AGORA young feminist summer school

Compassion, Solidarity and having an inclusive safe space- AGORA 2018

Shucheesmita Simonti participated in our #AGORA2018 young feminist summer camp. She is currently based in The Hague, Netherlands, remotely working as policy director of SAFIGI Outreach Foundation Ltd. and Editor of Women Chapter English. She is part of Women Deliver Young Leader 2018 Program.

I grew up in Bangladesh and later moved to India for pursuing higher studies. In both the countries, I met countless women who have stories that break one’s heart- stories of oppression, violence and discrimination. As a young woman born from parents who belonged to different religions and eventually got separated, my childhood was anything but easy. I felt like a minority for as long as I can remember, and I felt being a woman made my experiences even worse. I felt I would have been less vulnerable had I been a man in a male dominated society- I don’t know. But my experienced fueled in me the desire to get involved in activities through which I could contribute towards wellbeing of women, but I didn’t know where to begin from.

AGORA 2018 selfie

On a personal level, I tried to be supportive towards other women in the way I knew best, whenever I could. My feminist journey began the day I came across a call for online volunteers from an organization called Safety First for Girls- an NGO based in Zambia. The tasks looked easy to begin with, hence I applied. And my journey began as a feminist. Since then I have worked with other initiatives too, including Women Chapter- an online portal founded in Bangladesh, as editor of the English site. I often witnessed division within the feminist movement around me, and that disappointed me. When I applied for AGORA 2018, I looked forward to meeting other young feminists from Europe and hoped to broaden my knowledge and network with other feminists, but never did I imagine that the five-day event will become a transformation period for me. But this is what happened, and I am grateful for it.

It was only five days that I spent with all the wonderful staffs of EWL and the amazing feminists, but in such short span of time I learned so much, met such wonderful people and most importantly, I feel more confident about myself and the ways in which I am trying to contribute as a young feminist. I believe this is where the success of AGORA lies- enhancing self-confidence of the young feminists, and in showing us how to be compassionate towards each other, embrace diversity and making the commitment to uplifting each other. I am an introvert person, but I believe in five days I spoke my mind without hesitation and I felt at ease all the time. AGORA provided a safe space for us, which allowed us to express ourselves and share our ideas and get feedback from others, and to allow ourselves to focus on self-growth as feminists, while also having a lot of fun with each other. The program was designed in a unique way, which provided a space for every participant to be interactive, rather than choosing to be passive.

AGORA group 2018

One of my favorite takeaways from the camp is the exercise on our limiting beliefs where we paired up with another person and opened our hearts, about thoughts that are so intimate and personal- facts of our lives that may make us wonder at times if we are doing justice to our feminist selves was not. It was not even for an hour, but I felt I just got rid of a burden that was dragging my spirit down every now and then. It was also inspiring to learn about the activist journeys of other participants and to engage in extremely fruitful sessions with them over ideas which we believed could contribute towards building a better and safer world for women.

Another fact that captured my attention and touched my heart was that when we were told that we need to be compassionate, and not call out on each other. It is so important to remember that everyone has their own vulnerabilities, and it does not make the person lesser of a feminist. In such situation, calling out on the person only will trigger feelings of exclusion. AGORA emphasized on intersectionality, and practicing solidarity. Living for couple of days with feminists from different backgrounds and different ideologies only showed us how to go about being more compassionate. To make the world a better place for ourselves and for others, we need to be united first and AGORA just showed us the way.

Thank you EWL and all the amazing women I met during the camp. I love you all and I salute your spirit. Much love!

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