Youthful efforts for the second Constituent Assembly elections
KATHMANDU, Oct 26: Age 18 is a crucial age in the life of a citizen of Nepal because at that age, one can rightfully vote. This means one can choose their own representatives and shape the trajectory of their country.
The youth make up a large cohort of the current almost 28 million people of Nepal. Not just because of their numbers but because the youth are undeniably a power that can bring positive changes in the country, their participation in the November 19 Constituent Assembly elections is important.
For the many times that political leaders of the country have let its people down and the negative view towards politics that we’ve grown up with, there’s an understandable political apathy that has swept young minds. However, there are young people who are changing the cards for themselves and for other young people like them.
Photos Courtesy: Mero Aawaz, Merai Vote
Youth pen down their messages during one of the events of ‘Mero Aawaz, Merai Vote’ voter information dissemination program, at the Exhibition Hall in Bhrikuti Mandap, Kathmandu.
These youngsters have realized the importance of youth participation in politics, of democracy and of elections as a crucial process that will set the directions for the country. Be it through affiliation to various organizations or simply as an independent group of motivated young people working towards the greater good, there are ongoing efforts to ensure that the upcoming elections will be participative and successful.
Of late, a lot of black and white creativity can be seen in many hotspots of the city. With cartoons and slogans, these street murals are political but they go beyond the usual political slogans that have stopped speaking to its city dwellers. Through symbolisms such as paintings of puppets and sheep, these murals send out the message of urgency and change in the current trend of tolerating political injustice that Nepalis have been facing.
Part of the movement known as ‘Byujagraha’ or a call for awakening, was started through conversations of ‘We must do something to change our situations’. Then one mural lead to another and now there are 15 of such pieces in the city urging passerby’s to participate in the elections, politics and the development of the country. “The main reason why we’re doing this is because we really feel that the public needs to become aware and speak up against the corruption and the wrongdoings of leaders. Young people need to be involved in politics, become leaders themselves or at least choose good leaders,” says 21-year-old Pratik Shrestha, a youth involved in byujagraha. “We’re not supporting a particular party but the whole process of elections through this movement,” he adds. This group of about 20 youth has been contributing their own time, money and effort into byujagraha.
We all can play a part in making the elections happen. It is all about doing what you can with what you have. Program Presenter for The Human Face, Asmita Dhital, 22, and her team has also been getting the conversation on elections going. The Human Face is a media advocacy program launched by SAATH, a youth-led social work organization, and every Wednesday from 5:15 pm to 6 pm on Citizen FM 94 MHZ the program brings into its airwaves important discourses on various issues in our society. Since October 23, for a month onwards, the focus is going to be on youth and elections. “Everyone is responsible to make the upcoming elections successful. Directly, we participate in the elections by casting our vote but another way to participate is also by becoming aware about elections and issues related to it such as ensuring that candidates are responsive,” says Dhital. Dhital invites young people involved in the elections and holds crucial discussions surrounding the second CA elections of Nepal. From the episode of The Human Face on youth and elections that has already been broadcasted, Dhital shares that the major conclusion that came about was the fact that the youth have been given responsibility but have not the decision-making power. In the next episode, Dhital will be talking about whether the success of elections will guarantee democracy.
On the other hand, mobilizing the youth, Democracy and Elections Watch (DEW) Nepal has initiated a Voter Information Dissemination Program for Marginalized Groups titled ‘Mero Aawaz, Merai Vote’ which through various campaigns are reaching out to the VDCs of Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur, educating marginalized groups through creative platforms such as dohoris and street theatre. “There’s much skepticism going on about the elections. But the point we are making is that whether or not one votes, someone will be elected. But if one exercises their right to vote and is able to vote for the right candidate, that vote can make a difference,” says Achal Raj Satyal, one of the program officers working for the voter information dissemination program. “A vote is not just a stamp. It’s your voice,” says Satyal who adds that if one doesn’t vote, then one loses the right to complain. The program also focuses on engaging the youth both at urban and rural levels. “If we plan to talk about elections, preaching no longer works. Hence, we are trying to disseminate the same message through the use of entertainment. In our dohoris and street plays, we address the skeptical feelings of the public toward election and get the positive messages through,” Satyal adds. The program is planning to organize events such as musical concerts targeting the urban youth. It has also made its presence in the social media to further reach out to the urban youth.
Again, focusing on the urban youth and with an aim to better prepare them for the elections, youth organization YUWA and United States Youth Council is organizing a one-day electoral education training program with about 40 Nepali youth. The main aim is to train these 40 youth thoroughly in the process so that they are further train other youth of the valley. “Our target is to reach about 1,500 youth during the peak hours of the election and to orient them on the election process,” says Kanchan Kharel, 26, the General Secretary of YUWA. “The urban youth of Kathmandu are very frustrated with the state of the politics of the country and are often questioning on why they should vote? But it’s is important to vote because we need to ensure our civic right and because we need to change our country,” Kharel emphasizes. He believes that the urban youth of today have become smart and are no longer impacted by traditional methods of lecturing by old people. “Hence, if people of their generation stand up to them and begin the discourse of elections, then it will be more impactful,” says Kharel explaining the reason behind mobilizing young people in advocating about the elections.
Kharel further points out that casting a vote means placing one’s stake into the country’s matters. It’s about being heard. Which is what the youth that are working to make elections happen are also campaigning for: using the right to vote to get yourself, a citizen of the country, heard.