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(Contemporary Society Course)




Within democracies, the people exercise political control. Citizens become involved in their government through meeting with political officials to express their concerns and desires, petitioning and demonstrating peacefully. They vote for candidates who make realistic promises to improve their lives and actually fulfill those promises when they get elected. Media groups are free to write as they please about government activities including corruption and the mishandling of public resources. In addition, the court system and police enforce the rule of law.
To make government officials responsive to citizens' needs, the people of the country must get involved in their governing process. Without the active involvement of citizens in political life, the power of government officials can go unchecked and citizens can suffer from unrepresentative political decisions. But citizen involvement in government doesn't happen over night. It takes time for people to realize that they not only have a role to play in their government but within a democracy, they are encouraged to get involved in their political process.
Without knowing how the government works, it is difficult to get involved in the political process. We need skills and the confidence to voice our concerns to hold public officials accountable. We must learn our rights and responsibilities and acquire the necessary skills to make informed choices.


This unit intends to explain the meaning of democratic governance. It also describes how our government works and how we, as citizens, can get involved in the political process to make a difference in improving our lives and our quality of government.

After studying this unit you should be able to:

- Identify the key aspects of democracy
- Know where in the political process people can make a difference in the decisions elected officials make
- Identify ways people can monitor and influence decisions and actions in our political process


This unit is divided into the following sub-units:

- Meaning of Civic Education (Importance, Scope and Components)
- Civic Knowledge
- Civic Skills
- Civic Dispositions
- Relationship Between Citizenship, Civic Education and Character Building
- Fundamental Rights under the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal, 1990
- Activities
- Conclusion


Please pay attention to the key words listed below. Become familiar with their definitions and how they are used in the text. You will need to understand these terms to answer the questions at the end of this unit.

Political Tolerance
Multi-Party System
Rule of Law
Civic Education
Civic Disposition
Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal
Representative Government
Parliament: National Assembly and House of Representatives
District Development Committee (DDC)
Village Development Committee (VDC)
Ward Committee
Fundamental Rights


A. What is Democracy?

To understand the role civic education plays in democracy, we must first understand what democracy is. In its ideal form, democracy is a form of government, which ensures that:


Democratic societies emphasize the principle that all people are equal. Equality means that all individuals are valued equally, have equal opportunities and may not be discriminated against because of their race, religion, ethnic group, caste, gender or sexual preference. In a democracy, individuals and groups still maintain their right to have different cultures, personalities, languages and beliefs.

Political Tolerance

Democratic societies are politically tolerant. This means that while the majority of people rule in a democracy, the rights of the minority must be protected. People who are not in power must be allowed to organize and speak out. Minorities are sometimes referred to as the opposition because they may have ideas that are different from the majority. Individual citizens must also learn to be tolerant of each other. A democratic society is often composed of people from different cultures, racial, religious, and ethnic and caste groups. A democratic society is enriched by diversity. If the majority deny rights to, and destroy their opposition, then they also destroy democracy. One goal of democracy is to make the best possible decisions for everyone in society. To achieve this, respect for all people and their points of view is needed. Public decisions are more likely to be accepted, even by those who oppose them, if all citizens are allowed to discuss, debate and question them.


In a democracy, elected and appointed officials have to be accountable to the people. This means that officials must make decisions and perform their duties according to the will and wishes of the people, not for themselves. They are responsible for their actions.


For government to be accountable the people must be aware of what is happening in the country. This is referred to as transparency in government. A transparent government holds public meetings and allows citizens to attend. In a democracy, the press and the people are able to get information about what decisions are being made, by whom and why.

Regular, Free and Fair Elections

One way citizens of the country express their will is by electing officials to represent them in government. Democracy insists that these elected officials are chosen and peacefully removed from office in a free and fair manner. Intimidation, corruption and threats to citizens during or before an election are against the principles of democracy. In Nepal's democracy, local and national elections are held regularly every 5 years. Participation in elections should not be based on a citizen's wealth. For free and fair elections to occur, most adult citizens should have the right to stand for government office. Additionally, obstacles should not exist which make it difficult for people to vote.
Accepting the Results of Elections

In democratic elections, there are winners and losers. Often the losers in an election believe so strongly that their party or candidate is the best one, that they refuse to accept the results of the election. This is against democratic principles. The consequences of not accepting the result of an election may be a government that is ineffective and cannot make decisions. It may even result in violence and threaten democracy.

Economic Freedom

People in a democracy must have some form of economic freedom. This means that the government allows some private ownership of property and businesses, and that the people are allowed to choose their own work and join labor unions. The role the government should play in the economy is debatable, but it is generally accepted that markets should exist in a democracy and the state should not totally control the economy. However, market economies do create some inequalities and a balance needs to be achieved between the good and bad aspects of such an economy. Some argue that the state should play a stronger role in countries where great inequality of wealth exists due to past discrimination or other unfair practices.

Control of the Abuse of Power

Democratic societies try to prevent any elected official or group of people from misusing or abusing their power. One of the most common abuses of power is corruption. Corruption occurs when government officials use public funds for their own benefit or exercise power in an illegal manner. Various methods have been used in different countries to protect against these abuses. Frequently the government is structured to limit the powers of the branches of government: to have independent courts and agencies with power to act against any illegal action by an elected official or branch of government; to allow for citizen participation and elections; and to check for police abuse of power.

Bill of Rights

Many democratic countries also choose to have a bill of rights to protect people against abuse of power. A bill of rights is a list of rights and freedoms guaranteed to all people in the country. When a bill of rights becomes part of a country's constitution, the courts have the power to enforce these rights. A bill of rights limits the power of government and may also impose duties on individuals and organizations.
Human Rights

All democracies strive to respect and protect the human rights of citizens. Human rights mean those values that reflect respect for human life and human dignity. Democracy emphasizes the value of every human being. Examples of human rights include freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom of assembly, the right to equality and the right to education.

Multi-Party System

To have a multi-party system, more than one political party must participate in elections and play a role in government. A multi-party system allows for opposition to the party that wins the majority in the election. This helps provide the government with different viewpoints on issues. Additionally, a multi-party system provides voters with a choice of candidates, parties and policies to vote for. Historically, when a country only has one party, the result has been a dictatorship or another form of authoritarian government.

The Rule of Law

In a democracy, no one is above the law, not even an elected Prime Minister. This is called the rule of law. It means that everyone must obey the law and be held accountable if they violate it. Democracy also insists that the law be equally, fairly and consistently enforced. This is sometimes referred to as "due process of law."1
In contrast to what we have described as democracy, in an authoritarian form of government, the principles mentioned above do not necessarily apply. The rights that citizens have to speak freely, participate in political decision-making, receive information about government activities, have their vote count in an election and receive equal treatment from the government is severely limited.

Read through the following statements and decide whether the situation is taking place in a democracy or an authoritarian style government. Refer to what we learned in unit 1 about authoritarian government. Write down in your copy your opinions and give reasons for your answers. Discuss the answers with your classmates.

  1. Sushmita collects signatures on a petition demanding that the government provide to the public information about its activities over the past year. Once over 1,000 people have signed the petition, Sushmita gives the petition to her elected representative. The government encourages such behavior.
  2. The Constitution requires a parliamentary election every five years where many parties compete.
  3. A group of people form a community-based organization to help protect girls from being sold into prostitution. They conduct education programs around the country and are encouraged by the government.
  4. Teachers in Sunshine School think their salaries are too low and their working conditions too poor. They decide to go on strike. Striking is legal in this country.
  5. Instead of arresting a criminal, the police shoot him. The criminal was not resisting arrest but had killed other people. The policemen are not punished for their action.
  6. A law allows for citizens to march in the streets and protest peacefully against government policies.
  7. Citizens meet with their local officials to complain about the lack of rubbish collection in their villages. They tell the official that if he or she does not arrange for the rubbish to be picked up, they will not vote for the official again.
  8. Citizens organize to protest child labor in the country. They march through the capital and hang posters throughout different parts of the country.
  9. The political party that loses the election demands that another election be held immediately.
  10. The Prime Minister is required to give a report to the people every year explaining what he or she has done and announces plans for the upcoming year.
  11. Without consulting other people in government, the Prime Minister determines what the price of oil sold in the country should be.

B. What is Civic Education? Why is it Important?

In some of the examples described above, citizens take an active role in pressuring government officials to respond to their demands. Teachers decide to go on strike because they are unhappy with their salaries and working conditions. Sushmita collects signatures on a petition to give to her elected representative to encourage the government to provide information to the public. Citizens meet with their local officials to insist that rubbish be collected in their villages. All these examples demonstrate how citizens can participate in their political process and help shape political outcomes.

To make democracy effective, citizens must be involved. It is not only our right, but it is our duty to participate in our political process. By participating we can help improve the quality of government. But improvements take time and we need to be patient and not expect too much from our government right away. Other countries have had democracy for hundreds of years. Nepal has only had democracy for a little over a decade and more time is needed for our new democracy to be effective in solving our social problems.

If we want our government to be effective then we need to get involved in the political process. Civic education helps people get involved in their political system by informing people about how their government works, what government officials' responsibilities are, what areas of the political process are most open to citizen involvement and what kinds of things citizens can do to affect political outcomes.

If citizens want their views to be considered, they must become active participants in the political process.


Democracy can be defined as a government run by the people and working on behalf of the people. This means that the people, the citizens of the country, have the right to control the activities of government. However, we are often busy making enough money to live on. We have to wash our clothes, cook our food and have some extra time to meet with friends. This means that we don't have time to make all the political decisions of government ourselves. For this reason we have created what is called representative government. This means that we elect government officials to make many of the political decisions of the nation on our behalf. We have a system of government in which power is held by the people and exercised indirectly through elected representatives.

Let us examine some of the key structures of our government system. As we examine them, look to see how our system has provided for elected representatives to be in decision-making positions. Also, take note of what decisions each representative is responsible for making.

How is Our Government Structured?

The Nepali government is controlled by a Constitution. The Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal explains the roles and responsibilities of the government. Every institution and person within the government must abide by the Constitution.

The Constitution provides for a variety of government structures including the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary branches. Each of these branches contains decision-making powers over how the country is run. These branches have sometimes different and other times shared responsibilities. When they have shared responsibilities, for instance, in the making and implementing of laws, the different branches can help ensure that the other branches do not abuse their power and are doing their jobs appropriately. The separation of government into different branches and their shared responsibilities helps to limit the ability of one person or small numbers of people from having a disproportionate amount of political power over what happens in the country.

Some of our government structures are listed below.


Executive Branch: His Majesty of the Kingdom of Nepal and the Council of Ministers

Council of Ministers

The Council of Ministers is composed of the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, Ministers from the different ministries, State Ministers and Assistant Ministers. The Council of Ministers controls and regulates the government administration as well as issues general directives for the government.

The Prime Minister chooses the heads of the different Ministries. For instance, the Prime Minister chooses: the Minister of Defense who designs policies to protect the entire country; the Minister of Education, who creates policies that shape the education system in Nepal; and the Minister of Tourism, who designs policies that regulate the tourist industry in the country. Each Ministry helps in writing those laws that pertain to the ministry and affect the nation as a whole.


Do research with your classmates to find out how many ministries there are currently in the country. Write the names down in your copy.

Legislative Branch: The Parliament

The parliament is the body of government where laws are formulated, discussed, debated and approved. The Parliament is divided into two houses, the upper and lower.

National Assembly (Upper House):

The upper house of parliament, also known as the National Assembly, consists of 60 members, each who serve 6-year terms. The primary role of the National Assembly is to vote on proposed legislation. A law can only be approved by the National Assembly when the majority of its members, 50% plus 1, vote in favor of a law.

Every 2 years some 20 members (1/3 of all members) of the National Assembly must leave office; they are replaced either by appointment or through election by members of the lower house of parliament. The 60 members of this body are selected in the following ways:

(Note : None of these members are directly elected by the citizenry.)

The members of the National Assembly elect, from among the members, a Chairperson and a Vice Chairperson. Part of the Chairperson and Vice Chairperson's jobs are to run the assembly meetings of the members. Within the National Assembly, members form committees in which they discuss and amend legislation.

House of Representatives (Lower House):

The lower house of parliament, also known as the House of Representatives, consists of 205 elected members who serve 5-year terms. The members come from various constituencies throughout the country. The constituencies are designated based on the population of each district. Some districts have higher numbers of people who live within the district and therefore the district has more constituencies.

The members of the House of Representatives elect, from among its 205 members, a Speaker and a Deputy-Speaker. Part of the Speaker's job is to be the Chairperson of the House of Representatives, and run the meetings within the House as smoothly as possible.

All the members of the House of Representatives are the individuals you directly elect every 5 years during national elections. These individuals are either members of political parties or independents. When they get elected they continue to represent their political party. If a party has an outright majority in the House of Representatives that party gets to choose the Prime Minister.

The role of a member of the House of Representatives is to write, debate and approve laws for the nation as a whole. To do this, members form committees in which they discuss and amend legislation. During these committee sessions, members can meet with individuals from the public to hear their views on proposed legislation.

Members' responsibilities are to make decisions on the national security of the nation and the country's economic development. The House member's role is NOT to solve citizens' personal problems. They are not responsible for finding us a job, getting us accepted into university, managing our health care or solving personal disputes among family members.

Judiciary: The Supreme, Appellate and District Courts


The judiciary acts as the watchdog of the Constitution and prevents the Executive and Legislative branches of government from disregarding the Constitution. The judicial branch helps to ensure that the words of the Constitution will be obeyed by the government. It does this by settling disagreements over laws.

The Supreme Court is the highest court in the judicial system. All other courts and judicial institutions in Nepal, other than the Military Court, are under the authority of the Supreme Court which can inspect, supervise and give directives to the Appellate and District level courts and other judicial institutions.2


District Development Committee (DDC)

The District Development Committee is the highest local government structure. Nepal is divided into 75 districts and there is a District Development Committee for each district. The District Development Committee has one Chair, one Vice Chair and members. The number of members in a District Development Committee depends on the size of the district. All these positions are elected, not by direct election from the citizenry, but rather from the Village Council or Municipal Council members. The primary responsibility of the District Development Committee is to manage development money and projects for the district.

Village Council (VC) and Municipal Council (MC)

The Village and Municipal Councils are the second level of local government. Village Councils are in areas where there are no cities and Municipal Councils are in areas with cities. The Municipal Council serves the same functions as the Village Council. All members of the Village Development Com-mittees (or Municipalities) (discussed below) are also members of the Village Council (or Municipal Council). The Village Development Committee nominates six members, including two women to the Village Council. In the case of the Municipal Council, the municipality nominates six to twenty members depending upon the size of the municipality. The Village Council (or Municipal Council) is responsible for providing direction to the Village Development Committee and electing members to the District Development Committee. The Village Council (or Municipal Council) also approves the projects proposed or completed by the Village Development Committee and Municipality.

Village Development Committee (VDC) and Municipality

Village Development Committees are in areas where there are no cities. Municipalities are in areas with cities. The Village Development Committee is made up of nine wards; each Ward President is a member of the Village Development Committee. A Municipality may have more than nine wards according to the size of the population of the city, and similar to the VDC each Ward President is a member of the Municipality. Additionally, citizens elect the President and Vice President of the Village Development Committee (or Mayor and Deputy Mayor of the Municipality). The Village Development Committee and Municipality are responsible for all the development projects occurring in the villages or cities under their jurisdiction. For instance, Village Development Committee and Municipality members can help bring clean drinking water and literacy programs to the villages and supervise the collection of rubbish in the villages. The Village Development Committee receives fixed funding from the central government every year through the District Development Committee, while the Municipality gets funding directly from the central government.

Ward Committee (WC)

The Ward Committee is the basis of the democratic structure in the Nepali local government. A Ward Committee consists of one President and four members, including one woman. The people directly elect all members of the Ward Committee.

Ward committee members' primary responsibilities are to work with the Village Development Com-mittee members to manage the develop-ment projects in the wards.

Read the questions below and write your answers down in your copy. For future reference, keep your answers available as you do the other lessons in this unit.

1. Why is the government divided into different branches? Why is this useful?
2. What is representative government?
3. What are the benefits of representative government?
4. What does the Constitution do?
5. How many houses of parliament are there?
6. How many members are there in each house? Which of these members are directly elected by the people and which are not?
7. What are the primary responsibilities of the parliament?
8. What are the job responsibilities of members of parliament?
9. Knowing these job responsibilities, is it appropriate to ask your member of parliament to help you find a job? To help you get into school? Why or why not?
10. What is appropriate to ask of your members of parliament?
11. What is the role of the judiciary?
12. What are the 4 levels of local government?
13. Who, within the local government bodies, do the people directly elect?
14. What are the responsibilities of the Village Development Committee?
15. What are the responsibilities of the Ward Committee?

What types of decisions do our elected representatives make, and what happens when citizens do not get involved in their decision making processes?

Now that you are familiar with some of the key government structures, let's examine some decisions that national and local level elected representatives make.

Making decisions about national issues is an important job for locally elected government representatives.

Below is a story about a fictional country. The type of political system this fictional country has is similar to our political system in Nepal and the purple people described in the story are immigrants to this imaginary country. Read the story and answer the questions that follow.

In another country, a Ministry drafted legislation making it possible for purple people living in that country to be able to work without having a work permit. As is generally the process, after a Ministry drafts legislation they give it to parliament to review and change the legislation as the parliament sees fit. After reviewing it, the parliament is expected to vote in favor, or against the legislation. 50% plus 1 of the members from each house of parliament, the House of Representatives and the National Assembly, must vote in favor of the law for the law to be approved. As is generally the case, once the parliament received the legislation from the Ministry regarding work permits for purple people, they held meetings in the appropriate committee to discuss whether they agreed or disagreed with the legislation. No one from the public was invited to the committee meetings. Although the majority of citizens in the country did not want to give purple people work permits, they did nothing to express their views. In the end, more than 50% of the members in each house of parliament were in favor of the legislation and the parliament passed the legislation allowing purple people to work in the country without work permits. The proposed legislation was then given to the King for final approval and became the law of the land.

In a parliamentary democracy, members of parliament can discuss their decisions in parliamentary committees with the public before approving legislation. They can also amend the legislation in committee. In many countries members of parliament hold public hearings (meetings where they request the public to attend and express their views on proposed legislation). In the story described above, members of parliament did not seek information from the public before they made their decision about legislation. The people in the country also did not express their opinions directly to their members of the House of Representatives.

Discuss with your classmates the answers to the questions below. Write your answers in your copy.

  1. In this fictional country, who initially drafted the legislation to give purple people work permits?
  2. After the legislation was drafted, which body of government needed to approve it?
  3. How many people in this government body needed to approve the proposed legislation before it could become law?
  4. While the members of this body discussed whether to pass the legislation, did they ask the citizens of the country what they thought?
  5. Were the people of the country in favor of giving purple people work permits?
  6. What was the final vote on the legislation?
  7. Since some people in the country opposed giving purple people work permits, what could they have done to express their views? Could they have met with the members of the House of Representatives? Could they have written newspaper articles? Discussed the issue on national television? Are there other things they could have done? If so, what are they?
  8. What could the members of the parliament have done to learn about the preferences of the citizens of the country before they voted on the legislation?
  9. Do you think if members of the parliament and the citizens had behaved differently prior to voting on the legislation that the members of parliament would still have voted in favor of the legislation?
Making decisions about community needs is an important job for locally elected government representatives.

Read the story below and answer the following questions.

In Watershed Village Development Committee (VDC), most of the low caste people of the village live in the northern part of the VDC and have very little land. The low caste people's land is not irrigated, and it is very rocky and sandy. The people from the upper caste live in the southern part of the VDC and have nice land for growing rice. Because the land is irrigated, the upper caste people can plant two crops of rice per year. The most influential ward presidents and members, plus the VDC president and vice president, all live in the southern part of Watershed VDC. Two years ago, the leaders talked with some community members and decided that the biggest need in the community was to build small bridges and to install one water pump system. Accordingly, the leaders did so. The leaders also used some of the VDC money to plant trees along part of the irrigation canal that borders the VDC. Almost all of these projects - the bridges, the water pump system and the trees - were placed in the southern part of the VDC. The people there were very happy with the leaders. In the northern part of the VDC, the leaders of those wards did not meet with the people in their area and as a result spent most of their development funds on roads, which connected the parts of the wards where the northern ward leaders lived to the main road. The residents in the northern part of the VDC were too lacking in education and knowledge of what to do, that they did not request their ward presidents and VDC officials to build a water pump for them. As a result, the people in the northern part of the VDC were unhappy with their ward representatives. They would have spent the money differently had they been included in the decision-making process.
  1. In Watershed VDC what were the problems of the people?
  2. How did the VDC and Ward leaders in the southern part of the VDC decide which programs should be implemented? How did they decide in the northern part of the VDC?
  3. Which VDC and Ward leaders properly identified the community's needs? How did they do this?
  4. In terms of identifying community needs in Watershed VDC, what were the main problems?
  5. Have these kinds of problems ever happened in your VDC? If so, describe what happened.
  6. If the people living in the northern part of the VDC met with their leaders and insisted that the leaders use the development money to build a water pump, do you think the outcome would have been different?
What Can Happen When Citizens Get Involved in Their Local Communities?

We see examples in Nepal that show that citizens who get involved in their government see amazing results. For instance, some citizens have helped to bring new development projects to their communities including savings and credit (micro credit) programs, women's and children's literacy programs, health/sanitation programs, sewing and cutting programs for women and school construction programs. In one instance, women complained to the Village Development Committee Chair, who was keeping for himself the money given to the VDC meant for the elders in the villages. In response to their complaints, the Village Development Committee Chair distributed the money to the elders.

Write the answer to the following questions in your copy.

  1. Do you think it is worthwhile for citizens to get involved in the decision-making processes of their elected officials? Give 2 reasons for your answer.
  2. If so, what benefits do you think citizen involvement can bring?


If you agree that citizen involvement in the decision-making processes of elected officials can help improve the quality of the decisions officials make, what kinds of activities can citizens do to make a difference?

We have already mentioned some of these ways in previous units. They include:

· Reading information in newspapers and magazines and participating in political discussions
· Voting in local and national elections
· Trying to persuade someone, in a peaceful way, to vote in a certain way
· Creating or signing a petition
· Writing letters to elected representatives
· Contributing money to a party or candidate
· Attending meetings to gain information, discuss issues, or lend support
· Working for a political campaign
· Presenting your views at a parliamentary committee hearing
· Joining a community-based organization that advocates for a particular interest
· Demonstrating peacefully through marches, boycotts or sit-ins
· Running for and holding elected office
· Participating in developmental activities

Let's examine in more detail three ways in which citizens can participate in their democracy, namely, voting, participating in political discussions and meeting with elected representatives.

Voting in national and local elections is an important way citizens can affect political outcomes. Elections are important events. They give us an opportunity to elect candidates who will help improve our country. As our government is a Representative Democracy, it is important that we elect leaders who will make the best decisions for the benefit of our communities and the country as a whole. We need to do our best not to elect people who will steal from the government or pursue their own personal interests. We need to elect people, not because they pay us money, but because they make realistic promises to us about how they will address the problems we face in our communities. When they get elected they should do their best to fulfill those promises. We should elect people who are honest and not corrupt. People who promise to act, not for their personal good, but for the benefit of all the people no matter their caste, class, gender or ethnicity. When you vote, your vote is private; you do not need to tell anyone for whom you voted unless you want to.

Read the words to the song below and come up with a tune for it. You can sing the song with your classmates or with your friends or family members.

The election wave has once again
washed over the villages and cities.

Let us be determined to select clean persons and vote for them.
Let us select trustworthy leaders who have no blemishes.
Let us not sell our votes even if someone offers us money.
Let us vote wisely without succumbing to pressures and threats.

The election wave has once again
washed over the villages and cities.

Those who understand the problems and hardships of rural homes
Will convey this information to the center.
Let us select such persons, recognize them as our leaders,
And vote for them.

The election wave has once again
washed over the villages and cities.


Organize a mock election within your class and make the election "free and fair." You should have representatives of at least three parties competing. Their major policy differences are in education. Some classmates should join in representing the different political parties and make presentations to the class on the following issues:

A party - will privatize all government schools selling them to a few companies. All education will be private, but with strict regulations from the government.

B party - will make all education public, nationalizing private schools. It promises a big percentage of the government budget to go for education, which will be free and uniform for everyone.

C party - favors a public-private partnership, so some schools will be private and some public, but with stricter regulations than at present.

Listen to the speeches and make up your own mind on who to vote for. Then arrange the classroom as a voting center, with a supply of voting papers, election officers, police, stamps and an election register. Hold a vote. Your vote must be private so block off the voting station so no one can see for whom each person is voting. When you are through, count and announce the winner.

The people in our government who are directly elected by the people include our members of parliament, Village Development Council members and Ward members. We need to meet with them and find out what they promise to do once they are elected. Then we need to meet with them while they are in office to find out what they have done to fulfill their promises. We also need to praise our officials when they do good work.

The representative is saying, "Your vote is your right. The future of the country lies on the shoulders of the youths. Therefore, young brothers and sisters, take a lead in changing the country. Come forward and vote for honest persons. Let's vote and insist that others vote, too. I encourage you all to cast your precious votes in a peaceful manner."

Among many other ways to participate in our democracy, we have mentioned that Identifying a Problem in Our Community and Meeting with Our Elected Representatives are important activities that can help shape political outcomes. Discussing the problem and finding out what our representative is doing to address this problem is an important way citizens can affect the decision-making processes of their elected officials.


  1. Identify with your classmates the most important problem in your community. Make sure that the problem you choose could be addressed by the Village Development Committee official. (Remember: the Village Development Committee official is responsible for development projects occurring in the villages or neighborhoods for which it is responsible. For instance, Village Development Committee members can help bring clean drinking water and literacy programs to the village as well as supervise the collection of rubbish.) The teacher should ask the students for suggestions and then have a class vote on which problem the students most want to address. Examples of such problems could include: the absence of rubbish collection, a lack of clean drinking water, the absence of literacy programs, high levels of crime, etc.
  2. After you have identified a problem in your community, arrange for a meeting with your Village Development Committee official. Have the representative either come to your school or take a field trip with your class to your representative's office.
  3. Before you meet with the representative assign a person in the class to be the spokesperson for the class and read the passages below so you are prepared for the meeting. The spokesperson can either be a girl or a boy.
  4. When you meet with the representative, the spokesperson could say the following: "Honorable ___________ we welcome you to our classroom and school." OR "We thank you for letting us come and visit you in your office." You could also add: "We want to compliment you on all the work you have done on behalf of our community. You have made a great effort and we thank you."

If the elected representative is interested to do so, encourage him or her to make a presentation about his or her role in government and what the representative is doing to help improve the community. When the representative is finished speaking and if he or she has not answered the questions below, you can ask the representative the following questions. Write the answers to these questions in your copy.

What are your job responsibilities in government?

What, if anything, are you doing to address the particular problem that our class has identified? This is the time for you to mention the issue that your class is concerned with.

Ask the representative if there is anything we, as students, can do to help solve the problems.
If you have suggestions on what is needed in your community to improve this problem inform your representative at the meeting.

When the discussion is finished, the class spokesperson should thank the representative for taking the time to speak with the class.

After you have met with your local official, your teacher will divide the class into small groups. With your classmates, read the box below. When you have read through the listing, discuss with your group the questions that follow. Write your answers in your copy. One member from each group should present the answers to the class.

Different Ways Citizens Can Participate in the Democratic Process

  • Reading information in newspapers and magazines and participating in political discussions
  • Voting in local and national elections
  • Trying to persuade someone, in a peaceful way, to vote in a certain way Creating or signing a petition
  • Writing letters to electedrepresentatives
  • Contributing money to a party or candidate
  • Attending meetings to gain information, discuss issues or lend support
  • Working for a political campaign
  • Presenting your views at a parliamentary committee hearing
  • Joining a civil society organization that advocates for a particular interest
  • Demonstrating peacefully through marches, boycotts or sit-ins
  • Running for and holding elected office Participating in developmental activities

1. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each form of participation?
2. Are all these forms of participation equally important in protecting our basic rights? Why or why not? Which seems the most important?


Certain civic dispositions or character traits not only help us become an effective and responsible member of our family, group of friends, school and community organization, but they also help us become a good participant in our democracy.

These character traits include:

  1. Civility - treating other people respectfully, regardless of whether or not one agrees with their viewpoints. Being willing to listen to other points of view and avoiding hostile, abusive and emotional arguments.
  2. Respect for the Rights of Other Individuals - having respect for others' rights to: an equal voice in government; be equal in the eyes of the law; have different ideas; and join organizations to advance their views.
  3. Respect for the Law - willingness to abide by laws, even though one may not be in complete agreement with every law; willingness to work through peaceful, legal means to change laws which one thinks to be unwise or unjust.
  4. Honesty - willingness to seek and express the truth
  5. Open Mindedness - willingness to consider others' points of view.
  6. Critical Mindedness - openness to questioning the validity of various positions on issues, including one's own.
  7. Negotiation and Compromise - making an effort to come to agreement with those with whom you may differ, when it is reasonable and morally justifiable to do so.
  8. Persistence - being willing to attempt again and again to accomplish worthwhile goals.
  9. Civic Mindedness - paying attention to, and having concern for, public affairs.
  10. Compassion - having concern for the well-being of others, especially for the less fortunate.
  11. Patriotism - being loyal to the values and principles underlying democracy and your country.
  12. Courage - the strength to stand up for one's convictions.
  13. Tolerance of Ambiguity - the ability to accept uncertainties that arise, e.g. from insufficient knowledge or understanding of complex issues.

Let's examine more closely what we mean when we say. "These dispositions agree with democratic behavior."
Read the paragraphs below and answer the questions.
A key ideal of democracy is FREEDOM of EXPRESSION. We must remember that even if we disagree with what other people say, we must let them speak, and we ask that they also let us speak, even if they disagree with us.

Suppose you attend a meeting of students in your school. Everyone in the group needs to suggest rules for the volleyball game happening that afternoon. Think through the following questions and write your answers in your copy.

  1. You have the right to speak and give your suggestions about the rules of the game. What responsibilities should you have in the way you speak and in what you say? List and explain these responsibilities
  2. What responsibilities should other students at the meeting have toward your right to speak? List and explain these responsibilities.
  3. What responsibilities should you have toward the other students' right to speak? List and explain these responsibilities.
  4. What might happen to the right to FREEDOM of EXPRESSION if no one fulfilled the responsibilities you have discussed?
  5. Let's say, Sunil, a student at the meeting came up with a rule that you disagree with. For instance Sunil stated that: "All players who hit the ball with their thumbs facing upward should be disqualified from the game." Should you yell at Sunil and say, "That is stupid, I refuse to play by that rule"? Should you hit Sunil? Would yelling at Sunil or hitting him be fair behavior? Could you agree to negotiate with Sunil and compromise to find common rules that you all agree upon? If yes, explain.
  6. Re-look at the list of democratic traits listed above. Can you list in your copy those traits that are needed to work within the student group and come up with suggestions for rules for the volleyball game?

Working with your classmates to make rules for the volleyball game is not so different from members of parliament from different political parties negotiating laws and coming up with compromises. Nor is it that different from people, from different religions and castes, all working together to make fair decisions that help the entire community rather than one group.

Another key ideal of democracy is the RIGHT to VOTE. Suppose you are old enough to vote and there are two candidates, A and B, running for Village Development Council. Each candidate comes to your village to speak about their political views. Being very interested and caring about your democracy, you listen to them.

Candidate's B's promises do not seem very realistic, nor do you necessarily agree that all criminals should be released from jail. So, you decide to vote for Candidate A.

  1. Suppose some friends, neighbors and others in your community do not agree with the way you are going to vote. List and explain what responsibilities they have in regard to your right to choose who you voted for.
  2. Suppose you do not agree with the way some of your friends, neighbors, and others in your community are going to vote. List and explain what rights and responsibilities you have in regard to their right to choose who they vote for.
  3. What might happen to the right to vote if no one fulfilled the responsibilities you discussed?
  4. Relook at the list of democratic dispositions above. Can you list in your copy those dispositions that are needed to participate in an election, to choose a qualified candidate for a position and to respect other people's rights to make their own choices about who they will vote for?
  5. A variety of democratic activities are listed below. List the civic dispositions mentioned above that are required to perform the following activities. There may be more than one disposition required for each activity.


Civic education can improve citizens' participation in government. This benefits the citizen and the country as the more citizens participate in government the stronger their democracy becomes. There are many ways in which we already see citizens participate in their democratic processes in Nepal.

Sometimes, citizens:

These are means of expressing citizens' opinions. People within Nepal have the freedom to protest and praise government action and are taking initiative to do so. When people act in these ways, it means that our democratic system is working, and working well.


As specified by the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal, being a citizen gives you specific rights and freedoms. These rights are called fundamental rights by the Constitution and are listed below.

Right to Equality - The state shall not discriminate on the grounds of religion, race, sex, caste, tribe or ideological belief. No person shall be discriminated against as untouchable, be denied access to any public place or not be allowed to use public utilities.

Right to Freedom - People have individual freedom, freedom of expression, freedom to come together without weapons, freedom to organize in associations, freedom to visit and settle anywhere within the Kingdom of Nepal and the freedom to work in any profession, employment, industry or commerce.

Press and Publication Rights - No news item, article or other reading material shall be censored. No press shall be closed or seized for printing any news item, article or other reading material.

Rights regarding Criminal Justice - No mental or physical torment can be imposed on an individual in detention.

Rights against Detention of the Innocent - No one shall be held in police custody without enough evidence of an offense. If wrongly detained appropriate compensation shall be arranged for the innocent.

Right to be Informed - Every citizen has the right to demand and receive information on any matter of public importance, except on issues related to national security.

Right to Property - All citizens shall, subject to the existing laws, have the right to acquire, own, sell and dispose of property.

Cultural and Education Rights - Each community residing in Nepal shall have the right to preserve and promote its language, script and culture. Each community has the right to operate schools up to the primary level in its own mother tongue for educating its children.

Right to Religion - Every person shall have the freedom to practice his or her own religion.
Right against Exploitation - Traffic in human beings, slavery, serfdom or forced labor in any form is prohibited. No minor shall be employed to work in any factory or mine, or be engaged in any other hazardous work.

Right to Privacy - Except as provided by law, the privacy of a person, house, property, document, correspondence or information about anyone is protected.

Right against Exile - No citizens of Nepal can be forced to leave the country.

Right to Constitutional Remedy - If a citizen feels unjustly treated, the citizen may go to court to legally protest the abuse.3

As a citizen in our democracy, you have the right to protect yourself if your freedoms or rights described above are violated.

Read the story below and see how Sundar protected himself when his rights were violated.

Ram Saran and Bimala used to live in Bahana Nagar. They had a teenage son named Sundar. One day, Sundar, who worked at a soap factory, had a lot of work to do. By the time he finished his work, it was already late in the evening. When he was walking home, a police patrol car pulled up beside him and asked why he was out on the street so late. Sundar replied that he was going home from work. The police said that there have been a lot of robberies in the area and they planned to arrest Sundar, as he may be the robber. They took Sundar to the police station and kept him in jail for three days. Finally, as the police could not find any evidence to convict Sundar, they released him. After he was released, Sundar filed a court case against the police for the violation of his fundamental right against being arrested without proper cause. He argued that the police did not have sufficient evidence to arrest and detain him for so many days. Sundar won his court case and the arresting police officer was suspended from the police force for three months because he arrested someone without cause.
  1. Did the police officers have a good reason to arrest Sundar?
  2. Should Sundar have filed a court case against the police or should he have ignored his fundamental right against being detained without cause?
  3. What happened to the police as a result of Sundar's court case?
  4. If a similar situation happened to you, would you have ignored the injustice or tried to correct it?


For individual and group work:

  1. Your teacher will divide the class into groups. Can your group remember the twelve features of a democracy mentioned in the text? Have a race to see which group can write all twelve first.
  2. If you think about the people in your class, and in your society, would you say that they are all equal? (Think about natural gifts, education, health, finance….etc. Also think about caste, religion, ethnicity and age.) In what sense then, are people in a democracy considered equal?
  3. In a certain Western democracy, school attendance is compulsory from Monday to Friday. But some Muslim families want their children to receive religious instruction on Friday, with older boys free to attend mid-day prayers at the mosque. How do you think the government should handle this?
  4. In Nepal, our Constitution states that the Monarchy shall exist. Some people feel strongly that we should not have a Monarchy anymore. Should they be allowed to say this publicly, for instance writing to a newspaper or having a peaceful rally?
  5. On the radio or television you can hear of "election irregularities" in some
    countries. What do they mean by this? Write down as many possible
    "irregularities" as you can think of.
  6. Is there anything about our electoral system or social structure that would cause an election in Nepal to be considered not free and unfair?
  7. Do you think people should be allowed to own land, or should it all belong to "the state", to be used by everyone equally?
  8. Draw a cartoon or write and perform a short drama about a situation in which:
    someone's human rights are abused OR
    someone or group of people do not obey the rule of law OR
    political party members do not accept the election results
  9. Is the calling of a "bandh" an act that adheres to democratic principles? Or are "bandhs" a violation of the rights of the majority of people to carry out their daily lives in a peaceful way?
  10. Which Ministers are currently included in the Council of Ministers?
  11. Let each student pretend to be a minister. Each one must stand up, introduce him or herself, and say very briefly what the major issues are with which he or she is
    dealing at the moment. Have the student discuss the problem and how he or she plans to solve it. Be as realistic as possible. [Example: for the Minister of Tourism: Indian tourism in Nepal is down by 50%, so I'm trying to promote Nepal as a good place to visit for all Indians].
  12. Pretend you want to explain to sixth grade students how our government works. Draw a poster with pictures of the different bodies of government and use words as well on the poster to describe what each picture is. Make it simple enough to allow the sixth grade students to understand it.
  13. Write a job description for a Member of Parliament.
  14. Write a 'fun' job description for a Member of Parliament, which includes everything they shouldn't do.
  15. Pretend you are over 18 years old and feel very strongly about protecting girls from trafficking in Nepal. What can you do to help? Write down as many ways as possible.
  16. Pretend you are stranded on a desert island a long way from anywhere. There is a fresh water spring and banana and coconut trees. The climate is pleasant. You may have to live here for a long time.

    Write down your own list of 8-12 things that you think you need to survive.

    With a partner, make a common list of 10 items.

    Make groups of 6 and make a common list of 8 articles, and rank them in order of importance.

    Write in your copy the civic dispositions necessary to come to an agreement with your other classmates about this final list.
    Make groups of 6.

    Your class has been given Rs 5,000. Write down how you think it could be best spent. Do not discuss your ideas with anyone.

    Now share your ideas in your group, and everyone write down the other suggestions.

    Now rank them in order of your preference.

    Then discuss and in your group decide on one that you all agree to.

    Share these ideas, and finally come to a class decision.

    When you are through with this exercise, write in your copy the civic dispositions necessary to come to an agreement with your other classmates about this final decision.

17. Write a letter to a newspaper about something you feel strongly about related to strengthening our democracy.

18. Your teacher will put each of the fundamental rights on a card. As you pick a card from your teacher explain in detail what is involved in that particular right.


Short and Medium answer Questions:

  1. How would you describe civic education?
  2. Which single word means that those in authority must demonstrate that they have fulfilled their job responsibilities and represented the people in a fair way?
  3. What is corruption? Give examples of large-scale and small-scale corruption.
  4. Is it possible to have a one-party democracy? Give your reasons.
  5. What is the rule of law?
  6. Complete: "If citizens want their views to be considered they
    must ____________________".
  7. How many members make up the House of Representatives?
  8. The upper house has 10, 35 and 15 members chosen in different ways. Describe these ways.
  9. List 5 ways an ordinary citizen can be involved in the decision-making of his or her representatives.
  10. Should it be mandatory that everyone who is eligible must vote? Give your reasons.
  11. What is freedom of expression? Do you have this at school? Explain.
  12. For someone playing a key role in their democracy, what are the 5 important civic dispositions that person must have?
  13. If you wanted to express your opinions to large numbers of people, what would you do? Give 2 ways.
  14. Is there anything that you think newspapers do not have the right to publish?
  15. What is the right to constitutional remedy?
  16. What are two disadvantages of democracy?

Long Answer Questions :

Write 2 or 3 good paragraphs on the following topics.

Write 2 or 3 good paragraphs on one of these topics.


In this unit you have learned that:


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