Nepal is on the critical crossroads of history with both opportunity and challenges of progress. With the end of decade long Civil War after the comprehensive peace agreement reached between the government and Maoist insurgents, the country moved into a new era of political turmoil caused due to sudden change in the political conscience of the people. Nepal is a diverse country with more than 30 ethnic groups residing in the various parts of the country. However, the recent political transitioning from monarchy to republic has been accompanied by growing mistrust among various groups which has plunged the country into deep uncertainty and instability. Many of the recent clashes which have resulted in death of hundreds of people have been caused due to intolerance among various group on the grounds of their ethnicity, religion, and caste. In this critical moment, it is very important to educate people to promote tolerance and respect for each other to ensure a harmonious society based on principles of human rights. Among the different societal sects, youth are that part of society comprising of all the class, caste, ethnicity, region and gender. This project focuses on involvement of youths in promotion of peace and human rights.
The program can be divided broadly into two phases. In the first phase, a week-long interactive workshop will be conducted. Four-five students, each from 10 public and private colleges in Kathmandu have been invited to participate in the interactive workshop. The administration of each college is requested to facilitate an inclusive selection of five students based on gender, ethnicity, caste and religion. A one week interaction program will be organized with the theme on human rights and culture of peace with its relevance in present day Nepal. The workshop will focus on the active engagement of young college students in the promotion of Peace and Human rights. The workshop will consists of lecture series by prominent guest speakers in Nepal, discussion sessions on topics such social justice and human rights, sensitivity trainings, leadership skill and team building. Throughout the workshop, the group will explore various possibilities of larger community in the promoting human rights. At the end of the workshop, each group will present its own ideas in promoting human rights and peace in its community. In the second phase, all groups will be performing various programs in their communities aimed at engaging larger section of the population. Each group will conduct at least one or more activities such as discussion sessions, civic engagements, workshop, exhibitions, etc. that will focus on educating their peers and community about human rights, social justice and peace education. All these programs will be primarily led by the student groups but supervised, facilitated and funded by this project.
The project is being conducted by collaboration between students at Bard College, New York, and Conflict, Peace and Development Studies at Tribhuvan University, Nepal.
Sankalpa Khadka, the project leader, is a fourth year student from Nepal studying in Bard College, New York. His primary field of study is Physics and Mathematics. However, he is equally interested in community outreach activity. At Bard, he has served in numerous organizations and committees such as Secretary of International Student Organization, student representative of Education Planning Committee, Club Manager of Bard Book Exchange, Peer Counselor of Residence Hall, volunteer of Bard Leprosy Relief Project etc. He initiated the project by collaborating with the student of Conflict, Peace and Development Studies at Tribhuvan University, Nepal.
Rajib Timalsina is a graduate student at the Department of Conflict, Peace and Development Studies, Tribhuvan University. He has served as a Vice-Principal at Churiyamai Secondary School, Makawanpur from 2004 to 2009. He has a wide range of experience in community outreach concerning Human Rights. He facilitated Anti Human Trafficking program of ETSC Nepal in 2008. He has a active Activist on Child Rights Activist. He has also worked as a editor for The Stride English Weekly.
Balmukunda Humagain is a graduate student at the Department of Conflict, Peace and Development Studies, Tribhuvan University. Balmukunda is a youth activist and has interest in youth initiatives and awareness programs.
Students from both public and private colleges were invited to attend the workshop. Around 40 students from 10 different colleges attended the workshop.
The workshop kicked off on June 13 at a seminar Hall in Global College, Kathmandu, one of the participating colleges of the project. The first day of the workshop was themed “Human Rights” in which discussions and presentations were centered around Human Rights situation in Nepal. The workshop started with welcome speeches by Sankalpa Khadka, the project leader, and guests Dr. Hem Raj Subedi, coordinator of Conflict, Peace and Development Studies, TU and Dr. Bishal Situala, Professor of Norwegian Institute of Life Science.
Mr. Bijaya Raj Gautam, director of INSEC and prominent Human Rights Activist was invited as Distinguished Guest Speaker to speak about “Human Rights Situation in Nepal”. Mr. Gautam gave a presentation and led discussion with the participants about the state of human rights in Nepal. The participants found the discussion session very engaging and fruitful as they raised important question about the fragile human rights situation in Nepal.
In the second session of the day, Sankalp Khadka from Bard College and Rajib Timalsina from CPDS, TU, led a joint discussion about role of youth in promotion of Human Rights in Nepal. Participants of the workshop were appalled by the deteriorating Human Rights situation in Nepal, and raised concern over failure of government to implement recommendations of National Human Rights Commission. Participant also recognized various roles that youth can play in order to promote Human Rights in Nepal such educating mass about Human rights, pressurizing government to bring violators under justice, and helping the victims of Human rights violations.
The theme of the second day was “Ethnicity, Caste, Gender and Religion” where discussion were focused on diversity in Nepal and its relation to the current political situation. With various ethnic and non-ethnic groups calling nation-wide strike to fulfill their demands, the theme was very timely and appropriate. The day started with a presentation by Rajib Timalsina and Namuna Khadka, both students of CPDS, on “Ethnicity, caste, gender and religion in Nepal”. The presentation gave an overview of various Ethnicity groups, caste, gender issues and religious practices in Nepal.
Dr. Bhimarjun Acharya, a constitutional expert, was invited as Distinguished Guest Speaker to give a presentation on “Constitution and Ethnicity”. The discussion session focused on important national debate about the proposal to divide of the states based on ethnicity, and how that can affect the constitution making process. Participants raised concerns over delay in formation of new constitution in Nepal and how the rights of all diverse group can be assured by the constitution in future.
Finally, the day 2 ended with a discussion on “Sensitivity and Tolerance” and how young people can promote it in our society where a deep rift has been created among various group. Participants felt the important role of youths in promotion of ethnic and religious tolerance, and caste and gender equality.
The third day of the workshop was focused on Conflict in Nepal and Conflict Resolution. In the first session, Balmukunda Chapagain and Alka Acharya, both student of CPDS, TU, gave a presentation on “Nature of Conflict in Nepal”. The presentation consisted of a brief overview of various conflict in Nepal starting with the first democratic Movement against the Rana Regime in 1960, again during the Autocratic Panchayati rule by King, during the second People’s Revolution in 2006 and more recently during ethnic movements in Southern Nepal.
Mr. Pitambar Bhandari, a faculty at Department of CPDS, TU, was invited as Distinguished Guest Speaker. Mr. Bhandari, who also played an important role during the early stages of the project by providing important guidance, gave a presentation and lead discussion about “Conflict Resolution”. Since Nepal is in transition phase after years of violent conflict, the participants found the presentation and discussion very fruitful and informative.
In the final session of the day, participants performed a roleplay about water dispute between two villages. The participants were divided into two groups of villagers who had dispute on use of water resources. The two disputing groups went through various stages of conflict and finally mediated their differences. During the roleplay, participants learned about various elements of dispute and process of mediation.
The fourth day of the workshop featured a field trip to the National Human Rights Commission(NHRC), Harihar Bhawan, Lalitpur. NHRC is a constitutional body responsible to monitor Human Rights in Nepal. One Day 1, the theme of the workshop was Human Rights in Nepal; hence the participants were very interested to learn how the highest body responsible for monitoring Human Rights situation in Nepal functions.
During the field trip, the participants got an opportunity to interact with senior secretary Mr. Bishal Khanal, director and Human rights officers. Mr. Suresh Malla, Human rights officer, gave a presentation to the participants about the function and roles of NHRC in Nepal. During the discussion session, participating students raised concerns over very low percentage of implementation of recommendations made by NHRC to government. After the presentation, the participants took a tour around various departments of the NHRC while also understanding their operations and functions.
On the fifth day of the workshop, participant explored the relation between Media and Information with Peace. Nikita KC, a freelance writer, gave a presentation on the Nepali Media and information. The discussions were focused on role of media in bringing changes in the society. Similarly, the participants also explored the role of emerging social media as a important means of spreading awareness to the mass.
Senior journalist and editor of the weekly newspaper, The Reporter, Mr. Yubaraj Ghimire, was invited as Distinguished guest speaker to give a presentation on “Role of Media and Information in promotion of Peace”. Mr. Ghimire enlightened the participants about the nature of Nepal Media and Information, the role it has played and should play to promote of Peace and social changes in our society. During the discussion, participants raised concerns about higher prioritization of political news over non political new by the media and lack of its accountability for false news.
The sixth and final day of the workshop began with an interactive discussion on Leadership skills and youth initiatives led by the project leader, Sankalpa Khadka, where participants engaged in exploring ideas for youth initiative and traits of a good leader. This was followed by presentations from each participating college group about their programs and initiatives which they will conduct in their own colleges.