Building bridges with India
“Students often question us if Shahrukh Khan could participate in Exchange for Change, or if Karachi also have tall buildings like they do in Mumbai,” Swaleha Alam Shahzada, Executive director of Citizen Archive of Pakistan narrated to the audience at the Launch of Exchange for Change 2012-2013, a platform that has helped broaden horizons in more than one way.
In 2010, the Citizens Archive of Pakistan [CAP], in collaboration with Routes2Roots, an Indian non-profit organisation working for peace and dialogue between Pakistan and India, introduced “Exchange for Change” (EFC), an interactive exchange between 2400 school children of Pakistan and India. The idea is to open avenues for students within Pakistan and India for dialogue and understanding of a shared history and culture.
Explaining the project further, Shahzada informed the audience that the program has also helped the students of both countries acquire a clearer understanding of their shared history, culture and lifestyle. So, far during the projects life, a continuous exchange of letters, postcards, photographs, oral histories and a visit to Dehli and Lahore has helped dispel misinformation and encourage students to form their own opinions.
During the projects year-long life, a few analysis were made in between and after the project got completed that how interactions lead to a positive change in restructuring misconceptions and bringing about a change in perceptions and how before the project students across the borders looked at each other in a hostile manner, while after participating in EFC, 54 per cent said that their opinion about India has been positively changed.
Around 10 schools will participate from India and Pakistan both in this year’s round of EFC exchanging letters, photos and videos. At the end a 40-member delegation will visit India and Pakistan both.
With Ali Zafar being the chief guest at the event the media was seen going wild with clicks, pushing to get the best possible footage for themselves. Zafar shared his experience in India and how much Indians love the music of our country, our food and the beauty of our people. He further added that the future of the relationship between the two countries depends on what the young generation feels about their neighbours.
And this perhaps is why the exchange is important, so that the youth can get to know each other, each others customs, ideas, beliefs, and biases. Initiative such as these could one day help in removing such biases and other obstacles we have created in our own paths for decades.