The Promotion of Youth Engagement in Local Governance Process (PROYEL) project began from the belief that youth can become leading agents for development. PROYEL encourages young people to engage in local governance processes. This way, they can positively influence local inclusive planning, transparent operations and resource allocations in basic service delivery under the new federal system of governance in Nepal. It supports youth programmes in Madhesh and Karnali provinces covering five municipalities in Karnali and three in Madhesh. PROYEL is led by Helvetas Nepal and works with two local implementing partners: Women Empowerment Action Forum (WEAF) in Karnali province and Sahayogi Samaj Nepal (SSN) in Madhesh province.
One of PROYEL’s key initiatives is Youth Panels. These are the local-level youth entities that present their voices to local governments and their elected representatives. PROYEL has implemented eight such youth panels in the Karnali and Madhesh provinces. The project has adopted a participatory approach, bridging the gap between youth and government. It achieves this by empowering the appropriate holders with knowledge through capacity building, while also equipping local government representatives to engage in constructive dialogue. This is complemented by giving young people the opportunity to work and experience the responsibility of a real job within a municipality. Helvetas Nepal has made it a priority for Youth Panels to be inclusive, with a makeup inclusive of gender, caste and disabilities. This is to ensure that young people are represented and included in local governance in all their diversity.
Gayatri Pariyar, a Dalit 1 girl from Hariwon municipality’s Youth Panel, had felt excluded from municipal activities, but she did not know how she could go about making local government accountable for her rights. She explains, “After taking part in the two-day workshop in Lalbandi, I learned a lot of things about federalism, our rights and duties as well as ways to engage with local government.”
Nepal is reaching a demographic dividend, considering the high number of young people in the country. However, they are often used more as muscle than as leaders and drivers of change. They often face a range of challenges, including unemployment, difficulties in accessing technology, a lack of skills development opportunities and quality education. Young people can also face various forms of discrimination, depending on their background. These issues are being exacerbated by the exclusion of young people from the local governance process.
At the same time, local governments lack the mechanisms and knowledge of effective youth engagement, leading to policies and programmes that do not address the needs of young people. PROYEL has helped bridge this gap between youth and local government by creating constructive dialogue forums, led by the Youth Panels.
Given this, PROYEL’s main objective is to empower young Nepali citizens to exercise their rights more effectively through meaningful dialogue with local governments. It aims to achieve this by:
Equipping young people with basic information on federalism, the constitution, human rights, the roles and responsibilities of local government and local planning and budgeting through different capacity building programmes.
Developing the capabilities of local municipalities to engage with youth and mobilise young citizens in the
local governance process.
Encouraging young Nepali citizens to take an active role in local governance processes.
Providing the opportunity for young people in Nepali to work in, and gain experience of, local governance procedures.
Informing stakeholders (local, provincial and federal governments) about the importance of the meaningful participation of young people in governance and the development process.
These activities will increase the participation of youth in exercising their democratic rights and duties through dialogue and engagement with the local governments. By attending these programmes, 24-year-old Richa Singh Danuwar, a national Kabbadi Player and Youth Panel Coordinator of the Kshireshwornath Municipality of Dhanusha, learned about her municipality’s youth engagement activities.
“After attending a PROYEL programme, I came to know the processes for engaging with the local level government. I have now been working to generate greater awareness among other youth by mobilising members from the community to engage with their municipalities’ activities,” says Richa Singh Danuwar.
Another way that Youth Panels have successfully changed local governance is by advocating, budgeting and lobbying for youth-focused programmes. Ankit Chaudhary, Coordinator of the Youth Panel of Barathawa Municipality explains that “As per our suggestion, the mayor and ward chairs of our municipality agreed to incorporate some youth entrepreneurs and skill development programmes in the annual budget”.
Ramesh Budhathoki, Mayor of Hariwon Municipality of the Sarlahi District of Madhesh Province, says: “As a mayor, I have been focusing on programmes to retain the youth in the municipality. For this, I need to engage youth in our municipality’s processes like budgeting, programme and plan making and implementation. As young people are migrating on a large scale, we have been facing a dearth of human resources required for the development”. With increased support from local governments, it has also become easier for youth to engage and advocate for their needs, as local governments have also recognised their power to enact change.
The programme will benefit some 16,000 young Nepali citizens by engaging Youth Panels as well as schools and municipalities.
Through the implementation PROYEL activities, young people in the Madhesh and Karnali Provinces have become aware of, and been educated on, local governance issues. This increased knowledge and awareness has seen them undertake constructive engagement with local government. The project is an example of creating successful youth engagement activities as part of local governance, and it offers a potential model to be replicated in other provinces and municipalities. As young people get an opportunity to work and gain practical experience in local government affairs, many have expressed an interest in continuing their work in local politics. Local government has also gained the capacity to engage with and mobilise young people, creating an enabling environment for youth engagement in Nepal.