Empowering Youth in Nepal to Secure their Voting Rights
As part of the USAID-funded “Strengthening Political Parties, Electoral and Legislative Processes” program, IFES Nepal is partnering with subawardees like Youth Initiative (YI) to strengthen the participation of youth, ethnic minorities and historically marginalized groups in Nepal’s electoral process. In support of this objective, IFES Nepal and YI recently launched a new initiative – “Voter Registration, Electoral Participation and Citizenship Certificate Support for Youth” – to ensure that eligible youth are able to register and secure their right to vote. This initiative was informed by an IFES-sponsored YI survey, which identified the process of acquiring citizenship certificates as a primary barrier to voter registration among youth. IFES and YI are now implementing this project in the Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Lalitpur and Morang districts.
"Had Youth Initiative not oriented me on the importance of getting my name registered in the biometric voter list last year, I would have missed the chance to vote for my favorite candidate in the last Constitution Assembly election held in November 2013 … I have conducted 23 awareness classes in colleges, and while walking in the street I often meet young guys who remind me about the classes conducted in their college. This recognition makes me feel I am doing a very good job."
-Ganesh Khatri, Youth Voter Champion
To carry out project activities, YI engages volunteers as “Youth Voter Champions” to educate other youth on the importance of obtaining their citizenship certificates and registering on the voter registration list. YI is currently working with 38 Youth Voter Champions (21 are female) in four project districts. These Youth Voter Champions, under the guidance and supervision of YI staff members, conduct sessions on obtaining citizenship certificates as well as engaging in voter education outreach in colleges and communities. To reach more community youth, YI is also planning to coordinate with and engage local youth clubs and local youth groups.
As one Youth Voter Champion, Rajani Lamichane, explained, “Where there is a platform of like-minded people of your generation to learn, share ideas and information, it increases motivation to keep working. YI has made us aware on the topic of voter registration and the importance of the citizenship certificate and I am happy to get the opportunity to make other youth aware on the topics, which is building my capacity and helping the young generation take initiation to issue the citizenship certificate and get their name registered in the voter list.”
In addition to working with Youth Voter Champions, YI has created a Facebook page, “Youth Votes for Change,” to share election-related information and pictures of voter education-related activities. To date, more than 11,000 users have liked the Facebook page. YI is also developing youth-friendly public service announcements on elections and voter registration to be broadcast through local radio stations.
“Today, I am very happy because I have registered my name in the voter list. Before the awareness-raising session conducted by YI in my college, I was unaware on the basic things that I need to know to be eligible to cast my vote, but now I can take part in future elections and cast a vote for my best candidate. YI has helped me secure my voting rights.”
- Bharat KC, a youth with disability who, with support from Youth Voter Champions, registered to vote at the local DEO in Lalitpur
With IFES support, YI is working with District Election Offices (DEOs) to provide voter support at District Administration Offices and voter registration mobile camps. Youth Voter Champions have assisted youth to complete registration forms and answer questions they have about the process. Working with organizations like YI, IFES is strengthening Nepali youth’s active participation in Nepal’s developing electoral process.