I remember the day January 16th, 2016 when I boarded the Etihad Air flight to Abu Dhabi. I was curious about my field and the world before applying for the Emerging Global Leaders Initiative-Atlas Corps Fellowship. I had an M.A. in International Relations and 12 years of work experience as an expert and leader in the not-for-profit sector in Pakistan. But still, I wasn’t satisfied with what I knew and didn’t want to settle for the status quo. Coming from the developing part of the world, I wanted to explore how things are different on the other side, the developed part. But this journey was about more than just living in another country, far away from the people and places I know and love. This journey would help me gain the tools, knowledge and experience I needed to polish my leadership skills in areas of research, monitoring, and evaluation to further bring change to my own country, Pakistan. After arriving in Washington, D.C., I experienced very cold weather and I am now adjusting myself for further adaptation.
I spent a great two weeks training and relationship-building at the Emerging Global Leaders Initiative-Atlas Corps Orientation and Global Leadership Lab with other Fellows of different countries. It was a great opportunity to explore ideas and experiences to develop leadership and learn about new international practices and ideas in project management; leadership building in tackling some of the pressing challenges facing the world; lifting people out of poverty; promoting peace and security; preventing the spread of diseases; expanding access to education; combating climate change; and further empowering women and girls.
Since I joined scouting as a child, it was my dream to work for child and youth development. In Pakistan, one of the most profound problems our youth faces is frustration at present. This monster is eating up our youth slowly and gradually. The youth in Pakistan don’t have jobs, means of healthy entertainment, health resources or awareness. The frustration as a result of a multitude of problems is increasing day by day. Education is the most powerful weapon of the youth. With education, they could lead their country towards progress. Unfortunately, quality- and skill-based education is still a dream for our youth, especially for the poor. There is no formal guidance for students in logical selection of a specific course of study. There is no unified education system. Our universities and colleges have become degree-distributing machines. Education does not mean only degrees; in its true sense, it is the future of the youth.
With the mission to learn in the U.S. and serve my country and our youth, I am here as a Class 20 Atlas Corps Fellow in Washington, D.C., where I’ll be supporting the monitoring and evaluation team at my host organization, Creative Associates International. Since my arrival in January, the most interesting parts of this journey have been getting to know Fellows from different countries, listening to their stories and learning about their cultures while sharing mine.
I believe that everyone has the potential to lead if given the opportunity, and that leadership skills can be developed through both formal and informal processes. Even more importantly, I believe that leadership is about developing and inspiring the next generation of change-makers.
At the end, I believe leadership development isn’t just about helping leaders improve. It’s also about helping leaders make sure that the next generation of leaders will have the vision, commitment, knowledge, and skills necessary to lead. I am very thankful to Atlas Corps for providing this learning opportunity to me to develop and to strengthen my leadership skills, to not only bring about change in my life, but also changes in the lives of hundreds, even thousands, of youth back home