What are we doing to ensure that youths from poor families can take advantage from economic cycle?
Working with youths provides me a great opportunity to understand their dreams and apprehensions relating to chances of turning their aspirations into meaningful achievement and contributing to the uplift of the society.
It seems that it is not easy time for youths unless you are from financially strong family. Youths in the developing countries like Nepal always have to struggle hard because of poverty and poor social security. Many of them, despite having lots of potentials, end up in frustration, and vicious cycle of poverty. Poverty takes different shapes and forms depending on where one lives.
In a developed society, poverty metastasizes in something more subtle and scary as it is hidden in the shadows of opulence and wealth shared by few whereas the middle class, once the bastion of developed world, is getting into shatters.
Youths in developing nations do not see much chances of getting a job. So in most cases, they end up doing precarious work that does not pay them well.
Globalization, that was supposed to be an equalizer of developed and underdeveloped regions, has turned for many into a real rip-off with manufacturing being outsourced to emerging nations for cheaper manpower.
In such context, inequalities combined with negative approach of the world feed into nativism forms of political thoughts, the so-called “my nation first” that create space for populist parties to thrive. Growing anomalies in the society have triggered radical forms of thinking where diversity is considered as a threat.
According to Steve Bannon, the ideological father of populist parties, it is the small guy versus the elite. If you are living in a developing country with a recent history of internal turmoil, where the governance is fragile, poverty is more visible no matter how much the better off pretend not to see it.
In countries like Nepal you see cases of extreme poverty and negligence. What would you do when you see a little 12 years old Chepang child being admitted to hospital to help with her pregnant mother?
Things are not as simple as you imagine. You may feel the pervasiveness of inequality and parallel world existing together: Fancy coffee shops where you pay an outrage for a coffee and cases of total marginalization and deprivation. It is always good to find a nice and cozy spot where you can browse the net while sipping coffee. There is nothing wrong because such outlets provide employment. The problem occurs when there is a deep and widening gap in terms of income distribution and available opportunities.
The only youths who you can find in such outlets are those from better-off families or those serving the tables. Vast majority of youths, those coming to town from rural villages, do not even think entering into such places.
The good thing for Nepal is finally its economy, notwithstanding all the challenges, is growing and expanding. Hopefully we are in a point where a strong middle class is taking roots in Nepal.
But what are we doing to ensure that a youth from a family scrapping a subsistence living because they have a bit of land can also take advantage from this economic cycle? What can we do to help more vulnerable youth living with disabilities or belonging to a Dalit family to emerge and thrive?
Recently there was news about corruption in Youth and Small Entrepreneur Self Employment Fund. The Fund could have been a transformational agent of change, but it did not work the way it should have been.
Change is possible
This can be changed if the political leadership becomes inspirational and bold. If a well trusted banker is put in charge of the Fund, the result would change within the next six months.
We need better leadership in every field. We need a coalition of responsible citizens who are ready to work to better support the aspirations of masses of unemployed youths.
I see that even the youths from considerably good family who are pushed to go to Australia to study and work are suffering. There are lots of youths living in marginalization and cannot even dream about going to Australia. They do not need to go far to experience frustrations because there is plenty of that here in Nepal.
Is it so hard to organize an internship program for vulnerable youths? Why are we not supporting those few schools and colleges providing an outstanding quality education in Nepal? Why cannot this idea become a priority?
The government should bring out programs for youths because youths are the catalysts who can change the society. Desperate youths might break down and lose their patience. Many youths might get induced into criminal activities and perhaps one day it might not be safe for anyone to walk around. Perhaps this can be an extreme scenario, but sooner or later, the shortcut of “outsourcing” the youths’ frustrations through migration might come to an end.
Nepal has bright minds and expertise. Very positively many youths who studied abroad are back home with great ventures. But partnerships are needed. Otherwise these smarts guys will take one or two decades to have a deep impact at society level. If some youths can lead in helping the marginalized youths, meaningful social change will be possible.
The author is Co-Founder of ENGAGE, an NGO partnering with youths living with disabilities