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In the recent Constituent Assembly (CA) election, eight percent youth were elected as CA members under the First Past the Post (FPTP) System.
The percentage of youth candidates in this election was even more impressive: 41 percent of total candidates were below the age of 40. 
There were many new parties which fielded new candidates. However, the number of young candidates nominated by major political parties was not so exciting. If we are to refer to the National Youth Policy, it defines “youth” as those aged 16-40.
Zakaria Zainal
This age group accounts for 42 percent of the population, but constitutes only eight percent of FPTP winners in the CA. The figures are not going to get better anytime soon, if recent activities of political parties are anything to go by. This means that the agendas and voices of young people are likely to go unheard in the new CA.
The unhealthy tussle in the major parties to finalize their PR candidates does not indicate their seriousness about youth representation. The PR list CPN-UML submitted to Election Commission, for example, sidelined prominent young faces like Ramkumari Jhankri who was at the forefront of second Jana Andolan and has since been consistently advocating for youth friendly policies. 
Other parties don’t seem very different. This practice will continue as long as our parties continue to be ruled by a few dictatorial heads. 
Most of our political parties are undemocratic and hierarchical. 
Lack of intraparty democracy is one of the major reasons. Be it student union, trade union or any other sister organization of mainstream political parties, they all lack intra-organizational democracy. These unions are as fragmented as their mother parties. As a result, they are not strong enough to challenge malpractices in the mother party.
Tokenism trumps meritocracy in most parties, while making political appointments or selecting candidates for CA election. Political leaders look for the people who buy into their school of thought and who belong to their faction. Unfortunately, the youth fall behind when they fail to follow these unwritten rules.
The youth are in no way free of blame. When they are at the forefront of political movements, they dare to challenge their leaders. But when the movements end, they forget their power and surrender before the same leaders. They have enough courage to challenge the autocratic system of the country, but are afraid to challenge a similar situation within their parties. They can come together to bargain when fuel price is hiked, but not to ask for respect for their opinion in their parties.
One of the reasons youth are being sidelined is because the interest groups working on youth are not active. When it comes to the representation of female and marginalized communities, several interest groups working for the benefit of these sections put pressure on the parties for meaningful representation. This is not the case with our youth. Representation of female and marginalized groups is mandated by law. This has forced political parties to make sure they are well represented, which, again, is not the case for the youth.
The time has come for the youth to be considered partners of today, not only of the future. It doesn’t look like the representation of youth will increase in this CA. Despite the lack of numerical strength, the aspirations and issues of youth shouldn’t be ignored in this CA. For this, present CA members should be sensitized about the issues, challenges and aspirations of youth. This in turn will call for youth wings of political parties and non-political youth organizations teaming up to serve as watchdogs.
Time will test both political and non-political youth organizations. The need of the hour is the implementation of the dormant National Youth Policy (NYP). One of the first tasks of youth organizations is to build pressure on elected representatives to do so. 
Representation of youth in CA is necessary to ensure that the aspirations of younger generation are addressed. The youth are the best persons to raise their own issues. Furthermore, the future of the nation belongs to the youth, and this is a moment when the future of the nation is being written. To ensure youth ownership of these changes, it is necessary to make them a part of the system.
Creating a special working group on youth within the CA can be a viable way to compensate for their poor numerical representation in CA. The working group should be assigned with bringing up the agendas concerning youth which shouldn’t be missed in the constitution. Furthermore, both political and non-political youth organizations should assist the committee.
(This article was published on Republica op-ed on December 31, 2013)

Age of Candidates of CA Election, 2070 (FPTP)

The age of Youth in Nepal is heavily contested issue. The national Youth policy of the country defines “Youth” as the people who are in the age bracket of 15-40 whereas several NGOs and INGOs operating in the country have their own version of definition. YUWA defines the age youth as 15-29. United Nations defines the age bracket for youth as 15-24.
The Constitutional Assembly Election of Nepal which is all set to happen November this year will see 40.75% youth candidates competing. A recent analysis done jointly by me and one of my colleague, Sumit portrays an interesting picture of the trend of age of the candidates of the political parties.
The lowest age of the candidates is 25 and this extends till 85. 249 candidates are aged 42. The top 5 weight of candidates is in between 35-43. The national average age of the candidates is 53.

The graph below should be self-explanatory.


Out with Old

Despite the uncertainty surrounding Free Students Union (FSU) elections, political parties are going all out to strengthen their position ahead of the upcoming student election. Extravagant promotional materials inside college premises hint of a celebratory mood. But rumors of fake admissions and extravagance in campaigning definitely raise a big question about the source of money that is being pumped into these elections. The FSU election is supposed to elect a body that addresses the concerns of college-going students. However, the effectiveness of the FSUs is highly questionable. Over the years, political agendas have been put on the frontline rather than academic agendas. The FSUs have become a metastasizing tumor.
Over last few weeks, FSUs have been vehemently criticized in the media, but FSUs have turned deaf ear to the comments and suggestions coming their way. Ideologically blindfolded leaders see nothing except what serves their narrow interests. Hence they openly flout election guidelines they themselves created. Apart from FSUs, the silence of academic and administrative leaders of Tribhuvan University and students is also to be blamed for this unruliness. 

Time has come we started to question the rationale behind political FSUs and to look for an alternative to FSUs, which routinely fail to raise academic and other issues faced by students. Rather than invest millions for election of student body, it would be wise to invest in welfare of students. But this can happen only when university authorities and students partner for promotion of quality education rather than petty politics.
The alternative is a new system for formation of FSUs in colleges. The new system of students union should incorporate the concept of clubs and other sub-divisions under the leadership and supervision of the union. Elections should start in the classroom. This can be in the form of electing class representatives (CRs) or class captain every year. To make election inclusive, one male and one female can be elected from a class for representation in the student’s union where all CRs meet. The executive team can be elected from among them. For instance, if a college has 15 different classrooms, there will be 30 elected CRs in the council and the executive team can be elected from among them. The size of the executive team can be need-based. 


Republica

Furthermore, multiple student clubs addressing the varied interests of students must exist in colleges under the supervision and leadership of the union. The clubs should have a democratic system where members of a particular club are free to choose their desired leadership. Students should be free to open a new club under student union after getting enough members and after making a strong case that their need is not being met by existing clubs.

The student’s union should act as an umbrella body that guides and governs the plans and activities of all other clubs in the college. The student’s union thus formed can sit with college administration with plans of the union and clubs and try to fit the activities in the academic calendar. This way, student’s union will essentially be a student’s body. Exams, results and other academic activities start happening according to the calendar and everybody benefits.

There should be clear demarcation of roles and responsibilities of student union and college administration. Student union should not be provided the right to hamper academic programs and college administration should not be allowed to meddle in the activities of students.
This model has multiple advantages for universities, students and the nation as a whole. The academic calendar comes back on track. Large number of students will directly benefit as several kinds of activities will occur at the college and they can participate in the one they feel meets their interest.

Furthermore, a large chunk of students get the opportunity to practice leadership. They can organize programs under different clubs or they can take charge of any club or student union itself. The model further helps in actualization of student’s issues as they can directly be carried to the student’s union by CRs.
The model is already in place at few private colleges of Kathmandu and is serving pretty well. The KCM Student Council is a case in point. The council started in 2003 and is independent from college management and political parties, yet its annual financial transactions exceed Rs 1,500,000, which is essentially student earned money for student council. Ultimately, the amount is invested in various student activities.
This is a viable alternative to the existing FSU system. As time passes, traditional institutions need to be reviewed and updated. If the FSUs are not ready to mend their ways, students and the universities should be ready to adopt the new model.
Republica