Friday, October 24, 2008

The Power of Youth

Coming from Australia its hard to imagine any power in young people. We are constantly belittled in the media as being interested in nothing more than “sex drugs and rock and roll”, and young people are excluded from any positions of power. Even the few places where youth have a voice such as in university student unions have been systematically attacked by the government (ie VSU) to further marginalize us.

The powers would be would have us believe that there is no power in youth, and you cant possibly achieve anything, unless you sell your soul to the bureaucracy. It’s only after you completely give up your beliefs and become a cog in the machine before you can ever “be something”.

But this doesn’t have to be the case. In the tiny and impoverished nation of Nepal, the youth are taking their lives and futures into their own hands. Nepal is currently in the middle of a radical transformation and leading from the front of this revolutionary wave are the youth. The Young Communist League which is the youth organization of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has as many as 500,000 members and is active for change across the country.

Nepal is an incredibly underdeveloped nation, and due to this options for youth in Nepal have historically been very limited. 80% of the Nation is employed in agriculture and education has never been readily available. For young men, the only other options have been foreign employment in either the middle east on dangerous construction jobs for almost slave wages or alternatively to sign up for the “Gorkha Battalions” in the British and Indian militaries where they have to fight and die for foreign nations for often with less pay and/or rights then the rest of those armies.

For women the historical options have been even bleaker. The only work available for young Women is sex work, mostly in India, and many women and girls have been either tricked into prostitution with the promise of other decent work only to be forced into sex slavery on arrival, or girls as young as 7-8 have been abducted and sold to brothels. It is believed that of the 250,000 prostitutes in Mumbai, India, most are Nepalese. Alternatively, women were often forced into arranged marriages in line with the Hindu traditions that dominate the country. Young women have historically never had option or a say in their futures.

But this is all changing in the “New Nepal”. During the 10 year peoples war and the April 2006 “peoples movement” uprising young people have discovered their voice. Young people lead the struggle against the Monarchy and its oppressive state forces which collapsed under the pressure of a massive peoples movement in 2006.

But while from the ashes of the old régime the new Nepal might be arising, it is still riddled with many of the problems that crippled the old. Corruption in the police and local officials is still common, unemployment is still widespread and communities are mostly still without important necessities, like running water or garbage collection.

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