Meet the young people creating change for their communities
Under the verandah of a simple earthen house in Tikapur, far west Nepal, a group of young people are gathered. They’re not in hiding. Far from it – they’re here to plan and prepare for leadership roles that will quietly help change the course of their community – maybe even their nation.
They’re members of a group that began just last year, seeded by our partner the Welfare Association for Children, Tikapur (WACT).
The context in which WACT work is challenging.
Most families here experience food shortages for much of the year. Hunger drives people of working age to leave their homes to find employment in other parts of Nepal or even across the border in India, which means education and family relationships are severely disrupted.
WACT staff are aware of three or four cases of human trafficking each month in the area, even though some of the communities are a two hour trek on foot from the main highway. They’re completely cut off during the wet season, and members of the community have died of snake bite during the monsoon season, unable to reach medical help.
“We face other challenges too, like caste discrimination, harmful health practices and lack of educational opportunities,” 22 year old Anuraj says. He’s the chair of the group, a tall, serious young man with an earnest expression.
“Many of the young people have no hope, and they experience anxiety and depression. Some use drugs and alcohol to escape.”
While that lack of hope may be completely understandable, Anuraj and his friends refuse to be passive. They want to create change, and they’re crafting for themselves the tools to help make it happen.
Change that gives hope.
Just last year, our partners began the process of recruiting children and young people into groups where they can find purpose and address the issues that matter to them most. They spoke to teachers, parents and young people themselves to find those ready and willing to step up; they provided them with meeting places, the promise of training and opportunities for their voices to be heard.
And the young people came.
They day we visited, sitting with them on the hard earthen floor, children from Grade 8 to those beginning their tertiary studies spoke with great courage, conviction, empathy and about the issues they see around them. Depression, suicide, family and social conflict, alcohol and drug use: these are familiar perils.
Why have they joined and what do they want to tackle?
Bibhuti Chaudhary (19) wants to raise awareness among her peers about child marriage and help them find a better path.
In Nepal, 41% of women aged 20-24 were married by the age of 18. The country has the third highest prevalence of child marriage in South East Asia.
Change will require much more investment in education, social and economic opportunities for young women; marrying when they are ready will improve their health and chance to take part with dignity in their communities.
Bibhuti is determined to be part of it. As a young woman from a poor and marginalised community, her voice would traditionally be silenced. Not today.
Prapti Shahi (19) wants to put an end to chhaupadi – a practice in which women and girls are excluded from home and social life, denied certain foods and drink, and even sent to stay in isolated locations outside the home when they are menstruating. This is not just socially isolating; it disrupts education, work and the opportunity for young women to feel part of decision making in their communities.
Prapti has never before felt able to speak about the issues that trouble her most, let alone believe she could have the power to be part of change. But as a member of the group, she can amplify her voice and strengthen her resolve. Her entire village will benefit.
Anuraj puts it best: “Individually we can’t do anything. But together, we can change things.”
How your support is making a difference
With the support of INF Australia and in partnership with the Australian government, there are now 46 groups like this one meeting in the region. In the midst of very daunting circumstances, our partner WACT have followed up children and young people, recruited them to the groups, provided them with training and helped them decide the best ways to engage with the challenge they’re facing. They show real energy and commitment;
It’s certainly true that it takes a village to raise a child, but sometimes it also takes a child to raise a village.
If you’d like to support this project with a donation, right now is an effective time to give.
We’ve recently become fully accredited with the Australian Government in recognition of our leadership and collaboration on effective and sustainable projects in Nepal.
Full accreditation means we’re now eligible for a share of the grants that are made annually to not-for-profits working to overcome global poverty under the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).
As part of our commitment to work with Government, we’re asked to contribute at least $1 for every $5 made available to us under the scheme. This means we can use your gift to increase up to six times our impact for people working hard to free themselves from poverty.