Registering Marginalized Populations to Vote in Nepal

As Nepal undergoes critical electoral and governance changes, IFES Nepal is working with local partners to register Nepalis – including Dalits, youth, Muslim women, freed Kamaiya (those subjected to forced labor) and other historically marginalized groups – to vote. This is part of IFES Nepal’s efforts to ensure that all Nepalis are able to participate actively in Nepal’s evolving political process.

In November and December, two IFES Nepal partners, the Nepal National Dalit Social Welfare Organization (NNDSWO) and Youth Initiative (YI), implemented extensive voter registration campaigns. Collaborating with two District Administration Offices in Bajura and Jajarkot, NNDSWO participated in a three-day joint government mobile camp from November 14-16 that provided services related to citizenship certificate distribution, voter registration, disability identification card distribution and free health check-ups.

In the days leading up to the clinic, NNDSWO’s trained community facilitators traveled to neighboring communities to inform members of the Dalit community about the joint government mobile service camp as well as the importance of obtaining a citizenship certificate and registering on the voter list. NNDSWO also educated community members about the documents required to register on the voter list and, in some cases, supported Dalit citizens in acquiring materials necessary for registration, including postal stamps and passport-sized photographs. During the three-day mobile camp, 681 citizens, including 324 women, registered to vote.

While NNDSWO worked to register Dalits on the voter list, YI launched a December winter vacation tour to increase voter registration outreach among students. Through 69 voter awareness raising events at various colleges in Kathmandu, YI educated 1,923 students about the voter registration process. The outreach enabled YI to motivate new students, like Laxmi Budha, to participate in the political process.

Budha, a twenty-year-old student with a visual disability, dreams of becoming a teacher and promoting inclusive education for all. Yet before engaging with YI’s winter vacation voter registration drive, Budha had not registered on the voters’ list.

Budha participated in YI’s awareness-raising session on her campus on December 11, 2014. Taking advantage of the additional counseling session organized by YI’s voter education champion, Anita Shah, Budha learned about the voter registration process and that YI representatives would assist her in going to the District Election Office to complete her registration. Budha immediately accepted YI’s offer and the next morning traveled with Shah to a local District Election Office to complete her voter registration. Exiting the District Election Office, Budha triumphantly declared: “I am now eligible to cast my vote and yes, I will definitely give my vote to someone who can do something for persons with disabilities like me!”