India for me was a real eye opening experience. From the moment we arrived in India I noticed the vast difference in culture and customs compared to England. I grasped the opportunity to immerse myself in the culture straight away, from wearing saris at our welcoming banquet, to eating with my right hand from banana leaves; this is how India should truly be experienced.
The purpose of my travels to India was to undertake a four week internship with Jananeethi Institute as part of a team of four students from Nottingham Trent University. Our project; Can women change Kerala? This is based on a new enactment which gives women fifty percent reservation in local self-government. After conducting one hundred interviews with women representatives (former and present), family members, beneficiaries and government officials, the general response was found to be overwhelmingly positive.
The new enactment is an important stepping stone towards women helping to change Kerala, however this goal cannot be achieved without new changes being made at state level. This is something the women are aware of and are working towards. The new enactment has helped improve women’s confidence and prove that they can be effective representatives.
I would find it interesting to return to Kerala in four or five years when the women representatives are coming towards the end of their term in office, to evaluate what changes they have brought about.
On a personal level this internship has improved my confidence in communicating with people from different cultures and the ability to think on my feet. I am now more culturally aware and I have vastly widened my research knowledge and sparked a new interest in Indian politics, which I would like to continue following. Whilst living in Thrissur, Kerala I also took the opportunity to take part in everyday activities such as morning Yoga at the YMCA from 5-7am, Onam festivities including the Puli Kali parade, a Kalari martial arts workshop and we also visited some beautiful local waterfalls on our day off.
This internship was an incredible opportunity which allowed me to develop many new skills. I would therefore recommend it to anyone who has an interest in the areas of Law and Human Rights. The internship should be approached with an open mind, being ready to learn new concepts and have patience; some tasks take three times as long in India compared to Britain, it's just part of the country and its culture but it gives you time to reflect, which the fast pace at which people live in the UK does not. There are the frustrating times such as power cuts when trying to meet a deadline, but the fun experiences are immense including the sense of achievement when completing a report based on your team’s primary research.
After the internship I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel India for six weeks. Jenna and I travelled from South to North, Thrissur to Delhi by train visiting many villages and cities. To anyone who gets the opportunity, I would definitely recommend travelling India, it is an incredibly interesting country with so much character and culture. Each city and state is so different from the next. It’s impossible to describe the country; it’s just something you have to experience for yourself.
Finally I would like to thank George Pulikuthiyil, Jananeeti Institute and Nick Johnson of Nottingham Trent University for giving me the opportunity to undertake this internship. Thanks must also be granted to Nottingham Trent Alumini Fund for funding the translator; Destin, whom we would not have been able to conduct the interviews without.
I look forward to returning to Kerala in the future. True to what I was initially told, I can definitely agree after visiting many places in this country, Kerala is the most beautiful state in India.
By Laura Williams