Some practical ideas to promote social inclusion

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I recently attended the launch of the Common Framework for Gender Equality and Social Inclusion, normally referred as GESI Framework, an undertaking of all major development partners committed to support system change to make Nepal more inclusive.

The document offers an in depth analysis of the complex issues related to inequality in the country, comparing different models to empower vulnerable and marginalized groups.

The fact that the major aid organizations have been joined hands for this initiative is certainly positive though we need to see in practical how these complex issues can be tackled without further creating tensions and more fragmentation within the different segments of the society.

On the other hand, in a more pragmatic way, there is an urgent need to put together a list of measures that can really bring about “game changing” solutions to make the country fairer and equal, a place where everybody can certainly thrive while those who have been mostly neglected, can find a tailored made empowerment platform to catch up and showcase their abilities and capacities, avoiding the creation of a self perpetuating vicious cycle of dependency.

Networking and Exposure: recently Haushala Creatives, an initiative of Children and Youth First, organized “Celebrating Unconventional Women: Redefining Success” and one of the participants was Sarita Thulung, an entrepreneur, athlete and activist on disability and social inclusion who had the opportunity to narrate her incredible success stories amid many adversities. Inviting new and promising faces to such kind of events can be a way to promote self empowerment, creating exposure that contributes at building the level of self confidence in a person who never had such opportunities.

Leadership trainings: certainly there is no shortage of good leadership building in the country though the sector risks to be a bit inflated. Yet if well delivered, these soft skills enhancing opportunities can really be meaningful. From the pioneering Leadership Academy of Santosh Shah to the Daayitwa led Nepal Leadership Academy to the Ujyalo Foundation’s EmpowerHER and the effective work of the Leadership Institute for teen girls promoted by Women LEAD Nepal without forgetting the comprehensive package on leadership offered by the National Youth Federation Nepal with the support of CECI/Uniterra, there are plenty of opportunities. Some of them have a cost that could be an impediment to reach out bright but still untapped talents from disadvantaged communities though in many cases scholarships are offered. More of such trainings, especially those who offer a comprehensive curriculum that covers soft skills boosters with practical skills enhancement tools can have a tangible long term effect on those individuals with less exposure. Here the focus should not be exclusively on youths from marginalized communities but also on other age groups from vulnerable communities.

Internships: what seems an easy task is actually a very demanding job as designing an internship program, if really meant to be effective and transformative can be daunting but worthy. There are several organizations like for example the British Council or more recently Civil Bank who have been focusing on disadvantaged groups. There are three key factors: one is the length as the internship should last minimum between 3 to 5 months in order to bring some results in terms of professional and personal development of the beneficiary; second it should be focused on practical learning and meaningful tasks that creates exposure and bring new insights on the intern, meaning that before accepting to  host an intern, a manager of any organization should be very considerate about it; third and this is particularly true for members of disadvantaged groups, it should come with a decent though reasonable allowance.

Scholarships: I feel there is a great deal of work to create more scholarship opportunities especially within the private colleges. Moreover several rules are already in place governing both private and public learning institutions. For example we should analyze the effect and impact of scholarships for dalit students: is it really working? Does it have an impact? Are schools transparent and accountable on how the resources are allocated and delivered? Certainly there is need of more insights and understanding on current practices underpinning scholarships.

These ideas are surely not rocket science and could be implemented through a “social inclusion compact” to be                 endorsed and adjusted, on case by case, by the employers, corporate sector players, International and national not for profits, embassies and donor agencies.

I am here talking about forging a common  commitment or pledge to promote practical social inclusion practices that should be the final outcome of national consultations followed by the preparation  of a technical toolkit on how effectively run social inclusion enhancing programs.

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

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