Provincial Youth Minister Jahangir Khanzada believes that if youth is provided with the right platforms to grow and implement their ideas they would take Pakistan to the heights of fame.

Youth Minister was speaking at a launch ceremony of Pakistan’s first rural ‘Innovation Hub Pakistan’ for youth economic development in district Layyah, Punjab.

The event was organized by Chief Minster’s Special Monitoring Unit (SMU), Government of Punjab in collaboration with a youth development organization Bargad and Oxfam. Earlier an MoU was signed by SMU, Bargad and Oxfam to impart soft and market-led technical skills to young women and men. These technical skills will be delivered via a HUB Model. The HUB Model, also known as ‘Innovation HUB’, is a pilot led by Bargad in Layyah District. The HUB aims to train 1,270 youth aged between 15 and 24 years belonging to different literacy tiers.

Out of the total 1,270 trainees, 70 will be selected to become master trainers, 22 trainees will be given entrepreneurship opportunities by linking them with Micro-Finance Institutions (MFIs) and mentors, while 200 trainees will be given job opportunities by using linkages with private and public sector enterprises. Furthermore, 200 trainees will be given kick-starter packages for agriculture related activities and the remaining individuals will be given skills training in different fields as per their interest, such as farming, livestock, entrepreneurship and computer skills.

Before the event Jahangir Khanzada inaugurated the Innovation Hub , and took a round of the building.

He was briefed about the idea and the details. During the discussion he also gave inputs and ideas to improve their project. Khanzada was pleased to see one of a kind project being established in the rural areas of Punjab. At the end, he planted a tree in the ‘Clean and Green Pakistan’ section.

He was accompanied by Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf’s MPA Nabeela Hakim Ali from Sahiwal and Deputy Secretary of Youth Affairs, Sports, Archaeology and Tourism Tahmina Habib.

Near 500 people including youth attended the launch ceremony of Innovation Hub Pakistan. A youth representative Fazila Aslam gave opening remarks of the launching ceremony. Two young people briefed about their start-up businesses and two youth representatives Aqsa Shaheen and Shafiq Rasool spoke about Clean and Green Pakistan Campaign and announced about tree plantation in Layyah.

While addressing the audience, Provincial Youth Minister Jahangir Khanzada said that the hub will create economic opportunities for rural youth and will pave the way for enabling youth in entrepreneurial and business skills. It will moreover consolidate implementation of the Punjab Youth Policy, he added.

He added, with the help of effective public private collaborations, we can aim to decrease unemployment. That’s why the government is facilitating youth for their market roles and is creating jobs through skill development and entrepreneurship. He said better human resource will result in decent jobs for the youth and also highlighted Punjab’s initiatives to empower youth including Plan X, laptops, Scholarships through endowment fund, interest free loans, foreign exposure visits, and the E-Rozgar scheme.

Khanzada also said, “In the past 70 years we have failed to create Jinnah’s Pakistan. Hate speech, extremism, terrorism, has caused a lot of damage to Pakistan and its people. Even I am a survivor of terrorism but I have not backed out despite of threats. We have to unite against this menace and make Jinnah’s Pakistan.”

    

Provincial Minister for Disaster Management, Mehr Ijaz Ahmad Achlana, who himself belongs to district Layyah said that rural youth are often neglected, but the Government of Punjab is taking special care to bring them to the mainstream and create economic opportunities for them. He hoped that the Innovation Hub will also impart skills to the youth for adding value to their agricultural products and will mitigate the effects of climate change in Layyah, as it is prone to droughts and floods.

He said it was his pleasure that social development operators have assisted the government through the Innovation Hub for preparing the rural youth of district Layyah for employment and business opportunities.

SMU representative Anum Sohail Bashir said that the Innovation Hub Pakistan will focus on economic empowerment of Layyah youth. It will help in achieving their true potential and will ensure their productivity by providing them skills and relevant economic opportunities. They will also be linked with micro-finance companies and corporate and business organizations. The innovation hub is aligned with the vision of the Chief Minister to promote an inclusive and equitable society, one where all men and women have equal opportunities.

Executive Director of Bargad, Ms Sabiha Shaheen said that the Innovation Hub is part of a five (5) year project “Empower Youth for Work” (EYW) being executed by Bargad and managed by Oxfam in district Layyah. It will offer various services to the youth of district Layyah, including training packages for business development, employment, farming, competitions of business ideas, Linkages with markets, companies and microfinance institutions, co-working space, IT library, start-up academy and mentorship. The hub will reinvigorate economic opportunities for Layyah youth especially the girls, she added.

Director Program Oxfam, Adeel Qaiser said that the EYW project is working for youth employment and entrepreneurship especially for young women in District Layyah. This project will impart soft and market-led technical skills to 17000 young women and men in district Layyah. He briefed that in the process of preparing youth for work, the project will also coordinate closely with women and youth organizations of district Layyah for advocacy and lobbying on youth development, agriculture and entrepreneurship support.

Seher Afsheen from Oxfam also spoke at the launching ceremony of the Innovation Hub Pakistan. She told that the project will support a youth-led “Clean and Green Pakistan Campaign” in district Layyah.

Towards the end a theatre performance by Interactive Resource Centre (IRC) and traditional dance Jhummar were also played at his occasion. Later certificates were given to the innovators and refreshments were served.