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Shehri Pakistan

Combating extremism and violence while encouraging active citizenship through accessible civic education and innovative use of technology.

Photo of Arafat
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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

Problem: Pakistan's Constitution, law, and governing structures are all made in English, a language that the majority of the country does not speak. Alienation from legal avenues results in a frustrated population that resorts to extra-legal and violent means to attain justice and express political grievances. This lack of faith in democratic institutions makes many sympathetic to non-state actors spreading extremism. Solution: The law and our Constitution need to be translated into local languages that citizens understand and own as their own. This translation must be accessible, relateable, and easily available for citizens. Method: Shehri Pakistan uses quirky animations that use storytelling and local languages and idioms to provide freely available civic education that sounds and looks familiar to our audience which allows us to create trust and civic ownership of the information that we provide. Proposal: To expand resources provided by Shehri to include new fundamental rights campaigns and an interactive smartphone app which facilitates citizens in exercising their fundamental rights. This app may include resources that help citizens find their local police station, learn how to file FIRs, and create petitions that target their democratic representatives. Bridge: Civic education acts as a bridge between all three goals. Peace is affected by lack of awareness about legitimate avenues to address political grievances. It is also affected by a lack of awareness and acceptance of the rights of minorities--we can create acceptance of fundamental rights of other citizens through civic education. Prosperity is linked to equal opportunity and protections of workers’ rights, both of which can be promoted through civic education. We link preserving the planet to the fundamental right to clean air, water, and environment. We promote protection of the environment and the civic duty to pressure governments to do so through the framework of fundamental rights.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Our beneficiaries consist of the majority of the non-English speaking Pakistani citizenry of which 42% is illiterate, 30% does not get the chance to go to even primary school, and the few who are privileged enough to get an education but do no receive civic education. Our main priority is youth, ages 16-30, who are particularly vulnerable to extremism. We use social media's targeting tools to make sure our content appears on the timelines of those who also follow/like extremist personas/groups which encourage violence.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Innovative combination of local languages/idioms, delivery through animations and engaging content on social media platforms: 1. Currently, much of the human rights work and resources available in Pakistan are in English, Shehri Pakistan is the only project providing accessible civic education using local languages and visuals which have created a relationship of trust with our community of viewers. 2. The use of social media as a platform for resource sharing allows us to get our information out there but also provides for active engagement and constant feedback from our community. This is not just dynamic but also more cost effective due to the wider audience that can be reached. 3. The use of animations as a tool for mass public education is something quite unprecedented in Pakistan. There are no past comparable projects that have operated at this scale due to both the absence of civic education work and the absence of an indigenous animation industry.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Majority Adoption: I have expanded the pilot significantly and the program product or service has been adopted by the majority of our intended user base.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

Engage Foundation is a research and advocacy non-profit dedicated to addressing issues of civic rights, equal citizenship, extremism, the persecution of marginalized communities, and indigenous notions of human rights by using innovative and culturally relevant paradigms and through our specialization of in house creative multimedia production. Website:

Expertise in sector

  • 3-5 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

Pakistan has a violent history related to its blasphemy laws. The murder of Punjab’s Governor for criticizing these laws triggered my quest to work on reforming the law. After 5 years of research, some published, I realized that the issue of violence is part of wider problems of constitutional illiteracy and mistrust of democratic values. I believe what is needed is not band aid solutions but a long term initiative that develops an indigenized human rights language that Pakistanis trust.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

A 2010 USIP report found a direct correlation between lack of civic education and resorts to violence. Peace is disturbed when citizens are unaware or distrustful of legal avenues of addressing political grievances and resort to extra-legal measures to solve disputes and express frustration. Prosperity has been hindered by corrupt and ineffective government institutions which allow unequal opportunities and few safeguards for the economically vulnerable. When confronted with this reality many citizens are not aware of the democratic avenues available to them to enforce accountability to improve the situation. Global warming has effected Pakistan like all other parts of the world but it has been compounded by a lack of awareness about preservation and safety techniques as well as the rights citizens have to demand that the government protect their right to a clean environment. This has led to issues like the recent smog crisis in Lahore in which many citizens got ill and passed away.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

While our animations are available for all online, we have also partnered with government bodies and other non-profits to ensure the information reaches those who most need it on the ground. One of our animations on the right to healthcare was in collaboration with the Punjab government and our posters with valuable information for patients are to be put up in government hospitals. In another collaboration with the Punjab government we created student-friendly Child Sexual Abuse resources in Urdu to be distributed in government schools and to teachers and parents. We have also collaborated with educational institutions like Rabtt, a non-profit that educates children of low income communities for free, to use our animations as educational resources for developing civic education curriculum which is sorely underdeveloped in Pakistan. We plan on working with both private and public educators to ensure the resources we create can reach as many classrooms as possible.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Pakistan's social media users increase every year with over 44 million users on Facebook from all parts and social classes of the country. More lower income youth have access to smartphones which have become cheaper over the past 5 years and many use Facebook and Twitter to engage in political debate. If provided easily accessible education and alternative democratic avenues to address their political grievances, this new demographic has the potential to be a vibrant future civil society.

Geographic Focus

The initial focus of this project is non-English speaking social media and tech users in Pakistan.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

24 months. It takes about three months to produce an animation and design a campaign centered around a specific aspect of civic education. In the span of two years we can create multiple campaigns that focus on promoting a peace, prosperity, and preservation of the planet as separate campaigns interlinked through the idea of citizen's fundamental rights and active citizenship to protect and utilize these rights.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No


Join the conversation:

Photo of Dr. Anishta null

Hi Arafat this is a great initiative. Coming from Pakistan myself I can understand the need for incorporating civic sense in uneducated yet tech oriented communities. We are also working to incorporate technology in lower income communities but through a different context by being a medium to provide health consultations from female doctors who have to stay home after marriage and who are not permitted to work. Great job and good luck! :)

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