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Time for Nepali youths to volunteer
Publication Date : 31-08-2013
Every monsoon, farming communities across Nepal come together to help one another till land and plant crops. This reciprocal labour exchange system, mainly used during peak agricultural season is called ‘Nogyar’ by the Gurungs, ‘Porima’ by the Limbus and ‘Parma’ by hill castes.
The Badghar of the Tharus residing in the Mid and Far West also mobilise their community to maintain water canals during the cultivation season.
Volunteering, thus, is not a new phenomenon in Nepal. It is deeply embedded in the cultural values and norms of various communities.
But with increasing migration out of the country, these practices are slowly dying. There is a serious need to revive this tradition of volunteering, especially among the youth. The reasons for volunteering might change but the benefits remain the same.
Nearly 55 per cent of Nepal’s population is below 25 years of age according to the 2011 census. More than 400,000 young people enter the job market each year, many of whom, primarily men, leave the country.
Those that stay back are unable to find jobs. There is a marked absence of employment opportunities. Additionally, there is also a mismatch between the skills demanded by the labour market and those possessed by the youth.
Young people, especially after completing their Plus Two or undergraduate courses are unsure about what they want to pursue in life. Even after obtaining a university degree, most do not automatically land jobs.
Therefore, opportunities to volunteer could help address the problem. Whether it is teaching Maths or English in rural schools or assisting doctors or agricultural technicians in remote places, these are meaningful and immensely rewarding pursuits.
Volunteers get a chance to hone their skills in real world situations, develop interpersonal skills and meet new exciting people. Their understanding of society deepens, allowing them to engage with diverse schools of thoughts and ideas. Young people get an invaluable opportunity to grow as well as serve the community. Furthermore, their knowledge and skills are used where they are needed the most.
The good news is, the government of Nepal has been running a National Development Volunteer Service (NDVS) programme for the past 13 years.
The programme sends around 700 volunteers every other year to all 75 districts. Volunteers receive 8,500 to 16,000 Nepalese rupees (US$80 to $150) a month based on their educational qualification and the district chosen.
This is a commendable effort in need of continuity. The bad news is, the budget allocated to the programme which is only 118.5 million rupees ($1.1 million) is comparatively low. As of now the programme is primarily focused on volunteers with technical skills; therefore, policymakers should give some thought to expanding the programme to bring in students from a non-technical background, specifically targeting college going students.
Nepal has long benefitted from the goodwill of foreign volunteers. It’s time for young Nepalis - who have a better understanding of local issues - to do the same