LAHORE: A two day workshop on human rights concluded at the Forman Christian College on Sunday with a charter of demands titled Know Your Rights listing 20 issues that need immediate attention.
The charter highlighted youth unemployment, education, religious harmony, harassment at workplaces, implementation of laws, freedom of expression and corruption as priority areas.
The activity was part of a series of workshops being organised jointly by the Youth Parliament Pakistan and Human Rights Department.
As many as 35 students participated in the workshop. So far, 60 workshops have been arranged by the YPP in 18 districts, four of these in Lahore.
The aim of the activity was to provide avenues to the youth for learning new ideas and engage in constructive debate, said YPP’s Know your Rights programme national trainer Tahir Mahmood. He said discussion sessions on sensitive issues like child abuse and sexual harassment had been helpful in generating debate on the issues and their solutions.
Activities at the workshop ranged from discussion of case studies, production of a magazine on human rights and performance of skits on the theme.
The subjects discussed during the two days included family planning, sexual abuse of women and children and issues faced by working women.
YPP volunteer Tahir Arif Khan said they planned to conduct about 30 more workshops.
Khan said at times his team had had to face severe criticism and face accusations such as being foreign agents. “We are only trying to raise awareness about human rights. I don’t see anything foreign about it,” he said.
He said this was the first workshop held on the premises of an educational institute. “Administrations of colleges and universities aren’t generally very helpful,” he said.
Alina Zaman, a mass communication student who participated in the workshop, said she felt that minority rights were not given enough importance in Pakistan. “Many of the problems we’re facing today have to do with rising levels of religious intolerance in the society,” she said.
Gul Rehan, a native of Gilgit who is currently in her freshman year at the FCC, said she had learnt useful lessons about rights of children. She said child labour and child abuse were widespread in her hometown yet people seldom took these issues seriously.
Rabia Qadeer said she had found sessions on labour laws very informative.
Rotract Club General Secretary Asadullah Husnain pointed out the need for introduction of courses on human rights at colleges and universities. He said with dedicated courses, the youth could be taught about the importance of human rights in building a better society.
YPP’s National Program Officer Amjad Zafar said due to the overwhelming response received at the workshops, the YPP had decided to extend the programme till June.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 23rd, 2012.