Kathmandu: Youth participation should not just be a cliché. We need to act to make sure that youth come forward with a vision for their future, says Jagdish Ayer who is currently affiliated with National Youth Council Nepal as Executive Board Member.
Youth are underrepresented in government. They are excluded from the decision-making processes, he said. “But we should always try to overcome the existing problems through our activities.”
After realizing that youth must come forward with a vision to claim their participation and engagement in the political processes, Jagdish started thinking about how to develop youth as leaders of the country.
Idea of mock parliament
Together with his friends, he came forward with an idea of making Nepali youth informed about parliamentary processes.
The idea was clicked in 2017 when Nepal was about to hold one of the first local elections in 20 years, Jagdish shares.
“Before that I had never cast my vote. It was the first occasion when thousands of Nepali youth were taking part in the elections for the first time. We were equally excited about the voting process,” he recalls the past. “By then, I had already started working on youth participation issues. I started thinking about how to ensure youth’s political participation.”
I realized that while claiming the rights of participation in the different spheres, youth should also be familiar with the political processes, he says. After this realization, he discussed the idea of conducting a mock parliament in all seven provinces. The idea was liked by his friends.
“Our primary vision of conducting mock parliament was to make the youth, who could be future leaders, familiar with the role of ruling party, opposition party, the house speaker, the President, the Prime Minister and other key stakeholders who could play crucial roles in parliamentary democracy,” he tells Nepal Live Today.
In the same year, he and his team organized mock parliament sessions in all seven provinces. As many as 50 to 60 participants took part in each province. About 400 youth were trained on parliamentary processes in the first phase. “We had ensured participation of youth from diverse backgrounds including from Dalits, Janajati and other marginalized groups and communities,” he says.
Major parts of mock parliament
Mock parliament was designed in a way that could be supportive for the youth to understand the basics of democracy. “In the four-day long mock parliament sessions, we had a plan to make participants aware about the importance of rule of law, accountability, and transparency for a functioning democracy,” says Ayer.
Ayer and his team wanted the participants to engage as pressure groups at the local level. “That is why we created a loose forum to continue their learning and to motivate them to be involved in governance issues,” he says.
Now, many of them keep an eye on local governance issues. Some of them are involved in revealing public issues using Right to Information. These things are directly linked with the functioning of the local democracy, Ayer shares.
Acknowledgement by the government
Later, the idea was also acknowledged by the National Youth Council. The initiative was recognized by the Ministry of Youth and Sports in its annual program. “It was a moment I felt so satisfied with my work. The idea was owned by the government,” he adds.
Now Jagdish and his team are thinking of expanding the program at the Palika level. We need to debunk the stereotype concept that youth can only take part in sports, he says. “Now is the time to break the rooted concept and establish the notion that youth can be a vital agent of change.”
Following these initiatives, some Palikas have earmarked a budget to run mock parliament sessions. “We cannot measure change overnight. But we are confident that the initiative will be helpful to establish youth in leadership roles,” shares Jagdish Ayer.
Youth leadership and capacity development were the focus of the program. Jagdish is satisfied to share that some of the participants from those mock parliament sessions have now been elected in different levels of government. “This success makes me feel satisfied,” he says.