This article is the English version of https://voiceofyouth.jp/archives/2030
To our Japanese readers,
On August 9th 2019, Riho Isaji,a student of University of Tokyoand and Kana Yokoyama, a member of VoYJ management committee, visited UNICEF Nepal Office.
UNICEF is dedicated to advancing the rights of all children in Nepal, especially the most marginalized and disadvantaged. UNICEF has been working in Nepal for five decades now. Their programme focus has continuously changed over the last 50 years to meet the changing needs of children, adolescents and women in Nepal. The focus during the early years was on child survival and infrastructure, while in the 80s, it focused on women’s empowerment and self-sustainability. In the 90s, UNICEF’s programmes became district focused, and with the turn of the century more emphasis was laid on reaching the most disadvantaged and reintegrating children affected by the armed conflict. In 2015, UNICEF worked towards supporting children and families affected by the 2015 earthquakes that killed nearly 9,000 people and injured more than 22,000. Currently, UNICEF provides technical support at the grassroots level in the municipalities, and the experiences garnered in the process guide their strategy to influence policies and programmes at the national level in the fields of Education, Health, Nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene WASH, Child Protection and so on.
We had chance to have a discussion with youth in Nepal. They were UN trainees who belong to UNICEF, UNDP(United Nations Development Programme), UNCDF(United Nations Capital Development Fund) and UNRCO(United Nations Resident Coordinator Office), and at the same time, some of them are also graduate students.
- Gyanu B K, Communication Section, UNICEF
She recently obtained her Master’s Degree in English Literature from Tribhuvan University. She belongs to one of the marginalized groups of Nepalese society, the so-called ‘Dalits’. Being a young ‘Dalit’ woman, she has seen many girls and women who are not getting proper education and are deprived of good opportunities. Over the past couple of years, she had the opportunity to work with young people through Youth Advocacy Nepal (YAN) as a youth campaign member. YAN is a movement-based youth organization dedicated to protect and promote youth rights though advocacy, campaigns and capacity development. She also taught Social Studies and English to students of Grade 10 in Kavya School and S.V. Academy which are located in Kathmandu.
- Oshin Rai, Governance and Inclusive Growth Unit, UNDP
She belongs to middle-class family and an indigenous community often called ‘Janajati’ in Nepali. She is currently studying master’s studies in Psychology. She has assisted female community health workers to distribute medicines provided by the government and worked as a volunteer at the age of 14 for her village where she helped the senior citizens and volunteered for general election back in 2008. In addition to that, she has worked as a substitute teacher for primary level during her undergraduate studies.
- Basant Kumar Chaudhary, Local Development Finance Unit, UNCDF
He is from Kailali District which is at 600 kilometers distance from Kathmandu. He belongs to marginalized group called Tharu whose main occupation is traditional agriculture. He has completed his Master’s Degree in Business Studies, majoring in Finance. Before joining this traineeship, he worked as an accountant. He has an aspiration of doing his own business.
- Amit Kumar Bari, Procurement and Finance Unit, UNDP
He is from a district in western plain of Nepal, Kapilvastu. As a student of a public school, he was an active member of child right protection group. While studying in the higher secondary level, he worked as a tourist guide in Lumbini and related Buddhist sites in Kapilvastu District and also actively engaged in a local group of Family Planning Association of Nepal (FPAN) where he helped adolescents learn about sexual and reproductive health, HIV and AIDS. Later, he worked as a tutor and an Account and Administrative Assistant in India. He is currently pursuing his master’s studies in Business Studies (MBS).
- Roshani Gahatraj, Admin and Finance Unit, UNRCO
She was an active member of Creative Peace Volunteers Club and also worked in an audit firm as a trainee. This gave her a chance to meet with new people and learn new perspectives from them which helped her to move further in her professional life. She is pursuing her master’s studies in Business Studies.
When we arrived at the office, we were welcomed with blue scarfs.
After a brief self-introduction, we talked about the educational system and educational gap in Nepal, including comparisons with Japan.
First of all, the UN trainees explained the current situation in Nepal about the differences in tuition and quality of education between public and private schools. In Nepal, public education is free of charge, but the quality of education is considered to be low which causes issues especially for the poor and middle class who have less access to good quality education. Most UN Trainees were from the middle class, so they had to choose their schools based not on what they want to learn but on how much their households can afford. Schools were chosen considering the economic situation at the time, and whether you had older or younger siblings, therefore you may have a different educational experience from your other siblings. For example, according to Ms.Oshin, who has four siblings, her older sister first attended a private school, but later had to move to a public school because her family became unable to pay her tuition.
Some pointed out that the same can be said for medical treatment. In public hospitals, although medical fees are cheap, the waiting times are long and the quality is considered to be low compared with private hospitals.When people get sick, most of them first stay at home and see a doctor only after they can’t stand with it.
Some talked about the gender gap in education. In Nepal, girls could meet a good husband if they could do housework, and many thought it was a success story (The number of people who have this idea has been decreasing recently due to the results of domestic campaigns and programmes). For example, Gyanu spent her student life not only going to school, but also doing housework such as laundry and cooking. She told us doing homework and housework after returning from school was sometimes difficult. She often felt she had to work harder than others.
Even if you are lucky enough to complete secondary education, it is economically difficult to advance to a university or master’s programme, and UN Trainees are pursuing careers with family support. They said that training at the UN is a place to grow because they can make use of what they studied at universities and graduate schools. One of them said that she was able to improve her skills such as time management, flexibility and leadership, especially when she had many jobs at the same time. It was a valuable experience for them to see their work not only support at a local level, but also a global level to make a better world. And some trainees said their dreams came true by working at the United Nations.
In addition, VoYJ members explained about the activities of EMPOWER Project and Voice of Youth JAPAN as youth activities in Japan and exchanged opinions.
Fist of all, the EMPOWER Project (https://voiceofyouth.jp/archives/263) is an initiative that Japanese youth has developed since 2017, which aims at inclusion of all people by promoting “Coming-Out by Supporters” with “Magenta Star.” If each one starts to express his/her will to support others, local and global communities will become more inclusive, peaceful and resilient. Each person can be an agent of change, in eliminating barriers and making society more inclusive utilizing one’s unique capabilities. Everyone can make oneself transformed into a hero with putting the Magenta Star. It is unique since our society tend to have asked those who want support to come-out, and Coming-Out by Supporters promotes the opposite. If a tourist wants to know how to get to their destinations, they can go for information desk or police station, since the information desk or police station indicate their roles as supporters with their uniforms or signs. Coming- Out by Supporters works the same with Magenta Star.
Nepalese people are as shy as many Japanese people. They may face situations where they need support, or on the other hand, have enough abilities to help, but cannot speak up. Some commented it would be a very effective way to create cooperative communication in such cases. In addition, they told us that in Nepal people with disabilities do not have sufficient access to education, healthcare and infrastructure, and that this EMPOWER logo can be very useful to tackle those problems that can be resolved by helping each other. Also they really liked the fact that this EMPOWER project does not label people with or without disabilities and their attributes, but rather expresses their willingness to cooperate.
Regarding Voice of Youth JAPAN, we were able to reconfirm and discuss the importance of raising the voices of youth. For example, in many parts of Nepal, women in menstrual period are considered unclean, and they have been told that talking about menstruation is a taboo. Though, it is important to talk about women’s health and unable to talk seems to be frustrating. Youth in Nepal often use social media to communicate what youth think, but it can only be delivered to those who have registered as friends, but online platforms such as VoYJ could spread everyone on what youth are thinking about and what kinds of problems they were having.
It was a significant experience for us. Our schedule was very tight and we had only an hour for the discussion. The discussion intensified and all of us felt that we should have had more time for it. We are very grateful to the UNICEF staff and the UN trainees for welcoming us warmly.