Discussing Inclusion through V-Hive Sessions!

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V-Hive is a flagship initiative of UN Volunteers India supported by MASH Project Foundation that aims to create a platform for young college students to discuss & learn about social issues, and become agents of behavioral change. 

The 3-hour long sessions conducted as part of V-Hive focused on Inclusion on the lines of the theme of International Volunteers Day 2019- Volunteering for an Inclusive Future. Each session brought together over 60 bright students, who got the opportunity to learn from the expert, participate in experiential activities, build their perspectives on issues around them, and take an informed stance. 

The first V-Hive Session was organized at Hindu College, University of Delhi on 6th September, 2019 on the completion of 1 year of repealing Article 377 of the Indian Constitution. The session brought more than 60 passionate students together to learn, share and create an inclusive environment within the campus. The event saw a diversity of participation with many participating students identifying themselves from LGBTQ+ Community.

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Mr. Rafiul Alom Rahman, the expert speaker from Queer Muslim Project commenced the session with a short brief on the background of the theme – Inclusive Environment for LGBTQ+  Community. He shared his journey of starting Queer Muslim Project out of his personal experiences and how important it is to create sensitization and notion of acceptance towards diverse communities of people. His engaging conversation & activities opened up the youth to the sensitive areas of inclusion and created a safe space for them to voice their opinions.

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The concept of ‘Safe Environment’ was a crucial discussion point throughout the session, and the same was instilled through a series of interactive activities – group performances, representative acts and voluntary questions. One such activity saw student groups undertaking role play in the format of community vs society wherein they portrayed stigmas & challenges faced by people from the LGBTQ community in the society and highlighted the constructive role of youth to counter the same.

The session drew curtains with an address by Mr. Arun Sahdeo, Country Coordinator for UNV India, on the need for an inclusive environment and critical role youth can play to achieve it. His words instilled a sense of encouragement among the youth present, many of whom identify themselves with diverse physical orientations, ethnicities and backgrounds. The session was also highly commended by the college authorities who emphasised consistent efforts to create a safe and inclusive environment for the students.

After the terrific response we received from the first session, the second V-Hive Session on ‘Role of Youth in Ensuring Inclusion and Countering Hate Speech’ was organized on 18th October 2019 at Indira Gandhi Technical University for Women. The session saw over 65 students from diverse backgrounds sharing their experiences of facing hate speech as well as collectively identifying measures to counter hate speech while ensuring a safe and inclusive campus for the youth.

The session commenced with a rap video introducing the 17 Global Goals that enraptured the participants and set the tone right for the session. This was followed by an ice breaker activity engaging the participants to initiate a conversation around hate speech.

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Ms. Janice Verghese, the expert speaker from Cyber Peace Foundation, facilitated the session with instances of hate speech, inappropriate compliments, online trolling as well as harassment etc. She shared many real-life examples in which remarks may come from a fact but can turn out to be insensitive for the recipient or listener. She also addressed the reasons & consequences of hate speech and how to counter them constructively.

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The session was followed by a personal experience sharing activity by Mr. Maisam from UNHCR, who shared his experience as an Afghan refugee. In his words,  “Living in India was much tougher than living in Afghanistan because of the insensitive attitude I had to face being a refugee.”

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Maisam’s thought-provoking account was followed by an equally moving experience shared by Salman from Save the Children India’s community. An extremely talented actor, Salman emphasised how support from people around him helped him realise that his potential was bigger than his circumstances.“I thought to myself, Being born on the street was not my choice, but if I die here without achieving my dreams, it would be a real pity” said Salman while recollecting his incidents from his childhood days spent under poverty.

An interactive activity was then conducted to involve the participants and help them understand the ways to tackle hate speech. Participants were shown videos of community-specific instances of hate speech and then asked to re-enact the same in a positive manner countering the element of hate speech. All the participants showed their enthusiasm and creativity in the activity.

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Towards the end, Ms. Janice shared her insights on creating safe spaces and how the youth can counter hate speech by reporting them online and offline both. 

The session came to a poetic end with a performance by Ms. Aastha Singh Raghuvanshi, an artist using literature to promote inclusion and harmony. Describing herself as a queer woman, Astha performed a beautiful poem about the acceptance and inclusion of people from diverse ethnicities and physical orientation in our society. The session was highly appreciated by students who expressed their strong will and interest to create a safe and inclusive campus as well as become youth leaders of change via the V-Hive initiative. 

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