Cyber Monday? Meet #GivingTuesday

An Islamic school child reads a copy of the Koran during a school trip in Jakarta on October 18, 2012. AFP PHOTO / ADEK BERRY
An Islamic school child reads a copy of the Koran during a school trip in Jakarta on October 18, 2012. AFP PHOTO / ADEK BERRY (Photo credit should read ADEK BERRY/AFP/Getty Images)

Nearly seven million Pakistani children are not in primary school. Only five percent of Pakistanis will attend university. Just nine percent are Internet users. In today's society, this lack of access to education and technology puts individuals and communities at a serious disadvantage.

Despite the shocking facts above, I can't help remembering the inspiration I drew from a visit I made to Pakistan last year from my home base in Kabul, where I ran the British Council's Afghanistan office. Three hundred young Pakistanis, Burmese, Bangladeshis, Nepalese and Afghanis punching the air and cheering, 'We are leaders!' -- one of many peak moments in the Active Citizens convention organized by the British Council in Islamabad. Those rallying shouts from that Islamabad get-together, just like the worldwide acclaim resonating from the downtown squares of Arab Spring countries, tell us clearly that 21st-century leadership development needs to stretch more widely, much more widely, than official governmental and public structures. If democracy means anything, it must mean enabling everyone to realize their wish to participate in leading.

So let's stop patronizing young people who form the growing majorities in so many countries of the world. And let's start helping them with their initiatives. Young professionals are not our hope for tomorrow. They are our need for today.

That's what the program Active Citizens repeatedly affirms -- and you can directly help the participating young people. The social entrepreneurs in this British Council program are working to improve the devastating statistics above, one community at a time, and the British Council is proud to support the efforts of these young South Asian entrepreneurs through Microsoft's Give for Youth platform.

Give for Youth is a micro-giving marketplace where the public can fund and follow youth around the world. It is part of Microsoft YouthSpark, a company-wide initiative to create opportunities for 300 million young people around the world over the next three years. Microsoft YouthSpark empowers youth to imagine and realize their full potential by connecting them with greater opportunities for education, employment and entrepreneurship, helping them create a real impact for a better tomorrow.

By giving just a few dollars, you can help Pakistan's Active Citizens -- these brilliant, committed entrepreneurs -- achieve the following:

Buy computers for low-income women at Sumaya's internet cafe

Buy school supplies for gypsy children in Faisal's classroom

Build a roof for the 65 children in Samina's classroom

Build a computer center for youth in Saif's community

Buy books and supplies for Sadia's rural classroom

On Tuesday, November 27, Microsoft will match each donation that comes in, dollar for dollar, until its $100,000 gift is exhausted. It will be the inaugural '#GivingTuesday,' a new tradition we're delighted to celebrate. As I reflect on not only my first Thanksgiving in the U.S., but also the first 'Black Friday' and 'Cyber Monday,' I can already tell that #GivingTuesday will be a breath of fresh air.

Cross-posted from the British Council blog.