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Today is International Youth Day and this year theme is ‘youth engagement”. As stated in the web site of the United Nations Secretary General Representative for youth,

The engagement and participation of youth is essential to achieve sustainable human development. Yet often the opportunities for youth to engage politically, economically and socially are low or non-existent.”

Nepal is a country that boasts an amazing youth population. Here I am not only referring to those bright young adults living in the capital who are actively involved in many terrific organizations. I am also thinking of thousands of youths living in the villages that despite great limitations and frustrations, are trying their own best to make it: despite not having the same exposure of their peers in Kathmandu, despite struggling with the English language, they are equally part of the national youth landscape that makes the country’s future so exciting because a new generation of mindset will soon take over the reins of the nation.

At the same time we should not forget those youths who contribute to the development of the nation in a different way: by leaving the country to work in the Gulf or in Malaysia. Somehow we tend to forget about them, maybe because they have less educational status, have less access to opportunities but still they are playing a big role in sustaining the country. A lot depends on them.

Youth involvement in the national development remains a key but oftentimes the same youths are not given any tangible or concrete opportunity to really contribute in any meaningful way.

Politics is driven by an old generation of politicians who are detached from the aspirations of the youths.

Maybe because so many doors are shut for them, many youths, rather than giving up, decide to start new ventures either commercial or social and the amazing thing is that they are thriving. Exactly for this reason, I see the future of Nepal in very positive terms as youths are slowly taking over the social and economic sector and later than sooner, they will also be the leading force in politics.

Now what could be done to harness the power of youths? My propositions will not be exclusively related to the issue of civic engagement but will have a more holistic view.

  1. Let’s call youths those who are really youths.

In Nepal you are a youth till you are forty years old. I understand this was a way to offer a cover to young adults who have the skills, capacity and ambition to run the country but still have all the doors shunned. Yet we should have more “realistic’ age definitions of youth, we cannot overstretch the concept simply to adjust to the wrong dynamics of the country.

  1. Leverage the youth skills in the entrepreneurship

 Since several years the government has been running the Youth and Small Enterprises Self Employment Fund (YSEF). The idea is great but it is not working. Why do not we outsource the implementation to a consortium of organizations led by a private sector consultancy? A management consultancy would have all the skills, capabilities to run the program effectively without being hampered by political interferences at local level. The sector of social entrepreneurship should have a special role. Partnering with leading organizations, leveraging their expertise and scale it up at national level could really boost not only the “productive” capital but also the social capital of the nation.

  1. National Volunteering Policy

It is there but it is not coming.  A draft National Volunteering Policy has been prepared but it has not been endorsed yet by the Cabinet. I am afraid that the Policy would not be enough to steer volunteerism towards a new level but it can be a beginning.

  1. Put together all civic and leadership capacity building modules

There are many youth led organizations who have been working on civic engagement and leadership. They have been delivering impressive trainings but all are single initiatives. Maybe it would be a great idea to pull them all together on line, a sort of resource center with all practical information on how run and deliver trainings for youths. Copy right issues should not be a problem in this case.

  1. Promote Agriculture and national resource management

Agriculture is an untapped potential and it not at all attractive for the youths of the country because of the system around it. We need new investments; we need the use of technology to harness agriculture and the overall management of natural resources. What’s about promotion of schemes that link eco-tourism with natural resources cultivation and management?

  1. Ensuring youth participation in the local level politics

There are many ways to do this: from mandatory quotas in the election of the VDC councils till the softer and politically easier option of setting up permanent forum or chambers at VDC levels with consultative status. While their deliberations would not be binding, the VDC council, before taking any decision, should mandatorily get opinions from the local youths.

These are just simply some ideas. It would be interesting to start a conversation about practical ways to empower youths through tangible actions.


Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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