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Youth Engagement

Youth Initiatives for Peace and Reconciliation (YIPR)

The Challenge
Nepal suffered heavy losses due to the decade long armed conflict (1996 - 2006) between the Maoists rebels and the Government of Nepal. The conflict displaced 100,000 - 200,000 people; killed almost 11,000 citizens (Norwegian Refugee Council 2005); and, eroded trust within and between communities. The conflict ended with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the Government of Nepal and rebel armed party, CPN-Maoist in November 2006.

Youth were at the core of the conflict, either through recruitment into armed groups or as victims of social destabilization, causing a high number of male youth to become combatants or to seek employment opportunities abroad. The absence of young men from communities resulted in increased recruitment pressure on women, leading to a situation in which 40% of the rebel army was comprised of female cadres. Both youth who were recruited and youth who remained in their communities were affected by the violence.

The Opportunity: Positive Change through Youth Engagement
Mercy Corps designed the Youth Initiatives for Peace and Reconciliation (YIPR) to encourage youth to actively participate in community reconciliation and decision-making processes in five districts of mid and far western Nepal - Dang, Banke, Bardiya, Kailali and Kanchanpur. The project was implemented from September 2006 - September 2008.

The objectives of the project were to:

YIPR was funded by USAID and implemented in partnership with Backward Society Education (BASE). The project also received additional in-kind contributions, in the form of sports materials, from Nike.

Youth festivalYouth festival
Youth involved in painting competitionYouth involved in painting competition

Achievements of YIPR
Formation of Youth Committees:
Viewing youth as a potential force for positive change, the project formed 820 Village Youth Clubs/Committees (VYCs), 21 Area Youth Committees (AYCs), and five District Youth Committees (DYCs). In total, the project mobilized 32,622 youth in the Mid-and Far-Western regions of Nepal, far exceeding its target of mobilizing 15,000 youth and significantly improving the diversity of - and interaction between - participating VYCs.

Table 1: Numbers of Village Youth Clubs/Committees and Youth Members formed under YIPR
Districts No. of Youth Clubs/Committees and Youth Members
VYCs Youth
Dang 168 7,312
Banke 103 3,365
Bardiya 206 7,640
Kailali 174 8,577
Kanchanpur 163 5,748
Total 814 32,622

Table 2: Improvements in Diversity of - and Interaction Between - Participating VYCs
Expected Result 1.1 Indicators Baseline Endline Percent Change
% of VYCs that are >90% one caste/ethnicity 40% 12% -70%
% of people from different castes/ethnicities who attend each others’ social functions. 68% 97% 43%
% of VYCs with less than 20% female members 9% 6% -3%
% people from different castes who attend each others’ social functions 68% 97% 43%

Developed Capacities of Youth:
The project provided capacity building opportunities for 4,726 youth in the thematic areas of peace-building, leadership, management, social mobilization and project management. 47 of these youth participated in the Master Trainer of Trainers (TOT) program; these Master Trainers later conducted 38 peace-building trainings for 926 VYC members. Additionally, youth learned mediation skills that allowed them to facilitate non-violent conflict resolution.

Built Stronger Networks between Youth from Different Communities:
Two general youth assemblies, 26 sports competitions and 32 cultural programs involving 2,331, 1,320 and 1,535 youths respectively were organized through YIPR. These programs positively contributed towards building good relationships, developing stronger networks, and narrowing differences among participating youth from different communities, ethnic groups and castes.

Bridged the Gap between Adults and Youth:
The project facilitated over 100 coordination meetings, including 11 meetings with traditional decision-making bodies - the Mahatam and Badghar in Tharu communities and the Mukhiya in non-Tharu communities - involving 441 and 1,873 youth, respectively. Additionally, 35 parent-youth meetings involving 1,377 youth were held. The ensuing discussions were instrumental in contributing to an improved level of understanding between - and to collective action involving - adults and youth, resulting in a higher representation of youth in community decision-making structures.

Mobilized Youth in Community Services:
26,640 youth contributed to the completion of 808 Community Service Projects (CSPs): building community halls, hand pumps, culverts and latrines; repairing roads and furniture; and, supporting livestock production and fish farming. In addition to providing basic services to communities, the CSPs also helped build stronger relationships within the villages and other stakeholders, including NGOs and local government. Youth contributed almost nine times the minimum contribution to the CSPs, far surpassing the amount contributed by the project itself (details listed in Table 3).

Table 3: Youth Contributions to CSPs
YIPR Project Contribution Amount (NRs.) Amount US$
Cash amount released for 808 VYCs for the implementation of 808 CSPs 6,431,645 80,395
Community contributions:
Details of community contributions Amount (NRs.) Amount US$
Cash contributed by communities 2,719,345 39,411
Labor contributed by communities (Equivalent to cash) 6,649,082 96,364
In-kinds contributed by communities (Equivalent to cash) 826,560 11,979
Total of community contribution 10,194,987 147,753

Mobilized Youth to Promote Peace and Reconciliation:
32,622 youth were mobilized to promote community peace and reconciliation through the meetings, discussions, trainings, and CSPs; publication and distribution of eight editions of a quarterly newsletter, Sanghari; the production and airing of 97 radio programs; participation in 26 street dramas and four cross/exposure visits; and, organizing and participating in 43 peace promotion competitions.

Project Impact
An external evaluation identified significant qualitative impacts, including enhanced self confidence and self esteem, improved leadership skills, improved respect for the positive role of youth within communities, reduced caste and ethnic barriers to interaction and collaboration between youth and enhanced dispute resolution capacities.

Over the life of the project, a significant decrease in quantitative indicators was witnessed (see table 4). In addition to the CPA, YIPR also made a significant contribution by getting youth involved in their communities, as the following beneficiary comment can attest to.

Table 4: Selected Quantitative Project Impacts
Expected Result 1.1 Indicators Baseline Endline Percent Change
Are there serious tensions within the village?
(% responding ‘yes’)
51% 7% -86%
Are there serious tensions with neighboring villages?
(% responding ‘yes’)
48% 90% -90%
Can you walk safely in any part of the village?
(% responding ‘yes’)
67% 97% 45%
# of attempts to resolve conflict through violence in the past three months (per VYC) .48 .41 -14.6%
# of conflict cased resolved through non-violent means in the past three months (per VYC) .85 1.65 94%

A Beneficiary's Comments
"The doubt of people on conflict and peace remained even after the signing of CPA. As we started implementing our program through YIPR, youth started to talk about peace building, reconciliation, development, inclusion, human rights, non-violence. We involved people in our activities which really helped to reduce the tensions people had from their past experience. People started to talk with confidence. Nowadays, I feel that village has got back its social system which should be preserved forever." - Drona Raj Pokharel, Master Trainer, Dhikpur VDC, Dang