“Through the fellowship, I realised that democracy is more than voting or protesting. It is about being tolerant of diverse viewpoints and seeking an understanding of issues that make a difference in society,” says Honey, Youth-n-Democracy Fellow, 2019-20.
Although Honey studied Chemistry at the university-level, his interest in social issues has only heightened in his time there. When he came across the Youth-n-Democracy fellowship while seeking opportunities to explore his interest in social justice, he realised that this would not only allow him to be an active citizen but also introspect and better understand his own identity.
The sessions on self and identity gave Honey the space to question the beliefs he had previous to the program. Although ideas of self and identity were not new to Honey, he enjoyed the unique perspective given to him by PRIA’s art, dance and music-based approach.
He also feels the fellowship has made him more open to other people’s beliefs, which in turn lead him to see democracy in a new way. He says, “The diversity within the fellows brought me in contact with different beliefs and opened conversations that furthered my understanding of and tolerance for other people’s views.”
Honey chose to work with gender sensitisation for his social action project, after PRIA’s sessions on sexual and gender identity re-ignited his interest in the subject. While he had worked on this issue in college, where he was on a committee tackling sexual harassment, the fellowship provided a whole new approach to promoting ideas of inclusivity and identity through their sessions.
For his project, he hoped to create ‘gender warriors’ in schools, who would promote the message of gender tolerance and inclusion to the broader community. He hoped to create a decentralised approach, where the gender warriors could pass on the importance of gender sensitisation to their friends. Honey’s act of mobilising a small number of people will, thus, have a ripple effect with the gender warriors further mobilising more people, exemplifying how democracy in everyday life can have an impact on democracy in the larger picture.
For Honey, PRIA’s democratic approach to the running of the program also served as learning. The small gesture of asking for feedback from the fellows proves to him how highly valued their opinions are within the organisation and highlighted the importance of including stakeholders in any decision making process.
He describes the fellowship’s use of team sports to break the ice and encourage everyone to get to know each other as a crucial step in the process, as it helped build a space for the fellows to grow through each other’s’ support. He says, “The fellowship created a space in which different opinions and beliefs could be expressed safely. It was a priceless experience. The openness and inclusiveness helped me express my opinions more confidently”.
Honey has just started a Master’s degree in Public Policy, the choice of subject influenced by his experience in the fellowship. He hopes to continue supporting change in the community around him, motivated by seeing how his actions can have widespread impact.