Brabim is an activist, writer and youth leader from Nepal.
For the first time in its history, the small South Asian country of Nepal is experiencing a huge demographic dividend. According to Nepal’s National Youth Policy (16-40 – many youth activists don't agree with its definition), approximately 20.8 percent of the total population of the country falls in the age group of 16-25 year olds, while 40.68 percent of the population lies within the age group of 16-40 and 70% of the population is under the age of 35. This phenomenon, where the youth accounts for the largest segment of the population of any country, is defined as ‘population dividend’ or ‘youth bulge’. This provides a unique opportunity for Nepal.
In 2015, the Nepalese Government came up with revised youth policies, and Nepal’s parliament passed the bill to establish a national youth council and a new youth vision 20-25 for the youth development was launched. Despite of some good plans and strategies on paper, the challenges for the youth remain the same.
Every year, over 550,000 young people enter into the labor market out of which 91% go abroad, especially to Malaysia and the Gulf. The remittance contributes more than 30% of total GDP, however the informal economy is much bigger, the contribution of remittances is much higher. The saddest part is that more than one-fourth of the population is out of country, but they don't have voting rights.
While Nepal is going through the highest youth bulge in the history, the participation of the youth in civic spaces is very low.
One of the major challenges facing Nepal’s development is the integration of the Nepali youth into the development process. It can be argued that there is a shortage of institutional platforms for harnessing myriad youth-based resources and translating them into refined materials for the nation’s development.
The Nepali youth contribute significantly to the political and economic development of their country. Politically, they have been in the frontlines of major political changes, from reinstituting multiparty democracy to ending monarchy. Recently, the country benefited immensely from the role youth played in the post-earthquake rescue, relief and recovery work. Therefore, the contributions, which the youth have made during the ordinary and extraordinary times, push an important question into the public domain: How to produce a collaborative platform for harnessing youth-based skills and spirit into a more concrete resource base?
This question presents challenges as well as opportunities for the state and the public sphere. On the one hand, the opportunities lie in transforming the wide range of resources that the youth represent in the fields of advocacy, activism, journalism, entrepreneurship, and scholarship into formal institutional platforms. On the other hand, challenges lie in addressing the ‘institutional mimicry’ and bureaucratic inertia that discourage innovation in governance that is required to include youth into the planning and development process.
Lately, there has been some space created for their input, but in reality these serve more as tokenism rather than a genuine desire to be inclusive. Taking stock of these potential challenges and opportunities may be a starting step in the long march towards building an equitable, ecological, and egalitarian Nepal. When it comes to achieving SDGs, the current youth participation, which is symbolic, has to be changed and the good things mentioned on paper has to be translated into action through meaningful youth participation from center to the grassroots.