“I raise my voice not so that i can shout, but so

that those without a voice can be heard.”

- Malala Yousafzai

 

Youth activism has always been an effective means of change. As early as 1229, students in Europe went on strikes, advocating for change. This trend reached the Indian subcontinent when the student wing of the Muslim League, the Muslim Students’ Federation, was formed to recruit students.

Unions existed post-partition as well. But in 1958 Ayub Khan banned the National Students Federation (NSF). This ban was partially lifted in 1960, but continued until 1974 when the government introduced the Student Union Ordinance calling for democratically elected unions in colleges. The ordinance led to a revival in public power, until General Zia-ul-Haq imposed a permanent ban on student unions as early as 1979. Leaders after Zia realized the unconstitutional nature of this ban, making efforts to lift it, but these were short-lived.

Currently, student unions operate underground, catering to gender rights, worker rights, religious freedom, etc. In 2017, a senate resolution called for the revival of student unions, and recently through demonstrations such as the Climate March, Aurat March, and Students’ Solidarity March, we see an increase in youth activism. And with the increasing amount of sexual harassment, labour exploitation, and discrmination concerns coming up on campuses, student unions have become relevant.