Respect the pen, hate the gun: 22-year-old launches peace campaign

Impact of militancy seen in weapon-shaped candies sold in villages

Hidayat Khan April 08, 2016
A training session under way with Neelam Chattan in Swat. PHOTOS: EXPRESS

PESHAWAR: ‘Respect for pen and hate for guns’ is what Neelam Ibrar Chattan, 22, wants to teach children in school. She believes promoting peace and love is vital in a country torn by war. In an interview with The Express Tribune, Chattan, herself a student, spoke about launching the campaign to provide counselling to students psychologically affected by terrorism in Swat. Her campaign will strive to ban toy guns in the district. Chattan was in the city to register her organisation Peace for next generation.

Haunting experiences

Chattan believes it is crucial people work towards removing the menace of guns, particularly from the region.

“Children do not want to be reminded of traumatic experiences and while peace has been restored to Swat, the events still haunt children,” she told The Express Tribune.

Chattan said the impact of militancy is so deep-rooted in the area that besides toy guns, candies in the shape of weapons are being sold in village shops. “In this situation, how can children erase harsh memories of the past?” she questioned. She added very young people hold weapons with great ease, maintaining perpetual fear and intimidation. “It is this sense of power that draws them towards the Taliban,” she added.

She said the government needs to step in and completely ban such products including all forms of hate literature. “The government needs to give people jobs, not arms,” she said.

According to Chattan, education is very important to achieve this goal.

“We have been pushed thousands of years back in time due to militancy and instead of spending money on creating weapons of mass destruction, investing in educating children will be more effective in eradicating terrorism.”

According to Chattan, a lot of fathers are involved with the Taliban and if their children are educated, real change can come about.

The young social activist collected donations from people in Swat and arranged training sessions and painting classes for students and out-of-school children in the district. “The first thing they drew and painted was a flag – this mind-set needs to be changed,” Chattan emphasised.

Agent of change

The activist won in October 2014 the European Union – Paiman Trust Gold Award in recognition of her tireless efforts for peace.

Now she wishes to register Peace for new generation with the government and hopes the government and public will support her in her mission. With a team of 20 people to assist her, Chattan launched donation campaigns for internally displaced people (IDP) who were languishing in camps in different parts of the province.

“I decided to launch a proper campaign to direct government attention towards solutions to problems created by militancy in 2012 and I am very close to my aims,” she said.

Born in Saidu Sharif in Swat, Chattan is studying at Government Girls Degree College Saidu Sharif. She said her mother who stitches clothes always encouraged her to help others.

“This is not the time for girls to sit idle, all girls must derive inspirations from Malala and play an active role in society,” she said.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 9th,  2016.



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