Mohammad Sharif, 22, is one of ten young leaders from Nangarhar, and who believes that the participation of young people is key to a healthy society. “Young people need to engage in their community and contribute to its wellbeing and prosperity.”
In April 2019, the group of young leaders started to encourage people in Jalalabad to make use of pedestrian footbridges across busy thoroughfares in the city, through a community project they had designed. They consulted with people from all walks of life to determine why they did not make use of the footbridges, which they explained were for their safety. They also encouraged school students to clean up these bridges to make them more pleasant for pedestrians.
“Many changes have been made since our community project” explains Mohammad Sharif. “From time to time, we walk across the bridges to see how people use them and notice that more and more pedestrians are now using these bridges.”
However, he believes that more work needs to be done to bring about lasting change. “We concluded that our initiative was still not enough, and therefore decided to undertake some follow-up actions to encourage even more people to use these pedestrian footbridges.”
He adds: “Change does not take place in a matter of days – it is a long process which needs sustained work. We realized that for more people to benefit from the safety that these footbridges provide, there is a need for greater public awareness.”
After their initial project, Mohammad Sharif and his colleagues organized many additional meetings with people in Jalalabad to discuss the purpose and use of the footbridges. “We have had held consultations once a month with shopkeepers, street vendors, and school students so that we could emphasize the importance of using these bridges. During these sessions, we listened to the ideas that people had for ensuring that the footbridges are kept clean and accessible. “
“We have also met municipal officials to discuss how best to cooperate, especially in ensuring that the bridges are clean, as this encourages pedestrians to use them. In these meetings we also conveyed the idea from users that lights should be installed on the bridges and that they should be made safer by better barriers.”
Mohammad Sharif is committed to following up on this initiative, saying “Unless we raise public awareness, people might be reluctant to use these bridges, and risk crossing through heavy traffic at their peril.”