LAYYAH: The Chief Minster’s Special Monitoring Unit (SMU), Government of Punjab in collaboration with a youth development organization Bargad and Oxfam launched Pakistan’s first rural Innovation Hub Pakistan for youth economic development in district Layyah.
Speaking at the launching ceremony of the Innovation Hub, Provincial Youth Minister Jahangir Khanzada said the Hub will create economic opportunities for rural youth and impart entrepreneurial and business skills among youth. “This initiative will contribute towards the implementation of the Punjab Youth Policy,” Mr Khanzada added that the government alone cannot create jobs to accommodate Pakistan’s youth population in the public sector which is why skill development and entrepreneurship is important. He highlighted that the Punjab government has introduced a number of schemes to empower youth such as Plan X, laptops, Scholarships through endowment fund, interest free loans, foreign exposure visits, and e-rozgar scheme.
Provincial Minister for Disaster Management Mehr Ijaz Ahmad Achlana, who is from district Layyah, said 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. “I am happy to see development organizations contributing towards the socioeconomic uplift of rural youth,” he said. He expressed hope that the Innovation Hub will also enable rural youth to bring innovation to the agriculture sector and help farmers deal with the effects of climate change in the flood and drought prone Layyah district.
Speaking at the event, SMU Head Fatima Zaidi said the Innovation Hub Pakistan will contribute towards the economic uplift of the area by allowing to reach their true potential and provide them which economic opportunities lacking in rural areas. “Young people face numerous challenges, the biggest among which is unemployment. By linking them with micro-finance banks and corporate entities in other cities, the Innovation Hub will enable youth to become economically empowered,” she said.
Oxfam Program Director Adeel Qaiser said Oxfam is working for the economic empowerment of young people in Pakistan and the EYW project has been designed to provide entrepreneurship skills to youth, especially young women in rural areas. “The EYW project will provide technical skills as well as soft skills to 17000 young men and women in district Layyah. The project will closely coordinate with youth and women development departments and carry out advocacy and lobbying to ensure young people are provided opportunities for skill-development, innovation in agriculture and entrepreneurship,” he said.
Project Manager at Oxfam Seher Afsheen also spoke at the launching ceremony of the Innovation Hub Pakistan and said that the project will support a youth-led “Clean and Green Pakistan Campaign” in district Layyah.
Bargad Executive Director of Bargad Ms Sabiha Shaheen told the audience 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. “The project will offer youth of district Layyah various services such as training for business development, employment, farming, competitions for business ideas, linkges with markets, companies and microfinance institutions, co-working space, IT library, start-up academy, and mentorship and much more. The hub will reinvigorate economic opportunities for Layyah youth especially girls, she added.