SI Alumni acts for raising awareness on the climate issue in Pakistan  

Umair Mushtaq, SI alumni, shares the idea behind an initiative gathering civil society leaders, young changemakers, climate experts and artists in Pakistan and what participating in a SI Leadership Programme has meant to him.   
A young man in a red t-shirt, with dark hair and glasses is sitting on the floor listening engaging in a discussion with peers.

Please introduce us to the event Artists and Climate Change. What Pakistani organisations are engaged and what do you want to achieve with this event?
Lahore, known as ‘city of gardens’, was called ‘most air polluted’ city of Pakistan in 2021. In the same year, artists initiated a project to highlight and raise awareness on the climate issue using art mediums. Since the smog is starting again from October, I invited local organizations, civil society leaders, young changemakers, climate experts and all artists who initiated the project last year to showcase artists’ work, and discuss how every individual should contribute for a clean and safe environment. I hope this event would be a catalyst to a campaign and greater good for people.  

You are an alumni of the SI Leadership Programme Young Connectors of the Future (YCF). What has the programme meant for you?
The practice of unlearning and relearning offered by this program helped me grow in various ways. In real terms this program offered to break self-constructs, reimagine the limits and build a new empowered self. With the right tools in hand, a bag full of learnings and hope gained from the other participants experiences and work, I was standing tall in front of the issues in my local community to find solutions.  

How are you using the learnings you gained during the programme in your work?
In the past three years, I have been practicing all the learnings in my training modules for children and youth, domestically abused women and civil society leaders. Running my own organization and projects, The Little Art and Tamasha, and working as a trainer with UNESCO APCEIU allowed me to practice and share the tools with youth.  

This year the Swedish Institute is increasing its focus on SDG16 and promoting peaceful and inclusive societies. What does the concept of inclusive societies mean to you?
It is a society which leaves no one behind. Since 2007 and the inception of my organisation, The Little Art, we have always practiced SDG16 and made conscious decisions for our programs to make them inclusive, to invite all, to leave no one behind irrespective of age, gender, socio-political affiliation or religious beliefs. I have seen the benefits of inclusion in our immediate society.  

What are your plans for the future?
Covid-19 has shaken the arts and culture sector which was already breathing heavily in Pakistan. I am trying to revive the arts education culture while creating long-term sustainable interventions in education and at public policy level. I vision a peaceful and more inclusive society which empowers itself and inspires others to celebrate life and opportunities through the arts. 

Note: Umair Mushtaq participated in the SI Leadership Programme Young Connectors of the Future (YCF) that ran between 2013-2018, and later transformed into the current programme SI Leader Lab. The call for applications to SI Leader Lab 2023 will open 1 November.

Find out more about SI Leader Lab here.
Find out more about the event Artists and Climate Change here.
Find out more about SI Alumni Network here.