Youth awakening during the pandemic

Youths have refused to be passive observers in these times of crisis. They provided humanitarian aid to the poor, the homeless and the hungry.

Volunteers serve free meals to the needy at Khulamanch in Kathmandu. (File photo)

Jagdish Ayer

  • Read Time 3 min.

As the pandemic and the lockdown that followed exasperated many of the societal problems, the youths of the country rose up to help the societies. Youths have refused to be passive observers in these times of crisis. We have seen youths outdoors providing humanitarian aid to the poor, the homeless, the hungry, and the physically disabled by providing them with daily meals, hygiene products and transport services for the ill.

Some have taken steps to engage with their government representatives through advocacy in social media platforms and in online webinars where we’ve highlighted issues that needed immediate attention such as lack of welfare services to the vulnerable, gaps in health services, growing domestic violence, loss of employment and deteriorating mental health among others.

We, at Association of Youth Organizations Nepal (AYON), have been working with our member youth organizations to assist people in quarantine by volunteering in management of isolation centres. Our representatives have been working in partnership with local governments to manage returning migrants from neighbouring India to limit the spread of Covid-19.  Our youth champions from the districts of Achham, Kapilvastu and Surkhet are working online to tackle the rising misinformation, disinformation and hate speech. We’re also lobbying with our representatives to devise long-term programs to create gainful employment to encourage the returnee migrants to stay in Nepal and use their skills here in the domestic markets.

Youths from government sectors and frontline workers such as doctors, nurses and social activists worked selflessly and tirelessly to serve the citizens of our nation during the lockdown. It is important for us to appreciate and encourage these youths. Young people have also taken upon themselves the responsibility of arranging important medical supplies like oxygen and life saving medicine.  They have spoken for change and accountability in governance. Campaigns like ‘Enough is Enough” for demanding appropriate Covid-19 testing, vaccine purchase and purchase of proper medical and safety equipment also gives us hope that we can stand up to injustice, corruption and unaccountability.

During the pandemic, the international community including development partners helped Nepal with health equipment. Youth organizations played a big role in distributing those machines and equipment, to ensure that distribution is need-based and that they reach the rural parts of the country first.

Youths were among the front-line warriors to help people fight the pandemic. They prepared an initial information system to take stock of the situation of hospitals and availability of beds for Covid patients. They spread awareness messages and informed the people where they had to go or what they had to do when they were infected. The youths were working day in and day out.

These efforts by the youths are commendable but they are not enough. They need to do more as Nepal and other countries in the world are struggling to fight the pandemic. They need to take the responsibility for addressing the existing inequality in societies which has disproportionately affected the people without access to resources.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been a long, hard and painful ordeal for us all. The decisions the youths make and the actions they take can make a difference in Covid control and recovery. 

Youths need to think about these pressing questions: How can we help improve information access and reduce the digital divide?  How can we increase the understanding of the market forces and accelerated move toward a digital economy due to the pandemic? How can we help create new jobs and improve access to the market using new technology? How can we create partnerships with private and public sectors to prepare a recovery plan that is more resilient to such shocks? How can we reintegrate youths and returnee migrants who lost their jobs and create dignified work for them in Nepal? These are the big questions we need to find answers to.

When it comes to supplying the skills and workforce needed to tackle this public health emergency and create business opportunities, youths in many parts of the world have set examples by stepping up new initiatives and out-of-the-box solutions.

We need to enhance their capacities and creativities to enable them to help the country and people during the pandemic crisis.  The Covid-19 pandemic has been a long, hard and painful ordeal for us all. The decisions the youths make and the actions they take can make a difference in Covid control and recovery.

Jagdish Ayer is President at Association of Youth Organisations Nepal (AYON).