This proposed paper examines one key pattern that emerged from my doctorate research based in Kathmandu: the important role that individuals play in creating, maintaining, and defining the youth sector. Labelling this dynamic as one between ‘peers’ is a conscious, and complex, choice; literature on peers within the global field of youth studies warns against assuming age similarity alone establishes a peer relationship (Hosein & Yadav 2017). In context, Greenland (2012) notes a widespread assumption that being young is a homogenous experience for young people through Nepal; however, after taking into account many different identity factors – such as gender, caste, urban or rural lifestyle, ability/disability, socioeconomic class, and many more –, it would be limiting to assume there exists a singular youth experience.

Working with youth in Kathmandu, I observed solidarity and familiarity as well as separation and distinction among my research participants. Without asking (and without knowing identifying last names), I quickly learned who was Brahmin, who was Dalit, who was from Madhesh, and who was born in Kathmandu. I also heard these same individuals be referred to as ‘dai/didi’, ‘sir/ma’am’, or the honorific ‘ji’ depending on their work title, experience, age, or how they related to others. This simultaneous intimacy and delineation, I argue, works to create a system of acceptance and celebration of both similarities and differences. In many ways, this research attempts to apply complicated labels like ‘ethnography’ and ‘peer-led learning’ to an informal research setting: the office spaces of youth organisations in Kathmandu. Pulling from interviews with 34 young people working in the contemporary youth sector, the data discussed in this paper will look at peer relationship building, first by asking who is a peer in this setting. The Government of Nepal in its National Youth Policy has defined youth as those aged 16 to 40; the youth sector has partially accepted this and therefore, my sample has representation across this age range. Doing so, however, also requires me to ask is age similarity enough to define someone as peer? This discussion will provide a working, yet open definition for exploring information related to the primary question in my doctoral research: From whom are young people in the youth sector learning? Once defining peers as a key group – aka the ‘whom’ – leading the learning, I will then describe how I saw peers interact and how these interactions go on to define the experiences of each other. In particular, this paper will examine the active dynamics of relationships building, considering the roles peers play in getting each other involved in the youth sector, as well as the active dynamics that keep each other involved. From youth policy dialogues to after office birthday parties, I will tell of the relationships I both experienced and observed. In conclusion, this paper will show the youth sector is an energetic and ever-changing setting for both formal and informal peer-led learning.