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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)

Secret Window

Social Media trends offer some unique experiences to the users. Confession pages, a new social media fad, are mushrooming these days. Though there is no actual evidence of how and where the global trend of confession pages started, the trend in Nepal is seen to be influenced by confessions pages in educational institutions of the US and India.

Over the last month, several confession pages have been started by anonymous users in the name of various educational institutions in Kathmandu. The anonymity of these pages is their core appeal. Lively anonymous posts collected from online forums are posted in facebook pages, which have become the new hangout destinations for a large number of youngsters.


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Page visitors wait for the mysterious admin to post new content. Their interest in reading more confessions is evident on the walls of such pages. The deluge of comments requesting the admin to post new content is an example of the craze. These kinds of pages provide students both the opportunity and the risk of expressing things they would not share with otherwise.

The use of technology as tool to raise a voice of protest is not new. Several political changes including the Arab Spring used technology as a powerful tool. In Nepal too, we have witnessed the positive use of technology for social causes. However, the recent trend is very new to the education sector. Such pages not only provide a platform to confess personal feelings but also act as a podium for students to express their views publicly on diverse issues. 

Out of 80 randomly chosen confession posts from 8 different confession pages based in Kathmandu, 38 percent were related to love and liking, 22 percent complained about teachers and schools, 19 percent were negative statements of hatred while another 19 percent were alumni who talked about their memories, and two percent were about other subjects.

The trend clearly shows us that love and mismanagement of educational institutions are not the only issues discussed. These pages also contain information that could ruin the image of a person in a single moment. Statements of hatred and negativity can be found all over the pages. This kind of negativity is establishing itself as a new way of bullying. The pages could also easily damage the hard-earned reputation of educators and educational institutions. 

These pages do not violate the rules of Facebook so long as the contents remain within the bounds of civility. Students who set up confessional pages must do so under their real names, as per Facebook policy. But they can choose to cloak their identity as page administrators. Tackling these confession pages is likely to be a challenge to the regulatory authorities due to their anonymity.

On a different note, these pages have empowered students with a unique and powerful tool which never existed in the past. Students have been using the tool to raise a voice against the malpractices at their institutions. Their posts range from complaining about the teaching-learning style at their educational institution to making fun of a particular teacher’s teaching style. But in the big picture, these forums not only provide a platform for students to express their dissatisfaction, but also point out the urgent need to understand students’ perspective in education. This will also democratize educational institutions and increase their accountability.

The power not only resides with students, this tool equally serves as a window for educators and educational institutions. It creates an opportunity to the educators to review their own activities from the perspective of the students and understand their psychology. Hence, it serves as a learning opportunity for educators and educational institutions as well.
Republica