By Nikita Rakhyani and Yashvi Sharma:
“As I want to work further in the development sector, the activities under YnD’s ‘Society’ module gave me a clear view about how to engage the community and approach stakeholders at different stages of the interventions. It provided practical applications of what I am learning.” – Thrithi, Youth-n-Democracy Fellow, 2020-21
Thrithi heard about the Youth-n-Democracy Fellowship (YnD) from her classmates, who were part of its first-ever cohort. And, to learn from this immersive journey of community engagement, she applied as well.
The sessions on understanding various aspects of self and identity, stakeholder analysis, participatory research methodology, and gender mapping have equipped her for future community engagements as a development sector professional.
A very impactful session, which Thrithi fondly remembers, was one in which she understood the idea of multiple selves. It made her comfortable with who she is as an individual. “The concept of the ‘Green Room’ stated how we have subconscious parts of ourselves and how we are always presenting ourselves differently. It made me comfortable with the fact that it is normal to behave differently in different circumstances.”
The first module under the YnD fellowship has been designed with the belief that exploring the self and coming to terms with it at the individual level is necessary before one can effect changes within families and communities. After critically evaluating her self-image and the socialization processes that shaped her, Thrithi’s doubts about her performance in front of others were resolved. Working in the social sector, Thrithi was already a sensitive and sensitized person, but picking up this skill intensified after joining the Fellowship.
The orientation on principles of ‘Democracy in Everyday Life’ (DiEL) has made her more comfortable with people from diverse backgrounds. “Understanding different gender identities has allowed me to create a safe space for people with non-binary identities. I’ve also been able to help a friend understand the biases and stereotypes all of us hold based on an individual’s geographical identity.”
Influenced by the principles of DiEL and her college experiences, Thrithi launched her Social Action Project on exploring the idea of cultural diversity with other young people from across the world. She started interacting with people and learned about the inhibitions they have while speaking about their own identities—often worrying about how others will receive this information.
Even though Thrithi’s project couldn’t rake off as envisioned because of the second wave of COVID-19, she was able to dig deeper into participatory research methodology during the Fellowship. She decided to act on the motto, ‘keeping people at the heart of your intervention’, and invest her time in what was the need of the hour: doing volunteer work and supporting migrant workers in her city. Along with this, she also started interacting with rickshaw pullers, her domestic worker, and other people with whom she did not often speak to. “It gave me an insight into the vulnerabilities of other sections of society. It just made me aware of my privileged position. I think all of us need to understand and acknowledge the systematic and structural differences that exist in our society.”
While Thrithi reflected upon her actions, she also learned various skills that are going to support her career-dynamic, teamwork, and collaboration. She is now doing a comparative analysis between urban and rural workers to learn about access to resources and services during a pandemic.
Thrithi has shown the importance of interacting with and learning about the experiences of others, along with the need for conversations influencing the viewpoints of others. She credits the Youth-n-Democracy Fellowship for giving her tools to work with communities on popular and difficult issues of concern in the future and a sneak-peak into the life of a social worker.