Youth Empowerment and the Future of Democracy in Nepal

  • Rohullah Niazi

Nepal witnessed a significant shift in its political dynamics during the 2022 election cycle, marking the emergence of a new era of political empowerment, particularly among youth. The impact of these elections highlights the growing influence of young leaders and emphasizes the importance of investing in the political empowerment of Nepali youth, which is a primary goal of much of the International Republican Institute (IRI)’s programming in Nepal. 

The local elections in May 2022 and the general elections in November 2022 in Nepal experienced a remarkable surge in youth participation. This was evident from the election of several young mayors, particularly the mayor and deputy mayor of Kathmandu City, as well as the election of 63 members of parliament under the age of 45. This increase is significant compared to the 2017 elections, which saw 45 young MPs elected for the 275-member House of Representatives. 

This increase highlights the growing influence of young people in shaping Nepal’s political landscape. Several factors contributed to this heightened involvement, including increasing awareness of political issues, improved access to information through social media, and the younger generation’s desire for change. Young voters demonstrated their enthusiasm by running the “No, Not Again” campaign against established elder leaders and turning out in large numbers on election day, signaling their intent to influence the country’s political evolution. 

The elections also paved the way for the rise of prominent young leaders in Nepal’s political arena. These leaders captivated the attention and garnered the support of youth through their charisma, powerful advocacy for change, and ability to resonate with the aspirations of the younger generation.  

In addition to the rise of young leaders, the November 2022 elections witnessed the ascent and growing impact of a new political party, the Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP). Led by Rabi Lamichhane, a former journalist and TV celebrity, RSP emerged as a voice for change, seeking to address the longstanding governance and service delivery issues that had plagued Nepal’s political system. Its formation marked a significant shift in the political landscape, providing a platform for young leaders and technocrats to advocate for meaningful reforms and address the concerns of their generation. 

The political empowerment of youth in Nepal, accompanied by the rise of young leaders, holds immense significance for Nepal’s future. It signifies a departure from traditional political norms towards a more inclusive and representative democracy, allowing youth to contribute fresh perspectives and renewed energy to address Nepal’s pressing social and economic challenges. Moreover, youth empowerment has the potential to foster social cohesion, bridge generational gaps, and inspire other young individuals to actively engage in politics, becoming catalysts for positive transformation. 

To capitalize on this momentum, the government, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders must provide adequate support and platforms for the continued political engagement of youth. This includes creating opportunities for leadership development, fostering mentorship programs, and promoting inclusive policies that value and amplify the voices of the youth. 

The Emerging Leaders Academy (ELA) project implemented by the International Republican Institute (IRI) recently trained 60 young leaders nationwide. Recognizing the potential of youth, the ELA project invested in the participants’ development as future leaders, equipping them with the necessary skills for active participation in the democratic process. Beyond individual empowerment, the project fostered national unity and collaboration among diverse youth from different parts of the country. 

Nepali youth must actively participate in the political process between elections to ensure sustained progress. They should continue engaging in youth empowerment programs like the ELA to develop leadership skills and foster unity among diverse youth. By amplifying their voices, advocating for transparency, and pushing for good governance, young leaders can drive positive change and shape a more inclusive and vibrant democratic future for Nepal. 

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