Conversations with Daniel: Voices from Surkhet

Interview by Daniel (he/him), 26 QLD

I talk to an incredibly ambitious young leader from Nepal – in Part Four of my journey to amplify voices in the Asia-Pacific region.

We’ve now been in Chennai, India for a handful of days. So far, things have been great.

I am trying amazing food (curry for breakfast?), taking precarious trips in ‘autos’ and seeing incredible sights – like Marina Beach (the second longest in the world) and the National Shrine of Saint Thomas (pictured below).

#National Shrine of Saint Thomas

The event was now in full swing. More people had arrived. The next few days would be jampacked with ceremonies, speeches, and presentations.

But, as you know, I was on my own mission – to promote the voices of my fellow young people. I was interviewing anyone and everyone that I could. The promise: an opportunity to share your story and your experience.

Mohammad did not need reminding about the importance of elevating young people.

Mohammad hails from the Surkhet district of Nepal. He is an incredibly accomplished young person – sitting on various committees and forums in his own country and abroad. He is the founder and national leader of his very own youth organisation – Nepal Unites – which looks to promote “hope, peace, non-violence and reconciliation”.

He is, in the strongest possible terms, an advocate for young people and an advocate for his country. I was eager to learn from him.

What is the number one issue affecting young people in your community?

In the context of Nepal, I have seen, there are lots of youth challenges. Firstly, there is unemployment. There is also drug abuse, a lack of quality education, and then political instability.

Nowadays, we are focusing on the youth leadership. Young people today come from a different background. We want to link their plans and their skills to do something better for society. We want to focus on promoting youth entrepreneurs, so young people can generate their own income source.

You mentioned unemployment. Some other young people I have spoken to have mentioned work as something that matters. What do you think are some of the major reasons why unemployment is an issue in your country?

Definitely a lack of quality education. Even when they have the genuine skills, they don’t want to stay in Nepal to do something. They will migrate to other countries like Australia, Korea, Japan.

The Government must identify the skilful. They must identify young leaders. Young people – they want to do something from their heart, for their nation, to build up something. We have to focus on that and have concern for that.

I can sense a frustration with how young people are treated and respected. Is that true? Do you think young people get the respect they deserve?

Of course not. We need to respect their skill, what they have. They have the skill, and they have the degree certificate. What’s stopping them? The leaders – the senior and local governments. We can solve the unemployment crisis today – it’s a cultural problem.

 

Mohammad, like those before him, provides a unique cultural lens on some of the big issues affecting all of us.

Unemployment was once again identified as the biggest issue affecting young people. Mohammad is not the first to raise that young people today have different expectations for society and their own future – they are searching for ‘meaning’, “something from their heart”, “to build up something”. Young people today are increasingly ambitious – but need a supportive outlet.

The political instability in Nepal, it would seem, is not helpful. The onus is on the government to identify young leaders – but instead, it seems politics hinders more than helps.

Today, here in Australia, unemployment is at an all-time low – but so is satisfaction with work. Attitudes are changing. Expectations for work are changing. This cannot be a coincidence.

Mohammad says “it’s a cultural problem” – we could solve the problem today if we just got over these cultural issues. But what ‘culture’ has the problem? The culture of Nepal? The culture of the Asia-Pacific? Or the culture we all share? Consider – when aren’t young people left to feel less-than, unfit, unworthy?

Very rarely do young people feel in charge of their own future – their own destiny. Even now, at this youth conference, ‘adults’ still dominate the space – physically and representationally. The most interesting conversations are happening outside of the conference hall – between young people in private.

One final reflection. At the time of writing, Nepal has just been hit by a Magnitude 6.4 earthquake – not far from Surkhet. More than 153 people lost their lives – and counting. Mohammad is okay, but many thousands of people are not. As selfish as it may seem, having a connection with someone makes the devastation feel much more real. I’ve started paying more attention.

These are our neighbours, after all.

Illustration by Aileen. You can find more of her work on Instagram @aileenngstudio

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