Youths have played an instrumental role in Nepal’s mass movements and protests. Yet the direct involvement of youths in the country’s mainstream politics remains to be desired; Nepal remains a gerontocracy. This has led to a situation of widespread disenchantment and resentment—and brain drain, a phenomenon that deeply troubles Achyut Khanal, who is a familiar presence in Nepal’s youth activism scene for the past decade. Khanal wears many hats; besides his activism, he is also the Country Manager for ACMN France, an organization that works for the welfare of orphans, and the president of Nepal Skating and Skateboarding Associations. In this interview with Nepal Live Today’s Prasun Sangroula, Khanal talks about his inspiration, his work, and youth activism in general.
You are into youth activism for the last 10 years. What inspired you to enter the ring?
Youths account for the majority of Nepal’s population. Thousands of youths are compelled today to leave the country despite possessing skills and a standard degree. The main reason why they leave is because of lack of employment opportunities in Nepal. This makes me very worried. What would the country look like if all the youths left the country? This question troubles me every time. I got into youth activism hoping to change this situation.
Why is it important for youths to be involved in activism and politics?
Most of Nepal’s top leaders belong to the old age bracket. Nepali youths have not been able to rise and make a difference despite being talented and skilled. They have not been able to implement their vision for social changes. Youths should be able to change this situation. It is precisely for this reason that they need to come to the forefront and must actively participate in addressing the social issues.
Why are our youths failing to rise to the occasion?
Many Nepali youths seem to suffer from what could be called brain drain syndrome. They have a misconception that going abroad can change their lives overnight. But in reality, going abroad alone does not help them to change their lives for the better.
The government allocates a considerable amount of budget for the youths but such budget either remains unused or even misused.
The government allocates a considerable amount of budget for the youths but such budget either remains unused or even misused. Recently I met with one of the officials from the Youth and Small Entrepreneurs Self-Employment Fund Secretariat. He said that youths are not interested in applying for subsidies offered by the Secretariat. Instead, some undeserving youths are found to be applying for it. Youths should make the most out of the facilities and schemes that are provided by the government.
Many youths are not able to benefit from the government schemes also because of a lack of awareness and training on education skills enhancement.
There are many youth leaders in every political party, but they don’t seem to be able to challenge the old leadership.
Actually, it is not that they do not want to replace elderly leaders. They do. But they lack the guts to do that. Also, they seem to doubt their abilities to take up leadership positions. There is another side to it as well. Youths are still not trusted by those in senior positions. I can tell you from my own experience. I have not been trusted on many occasions simply because I am a youth. We need to be able to earn their trust as well.
What’s your message to youths engaged in activism and those aspiring to?
It is positive that youths are aspiring to become activists. But they should have a clear vision and proper plans for it. They should also remember that activism does not help them earn money. They have to contribute to it voluntarily.
It’s a tough task but on the other hand, without it, we can not make our country better. Youth activism must thrive for the nation’s betterment. I would suggest that youths come into activism while also ensuring that they have some source to generate income.
What’s your message to the youths who are struggling in foreign countries?
I want them to try as much as possible to return to their homeland. This country greatly needs them. They can share and contribute the knowledge and skills that they acquired abroad for the betterment of this country. Doing so can generate a number of job opportunities in the homeland itself.
You are also associated with national as well as international non-governmental organizations. How do you see the role of NGOs in the development and empowerment of people?
For the overall development of the country, private, government, and non-government sectors should work hand-in-hand. For instance, there are many rural communities in Nepal where the government services are not satisfactory enough. Even after the formation of local units, the government has limited funds for many rural areas. In such areas, NGOs have a big role in empowering people. Organizations also have a big opportunity to work together with the local governments for the overall development of certain regions.
For the overall development of the country, private, government, and non-government sectors should work hand-in-hand. For instance, there are many rural communities in Nepal where the government services are not satisfactory enough. Even after the formation of local units, the government has limited funds for many rural areas.
The I/NGOs have done a commendable job in areas of WASH, sanitation and hygiene in many parts of the country. But they alone cannot contribute much. For the overall development, government agencies and I/NGOs should work together targeting the selected region and population.
What can be done to consolidate the efforts made by NGOs?
The role of NGOs is to empower people and attain sustainable development. Basically, some key roles of NGOs are conducting microfinance programs, capacity building, and empowering people, among others.
NGOs have made positive contributions in the social change process. There is, however, room for improvement. Concerned authorities should make efforts to bring similar efforts for effective results.
Efforts should be made to take the social sector and change process to the next level while continuing the ongoing change process and efforts by I/NGOs. The government, private sector, and non-governmental organizations should work together to ensure the effectiveness of the social change process. All actors should complement each other’s efforts.