May 11th 2013 was a turning point for the citizens of Pakistan. It stirred every household to come out and exercise their right to vote; young and old, women and men, all came with resolve on their faces, enabled directly by their own cell phones and NADRA’s magic to READ a message about out where they had to go and vote without having to go to intermediaries. They made choices that day and also tasted the outcomes of their mature decisions. For Pakistanis the outcomes for the first time revealed that they did not have to vote for ‘their sardar or sain’, they could make their OWN decisions. Just as politicians felt enabled and empowered, those who campaigned solidly, so did the citizenry, all classes, gender and ages of voting age. Those below 18 years of age were witnessing in broad daylight a unique phenomenon in their neighborhoods, almost as a festival ; a turning point of a population becoming a society finally. People came together with some order by and large in a country of 185 million for a purpose. They participated in an act with a quick turnaround time to reveal that their choices did count after all for making a difference in their lives. Media across Pakistan wired the experience manifold for Pakistanis. Citizens banded on the eve of 11th to break bread together and watch live on TV, who was ‘in’ and who was ‘out’ and did their vote actually count? This certainly was democracy at its best. The experience went beyond textbooks and scripts; it had to be felt by many.. and it was.
May 24-25, 2013 will be yet another major turning point for the children and educators of Pakistan. The Children’s Literature Festival or the Bachon Ka Adabi Mela will kick off its 2013-14 season with the first event in Islamabad at the grand Pak China Friendship Centre – indeed a gift from the People of China to the People of Pakistan! The centre will host 20000 children/educators free of charge over two full days from 9 am to 6 pm to a series of multi-sensory experiences. These span writing and illustrating stories, read aloud and sing aloud with expression, book fair, reviews and book launches, IT Ka Adda – digital stories, understanding our poets and writers – their times and writings; art, murals, the story of the pot on a potter’s wheel, theatre, concerts on sufism/khudi , charter of compassion, active citizenship, mobile libraries, popularizing libraries – and much more. Just as the elections were an equalizer so is the Children’s Literature Festival (CLF) open to all government and private schools, madrassahs and non-formal programs .All children aged 4-17 come together to experience this phenomenal range of experiences in promoting reading, creative writing and critical thinking- it is a message about learning beyond textbooks and tests. CLF is more about producing together than consuming together a search for content that makes us think ,imagine and smile. Yes CLF is about smiles; the two days will be full of people smiling , laughing in happy wonder and ideating.. ! Yes Pakistan can be that productive. Idarae-e-Taleem-o- Aagahi (ITA) and Oxford University Press (OUP) have joined hands with Foundation of Open Societies Institute (FOSI) and many more to do CLF.
CLF is a home grown genetic imprint – it is an indigeneously crafted festival of ideas and creativity to popularize reading . Since November 2011 this will be the sixth CLF having cast footprints in Lahore, Quetta, Peshawar, Bahawalpur and Karachi already with over 80,000 children, youth and 1000 schools! CLF is certainly a good virus that must grow across the length and breadth of the country motivating children, teachers and parents to read more, think more and create more in an atmosphere that does not harass anyone but ENABLES them. This has occurred with positive energies of 1000s of eminent citizens and celebrities who have come together as facilitators. Young volunteers and interns are joining the movement within Pakistan and abroad to experience the action.
In each geography of the country, the best authors, poets, educators, artists, actors, theatre groups, youth groups, digital ICT partners, media and civil society organizations committed to reviving Pakistan through expression have joined hands with CLF with extreme generosity, passion and chaska! This is a festival that creates social, emotional and creative capital for Pakistan- it is the beginning of the much awaited revolution in learning without fear and generating interesting content. Come witness the magic of unlocking people’s potential for reading, creating imagining and challenging! YOU ARE THE CLF- Yes it is Hamara Adabi Jashn!
Baela Raza Jamil
Director Programs Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA)
May 18, 2013