Kathmandu, Nepal- 28-29 Nov 2022: With a bated breath, I entered the huge meeting room of the beautiful Soaltee Hotel in Kathmandu, Nepal. The previous night, I had a nearly sleepless night, tossing and turning, with so many questions plaguing me about the workshop, whether some of the most impactful civil society organizations from across the Indian subcontinent have healthy debates on how we can mainstream gender and child rights in climate actions? Would the biggest organizations like Voice of South Bangladesh, Actionaid Bangladesh, CPRD, Oxfam Nepal, UNICEF ROSA and many more dominate the discussions, leaving the youth and the smaller organizations unheard?
“GOOD MORNING, WELCOME TO NEPAL!” A bright smile followed. For a second, I was taken aback. It was hard not to greet back with an enthusiastic good morning myself. I looked around and felt a buzz in the room. Immediately I knew that my questions from the previous night were baseless. My fears were replaced by a quiet confidence that these 18 organizations, consisting of 31 members from India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka would collaborate and focus on developing a common understanding of CSOs and youth groups on the impact of climate change in South Asia.
The day started with a warm introduction and context setting by CANSA Director, Mr. Sanjay Vashist. Sanjay laid out the key objectives of the workshop, which were to do with building and integrating child rights in existing programs on climate change. He also stressed the need to build the capacity of CANSA partners to incorporate, strengthen and amplify the voices of children at the regional and sub – regional forums.
Immediately, other organizations like Save the Children (Nepal & Asia Pacific) as well as Care Bangladesh, added that it would also be prudent to discuss the prevailing gendered issues faced by girls, boys, and non-binary children during capacity building activities to address the gender gaps and promote rights among children. Members from Voice of South Bangladesh also volunteered by mentioning that it would be important to Identify partners and processes for documentation and sharing of good practices employed by CSOs to ensure inclusive gender sensitive and transformative policies, as well as practices, systems budgets and services for children’s rights. The active participation right from the very beginning had now alleviated all my fears, and I was instantly hooked onto the variety of discussions taking place.
The active participation right from the very beginning had now alleviated all my fears, and I was instantly hooked onto the variety of discussions taking place.
“Youth participation is key and children voices should be heard by decision makers.”
“Youth icons should be used to spread awareness.”
“A bottom-up approach is key to ensure that the appropriate voices are heard by the government.
Everywhere I looked, a different discussion was taking place. It was hard to keep up with the constant stream of conversation. The discussions were facilitated by information sharing sessions, as well as group participation exercises to get every member’s inputs. Initially, problems pertaining to integrating gender and child rights in child change work were identified. Then, the focus shifted to identifying solutions to mitigate the identified problems by analyzing the adopting the existing best practices across the globe.
The participants immediately followed the bottom up and inclusive approach that they discussed by giving the floor to youth groups after the sessions to showcase their work on climate change. Suggestions and actions plans to take the youth groups’ work forward were also discussed. Also, suggestions were sought on how they feel they can work collaboratively with CSOs and bring visibility to women and youth voices from local areas to national, regional and global forums. Members ideated on inspiring and attracting youth using social media platforms, to increase the scale of impact. This then brought into the picture the importance of digital literacy going forward as society transitions into more tech savvy individuals.
It was exciting to see that there were different youth engagement groups formed in the workshop. Youth organizations like NYCA, Save the Children Nepal, YPSA and the Youth Climate Network played a key role by discussing about providing support to youth led organizations as a registered entity. The overarching discussion also focused on the fact that children should be included in negotiations and decision making at all levels of society, and these can be encouraged by making children and youth parliaments to discuss about different issues, agendas and challenges. It showed the positive approach of the participants present to involve the youth in the discussion pertaining to issues that they would face. This approach was commended by all and showed the commitment of the group to have a more inclusive and holistic discussion.
By the end of day 1, it was difficult to believe that we had been debating for 7 hours. As we watched the sun set over the beautiful Himalayas, we were already raring to go the next day. The next day started off with an early morning visit to the majestic Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu. The visit really helped us connect with each other. The diversity and the bond within the group was apparent now, and combined
with a common purpose of impacting society positively, we began the second day with vigour.
We summarized the findings from the previous day and delved into further discussions centred around the need for political leadership in wider regions. Participants also stressed on building the capacity of the CSOs to adopt child / youth friendly policies and strategies. It was agreed that a gap analysis of the CSOs was important to optimize their efficiencies.
The inclusive approach was beneficial as it helped everyone to raise their voice, and issues were discussed from various perspectives. The conversations were intellectually stimulating and the focus on finding solutions instead of merely identifying problems was helpful as the participants discussed implementation strategies.
To focus on implementation strategies, Save the Children shared their monitoring and accountability mechanism with partners to develop reasonable action plans. These action plans built in monitoring mechanisms and quality benchmarks from the beginning of the work and are an integral part of follow up interventions. All the inputs received were used by participants to further develop action plans for possible interventions in the next three years on advocacy policy, capacity building requirements and enhancing women and youth participation.
The second day flew by even faster than the first. At the conclusion of the workshop, we all agreed that the role of education, awareness and understanding of policies is important. I also got to learn a very interesting word called “Intersectionality”, and through the awareness of intersectionality, we can better acknowledge and ground the differences among us. Our policies should be woman centric and help especially the vulnerable ones. Investing in children is basically investing in the future.
Discussions amongst the parliamentarians is also important and youth parliament can be a tool for facilitating these discussions. The broad action plans thus developed from these discussions will now be discussed with national teams in smaller groups through virtual/ physical meetings as feasible, to develop national plans with ownership by the associating member. As I reflected on the last two days, I could scarcely believe that I was nervous while entering the conference. As Hellen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little; Together, we can do so much.”
By: Divyanshi Yadav