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Nepal’s Emerging Leaders Are Employing Training to Provide COVID19 Support for Their Communities

Monday, May 11, 2020TOPICS: Global ImpactYouth and Peacebuilding

Juju Kaji's team delivering food. 

In response to the COVID19 crisis, the Nepali Government declared a nation-wide lockdown on March 24. While restrictions have loosened somewhat more recently, in the first weeks the lockdown would not even allow individuals to leave their homes to purchase food. Since then, many individuals and communities have struggled – to get accurate and timely information about the virus, to secure food, to access medical care, and more.

Alumni from the Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice’s (Kroc IPJ) Nepali Emerging Leaders Program (NELP) have been active in their communities across the country to meet the needs of the people and have been drawing on the skills, knowledge, and networks they built during the program and as alumni. Individuals from the 2020 Cohort, who attended their first seminar in February, have also been putting what they have already acquired through the program into practice. 

The 2020 Cohort

Mayor Satish Singh participating in a radio interview. 

Many members of the current cohort have been helping to meet the basic needs of community members and raise awareness about the virus and how to stay safe. Neelam Dhungel raised 100,000 rupees ($825) to provide 200 households of Biratnagar Ward No. 8 with food, soap, and other supplies. She has been working to raise awareness about COVID19 with marginalized members of the community who might otherwise lack access to such information, including day laborers and squatters. Juju Kaji has been making and distributing masks to needy people and has been distributing food to children and others in need. He is using the NELP network to help raise funds and identify communities in need, and he has used his NELP media training to raise awareness about the needs communities are facing and how his work is helping to meet them. 

Similarly, Satish Singh, the mayor of Koiladi, has been actively holding meetings with his local ward representatives to raise public awareness about coronavirus, build quarantine facilities, and distribute food. He has also been responsible for ensuring that the population observes the lockdown. To support the local farmers of Koiladi Ward No. 7 who had not been able to harvest their ripened wheat, in early April Singh secured machinery to harvest the wheat. He plans to do the same for the farmers of all eight wards of that region.

Samyak Hasana of Bhaktapur is playing a positive role during the crisis by providing her family and community with COVID19 information and keeping people informed about the evolving situation. She says NELP helped her understand conflict situations that are arising now in her community. From the program’s mentors and consultants, she is receiving a lot of information and transferring that information to people around her.

Omprakash Sarraf, as President of Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJP-N) of Birgunj Municipality Committee, has led efforts to pressure the government to set up treatment and inspection sites throughout Birgunj. They have been successful in establishing a medical checkup site and, under his leadership, there were more than 5,300 masks and food distributed, including to members of the dalit community. He says NELP has helped him in developing his leadership skills, understanding how to collaborate with local people, and using the media to share his message. He has recently done seven television and radio interviews. He further added that he has benefitted from the support of NELP mentors and consultants in this work.

In an effort to keep spirits high and raise awareness about positive responses to COVID19, Santosh Giri and Madan Khati are hosting and producing a live, 45-minute TV show every day under the title "Heroic Actors during Crisis". They present stories of people who are helping to solve issues created by COVID19, including many stories about NELP alumni. Through their shows, they are working to make the government accountable by interviewing and debating with government representatives. They have started a public-private debate about the lockdown crisis and what needs to happen after it ends, including representatives from the corporate sector, the community, and public officials. Giri said the NELP helped him to design his media strategy for the program as well as with networking and planning to make the show possible. He further added that NELP alumni, members, mentors, and consultants have supported him a lot by providing their time and presence on the show.

Omprakash Sarraf using a social media campaign to raise awareness about COVID19.

Alumni from 2018 and 2019

Many alumni have played an important role in raising awareness about COVID19 including Subash Poudyal, Ward President of Kusma Ward No. 7 Municipality, and Manish Mishra, who put his media training to use on a local radio station. Additionally, Poudyal, Phalewas Municipality Mayor Padampani Sharma, and Ward Chief Sudhansu Sharma have been instrumental in helping to meet basic needs by providing food and other supplies to individuals and communities.  

Securing necessary health and sanitary supplies has also been important for NELP alumni. Anil K. Mahaseth, as political advisor to the Speaker of Province 2, played a key role in getting the local hospital set up with equipment needed to test for coronavirus. Poudyal arranged public handwashing facilities to prevent the spread of the disease. Meanwhile, Dr. Ram Deo Pandit has been working in preventive health education in the midst of the pandemic. From NELP, he has benefitted from training in media engagement. He further adds that support and encouragement from alumni, consultants and mentors has kept his spirits high. At the same time, they have helped to connect him with people in need. Somnath Biswakarma, President, DCC Jhapa, has helped to build a quarantine facility with beds for 736 people with a plan to increase the total capacity up to 4,000. He has also been working on a regional government strategy to respond to the crisis. 

Other alumni have been working to support specific communities. Bibek Magar has been serving as a bridge between the LGBTIQ community and local government bodies in the Kathmandu Valley to provide food and supplies to those in need and he has been personally providing basic psychosocial counseling over the phone and creating awareness about COVID19 and gender-based violence. Robin Lama was featured in a local newspaper addressing issues of migrant workers, their current problem, and how they have been contributing to Nepalese economy.

Learn more about the Nepali Emerging Leaders Program


Daniel Orth

Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies


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