Baal Kachahari (Children’s Forum) is Save the Children Nepal’s contextualised, child and young people-centred social accountability tool. Young people aged under 18 organise intergenerational dialogues in their communities and invite local service providers, elected representatives, other duty-bearers and influential stakeholders to a non-adversarial discussion, from commitment to action and follow up. Save the Children in Nepal and Karnali Integrated Rural Development and Research Centre (KIRDARC) have initiated and supported young people in implementing Baal Kachahari in Karnali province of the country. Baal Kachahari has provided space for discussions on key local issues of concern – ranging from child marriage, violence against children, food security, livelihood and education – and for stakeholders to develop a joint plan to address these issues. These Baal Kachahari have been successful in sensitising elected representatives on their role in increasing public investment in children and in curbing harmful social norms. They are proven mechanisms of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and collaboration for leveraging young people’s voices and leadership.
Nepal ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) on 14 September 1990, and guarantees young people’s right to participation as a fundamental right in the Constitution of Nepal 2015 (Article 39).
The Children’s Act 2018 has clear provisions for young people’s right to participation (Clause 8), freedom of expression and right to information (Clause 9) and freedom of association (Clause 10).
Children’s Regulations 2021 encourages children and young people’s clubs to be registered and active in the affairs of local government.
Children and Young people’s participation and the right to be heard in the decision-making processes of local governments is promoted as one of the guiding principles of Child-Friendly Local Governance (CFLG) implementation guidelines 2021.
The legislation and policies ensure young people’s participation in the decision-making processes while planning and implementing actions for their rights. Such efforts are supported by political actors and civil society organisations. Participation by young people is considered a key indicator in the local level planning process and community-based structures of local government.
Baal Kachhari is a transparent and apolitical space. Young people are provided with the space to speak to their unique needs and experiences.
The cyclical nature of the forum and the multistep process ensure the accountability of duty-bearers to follow through on their commitments. Additional media pressure also ensures follow-through.
Capacity building trainings on young person’s rights, sensitisation on duty-bearers’ role in rights fulfilment – as well as partnerships with local governments, CSOs and media – can all encourage stakeholder commitment.
Baal Kachahari is made up of two words; ‘Baal’ means young people under 18 years of age, while ‘Kachahari’ means a dialogue or a discourse between people and agencies on certain issues based on the case, opinions, facts and evidence. Save the Children in Nepal and KIRDARC adapted Kachahari practice and initiated Baal Kachahari to promote, protect and fulfil the rights of young people. This used a dialogue, led by the young people, to make duty bearers accountable to address the issues of children. Young people are often engaged in the policy formulation process; however, they have limited input during the implementation phase, and the failed execution or implementation of legislation and policies represents a major setback. Hence, as a platform to advocate and influence the local government for implementation of legislation and policies, Save the Children in Nepal and KIRDARC supported young people to held Baal Kachhahari for a systematic dialogue with the government and speaking up about realization of their rights in local government level of Karnali province.
Baal Kachhahari is an initiative led by young people, which is convened in the presence of service provider organisations (such as schools, health facilities and protection facilities), elected government representatives, teachers, parents, and other concerned stakeholders. In 2017, Save the Children in Nepal and KIRDARC initiated Baal Kachahari in Tilagufa municipality of Kalikot district (one of the remote and uphill geographical terrain of Nepal) in the Karnali province.
Baal Kachahari follows a clear process; first, young person’s clubs identify and prioritise their issues of concern and invite relevant duty bearers to discuss. They then develop questions and identify key speakers from the clubs; they organise and moderate dialogues with the duty bearers and solicit commitments from them; they prepare an action plan with a timeframe and reiterate the agreed actions in the forum itself. Finally, within the agreed timeframe, they organise a further forum to follow up on the commitments that they received during the previous iteration.
Between 2017-2022, the Baal Kachahari in Tilagufa municipality of Kalikot district in the Karnali province of Nepal achieved the following:
- Policy reforms in Tilagufa municipality relating to young people; for example, a strategy to eliminate violence against children along with reporting and responding mechanism, a strategy to eliminate child marriage, child protection policy, child club formation and mobilisation guidelines.
Baal Kachhahari Process
- Issue Identification and Prioritisation
Young people initiate discussion in child clubs and prioritise their issues of concern. They go through a visioning exercise and identify issues affecting them and the milestones they intend to achieve.
- Develop list of questions (key ‘Asks’) and identify relevant duty bearers
Young people prepare a list of questions to be asked of their duty bearer. Based on their prioritised issue(s), young people identify the relevant official or a representative from duty bearer / service provider.
- Identify speakers and become prepared on the issues
Young people identify speakers from their youth clubs who will raise questions to the representatives. Speakers drawn from the ranks of young people are informed and prepared on the issue on the achievements and gaps in their context.
- Information about the forum and send invitation to duty bearers and observers
Young people confirm the venue, date and time for the forum and send invitations to the concerned duty bearers, representatives and participants from CSOs, including child and youth clubs and the media.
- Conduct Children’s Forum
Young people moderate the Baal Kachahari along with the invitees including concerned duty bearers. The identified speakers would ask questions of the relevant representative, while the notetaker minutes the statements and commitments.
- Seek commitments from the duty bearers and prepare an action plan
During the forum, young people solicit commitments from the representatives on what has been done and what still needs to be done. The notetaker drafts an action plan, which is shared and signed off from the representatives at the end of the event.
- Follow up on the implementation of the commitments
Young people organise a similar forum in three months’ time to track progress. The same representatives are asked what has been delivered against the commitments made during the previous forum. Young people’s representatives also participate in the local level planning processes on their issues and the commitments to be included in the annual programmes and budgets of local government.
- The Budget of Tilagufa municipality for investment in children increased from 4% in 2019 to 20% in fiscal year 2022.
- Six wards (the lowest administrative unit) of Tilagufa municipality were declared child-marriage free, child-labour-free zones and child-friendly local governance wards. Young people played a pivotal role in these achievements. They raised issues of investment in children, took action against child marriage, alerted government officials and conducted home visits, peer-to-peer awareness raising and sensitisation in families, schools and communities.
- Children and Young People are considered as a key actor during the planning and implementation phase, and their participation and engagement is sought in local-level planning processes and in different community-based structures.
This is a forum to ensure that the issues raised are addressed and resonate with the impact in the lives of children. It is where young people of diverse gender, ethnicity and geographical location are represented and can raise unique issues that may have been ignored. This is considered purely a medium for ensuring government accountability, where young people are empowered to raise their issues amongst the duty bearers. It provides an open and transparent discussion about and for children and young people and is conducted by them which created an interest among the government, CSOs, donors and the public.
Baal Kachahari, as an event, lasts a maximum of three hours and is a rolling process. One of the key aspects is that young people follow up action with the duty bearers. In one forum, they extract commitments for action from the duty bearers, while young people would ask the progress on their commitments in another forum. This is a continuous process.
In its initial days, the local political leaders and a few community-based groups – including parents – accused Save the Children and KIRDARC of backstopping young people and engaging with them unnecessarily, in ways that would affect their academic performance. However, engagement in the capacity-building training and the process of Baal Kachahari empowered young people to increase their involvement in social affairs. This not only contributed to their academic performances but also to improving their personality development and leadership skills. Families started to trust this engagement. In addition, the local government officials also gained insights and inputs directly from young people, which helped in shaping policies and programmes towards their rights.
Initially, Save the Children and KIRDARC undertook preparatory actions and capacity-building initiatives. Young people conduct a visioning exercise on how they envision to bring positive impact in their lives and the community. Through this, they explore their issues and potential actions, along with the milestones. If there are multiple issues, young people vote to prioritise them. They take the lead, and stakeholders – including the local government and non-government organisations – support the initiative. In fact, Tilagufa municipality has owned the process and begun allocating budget to conduct Baal Kachahari separately. A notable example is the SMART CARD for sanitary pad. During the child club discussion, young people realised that it was difficult for girls to attend schools while menstruating. Pads were not easily accessible and there was quality issue with the ones that were available. Girls were reluctant to ask their family members for pads and hesitant to buy them. Hence, young people raised this issue during one of the Baal Kachahari and asked for a machine to dispense sanitary pads. Tilagufa municipality installed an ATM-like machine in schools to
dispense pads and provided each girl of menstrual age within the municipal area with a SMART CARD. This is a good example of an innovation arising from young person’s discussion.
Stakeholders and External Relations
Save the Children in Nepal and KIRDARC extended their partnerships with local governments, CSOs and media, providing capacity building trainings on children and young person’s rights and improving their knowledge on their role towards fulfilling these rights. The journalists attended a young person-sensitive training that encouraged them to make space for child and young people-related matters in their news coverage. Baal Kachahari is considered as the only child-centred social accountability forum where they can meet with duty bearers and the young people themselves speaking up about their issues. This created interest among outlets; local radio stations and local newspapers as well as national daily newspapers, which published articles about the forum. The officials and authorities of the government and service providers saw their names in the media space, motivating them to act on their commitments.
Information on Baal Kachahari was mostly conveyed through local radio stations. In addition, young people went door-to-door with the message about the forum, extending invitations to participate in the forum. Collaborative meetings were initiated together with government officials, CSOs and young people to identify topics for discussion and follow-up actions. The process – led by young people – particularly in large community gatherings where youth themselves are speaking about their issues and demanding actions on the commitments, created interest among stakeholders. The open commitment and the progress shared on prior commitments became another highlight of such forums. People realised that the voices of young people were being heard, and they gradually started supporting them and asking the duty bearers about what was being said in the forum and what was delivered. This also created pressure on service providers to take action on their commitments. The support from the media, particularly from local radio and newspapers, was tremendous. The media coverage and the radio bytes were reminders for government officials to act on their commitments.