Paroj Banerjee in Wales on the Active Citizens International Study Visit

Paroj Banerjee in Wales on the Active Citizens International Study Visit


Paroj Banerjee blogs about her recent trip to the UK on an Active Citizens International Study Visit and how a visit to the Welsh Assembly proved inspirational as a model of government.

I am not sure if I can convey in words the extent to which the Active Citizens International Study Visit (ISV) made an impact on my mind. This programme gave me a scope to not only learn about other cultures but also made me realise the power of global connections.

Over a period of one week the ISV brought a host of extremely motivated people from 10 different countries to discuss, share, debate, deliberate and get a real exposure of community work.

Students, activists, local political leaders, feminists, asylum seekers, refugees, policy makers, development practitioners and many other like-minded people made the ISV a very intense forum. As a development practitioner from India, this was a platform for me to have an opportunity to learn about the different ways in which people engage with the marginalised, to address issues of injustice and distress.

The programme was beautifully facilitated by an extremely efficient team from the British Council who made us feel an integral part of the programme. During the first two days we were attending presentations, participating in workshops, listening to lectures from experts and interacting with each other through various exercises.

On the second day we were divided into three groups to visit various places in the UK to get hands on experience of community work in the country.

Along with six other participants from Pakistan, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Ethiopia and Kosovo, I got the opportunity to visit Cardiff, the capital city of Wales and spend time with an organisation called Safer Wales. This was certainly one of the highlights of the trip. The final part of the programme was about reconciling our experiences and reflecting on the core values of the programme.

We got a chance to visit the Welsh Assembly and met an assembly member called Jocelyn Davies. I could sense an extreme form of transparency within the political system in Wales; from the enormous glass building of the Welsh Assembly or the democratic nature of the function, I got a feeling that the government is very accessible to people. My Pakistani counterpart also noticed this, and we discussed about the political accountability in our countries and wished for such a system to be in place.

The ISV taught me how to use technology to reach out to a wider audience over a short period of time. Use of live blogging, photographs and other forms of multimedia made me realise the impact that information could have in bringing social transformation.

During the course of the programme time and again I have realised that no matter where you belong, suffering and injustice invokes the same feelings across all cultures. While on one hand the sessions were facilitating global exchange in a more formal manner, more informal and rich exchanges were taking place during tea breaks and lunch hours.

For instance one day over lunch my Pakistani counterpart and I started discussing a common historical blunder, the aftermath of which is continuing in both nations. We talked about everything from cricket matches, to street food and then our hatred for politicians. I realised that the youth across the world basically have the same emotions, and this is what I feel could be the strongest link to taking the Active Citizenship programme ahead.

Find out more about the Active Citizens programme

Visit the British Council India website

Join the Active Citizens Facebook group

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