Political mentorship vital for better future leaders

Dridhata Silwal

Dridhata Silwal

Political mentorship vital for better future leaders

The increase of youthful candidates and the enthusiastic response from voters called for a change in traditional party politics

The year 2022 witnessed an unprecedented youth wave in the political leadership in Nepal. In the 2022 local and federal elections, Nepal saw the victories of many young candidates, such as the millennial’s favorite mayor Balen Shah (32), deputy mayor Sunita Dangol (29), and young parliamentarians like Sobhita Gautam (27) and Toshima Karki (33). The increase of youthful candidates and the enthusiastic response from voters called for a change in traditional party politics. The public also seemed enthusiastic about what the young faces had to offer and showed their support with their votes.

At this point, young leaders carry huge expectations and support from the public. To retain this trust and admiration, it is critical for them to prove themselves with new ideas and visions. The incompetence of the young leaders could result in a lack of trust for other incoming young leaders as well. Thus, it is important to equip these leaders with enough knowledge, resources, and ideas to create their aspired change.  The new young faces in the parliament and other elected offices are surely passionate about change and well-informed, but do they also have the wisdom to make the right decisions? Does being a youth alone make them better and more efficient leaders than the leaders older in age? If not, shouldn’t the focus be on mentoring and grooming them to become better leaders?

Young people have always been addressed as the leaders of tomorrow. But not anymore. Now young leaders are already at the forefront to change this narrative and take charge of their future. In Nepal, however, young and emerging minds always lack mentorship and support from their predecessors.

Nepali youth have historically participated and taken lead in the important political changes like the 1951 Revolution, the 1990’s People’s Movement and the Maoist revolution. They have always been treated as key agents of change. However, when it comes to giving them meaningful space, youths aren’t encouraged or supported within the political parties or outside. For instance, a young political leader from the Nepali congress, Gagan Thapa (46), was distrusted by his own party members when he contested for the chairman position. It hints at the lack of intergenerational trust within political parties.

Young people have been most affected by the political instability and turmoil of the country, which has resulted in unemployment, forced labor migration, corruption, etc. As a result, most of the young leaders today have come up with this agenda for course correction. Young people have sound knowledge of emerging technology and innovations and can navigate the country’s development in a new light. Let’s say with the right mentorship, they can find new and innovative solutions to the problems the country faces.

According to Nak Srey, who is a mentor of WEDU global, a non-profit organization that works for the leadership development of women across Asia, “by sharing their own views, a mentor can assist in closing the experience gap; the guidance would definitely contribute to strengthening limited experienced young political leaders.” Combining older experiences and the most recent information is, in fact, a better benefit for the younger generation than a disadvantage. The act of mentoring has the power to alter the story, mentorship has benefits for both the young leader and the mentor, who gains satisfaction and a sense of success from assisting the future generation of leaders.

A mentor can offer advice on everything from managing workers and dealing with the media to forming alliances and navigating the political system. This can be especially important in politics as the stakes are often high and the pressure to take the right decision is immense. For example, Anju Acharya, Former Deputy Mayor of Dupcheswor, Nuwakot, a participant in the Nepali Emerging Leaders Program (NELP), shared her experience thus: “My life was going through a very difficult time, and the mentorship program helped me get through it.

Additionally, it helped me interact with young leaders from Mahendranagar in the far-west to Jhapa in the east, enabling me to observe various political and gender perspectives firsthand. This mentorship experience greatly aided my professional and personal development. Interacting with other leaders in Nepal also motivated me to adopt some of their strategies in my own district after being inspired by the job they were doing there.”

NELP is a training program where the participants get the opportunity to accelerate their efforts and create a greater impact with their work with the help of the program, a partnership of the Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice (Kroc IPJ) at the University of San Diego and the Leadership Academy.

But the mentorship shouldn’t be limited to external institutions, it should in fact come from within the political parties to create a practice of old experienced leaders grooming the younger ones. It could also lead to a smooth handover of leadership from older to younger generations, which is rare in Nepal.

Youth entering politics and in positions should be guided by professionals and specialists to adopt sustainable and relevant policies. The mentorship culture is also important to build a culture of intergenerational learning between political leaders on key and strategic priorities. “When we were young and new to politics, there was no such thing as mentorship, so we made a lot of mistakes. However, by learning from our failures, the current generation of politicians may be able to avoid making similar mistakes,” says 58-year-old Ratna Gurung, an ex-parliamentarian from the CPN-UML.

Finally, it is also important to introduce the concept of dignified retirement within political parties.

The author is a student of journalism and sociology and a fellow at Accountability Lab Nepal

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