“With our experience comes certain perceptions and preferences due to which at times we are confined in a bubble of our own. In a constantly evolving world, democratic leaders need not only stay flexible and learn continuously but also to reflect on, question, and unlearn perspectives and mindsets to reach out beyond the own bubble”. This is how FES Nepal Resident Representative Annette Schlicht describes the frame of this year’s FES Summer School which took place in Kathmandu from 16-21 June 2019. Twenty-three young leaders from different parts of the country representing political parties, trade unions, student unions, and civil society organizations came together to acquire knowledge and practical skills on current political issues to enhance their leadership qualities.
Through thematic sessions like Practice of Democracy in Nepal, Civic Responsibility in Democracy, Devolution of Power, Dynamic and Democratic Leadership, participants were encouraged to look beyond the textbook-understanding of Democracy and Leadership.
With the aim of testing and experimenting with new methods of communication, especially in the diverse and multilingual context of Nepal, participants were introduced to street art. Divided into groups of five, each group came up with a theme that visualizes their concept of democracy and leadership. Sunil Nepali, a teacher at City Public High School, Nepalgunj, in response to the activity says, “We had never thought art could be such a powerful tool to express our views and opinions.” Adding to this, Pratiksha Jha, a student from Janakpurdham, explains, “The task not only helped us to express ourselves in terms of pictures and images but also helped us to understand the importance of teamwork, creativity, patience, and balance”.
In addition to the thematic discussion, the participants had an opportunity to interact with entrepreneurs, political leaders, and even an actress. Student leader Sagar Sargam Chemjong says, “Until now, leadership for many of us was limited to the political arena, but after interaction with artists and entrepreneurs, we have come to realize that every sector needs good leadership for its overall development”.
Moreover, FES Summer School provided a platform to youth leaders to explore and enhance their skills. Two randomly selected participants moderated a session “Aaja ko Rajniti” (Contemporary Politics) where Members of Parliament and senior political leaders interacted with participants on contemporary politics of Nepal. Seema Shah, a student of international relations, after moderating the session said “This was a learning by doing process for me. Moderating the session which included key political leaders boosted up my confidence and honed up my public speaking skills.”
Besides moderation, some participants also got the opportunity to prepare social media posts for FES Nepal Facebook Page. Each day, two randomly selected participants presented their learning and perspectives as a story in FES Nepal Facebook. Dhanu Bhusal, a journalist by profession, reflecting on the experience, says, “This opportunity enhanced my skill in concise writing. Along with that, it also provided a sense of ownership of the program.”
“FES Summer School was a great opportunity for us to build up a good network among participants from various political backgrounds,” adds Sundar Badal, student leader from Kavre, reflecting on the five-day stay.
The program was aimed at developing future agendas for young leaders. Through the interaction with resource persons, participants were able to think out of the box and challenge stereotypical notions of leadership. The FES Summer School was successful in vindicating that best today’s youth leaders can transform their challenges into opportunities.