“The session on mental health helped me cope with COVID-19 and the negative environment around me. During the session, we learned that, after a point, we should not try to control any situation and let it happen.”
–Anurag, Youth-n-Democracy Fellow, 2020-21
When Anurag first joined the Youth-n-Democracy Fellowship, it was because of his education in Social Work. However, after completing nine months of the program, he says the journey has been quite a life-changing experience. As a young cisgender man with an upper-caste and upper-class background, Anurag couldn’t ask for much more in life. However, with his passion for social work and the realization that he can utilize his skills and privilege for vulnerable sections of society, he decided to do something.
During the Fellowship, for the first time, he made goals for his personal and professional development. “I drew and mapped things which I wanted to achieve in my life. In the past, I have mapped my career goals, but this time, I mapped goals for myself—how I can become a better person, and as an individual what I want in my life, like happiness and sound mental health.” Anurag was able to do this through ‘River of My Life’, one of the various participatory methods of engagement used in the Youth-n-Democracy Fellowship. ‘River of My Life’ is a training tool used to assist individuals in mapping their life journey and acknowledging the significant influences and contributions of various others in their life.
Anurag says he never felt the need to have conversations with his parents and cousins in his age group about his choices, opinions, and what he wants to achieve in life. It was during the Fellowship that he started opening up to his parents and cousins. To his surprise, his family members were very encouraging and welcoming.
“I never used to discuss with my parents what I want in my life. But, after the Fellowship, I realized that I need to share these things with my parents. Now we have started having discussions (not debates).” Anurag adds, “One of the things I learned during the Fellowship was the need to have conversations with different people and learn about different societies, opinions, perspectives, and choices. And moving ahead I want to keep doing it.”
Coming from a Social Work background, Anurag had a certain experience of community interventions. However, the sessions under the ‘Society’ module helped him strengthen his research ideas and engage the community. Learning from the session on gender and stakeholder analysis, as part of his Action Project, Anurag included women and involved them in a participatory research method to learn about their experiences of living in villages of Ahmedabad. “The session by the Martha Farrell Foundation on Participatory Safety Audit helped me in viewing society with a lens which I have never thought of before. It was because of this gender lens that I spoke with women and young girls and included their voices as well about inclusiveness and safety, during the action project.”
Anurag realized how involving stakeholders influence the solutions that an intervention is trying to achieve. During his Action Project, he organized community meetings to interact with diverse stakeholders. He wanted to learn about the history of the migrant communities of Ahmedabad, the problems they have been facing and were still facing during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, and their future aspirations. After assessing the various social, cultural, economic, and political aspects of the community, he, along with the community, submitted a report with the AMC Administration and the New Panel of elected Councillors.
Anurag wants to continue working in the development sector. The intersectional lens which he has developed during the Fellowship is not only going to help him in becoming a better professional but also a better individual.