The Punjab Chief Minster’s Special Monitoring Unit (SMU) has launched Pakistan’s first rural Innovation Hub for youth economic development in district Layyahin in collaboration with youth development organisation Bargad and Oxfam .

Speaking at the launching ceremony of the Innovation Hub, Provincial Youth Minister Jahangir Khanzada said the Hub would create economic opportunities for rural youth and impart entrepreneurial and business skills among youth. “This initiative will contribute towards the implementation of the Punjab Youth Policy,” he said, adding the government alone could not create jobs to accommodate Pakistan’s youth population in the public sector which was why skill development and entrepreneurship was important.

He said the Punjab government had introduced a number of schemes to empower youth such as Plan X, laptops, scholarships through endowment fund, interest-free loans, foreign visits and e-rozgar scheme.

Provincial Minister for Disaster Management Mehr Ijaz Ahmad Achlana, who is from district Layyah, said rural youth were often neglected, but the Government of Punjab was putting great emphasis on bringing them into the mainstream and for creating economic opportunities. “I am happy to see development organisations contributing towards the socioeconomic uplift of rural youth,” he said.

Achlana hoped that the innovation hub would also enable rural youth to bring innovation to the agriculture sector and help farmers deal with the effects of climate change in the flood and drought prone Layyah district.

Speaking at the event, SMU Head Fatima Zaidi said the Innovation Hub Pakistan would contribute towards the economic uplift of the area by allowing youth to reach their true potential and providing them economic opportunities lacking in rural areas. “Young people face numerous challenges, the biggest among which is unemployment. By linking them with micro-finance banks and corporate entities in other cities, the innovation hub will enable youth to become economically empowered,” she said.

Oxfam Program Director Adeel Qaiser said Oxfam was working for the economic empowerment of young people in Pakistan and the EYW project had been designed to provide entrepreneurship skills to youth, especially young women in rural areas. “The EYW project will provide technical skills as well as soft skills to 17,000 young men and women in district Layyah. The project will closely coordinate with youth and women development departments and carry out advocacy and lobbying to ensure young people are provided opportunities for skill-development, innovation in agriculture and entrepreneurship,” he said.


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