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Regular discussion program on Youth and Gender in Nepal

Organised by FES Nepal

6 February 2014, FES Nepal office

Report Prepared by Mibit Dahal


On February 6th, youth and experts from diverse background gathered at FES hall to discuss on "Youth and Gender" presented by Sumira Shrestha. The discussion was presided by Babu Lal Yadav and observed by experts, youth activists, academician and head of FES. Santosh Pariyar offered comments on the presentation. After the brief introduction of FES and participants, Samira Paudel, officer at FES anchored the program. With the end of general introduction, the program started formally.

Paper Presentation

Linking two broader aspects youth and gender is difficult but they do have common aspects to share. While defining youth Sumira focused on different definitions adopted by various agencies and shared the difficulty created by such gaps. While defining youth as a complex idea that has been incorporated by different agencies or government policies has created dissimilar categories. She highlighted youth as group with high energy, aspiration and power to do something. They are component of different sectors of society. So they form a complex whole of non-homogenous group. They are the path to adulthood. She said that gender on other hand is socially constructed idea which starts from the very beginning of the birth of the child. It accommodates socially constructed roles and responsibilities of all the groups. She highlighted different sectors where youth have contributed performing a number of roles and responsibilities. Having these contributions she also pointed out the key problems that youth are facing. The structurally defined difficulties that youth are facing are actually pulling their contribution and roles in life-situations including unemployment. This is raising impediments to their constructive participation. She also pointed out the questions whether we can resolve such impediments for the maximum participation of youth.

She highlighted the problems that concern the gender question illustrating examples from her own experiences of how gender is differentiated within the household. Also she focused on the deep rooted problem that gender roles and responsibilities are facing which needs to be changed with the start of childhood socialization process. Mostly the challenges that need to be overcome by female are more difficult than males, she added. They have to break the private sphere in order to be in the public sphere, which is not only challenging but also ice-breaker. Also the problem with youth and gender at once will have lots of impacts on the entire process of upgrading personal attributes and qualities. These difficulties are fueled by the non-categorized bulk of youth with dissimilar positions, opportunities and outcome. Those at the bottom of social and economic pyramid need more intervention. Without adequate support to those in the margin, the confidence level of the youth and gender in the long run is shaken. To break the barrier (a form of traditional barrier) is a critical challenge and should starts from family. This requires at large a necessary for construction or filling the gap, for addressing gender sensitive work. She also argued that with minimal effort from the policy level the gap can be fulfilled, which should be done by the concerned policy makers. Gender and youth are the big components which need to be bridged to uplift their social contribution and move to the condition of peace and justice. Finally she ended with a paradox 'Gender development to foster youth and development or Youth development to foster gender and development,' for the participants to ponder.

Commenting on the paper Mr. Santosh Pariyar said that most of the people take gender as only women. And the logic behind the misconception is gender gap where women are more disadvantageous than men. It requires balancing the role and responsibilities of women and men. He also proposed suggestions on broader categorization of male and female youth instead of taking the whole youth as a single bulk without understanding their structural disparities. It is a long needed discourse for both male and female. The discrimination on gender part relies also with the territory. Both youth and gender have suffered with big intensity. He also pointed out that gender discrimination does not start with birth but actually starts before the birth, like selective abortion. Gender roles and youth are both major part for state building and gender is not only sociological problem but also psychological problem. He stressed "how am I viewing the person is more of psychological". He explained how youth are perceived in gender and how population at large differs in idea. He stressed the need for constitutional guarantee and finding some legal bases on such guarantee. He also added that gender is also linked with cultural aspect as it is deep rooted within the framework.

Discussion

Ms. Lara Klossek raised a query to Mr. Santosh Pariyar on quota to women. She said if the quota is given to them the threat of marginalization starts from the very beginning in the absence of such quota.

Mr Kosh Raj Koirala, a journalist, added the importance of the topic in today's context. He supported the view presented and added that demographic and population bulk must be taken into consideration while we talk about the gender equality. And the first step to do so is empowering them through education. There should be grassroots level awareness for the elimination of gender based inequality. Also it's important to access the role of media be properly utilized in bringing awareness to people. He raised a significant question on how can we utilize youth for gender mainstreaming in order to make them capable of taking a decision.

Mr Pranav Kharel, a journalist, raised the issue on domestic market inequality. He said how informal economy is related with process of more feminization of poverty and stressed on creating same level (in different sectors like wages, facilities, leave, health benefits, etc) for both male and female in domestic labor market.

Ms. Deepa Bhardwaj, labor expert, argued on the employment issues which has been taken as non dignified work in own country. She raised a question "How can we dignify the work?" She said proper attention have not been made on green jobs which is agriculture based jobs. She also raised the question on how to break the family barrier on gender issue. Or should youth start revolution on such issues? She related the role of youth in maintain gender equality and said that more and more issues are being politicized. She highlighted with her own example how gender issues can be addressed from the home itself, in family life as mother is seen equally competent like father by children and both parents can serve as role model. She emphasized on "cultivating equality culture at home," educational place, work place and in larger sphere of politics.

Mr. Pradip Pariyar, a youth activist, highlighted on need-based education in Nepal. He focused on introducing system of education that caters the need of overall development of youth.

Ms. Uma Thapa, student of Conflict, Peace and Development Studies, said the need of empowering future generations at home. "Is family itself responsible to create gap between male and female starting from childhood?" she questioned with her own experience. She also argued on change in cultural pattern from the family itself.

Mr. Brabim K K.C, youth activist, pointed out the cases where decisions have been or will be affected as women takes a seat of decision maker. He said "social security, job security and dignity of work must be maintained." He also added that traditional skills should be certified in order to support and preserve the traditional skills. He ended with need to bridge the gap between information sectors and service sector and modernize both the sectors of political economy so that one complements the other in uplifting the backwardness of the nation.
Ms. Indira Ale pointed out the difference lying in different institutions. Facility differences, uneven pays and others are gradually germinating seed of greater differences which needs to be bridged with effective policy intervention.

Ms. Cornelia Puerschel, opened the debate on the questions forwarded by presenter Ms Sumira Shrestha. She said that youth must be empowered so that differences in gender and development need not be re-addressed in the long run.

Dr. Chuda B. Shrestha, ex-chief of Police Training Academy, applauded the holistic approach on the presentation. He stressed on youth to replicate the good skills brought by foreign labor returnees. He added that conflict have brought negative changes as youth migration. And youth have been utilized in negative force but not in constructive part. He stressed the need for the election of local bodies so that many of youths can be local leaders and constructively play roles in production, security and social accountabilities.

Ms. Puspa Bhusal, former CA member highlighted the need of development, governance and peace policies as greater youth agenda. She said that differences in social struggle between male and female is more of structural, somewhat related to religious idea and practice. Youth should quest for legal provision to eradicate such practices that are discriminatory in nature.

Mr. Ananda Aditya, Professor at Tribhuvan University, raised serious question on methodological issues. He said that gender and youth are correlated. How they can transcend the time and forwarded a question whether just claim of rights can make them (gender issues) capable of fostering equality. He also said that non-reacting durable change is sustainable rather than abrupt change. He suggested youth to learn the scholarly models of Gargi and Maitreyi who challenged their male counterparts in the intellectual discourse and even defeated them.

Dev Raj Dahal, Head of FES, stated the necessity of bringing different problems forward is important as this gives chance to look into the solution. He stated freedom, need fulfillment and self-realization are very much essential for each individual at every part of life and therefore we must understand their location in the state, economy and education. He said that education must be functional and should be production based rather than rote learning unreflective of social condition. Civic education about enlightenment must be brought into to strengthen the social base of democracy, bolster the power of change agents of society and the text unrelated to human life. He further added that youth is Nepal's future but by not expanding labor market within the country we are compromising their future . Also rights and duties of youth and gender issues must be in correspondence. We need to address gender and youth problems institutionally. Further he added that economy of violence must be converted into economy of peace where production, distribution and circulation go in effective manner. Also economy must be linked with the state's need for order and popular need for social justice and peace. For this greater degree of civic awareness must be provided. Then he added the importance of ethics and civic education in every sector which makes the governance accountable. He added that rights and change must go hand in hand. Therefore, social power coalition for justice is needed to bring different social, gender, intergenerational and ecological justice into the policy domain. He further added the importance of ecology as it is essential for human life and forms a total life's interconnection.

Prof. of political science Lal Babu Yadav, chairman of the program, pointed out the sensitive interconnection between gender and youth. But, in Nepal, they are vaguely analyzed. He also highlighted how our society and culture originated historically in matriarchal way and gradually shifted to patriarchy. Now there is a need to restore the balance. He further emphasized on the need to promote better part of our culture which is essential for our democratic political evolution. He added on equal participation of both male and female which requires grass root level empowerment and focused on bringing long term planning for the empowerment of youth which means also the empowerment of women. He formally ended the program thanking the paper presenter, commentator and all the 16 participants who asked questions adding that youth as a change agents of society should work hand to create our society egalitarian and contribute to nation-building.

 
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