KARACHI: A virtual ceremony to acknowledge the winners of the Young Author Award (YAA) 2019-20 was held by the Children’s Literature Festival (CLF) on Thursday.

Four students namely Syeda Afshan Waseem, Amna Noor, Amna Farooq and Rukhsar Amjad bagged the award in the first category while three students, namely Fatima Imran Ahsan, Mahnum Ahmad and Muhammad Qasim Abdullah received the award in the second category. The winners received cash prizes too.

A flagship programme of Idara-i-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA), CLF initiated the first YAA in 2019 supported by the Open Society Foundations (OSF). The award served as a positive platform for young writers in Pakistan of 10-18 years of age to showcase their creativity and critical thinking.

Children from all the provinces of Pakistan participated enthusiastically and sent not only their stories but poetry too — the 1,114 stories are illustrative of their passion for writing. The award was open for submissions in Urdu and English for two age categories: 10-13 and 14-18 years.

The virtual ceremony, held on Zoom, was attended by children from all across Pakistan along with jury members and special guests. Renowned educational Dr Arfa Syeda Zehra and poet Amjad Islam Amjad participated as chief guests and distributed awards among the winners of both categories.

In her opening remarks, ITA CEO Baela Raza Jamil said that the YAA proved to be an equaliser with students participating in the competition hailing from all forms of education backgrounds and institutions, including government schools, elite schools and madressahs. She termed all the winners of the YAA as the ambassadors of learning in Pakistan.

The winners were announced in February 2020 following decision by the jury members of the YAA. The winners then underwent a mentorship programme under authors Rumana Husain and Maria Riaz who further enhanced the skills of these young writers. Along with Rumana Husain and Maria Riaz, Oxford University Press (OUP) Pakistan’s managing director Arshad Saeed Husain, author and poet Sarwat Mohiuddin, American poet of Pakistani origin Shadab Zeest Hashmi, author Saman Shamsie, and blogger, storyteller and health and gender adviser Dr Narmeen Hamid were among the jury members of the award.

The jury members and mentors, present at the ceremony, expressed delight over the variety of stories received by young writers in the genres of fiction, non-fiction and fact-based. They said that it was an overwhelming experience to read the imaginative thoughts of children in the form of writing. They termed the YAA journey an emotional ride as over a thousand stories received for the competition were worth the read to find the hidden gems. They were impressed at the quality of writing by young and emerging writers who represent the future of the country.

Published in Dawn, July 24th, 2020

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