Nothing About Us Without Us | International Youth Day

Nothing About Us Without Us: International Youth Day

This International Youth Day we’re celebrating more than 16 years running programmes with a focus on protecting, supporting and nurturing youth.

It sounds like joy – if joy could make an audible noise. Bubbling giggles, excited chatter, the occasional exclamation of “Namaste!”.

It’s 11AM and the sun is beating down on the Adara office in Kathmandu, Nepal. But for the 50 youth gathered on the office’s front lawns, the heat is the last thing on their minds. After more than two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, this is a rare opportunity to catch-up with a special group: those in Adara’s – or our partners’ – youth scholarship programmes. Many are from Humla, Ghyangfedi or other remote parts of the country. And if the buzz in the air is anything to go by, this time is precious.

With so many young people together, our Nepal Country Director, Pralhad Dhakal, knows this is a crucial chance for youth engagement. After giving the group ample time to catch-up, he brings them together under a marquee.

Introductions to each one of these lively, intelligent individuals ensue. In attendance are future engineers, politicians, health workers, teachers. Some are bound for the US and Australia; others are determined to take their skills back to their communities in Nepal.

Pralhad stands before the group, armed with a white board and a marker. He gets to work.

“What are some of the biggest challenges you think youth today are facing?” he asks.

There’s a moment of silence as the group reflects. Then, the responses start coming quick and fast. Pralhad ensures he writes them all on the board, so every person’s voice is heard.

An hour later, the group breaks for lunch and Pralhad is left with a long list of challenges. Topics include social media, drug use, employment, the environment, mental health, early marriage, family expectations, nepotism and innovation.

“We agreed that we would positively raise these issues with the policy makers of this country,” Pralhad says.

Adara would facilitate this process for the youth from very isolated parts of Nepal so that they can share not just their problems but their inspiration, their ideas, their motivations, their hard work, their skills, their dreams for the nation. We want to help bridge that process so that their voices are heard by the policy makers.”

Pralhad Dhakal, Nepal Country Director

Scrawled on the bottom of the white board are five words Pralhad wrote during the session that sums up this approach: “Nothing about us without us.”

Pralhad explains that young people in Nepal face many challenges, but it’s not Adara’s role to attempt to solve these problems for them. Rather, we can act as a facilitator, to ensure policymakers and influencers listen to what the youth are saying. Their voices must be at the centre of positive action and progress.

For more than 16 years, we have run programmes with a focus on protecting, supporting and nurturing youth. This all began when we started caring for a group of 136 children who had been taken from their homes, mainly in Humla, and brought to Kathmandu during a period of political unrest in Nepal.

As the Adara Kids grew and became Adara Youth – and after many were reconnected with their families of origin – our focus shifted to independent living, higher education and vocational training. Through this work, we developed expertise in child protection and working with kids at risk. Over the years we have broadened our youth programme to also include scholarships for students in Humla or Ghyangfedi to pursue higher education.

These are the youth standing confidently on the Adara lawn today. With the formal proceedings out of the way, the youth return to their friends. Before long, someone brings a speaker out and people start dancing to the beat. Nepali music fills the space, the sound only beaten in pitch by the constant shrieks of laughter.

The air is full of positivity and promise. This is Nepal’s next generation of leaders. From where we’re standing, the country’s future is looking bright.

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