By Khizra Munir
Design for Change (DFC) is an inspirational story. It is a global movement initiated by an Indian woman, Kiran Bir Sethi. A trained graphic designer, she incorporated some of the essence of design into a socially constructive programme and in 2009 launched DFC as a national movement to encourage schoolchildren across India to participate in a one-week project to change an aspect of life in their own community.
After its success in India, DFC went global in 2010, which is when Pakistan came into the picture, thanks to Ali Habib, who while doing his Masters met someone working for DFC India. Wanting to be a part of this movement and to bring it to
, Habib formed a team of like-minded people and the project kicked off. Pakistan
The team consists of six individuals from totally different professions and backgrounds. Ali Habib is a techie in public health, Batool Rizvi has recently done her MBA, Natasha Ansari teaches at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, Nida Alvi is an educationist, Rubia Malik is involved in policy research and education and Samad Ansari is a graphic designer. Yet despite their diverse backgrounds, they all found in DFC something that united them.
The main premise of DFC is to empower children to literally think ‘out of the box’ (a term we adults have exhausted and don’t really do justice to). The aim is to put young children through a four-step process, which is feel, imagine, do, share, and which translated into Urdu for a wider reach means ‘aap mehsoos karen’, ‘sochein’, ‘kar ke dikhain’ and ‘phir batain’.
The idea is that children will apply basic problem solving skills to find a solution to a problem, go out and test it, and then reflect on it and evaluate its impact in bringing about change as well as how this change has changed them in the process and how eventually
as a whole can change. Pakistan
The focus is on children in classes three to eight, which roughly translates to eight to14-year-olds. This is the right age because at this point children still have that feeling of empowerment; the audacity to dare to dream. They haven’t yet been affected by the disillusionment of ‘we are helpless, what can we do?’ ‘We can’t do anything’, and ‘there really is no point’ or ‘we don’t have the kind of money this change requires’.
Through DFC, children are allowed to ‘do something’, no matter what the scale of the task. The experience of having actively impacted lives to make a tangible change stays with them and gives them an optimism they will pass on to others. And in the bigger picture, considering these children are the future, it will create a generation of positive thinkers and do-ers.
Children, through the DFC platform, are encouraged to adopt a hands-on approach to the problems around them and implement solutions as soon as they think of them.
For a better idea of what the children of
are capable of doing, if given the opportunity, one has only to look at some of the projects they have taken up. The accomplishments are nothing short of awe-inspiring. The range of issues children picked on is beyond anything we, as adults, would. While our safe approach to such causes would be to create awareness campaigns, children go straight to the problem, conceiving solutions and then implementing them. They tackle smoking, paan and ghutka addiction, sanitation and any other issue they see around them. They are impressive in their sensitivity to issues that are often disregarded or taken in one’s stride because of our resignation to lack of change. Pakistan
Inspiring stories include one from interior Sindh, where children noticed that the villagers were suffering from recurring health problems because they were buying medicines past their sell-by date. The hakeems, they decided, were responsible for selling these medicines. So, through door to door surveys and talking to the villagers, they tackled the problem in a week, by checking the expiry dates. This involved sitting with the villagers and explaining to them what an expiry date is and where it could be found on the box. In
, children started a back-to-school campaign by going door to door and convincing parents they should allow their daughters to get an education. In Shireen Jinnah Colony in Quetta , 500 schoolchildren held a peaceful protest to induce tankers to take a route other than the school route, as many of the children were caught in accidents trying to avoid the tankers. Karachi
Unlike other parts of the world, DFC Pakistan has a corporate partner, which is Safeguard. According to Omeir Dawoodji, Country External Relations Manager at P&G Pakistan, Safeguard runs one of the largest private sector health and hygiene programmes in
called Sehat-o-Safai. Through this programme P&G reaches out to schoolchildren and teaches them about important health and hygiene practices, including the importance of washing their hands with soap. Pakistan
At the end of the day, DFC is about inspiring people (children and grown-ups) to have faith, believe in the power of their own actions and create a ripple effect with their actions that will continue to touch everyone within their reach.
For more information on DFC Pakistan go to www.dfcworld.com and pick
in the location. Pakistan
Khizra Munir is Creative Manager, Interflow Communications. email@example.com
First published in the November-December 2011 issue.