First Published in Ms. Magazine on 4 August 2016:
The developing world is currently experiencing a youth bulge. Half of the world’s population—just over 3.5 billion people—are under 30. Approximately 1.8 million of those young people are between 10 and 24; of them, 880 million are women, often concentrated in developing countries. A large young population can be a force for progressive change—and in countries like Pakistan, young people are leading the charge for more equitable societies and standing up to regressive norms in their communities.
Shahzad Khan, who founded the national youth-led organization Chanan Development Association (CDA) at 18 in 2004, grew up in rural Bahawalpur with fellow clan members. When Khan was 12, he found out that his 15 year-old sister was to be forcibly married; distraught and at a loss, he stopped eating in familial protest. One by one, his family members joined him—but when his father conceded and agreed to call off the marriage, Khan’s family was driven out of their village and forced to build a new life in Lahore, renting a small apartment and enrolling Khan in a government-run school.