Twenty-six years old Pramila Uprety, a resident of Harion Municipality 4, Patuwa, has already voted twice in the last 10 years. However, she has just visited four times in the municipality office. Her first visit was 10 years ago to get a recommendation for a citizenship certificate and the second was two years ago to get a marriage registration certificate. The other two visits were to seek jobs and other family affairs.
An employer of a local civil society organization, Uprety, a graduate of management, has never realized that the municipality can provide the necessary support for employment and another issue of youths living in municipal areas. She used to consider voting periodically as her democratic right and her engagement.
Richa Singh Danuwar, 24, a national Kabbadi Player and Youth Panel Coordinator of Kshireshwornath Municipality of Dhanusha, has traveled to many parts of Nepal. Like other youths, Danuwar too voted for national and local elections, but she has rarely participated in any other activities of the municipality.
“Attending a few workshops in the last five months, I come to know the process of engagement with the local level government I have been working now to generate awareness among the youth mobilizing members from the ward panel to engage with municipalities’ activities,” said Danuwar
The first and foremost important thing Ankit Chaudhary, coordinator of the youth Panel of Barathawa Municipality, did in the last five months are forming youth a panel at the ward level and organizing a few meetings, forming a group in Whatsapp, and on social media, to share common interacts, issues related to youth.
“As per our suggestion, the mayor and ward chairs of our municipality agreed to incorporate some youth entrepreneurs and skill development program in the annual budget,” said Chaudhary
Studying BBS second year at campus Hariwon, Gayatri Pariyar,21, a Dalit girl, from Hariwon Municipality ward 2 Lalvitti, does not know the process of engagement and to make the local level accountable.
“After taking part in the two-day workshop in Lalbandi, I learned a lot of things about federalism, our rights and duties as well as way to engage with local government,” said Pariyar.
Following attending a few programs, around 90 youths like Uprety, Danuwar, Chaudhary, and Pariyar have come to know that the municipal and provincial governments have also a responsibility to launch various schemes including employment-generating entrepreneurship programs for youths.
Dipenddra Mahato Kohiri, Youth Panel leader of Hariwon Municipality, said that the perception of youths is changing and there will be more engagement of youths at the local level in the coming days. “Last few programs equipped us with knowledge and information regarding the law, constitutional rights, federalism, and structures.
The newly elected head of local governments also complains that only a few youths visit the municipality with proper programs and projects for their betterment.
“As a mayor, I have been focusing on programs to retain the youth in the municipality. For this, I need to engage youth in our municipality’s processes like budgeting, program and plan making and implementation. As youths are migrating on a large scale to Australia, America, gulf countries and the federal capital, we have been facing a dearth of human resources required for the development,” said Ramesh Budhathoki, Mayor of Hariwon Municipality of Sarlahi District of Madhesh Province.
“I will be happy to welcome concerns of youth and their participation,” said the mayor of Hariwon Municipality Budhathoki. “We have budgets and programs. If they come to us with a program and proposal, the municipality will look at it. At a time when youth are leaving the village, I want to retain them by offering the programs.”
Sukhdev Yadav, Mayor of Kshireshwore Municipality of Dhanusha district, said that youths actively took part in the elections process and exercises their democratic rights.
Mayor of Barahathawa Kalpana Kumari Katuwal also shared similar views as the other two mayors on the lack of youth participation. Katuwal stressed the need to have more women participate to bring drastic change.
“Investment in the youth is the investment for a generation. Equipping youths with legal, constitutional provisions is a basic way to increase youth engagement at the local level,” said Katuwal.
Modality of PROYEL
The modality followed by PROYEL is unique and participatory. Individually, each youth has her/his own problems and concerns. However, all the youths in the municipality are facing unemployment, exclusion, lack of skills and quality education as common problems.
PROYEL is supporting to build of the capacity and empowering youths to engage in the local governance process in eight municipalities (Palikas) of both provinces. Despite annual budget allocation by the municipality and Madhesh province youth-related activities remain low.
Instead of targeting individual youth, PROYEL focuses on constituting an inclusive youth panel consisting of men, women, Dalits, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+, marginalized, ethnic groups and Madheshis. To make it broadly representative covering large areas, Youth Panel starts from the ward level.
For the common problems and concerns, the youth required a group to put forth their voice strongly before the elected leaders. The project plans to address the gaps in youth engagement and leadership in an institutional way. For this, three tiers of youth structures Ward Level, Palika level and Youth Sounding Board (YSB) at the National level have been formed.
Youth Panels are consultative forums at the Palika level, Youth Sounding Board is a consultative space for Nepalese youth to have an influence on the European Union actions by making it more participatory, relevant, and effective for them.
Youth Sounding Board is an all-inclusive multi-sectorial platform of engagement designed to bring together youth voices to guide the European Union development cooperation in Nepal. The formation of Youth Sounding Board started in Brussels and similar boards have been formed in Nigeria and Tanzania.
Unlike Youth Panel, an exclusively formed by Helvetas Nepal and its partners, Youth Sounding Board is being piloted by the European Union's three partners Youth Innovation Lab, Oxfam, and Helvetas and consortium members respectively.
Hari Khadka, the chairperson of SSN, holds the view that the program is working to fulfilling the gap in knowledge and information between the youth and the municipality. “Our programs have been bringing a change among the youths and elected leaders on the issues of engagement in the process,” said Khadka.
“We are conducting various programs with local resource persons and resource persons from outside to equip the youths to deal with local levels on the matter related to youth,” said Khadka.
Organized by SSN with support from Helvetas-Nepal, over 90 youths from Hariwon, Barhathawa of Sarlahi and Kshireshwore Municipality of Dhanusha actively participated in three days of Federal, Constitution and Election Literacy Training program on September 6-9.
Badri Manandhar, Program Manager of Helvetas Nepal, Presented the issue on federalism theories and practices of different parts of the world focusing on Nepal’s system. He also presented the structure, function of the local governments and related laws, structures of the local level and committees related to them.
“The basic understanding of the structures, constitution and laws are necessary to engage the youth in the process, my whole presentation was prepared for this,” said Manandhar
Similarly, Nirma Chaudhary and Janak Adhikary presented the issues related to developing the planning and functioning of the group.
Nirma Chaudhari, the Program Coordinator of SSN, presented a solution-based concept on dialogues, their process, principles, process, and importance in conflict resolution.
Aagya Pokharel, Project Coordinator Helvetas Nepal, facilitated the program's occasional intervention in the program to make the whole training process interactive and focused.
Pokharel stated that the governance structures are transforming with closer to the people. She said that the government is now from Singha Durbar to the hand of citizens.
The project also aims to capacitate Palikas and facilitate to engage with the mobilize local young citizens in the local governance process. Federal, provincial and local governments are informed about meaningful youth engagement in the governance and development process based on the lessons learned from the activities.
“Democratic governance ensures the participation of citizens in the process of policymaking and its implementation. This project is all about the increase the engagement of the youth. As most of the participated in the elections, this project aims to engage them in local self-governance,” said Dr. Prabin Manandhar, Country Director of Helvetas Nepal.
“The project aim is also to show that democratic governance is not just a set of rules and institutions, it refers to the processes in which democratic institutions are functioning according to democratic processes. For this, the project is focusing on youth,” said Dr. Manandhar.
Jointly inaugurated by two mayors Ramesh Budhathoki of Hariwon Municipality and Sukh Dev Yadav Kshireshwornath Municipality, members of the youth panel from three municipalities actively took part in the workshop in Lalbandi on 6-9 September.
The project intervenes with the formation of a youth panel in each working municipality and supports them to get educated and informed about the local governance process, also giving them access and opportunity to constructively engage and participate in the process. This is complemented by giving some youths to work and experience a real job responsibility in a municipality.
“The role of youth in bringing change in society is immense. Due to their negligible engagement, other persons are taking the credit for the change,” said Hari Khadka, chairperson of the SSN. “Our program aims to bring the youth into the mainstream to give their credit. “The youth issues in Nepal are also the issues of exclusion and discrimination that filter who gets what in terms of opportunity, access and decision making. At the crossroad of diverse intersecting identities based on gender identity and sexual orientation, caste and ethnicity, poverty and geography, many youths do not get equal opportunity and access to growth, resources and decision making.
With an aim to promote them, Helvetas has implemented an action to promote youth engagement in local government processes in support of the European Union.
Encouraging and inspiring Nepali youth, the European Union ambassador Nona Deprez also joined a closing program of the Youth Sounding Board meeting and interacted with members.
Giving closing remarks, the European Union Ambassador shared voices of the youth should be stronger and better heard. Connecting with Youth Sounding Board members, Ambassador shared that being a Youth Sounding Board member is a commitment to working with the European Union and with other cohort members. Their inputs and recommendations will help to guide the future actions of the European Union to make them relevant to the need of youth.
This statement shows how the European Union is giving importance to a project which will ultimately prepare an informed citizenry for the future of Nepal.