Promising Practices Program

Administering Organization

Aware Girls

Program Name

Youth Capacity Building Project

Program Objectives and Unique Needs Addressed

The overall goal of the Youth Capacity Building for Promoting Tolerance, Diversity and Pluralistic Discourse project was to promote an alternative pluralistic discourse based on the values of tolerance, non-violence, peaceful co-existence. The project's specific objective were to promote peace activism among youth, identify potential peace activists, and organize and strengthen their capacity in peace building, and conflict resolution, which will lead to countering extremism in the North West of Pakistan.

Program Description

The project was implemented in the four districts of Malakand Division (Swat, Buner, Shangla and Lower Dir) which are fragile, and are high-grounds of recruitments for militant organizations. The project aimed to promote peace activism among youth, identifying potential peace activists, organizing them in district groups, and strengthening their capacity in peace building, conflict resolution
Aware Girls established 4 groups of young people engaging 124 men and women from Malakand Division. Aware Girls conducted one week training on skills for peace building, conflict transformation, non-violence and pluralism. The training strengthened the knowledge of young people about the origin, current status, dynamics, and politics of extremist groups,promoted peace activism enabling the young participants to respond effectively to emerging conflicts in their communities. It develop the notion among young people that they have the responsibility to build peace in their communities by playing an active role. The total trained 120 young people of four districts peace groups conducted post training activities to promote peace and non-violence. The young peace activists trained under the project are playing their role actively in countering militancy through promoting culture of non-violence, pluralism, tolerance and conflict transformation. The young peace activist are playing leadership roles by conducting peer education activities like study circles, one to one meetings, community dialogues to promote pluralism, and community corner meetings. With the investment of 971 hours, 579 people have been reached and sensitized.

Youth are strengthening the indigenous non-violent conflict transformation through acting as mediators and facilitating mediation of conflicts through engaging community elders, 5 conflicts were solved in the fourth quarter with the investment of 34 hours.

To counter militancy through promoting inter faith and intercultural harmony, Aware Girls conducted four Community Dialogues which provided an opportunity to the people of Malakand Division to network with people from different faiths, religion and culture and to find out the commonalities of peace and harmony in every religion, and to celebrate the differences. The interfaith dialogue was very much appreciated by the community for bridging the gaps between people of different faiths within Malakand Division. One of the dialogue focused on the role of rural women in peace building, the dialogue was organized with women of Shangla who are one of the most marginalized sections of the society. Through the dialogue, women were sensitized about their role as partners in peace building processes and preventing militarization and extremism in their communities. These dialogues were co-organized by the Young Peace Activists trained under Aware Girls' program.

An annual Youth Peace Exchange was organized to establish a Youth Peace Network at the level of Malakand division. The exchange brought together young peace activists (trained under the program) from across the Division who shared their inspirational stories of peace building, interacted with peace activists from other groups, and develop future strategies and priorities for the Youth Peace Network. Indirect beneficiaries of the program also participated in the event, thus becoming an inspirational for the larger family of Youth Peace Network. Youth Peace Awards were given to volunteers who have played tremendous role in promoting pluralism, non-violence and conflict resolution in their communities.

Resource Materials Used in Program

Training Manual (Can be sent via email)

Groups Served by Program

Youth living in post conflict communities who can act as agents of peace; Youth who are vulnerable to the ideologies and recruitment of militant organizations; Post conflict communities of Malakand Division (Women, Youth, Religious Leaders, Civil Society, men)

Program Funding

Aware Girls works with a number of partners/donors.

Program Staffing and Required Staff Training

The organization is governed and directed by Young Women and Girls. The decision making body i.e. Board of Directors of Aware Girls is composed of Young Women. The management of Aware Girls is controlled by young female staff. Aware Girls has young women members in Pukhtoonkhwa Province of Pakistan. The membership is open to Young Women and girls of the age 12 to 29.

The leading team members were:
Gulalai Ismail, Chairperson, Aware Girls
Saba Ismail. Executive Director, Aware Girls
Kiran Fida, Programs Officer, Aware Girls
Salma Bibi, Project Assistant/Social Organizer, Aware Girls
Nabeela Aman, Social Organizer, Aware Girls

Program Evaluation

In this program Aware Girls evaluated:

  1. Youth activism promoted among young people involved in the program directly through following up on their peer education activities
  2. Change in the attitudes of young people towards peace and non-violent conflict resolution through KAP Survey
  3. Number of youth who have been reached through the program and have been prevented from joining militant organizations
  4. Promotion of non-violent conflict resolution through mediation

Pre Test and Post Test Surveys:
Aware Girls conducted Pre Tests and Post Tests to evaluate the quality of the trainings. The data of one of the group has been analyzed while data of 3 trainings is yet in the draft form. 

Main Findings of the Pre-Test and Post Test Surveys:
The Pre-Survey (Pre-Test) and Post Survey (Post Test) survey has been analyzed, the report of two groups has been completed. 

  • In pre-test 46.3% participants responded that the use of violence appropriate for the betterment of religious or political ideology but in Post-test only 3.3% of the participants agreed to it and 96.7% of the respondents said it's not okay to use violence as a political tool.
  • In the Pre-Test only 60% of the participants said women have role in peace building, in the post test 100% participants said women have role in peace bulding. 
  • In the pre-test, 70% of the participants said Jihad meant sacrificing life for Islam, 60% said it means to fight against non-mulsims while in the post test this percentage reduced to 26.7%,  and 10% respectively. After the training the participants linked Jihad to other non-violent meanings. 
  • The participants were asked if they support the ideology of Taliban, in the Pre-Test 23.3% responded Yes and 43.3% responded that they support the ideology of the Taliban upto some extent, while only 33.3% said they don't support the ideology of Taliban, in the post test 86.7% of the participants said they don't support the ideology of Taliban. 
  • The participants were asked if they had the opportunity to sacrifice their life for defending Islam, will they be avail the opportunity of martyrdom, in the Pre Test 83.3% respondent Yes which slightly changed to 76.7% in the Post Test.
  • In the pre test only 36.7% of the respondents considered Taliban as threat,  and 33.3% considered Extremism as threat to Pakistan, in the post test the figures changed to 60.0% and 70.0% respectively. 
  • In the Pre-test 53.3% of the participants respondent that they don't think keeping  friendly relations with people of other faiths and religion in OK but in the post test 83.3% participants responded that it's okay to keep friendly relations with people from other faiths and religions.
  • In the Pre-Test only 23.3% thought material on Jihad should not be included in the curriculum, in the post test this figure changed to 50.0%.
  • In the Pre-test 83.3% of the participants agreed to the statement that those Taliban or militant groups are good who are continuing Jihad outside Pakistan, in the post test 73.3% disagreed to the statement. 
  • In a question to who is responsible for Jihad, 40% of the participants said it's responsibility of State and 60% said it's responsibility of every individual, in the post test the figures changed to 73.3% and 26.7% respectively.
  • In the Pre Test only 26.7% of the participants said the use of power for the furthering the cause of Islam is prohibited, in the Post Test the figures changed to 80%.
  • A few years back, Govener of Punjab Province of Pakistan (Salman Taseer) was killed by his guard using the excuse of Blasphemy (Salman Taseer met with the Christian women who was sentenced to death for using abusive language for Prophet Muhammad, he then gave a media statement that Blasphemy law should be amended because it's often misused by many people. His Guard considered this as Blasphemy and killed Salman Taseer. The murder of Salman Taseer was celebrated throughout the country,  flowers were thrown on the murderer by lawyers and people. Few people condemned the act. The court has sentenced the Murderer to death but the punishment has not yet been implemented because of the public pressure). In the Survey we asked the participants what is their opinion on the murder of Salman Taseer, 80.0% of the participants said it was a right act, in the post test 70% of the participants it was wrong to kill Salman Taseer. 
  • The participants were asked how should be a person treated who do criticism on a religion or religious person. In the Pre Test 30% responded they should be stopped by speaking to them which changed to 16.7% in post test, in the Pre Test 13.3% said they should be left on their own choice which changed to 30.0% in Post Test, in Pre Test 20% said they should be punished by law which changed to 10.0% in Post Test, in the Pre Test 16.7% said no relations should be kept with them which changed to 6.7% in the Post Test,  in the Pre Test 20.0% of the participants said logical arguments should be used in reponse to the criticism which changed to 36.7% in the Post Test. 
  • Before the training only 43.3% of the participants believed they have the skill to build reconciliation between two persons or groups who are in conflict, after the training 86.7% of the participants felt confident about their reconciliation skills. 
  • The participants were asked their opinion about India Pakistan problem, In the Pre Test 43.3% of the participants said Pakistan should be equipped with high technology armament which decreased to 36.7% in the post test, in the Pre Test 40.0% of the participants believed Pakistan should strengthen it's atomic weapon program which decreased to 10% in the Post Test,  in the Pre Test 23.3% of the participants said the armies of both countries should stay read on the borders every time which decreased to 10.0% in the post test. In the Pre Test 40.0% of the participants said participants of both countries should keep good relations with each other which increased to 83.3% in the Post Test. In the Pre Test only 33.3% of the participants said the countries should solve the issues through dialogues which increase to 73.3% in the Post Test. 
  • In a question whether religions other than Islam should be given the right of establishing their worship places 40% responded as Yes, 36.7% said they should be given limited permission and 23.3% said they shouldn't be allowed. In the Post Test the figures changed, 90% of the participants said people having faith other than Islam should have the right to establish their worship places as well. 
  • The participants were asked if religions other than Islam should have the right of preaching, only 33.3% responded as yes, 40.0% said they should have limited permission and 36.7% said they should not have the permission of preaching. In the post Test  76.7% believed in equal rights of preaching for all and only 6.7% said they shouldn't have the right to preach. 
  • In the Constitution of Pakistan it has been mentioned that the Sect Ahamdees are non-Muslims while the Ahmadee Sect claims to be Muslim. As an implication, the Ahmadees face discrimination in their social, political and economic life. They have been repeatedly attacked in Pakistan using the pretext of Blasphemy. The participants were asked what their opinion is about the Constitution of Pakistan defining Ahmadees as Non-Muslims, in the Pre Test 80% of the participants respondent that it was important and significant, the figure decreased to 56.7% in the post Test, while 43.3% said it was an unnecessary step (in post test). 
  • According to the Constitution of Pakistan, the position of President and Prime Minister of Pakistan can only be taken by a Muslim. The participants were asked their opinion about it, in the Pre Test 73.3% of the participants favoured it, the favour of this act decreased to 33.3% in the Post Test. 
  • In the Pre Test only 33.3% believed that Pakistan should celebrate the festivals of religions other than Islam with enthusiasm, the figure changed to 73.3%.
  • In the Pre Test 10.0% of the participants said those who don't follow religious teachings properly should be left on their own choice which increased to 53.3% in the Post Test.
  • On the Question to the response to the issue of Talibanization 76.7% respondent the government should do dialogue with Taliban, 20% said government should do Operation against them, 20% said sharia should be implemented, 33.3% said Pakistan should end military and political relations with USA, and 3.3% responded that Taliban should be arrested. In the Post Test the responses of the participants changed, 46.7% of the participants wanted government to arrest Taliban, the percentage for dialogues with Taliban decreased to 40% and the percentage for operation against Taliban increased to 56.7%, while the implementation of sharia as a response to Talibanization also reduced to 3.3%. 
  • In the Survey the participants were also asked their opinion about the purpose of Education, in the Pre Test 50% of the participants mentioned the objective of education understanding Islam and awareness of Islamic teaching, 43.3% said the objective is spreading the message of God; the figured changed to 40.0% and 40% respectively in the Post Test. 40.0%of the participants mentioned the objective of education as Getting scientific education and 63.3% said becoming good human and serving humanity; the figures changed to 63.3% and 93.3% respectively.

Program Outcomes

The trainings increased the knowledge of young people about the issues of militancy and Talibanization, and strengthened their skills in Conflict Dynamics, Conflict Analysis Skills, understanding the Dynamics of religious extremism in Pakistan, Psychology of a Suicide Bomber (From Human Being to Human Bomb); analysis of factors which make youth more vulnerable to the militant groups, Foreign Policy of Pakistan and it's role in the current situation, Non-violent movements, Role of Non-violence and Pluralism in countering militancy and violent extremism, Non-Violence and Non-Violent Movements, Skills for Peace building, Negotiations and Mediation Skills.

The survey conducted in Pre-Test and Post Test form reveals increase of knowledge, tolerance, non-violence,  co-existence and better understanding of the issue of  militancy.

The young people have started taking playing active role in conflict resolution in their communities thus strengthening the mechanism of mediation and dialogue as a conflict resolution tool.  The participants of the training are actively conducted different activities in their communities to prevent youth from joining militant groups, for sensitizing communities about the importance of speaking up for peace and breaking the silence around violence and extremism in their communities, to promote the values of peace, tolerance, pluralism and non-violence, and to use art and creativity for peacebuilding. As an impact of follow up activities of the training more families, groups and individuals have been equipped with skills for non-violent conflict resolution which promotes reconciliation in the community. Few adolescents who were vulnerable to the militant groups have been prevented from joining militant groups, they have been sensitized about the values of non-violence, tolerance and pluralism. Their ability for rational and critical thinking has been enhanced enabling them to prevent themselves from becoming victim of terrorist/militant groups. Alternatives have been provided to the adolescents to protect them from joining militant groups such as Sport Ground, Free Education, and Free medical Camps.

Additional Comments

Program Contact

Gulalai Ismail
Operates in Pakistan

Program Dates

This project ran from 2013-2014. Aware Girls continues work for women empowerment, gender equality, and peace in Pakistan by strengthening the leadership capacity of young people.