Democracy and responsibility
Having lived in India for some months, I had the opportunity to participate in the 3rd Dialogue, 'Making democracy real' held in Panchgani at the IofC international conference centre in India. This dialogue, which was held from 10 to 14 January 2014, brought together 140 participants of 32 nationalities. I emphasise the word DIALOGUE, as that is exactly what it is, an exchange taking place between people convinced of the necessity of democracy but less convinced when it’s put into practise.
I have been involved with IofC for seven years now and I have had the opportunity to participate in many meetings. I should say that every time I am amazed by the diversity of participants, diversity of countries, religions, languages, social status, age etc. and by the quality of exchanges. It is possible to have lunch with a Tibetan diplomat, then to do the washing up with a Congolese senator and to have tea with political science students from Germany or Lebanon. In the summer, during another meeting, I shared my room with a young Spanish girl living in Germany, who loved to speak Italian. This time I spent the four nights sharing with a young Kenyan girl who works for an NGO, who is Muslim and who wears a headscarf. We laughed together lots, finding out that we are very similar with our creams and evening routines.
As a French woman born in the 1970s, I only know democracy. It is my reality. A reality because I live in a country where democracy is not simply a political regimen but also a truth; I can vote, I know that my voice will count, it will not be distorted. I have rights and I also have duties. I am free to think, to act and in the majority of countries my passport is welcomed.
India is the biggest democracy in the world with one billion, 277 million inhabitants. However, I felt that democracy here is not as I know it. I don’t have a political example to give but there’s a feeling that the law is not the same for everyone. There are inequalities which appear to be insurmountable. For example, we had a nanny at the house to help us with the children. No contract was signed. She had no protection regarding her work, her health insurance nor her pension. We could have turned her out at any time.
I have sometimes been discouraged by certain testimony. In some Asian, Middle Eastern or African countries the situation seems desperate but the same errors repeat themselves. A number of testimonies bring the feeling of déjà-vu: a religious minority oppressed by another, a woman abused by her husband. However I was especially impressed to find many activists involved in the pursuit of democracy in their own countries. Furthermore, a politician told us how he refused to take a bribe, suggesting instead that the person invest the money in business and lower sale prices, thus resolving the issue with a win-win scenario.
Participating in this dialogue made me aware that democracy brings with it responsibility. If I do not act at a political level because I have chosen (thanks to democracy giving me that choice) not to engage, I can apply democracy to my own life - with those I work with, with my family. I remember this quote: 'We cannot always build the future for our children but we can prepare our children for the future'. This is what I will hold onto from this dialogue and will try to do for my own children.
Maud Glorieux has worked for NGOs all her working life. Having studied communications, she worked for dixiemefamille.com and was Communications Officer for IofC France between 2007 and 2010. After that, for family reasons, she moved to Germany and then to India, where she lives now. She has been the French Communications Officer for IofC International since January 2013.
NOTE: Individuals of many cultures, nationalities, religions, and beliefs are actively involved with Initiatives of Change. These commentaries represent the views of the writer and not necessarily those of Initiatives of Change as a whole.