The sustainable development goals (SDGs) set forth by the United Nations (UN) in 2015 are envisioned to make the world a better place by 2030. In order to better understand the goals and their potential, the Ismaili Girl Guides in Pakistan attended a four-day summit at the Guides’ Association headquarters in Islamabad.

The UN believes a sustainable future can only be achieved if countries work together on the outlined objectives mentioned in the SDGs. However, in order to do so, each member country must invoke a civic responsibility among their citizens, so as to encourage change from within.

To familiarise young Ismailis with the SDGs, the Aga Khan Youth and Sports Board in Pakistan arranged a visit to the four-day summit for Girl Guides at the Pakistan Girl Guides Association (PGGA) headquarters in Islamabad. The objectives of the event were to enlighten Girl Guides on how to become a leader, to understand the leadership model of the World Association for Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, to explore models on advocacy, social entrepreneurship, environmental sustainability, and finally, to create a conceivable action plan to implement in the future. 

Thanks to a team-building activity conducted by Ms Mariyam Nawaz, media and communications specialist at the UN, participants began to understand the connections between personal and local issues in relation to global issues, and acquired the knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes to better promote sustainable development.

Also at the event, Ms Saba Faisal focused on the Girl Guides leadership model, based on the “Five Minds of a Manager” developed by Henry Mintzberg and Jonathan Gosling. This suggests  five qualities a leader must incorporate for conscious, effective change. This session not only provided an opportunity to understand those mindsets but also helped participants practice them in their daily lives. 

Subsequently, Mr Hassan Khan Sipra, scientific officer for climate research and development at COMSAT University in Islamabad, stressed the risks of climate change and how this has been a priority from the Paris Agreement amongst SDG stakeholders. As each individual’s carbon footprint increases, Sipra motivated attendees to commit themselves to adapting small changes at an individual level, such as a shifting towards renewable energy and less consumption of meat products, both of which could create significant impacts in the long term. 

With a unique assessment of issues in Hunza, Anila Shah said, “Today, we have learned about the sustainable development goals and will implement them in our jurisdiction. I would like to work particularly on one goal: climate change. Global warming is an international issue, yet by starting a plantation drive in Hunza we will be able to decrease the effects worldwide. An individual can generate change.” 

Ms Shamsa Kashif led a session in which the Girl Guides learned to use advocacy as a tool to influence change and amend policy. Ms Uzma Shahid led the next session on social entrepreneurship where examples of social enterprise projects operating in Pakistan were presented as a guide to participants. 

Mrs Quratulain Faheem, an associate professor at University College London teaching urban development, based her session upon community mapping and project development. As a culmination, participants, guided by their ‘Global Goals Passport’ — knowledge obtained relative to each SDG — designed projects for their region and shared the desired impact as well as activities to develop a self-sustaining enterprise, advocacy methods, key partners and resources required, and the strategy to ensure community participation. Experts then helped the Girl Guides improve the projects before execution in their respective regions.

On the final day of the SDGs Summit, senior institutional leaders shared the role of AKDN as an implementing partner for SDGs. Participants were awarded certificates and leaders expressed their appreciation to the PGGA for arranging the informative summit. 

Senator Nuzhat Amir Sadiq, national commissioner of the PGGA, said, “This is one of the very first summits on SDGs organised for Girl Guides across Pakistan. We, at PGGA, have a clear vision that all girls are valued and must act to change the world. For more than 100 years, Girl Guides have been acting in their respective communities and standing up for the issues that matter to them. They also conduct different advocacy campaigns to speak up and take action about issues affecting them and their communities.”  

Ismaili Council President Hafiz Sherali said, “It was hoped that the Summit would create a ripple effect of learning and education regarding SDGs.” 

The Aga Khan Youth and Sports Board and the Girl Guides have internalised the responsibility to leave behind a better world for upcoming generations.