Seven youth leaders from Sudur Paschim, Karnali, and Madhesh had the valuable opportunities to meet with Helvetas President Regula Rytz and her team from Helvetas Headquarters.
The meeting involved a discussion about a Helvetas Nepal cofounded project that aims to empower young people in eight municipalities in Karnali, Madhesh Province, and other areas throughout the country. The group consisted offive members from the Youth Sounding Board (YSB) from the governance sub-cohort (which is led by Helvetas Nepal) and two members from the Youth Panel (YP).
The meeting was organized on November 27, 2023 by Promotion of Youth Engagement in Local Governance process (PROYEL) project which is funded by the European Union and co-funded byHelvetas Nepal The participants gathered at the Country office of Helvetas Nepal to have an overview on project information and facilitate discussions with youth leaders.
Although YSB operates at the national level and YP at the local level, both programs share the goal of involving youth in the decision-making process regarding governance and development.
The YSB, comprised of members selected through a rigorous process by the European Union Delegation, aims to bring about a significant and lasting changing in the way EU engages young people in its development initiatives.
As part of Helvetas Nepal's PROYEL Project, Youth Panel (YP) members, carefully selected from ward-level candidates, are currently involved in educating and proving information about local governance processes to the youth in eight municipalities.
To initiate the interaction, Aagya Pokharel, the ProjectCoordinator of the PROYEL project, gave a brief introduction to the project.
"PROYEL presents a unique opportunity for Nepal’s youth to receive education, earn a sustainable livelihood, and contribute to the nation’s growth," stated Pokharel.
A brief documentary, showcasing the project's implementation and the feedback from beneficiaries on how it has improved the lives of youths, was presented to President Rytz and her delegation, providing a glimpse of the project activities."
Held in an interactive setting,the discussion lasted for one and half hours, where the President of Helvetas Rytz and members of the delegation posed frequent queries. The session provided an informative overview of the project and its impact on communities and municipalities.
Anjana Kumari, a 24-year-old resident of Barathahawa Municipality in the Sarlahi district of Madhesh Pradesh, shared that young women in her community are starting to ask local officials, including the ward chair, mayor, and deputy mayor, about budget allocations for youth activities. They are also raising concerns about discrimination and gender-based violence.
"The Madhesh region continues to grapple with prevalent issues of gender-based violence, violence against women, early marriage, and discrimination based on caste, ethnicity, and gender. Kumari highlighted that even since the establishment of the youth panel, they have been fervently advocating for these concerns, leading to some noticeable advancements."
Prem Bahadur B.K., a member of the Youth Panel who also served as YSB from Bheri Municipality in Karnali Province, pointed out that there is a noticeable change happening in youth involvement, especially in regard to local government initiatives.
Ankit Chauhdary, a member of YSB and YP from Barathahawa Municipality in Madhesh Province, expressed that the establishment of a youth panel at the ward level has greatly contributed to engaging the youth and ensuring that the local government is held accountable.
After the implementation of the project two years ago in five municipalities of the Karnali Province and three in the Madhesh Province, young people are now approaching local governments in an organized manner to demand sufficient budgets for youth. The PROYEL project by Helvetas Nepal is facilitating these changes.
Rakshya Awasthi, representing the Sudur Paschim Province as an YSB member, stated that young people have not yet been fully integrated into national and local projects and program implementation. Avasthi emphasized that although progress has been made, more work is needed.
Nandani Sah, a member of the YSB from Janakpur Sub-Metropolitan in the Madhesh Province, emphasized the need for more projects targeting young women in the region. These projects aim to combat discrimination, exclusion, early marriage, and domestic violence. As a young advocate, Sah takes pride in her work and is dedicated to making a difference.
Abhisekh Bista, another YSB member from Sudur Paschim Province, shares this commitment. By engaging with diverse groups of young people, he discourages them from pursuing foreign studies and encourages them to complete their education within the country. He is a strong advocate for ending child marriage, gender-based violence, and harmful practices like Chaupadi.
Another YSB, Narayan Prasad Rijal, is currently leading initiatives to bolster youth participation in Nepal's policy-making process. As role models for young people and vital members of their communities, young individuals have the ability to initiate change by mastering their professions, starting businesses, and innovating.
Awasthi emphasized the significance of youth participation in decision-making and the importance of the YSB program. However, a considerable number of young people in Nepal are unemployed and emigrating in large numbers to foreign countries in search of employment.
Teaming up with young leaders, local partners in the private sector, governments, civil society, and communities, Helvetas strives to achieve long-term and large-scale change that goes beyond the scope of our work.
Nepalese youth face significant challenges such as unemployment and limited access to skills and technology. They also experience exclusion based on factors like gender, caste, ethnicity, and disability. Ultimately, there are fewer opportunities for them to actively involve and engage in public or policy activities, which has resulted in a growing disconnect.
Dr. Prabin Manandhar, the Country Director of Helvetas Nepal, highlighted the lack of understanding on local government systems and procedures, as well as the incomplete knowledge of how to initiate participation in public and political spheres, as major obstacles.
Following the implementation of the federalization process in Nepal, municipalities have taken the lead in public service delivery. They are now in a unique position to design and implement a comprehensive response to local development and humanitarian issues. Dr. Manandhar emphasized the significance of PROYEL in this context, stating "PROYEL plays a crucial role in creating a platform for establishing new relationships, giving young people a voice and an opportunity to actively participate in local governance and development.”
President Rytz noted that PROYEL's approach effectively enhanceyouth involvement in local and national governance. It is heartening to witness enthusiastic young people taking charge at both levels. This kind of meaningful engagement by the youth is a commendable achievement of the project.
She gathered project information and community contributions to drive change. President Rytz actively engaged with participants, addressing their questions and sharing her experiences from other countries.
President Rytz has pledged that Helvetas will support youth empowerment initiatives such as PROYEL. The President of Helvetas has extensive experience in human development across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. Additionally, she has served as the Regional Coordinator.
The PROYEL Project, funded by the European Union and Helvetas, serves as an exemplary model for wider replication. Sudur Paschim, Karnali, and Madhesh, young individuals are leading the way towards a brighter future by breaking free from the secrecy and stigma that once held them captive.