On August 14, 2018, we will be celebrating 71 years of independence. Homes, markets and neighbourhoods will be decorated with green and white flags. There will be official ceremonies, TV shows with patriotic themes, fireworks, parades and colourful celebrations all across the country.
As patriotic Pakistanis, we should celebrate this day with great enthusiasm and fervour, but this outpouring of love and zeal should not be limited to one day in August only.
Pakistan faces a plethora of challenges and we cannot remain oblivious to them. Water scarcity, power shortage, pollution, poverty, inflation, inadequate healthcare and illiteracy are some of the major issues that we are facing today. You need not wait till you become an adult to bring about important social changes within your homes, neighbourhood and society. All you need is knowledge, passion and willingness to do something great for Pakistan.
are some of the major issues that we are facing today. You need not wait till you become an adult to bring about important social changes within your homes, neighbourhood and society. All you need is knowledge, passion and willingness to do something great for Pakistan.
On this August 14, let us make some promises to our great homeland. Try to collect like-minded people who share your vision and passion or join platforms which offer ideas and assistance. But always remember to seek permission from your parents before joining any activity or associating with anyone. Your own personal safety is of paramount importance.
I will not waste water
Environment experts are warning that a massive water crisis awaits Pakistan and the country will suffer from extreme water shortage by 2025. This is a very scary situation and we need to evaluate our habits immediately.
As a society, we need to think of water as a precious commodity. In addition to steps like using a cup of water to brush our teeth, not letting unlimited water flow down the drain and using buckets to bath and wash cars, we also need to train our household staff in water conservation.
If every household trains their maids, drivers and other domestic helpers, we can conserve thousands of gallons of water annually. Do research on how other communities are managing water scarcity, using techniques such as rainwater harvesting and see which steps can be implemented in your home.
I will not waste electricity
It is a sad reality that we are not careful about saving our precious resources. Carpool, walk or use bicycle wherever and whenever possible. You already know about turning the lights, ACs and fans off when going out from a room. Ask your parents to install solar panels, LED bulbs and tube lights which do not consume a high amount of energy.
Before going to bed at night, make sure all extra lights are off and electric appliances unplugged (except for the fridge of course). Use house plants for a cooler interior and better air quality. Do you know that just by getting up early and sleeping at a reasonable time at night, we can save a lot of electricity!
I will plant trees
Trees are very important for a healthy, pollution-free environment. In Pakistan, the natural forest cover is about two per cent instead of the required 25 per cent, causing air pollution, increased heat waves and loss of habitat for wildlife.
Nowadays, there are many tree plantation campaigns going on. Actively participate in one near your area or simply ask your parents and other adults to help you plant more trees and plants in your neighbourhood. Plant a sapling and name it after a family member or a favourite celebrity. Love it and care for it well.
In five years, imagine having a towering Shahid Afridi neem tree or Lionel Messi mango tree or Roger Federer palm tree growing in your street!
I will educate a child
Let us make a pledge to educate at least one child in our lifetime. Even if we cannot teach a child at home, we can collect fees for a deserving child and make sure they get enrolled in school. We can donate books, school supplies and money to those institutions where poor children are taught free of cost. Find information about organisations such as The Citizen’s Foundation, School for Out of School Children and Street School, and you will find many platforms where you can help or donate.
I will not litter
In addition to our love for juicy, ripe mangoes and the game of cricket, there is one other trait that all Pakistanis have in common and that is our habit to litter. From the beautiful, pristine lakes in high mountains to the sandy beaches in Karachi, wherever we go we tend to leave mounds of garbage and trash behind. Our roads, parks, marketplaces and other public areas present a very sad and disgusting picture.
This August 14, make a pledge that you will not be part of this problem. Make small placards with slogans like “Keep Pakistan Clean”, “Stop Pollution, Save Environment”, “Clean Pakistan, Green Pakistan” and get them laminated. You can post them in marketplaces and outside homes after seeking permission from the owners and around your neighbourhood.
I will not break laws
Recently, I was in a section of a park where it was clearly stated that the swings in that area are for children under five years of age. It was very disappointing to see children as old as 15 years old riding wildly on them.
No matter where we are, we must always obey the rules and regulations. Never encourage your driver to break traffic rules or park the car in ‘No Parking’ area. Make queues in public places and restaurant counters, and await your turn patiently.
I will share knowledge
Have you ever won a tournament, taken part in a competition, or applied for scholarship? Do you know a good institute or have a particular skill?
Share your experiences and knowledge with other children. Be selfless and generous in answering questions because knowledge is always meant to be shared. You can write essays and articles about your experiences or put up notices on school boards. If you are tech savvy, you can make DIY videos, but never compromise on your personal safety.
I will focus on my education
One of the best things that you can do for Pakistan is to focus on your education and spend your time in acquiring new skills. Use your time, health and youth well.
Enjoy your free time, but have goals and targets which help you become good citizens of Pakistan.
I will regard myself as a Pakistani first and foremost
We live in times where our adults are involved in lots of disputes over ethnicity, language, province, religion and political parties. This Independence Day, make a pledge that you will think of yourself first and foremost as a Pakistani. We must all be united under our green and white flag.
I will be an inspiration for others
There are many inspirational stories about young children who have made a huge difference in lives of other people. By selling handmade things, extra clothes and books in yard sales, they raised money for different causes, such as feeding the homeless, digging wells in far-off areas or providing shoes and buying eyeglasses for the poor.
Age is no barrier for these young entrepreneurs and charity organisers as they use zeal to galvanise their community.
No matter how old or young you are, you can make a difference by being responsible, innovative and compassionate citizens of Pakistan. This August 14, pledge to be the young generation who is prepared to take responsibility, lead others, and tackle the numerous social and environmental challenges faced by our country today.
Things to remember
Don’t worry if you can’t do everything on this list. Just pick one, pledge to start with it and slowly move on to the others that you can do.
Try to make like-minded groups by discussing issues with friends, cousins and siblings, and finding some cause that you all believe in.
Seek help online. From botany experts in Japan to wildlife conservationists in UK to ecologists in Australia, you will find many experts ready to help you and answer your queries. But always do this under the guidance of an adult and with the permission of your parents.
Not sure where to start? A great website to give you plenty of ideas is http://www.kidsareheroes.org which features stories of hundreds of children who are busy in making this world a better place.
Always be polite. Good manners will help you make friends worldwide. Even when you are telling someone not to waste water or not litter, keep your tone polite which is always more effective than picking up a quarrel.
Published in Dawn, Young World, August 11th, 2018