ISLAMABAD – Over 200 young activists and alumni of U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs from across Pakistan and South Asia gathered in Islamabad for Pakistan-U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN) Youth Activism Conference 2016.
The PUAN Youth Conference 2016 was dedicated to empower youth to become positive agents of change in their communities. The event included interactive workshops, panel sessions, and keynote speeches designed to give young adults the skills they need to better serve their communities.
Fulbright alumnus and award-winning nuclear physicist Pervez Hoodhboy, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Evan Ryan, Pakistan Youth Outreach’s Mirza Ali Baig and filmmaker Haya Fatima Iqbal addressed the young leaders.
“As youth leaders from Pakistan and from the region, you all play a crucial role in inspiring people across the region to give back to their communities,” Assistant Secretary Ryan told participants. “Through your service and dedication to your countries, you will keep each of your countries on the road to becoming economic leaders and the keys to a prosperous, secure, South Asia.”
During the three-day conference, U.S. government exchange alumni participated in workshops on topics such as combating climate change, countering violent extremism, and advancing human rights, inspiring them to make a difference in their communities. They learned valuable digital skills relating to fundraising, communication, and campaign design to turn ideas into action.
“The conference provided a great opportunity to interact with a diverse group of youth as well as leaders of the community,” said Saamia Rahman, an alumna of the 2014 Global Undergraduate Exchange Program (UGRAD). “The connections I have made here will be the start of something powerful and meaningful for our communities.”
Assistant Secretary Ryan underscored the U.S. commitment to continued cooperation with Pakistan through the U.S.-Pakistan Knowledge Corridor and expanded educational exchanges. She also interacted with alumni of U.S. exchange programs, who have used their knowledge and experiences to support their communities across Pakistan.
Highlighting the longstanding partnership in education and cultural exchange between the United States and Pakistan, Evan Ryan said that she held meetings with government officials, U.S. exchange program alumni, and university students during her visit.
“With nearly 65 percent of the population of Pakistan under the age of 30, investing in young people is critical to Pakistan’s future,” Assistant Secretary Ryan said. “Over the last decade, we have put an incredible investment into Pakistan’s youth.”
The United States invests approximately $40 million annually in exchange programs for Pakistani citizens and sends more than 1,300 Pakistanis to the United States each year to participate in academic and professional exchange programs.
PUAN is an alumni network of students and professionals who have participated in U.S. government-sponsored programs. With more than 15,000 alumni across Pakistan, PUAN is one of the largest alumni networks in the world. PUAN regularly organizes events across Pakistan, including service projects, leadership training, roundtable discussions, and community engagement activities.