Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) funded Aawaz II works with local communities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab to promote the rights of children, women, youth and other marginalised groups to strengthen and facilitate their development. British Council is leading on the delivery of the Aawaz II community engagement component which aims to create awareness and behaviour change and increase citizen-state engagement to promote change in the harmful practices of child labour, early and forced marriage, gender-based violence, exclusion, exploitation and intolerance.
Aawaz II has a critical mass of 15,848 active members of over 900 community-based structures and 16,878 trained youth change-agents in villages and tehsils across the 22 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab. These volunteers and change agents designed and delivered small scale collective and social action projects to address discriminatory practices, such as child labour, early and forced marriages, gender-based violence, social exclusion, and intolerance. These efforts benefitted over 130,000 persons including those from vulnerable groups such as women, religious minorities, persons with disabilities, and transgender persons.
Over 30 million individuals were also reached with positive and inspiring messages through various media campaigns. For example, the programme recently produced a motivational talk featuring Dr Arfa Syeda Zahra, a well-known intellectual and educationist, titled ‘Aik Sa Nahi Hona Chahtay, Magar, Aik Dosray Ka Hona Chahtay Hain’ (Embracing Differences Makes a Difference). In this video, Dr Zahra offers insight into the potential needs of a society where tolerance, empathy and social inclusion of excluded groups are valued. Within first week of launching this video, it reached over 300,000 individuals on a social media platform.
Another significant aspect of the programme, citizen-state engagement on services related to vulnerable groups, resulted from widespread awareness about Aawaz II themes and groups. Over 200,000 individuals were provided with information on essential services. The increased responsiveness of departments to individuals reaching out for services are also linked to effective advocacy by Aawaz II District Forums. Over 4,000 individuals raised 893 demands with duty-bearers. Over 50,000 individuals received services through referrals provided by Aawaz II.
The programme involved a wide range of duty bearers at the tehsil and district level through dialogues and other advocacy initiatives by arranging dialogues. Women, religious minorities, transgender persons, and persons with disabilities were effective advocates for their rights while earning credibility and respect from duty bearers. For example, the Aawaz II team in Haripur organised a Village Forum Convention on 8 March 2022, where they celebrated the achievements of women leaders and social activists. 261 individuals, including 205 women participated in this session. Similarly, 51 district level stakeholders from the Christian, Sikh, Hindu, and Muslim communities were engaged in an Interfaith Dialogue session organised by the Aawaz II team in Narowal to commemorate World Interfaith Harmony Week 2022.
Since its inception in 2020, the programme has witnessed change in Aawaz II communities, as trained individuals began emerging as community leaders and change-makers while continuously raising their voices to change behaviours and increase citizen-state engagement. They acted as catalysts to promote change in the harmful practices of child labour, early and forced marriage, gender-based violence, exclusion, exploitation, and intolerance and sowed the seeds of a shift towards positive social gender norms.