Just 283 km south of Kathmandu, the border town of Birgunj serves as a vital industrial corridor for major manufacturing industries in Nepal, and is a large revenue collection point. Despite its economic significance to the country and its proximity to the capital, the city lacks positive and creative engagement for its young people, who face constant social pressures to leave.
Much like in many small towns in Nepal, the youth of Birgunj are exiting the city in pursuit of “brighter futures,” headed to the West, over to India or up north to Kathmandu. Those who cannot afford to leave are told to seek opportunities in financially-sound careers such as accounting, banking or business. But Birgunj also needs environmentalists, artists, nurses, teachers, lawyers, writers and social workers to thrive as a healthy society.
Birgunj is a diverse urban hub, typical of most urban centers around Nepal. Yet, even amongst the younger generation, deep-seated animosity and hostility exist between Madhesi and non-Madhesis. After the 2015 earthquake, Birgunj, along with the entire Terai belt, experienced a political turmoil like no other– an aggressive strife that resulted in a five-month-long blockade that fundamentally disrupted daily life. Birgunj has always been a hotbed of revolt and dissent in issues of identity and sovereignty, but as an epicentre for political violence during the blockade, the social atmosphere in the city was not only dismal, but the youth of the city were also demoralized and demotivated.