

Investing in the youth of Pakistan is not just a beneficial strategy; it’s a crucial one. The nation’s future hinges on the empowerment and education of its young population, which makes up over 68% of its citizens under 30. However, the current landscape presents a challenging scenario with significant illiteracy, a high youth unemployment rate, and limited access to essential resources such as quality education and technology.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated these issues, disrupting the education of millions and hindering the country’s ability to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.

Yet, in the face of these challenges, there lies a tremendous opportunity for transformation. Media and Information Literacy (MIL) emerges as a powerful tool to equip Pakistan’s youth with the knowledge and skills necessary for the 21st century. By fostering MIL, we can enable young Pakistanis to critically engage with media and information, enhancing their understanding of environmental issues and empowering them to be leaders in sustainable development.

The potential of MIL in nurturing green skills among Pakistan’s youth is immense. These skills, which include expertise in areas such as renewable energy, waste reduction, and sustainable agriculture, are crucial for driving sustainable development and mitigating climate change impacts.

In a world overflowing with information and misinformation, MIL equips young individuals to discern credible sources, make informed decisions, and develop innovative solutions for environmental challenges.

Pakistan’s government has taken commendable steps towards youth empowerment through initiatives like the Kamyab Jawan — National Youth Development Program. This program, in collaboration with several UN agencies, focuses on various crucial areas, including economic empowerment and social protection. However, integrating MIL into these initiatives will significantly enhance their impact, ensuring that the youth are not only skilled but also well-informed and capable of adapting to the digital economy.

The role of MIL is particularly vital in the post-pandemic world, where the shift from physical to digital has become more pronounced. Equipping the youth with MIL will prepare them for a digital economy, allowing Pakistan to compete globally in service provision and technical expertise.

Moreover, MIL empowers the youth to be agents of change, especially in the context of fighting COVID-19 and other global challenges. The Government of Pakistan’s Covid-19 Tiger Force, which engages youth in the pandemic response, is a testament to the potential of young people in leading societal change.

As we celebrate International Youth Day, it is essential to acknowledge the role of organizations like UNESCO in promoting MIL globally. MIL not only enhances critical thinking and problem-solving skills but also fosters innovation and entrepreneurship among youth.

With accurate information and critical thinking abilities, young individuals can identify market gaps for sustainable products and services, develop green start-ups, and contribute to economic opportunities.

In conclusion, the integration of Media and Information Literacy in youth development programs is imperative for Pakistan. It’s a step towards not just addressing current socio-economic challenges but also preparing for future crises.

Empowering the youth with MIL will not only help them navigate an information-rich world but also enable them to lead Pakistan towards a more sustainable, inclusive, and prosperous future. As Pakistan continues to invest in its youth, MIL should be at the forefront of these efforts, unlocking the immense potential of its young population.

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