After many months (and then some), at the end of March 2019, 18 staff and students left Glasgow and landed safely in New Delhi, India.
Our 11-day study trip was made possible by the excellent support we got from the School of Education, who helped make this become a reality and to our hosts, Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA). They have over 30 years’ experience of working across Asia, particularly in India, and are recognised worldwide as centre for excellence for working with marginalised, excluded and forgotten communities. Their approach to engaging with communities’ chimes with the core values of Community Development, social justice, anti-discrimination and community empowerment, and as such, this was an excellent place to experience their work and gain new insights.
Our first day was spent getting used to the heat and exploring our surroundings and having a go on a tuk tuk, much to the despair of our hosts.
During our time with PRIA we had the opportunity to engage with local community projects in several different sites across New Delhi and beyond. We spent the first few days getting familiar with PRIA with an overview of their participatory appraisal methods and tools they use in the field. This comprised of hearing directly from project officers on some of the innovative work they are doing across the region and how they apply theory and practice.
We had discussions on youth and democracy, in both India and Scotland, in relation to the model that PRIA has developed. We heard from staff involved with a project, Dignity of my labour, that supports domestic workers. This group, mainly women, have the highest incident rate of sexual abuse and harassment than most others. We learned about the pavement dwellers movement and their attempts to get recognition and support to assist in developing a voice for people who are very visible but invisible in terms of getting heard.
We spent some time exploring different cultural expectations prior to us leaving New Delhi in preparation for the site visits. These sessions were invaluable as they enabled us to participate in a way that was respectful and didn’t offend anyone or their position.
We spent a further 4 days traveling to different areas and PRIA sites in Jaipur, Ajmer, Faridabad, Gurgaon and finally Agra. In each of these areas we had the good fortune to spend time in small villages (rural and semi-rural) and visit a wide range of community led projects where we listened to elders and other community leaders share their stories in relation to how their community works to ensure that people feel valued and able to contribute to making their community a better place. This included communities working to build dams for water irrigation, creating community gardens to help feed the village, establishing a farmer’s co- operative and campaigns to encourage children to go to school, especially in the rural settings. We got the opportunity to participate in the Holi festival with a group of young people who are challenging and standing up against arranged marriages for young girls usually aged between of 7 -18.
On our return to New Delhi, we got to meet some of the women involved in the dignity of my labour project. These women are subjected, almost daily, to abuse from either their employers and/or guards with little redress. Hearing them talk about the community safety assessments they are carrying out, with the support of PRIA, despite the threats they receive, and actively trying to come together to get recognition and voice for their situations was a very memorable experience.
There was some time to enjoy a cultural visit to the Taj Mahal and some other local sites of interest, as well as attended the Martha Farrell Award Ceremony that acknowledges and champions the work that others do to support young people across the country.
This study visit has enhanced our understanding and knowledge of global issues, particularly those experienced in India.
We hope to continue to build on the fantastic relationship we have established with PRIA and work they do in ways that is mutually beneficial.
Finally, the following quotes from students really sums up our time in India and what we bring back to share with our own communities
“I loved the passion and commitment shown by all the PRIA staff and the projects we visited, truly an amazing and humbling experience.”
“The visit reignited my enthusiasm and belief that change is possible. I will try not to be negative at how long the process can take. Thankyou PRIA.”
“It reinforced my values of working with and not for the communities. Listening, loving the people and action should always be community led.”