Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Oh Democracy...

To begin with, I just realized that I haven't posted for a few days what with all the training sessions, spending time with the MHC and DWC students, eating (something we do quite often) and, if we're lucky, sleeping just to do it all again the next day! Here's hoping that this post won't be too long, but not actually expecting that to happen...

The second day of training went extremely well, partly because we had a break on New Year's Day to evaluate what had happened on the first day and restructure some parts of our program to respond to what the women from DWC said they needed. It also helped because we were able to sleep and have a calm, relaxing day with the Saunders and at the Global Village. During this session, I presented on "Democracy in the U.S.," and "Elected Representation," both of which seem to be hot topics in the international community.

While there were many reasons why I was excited to discuss democracy and then more concrete issues like representation, the main one was to challenge the students to move beyond the common conception that democracy in one form will work in exactly the same manner when applied to another culture or group of people. To me, a "one-size fits all" framing of democracy leaves out the essential idea of democracy, rule of the people for the people. Although I didn't have very much time to talk about the theory of democracy (my favorite part) and details of the federal U.S. system with checks and balances (the necessary part for the training) in addition to the fact that there wasn't time left to have a real discussion, I have seen many of the ideas and concepts that I put forth being implemented in the ways in which the DWC students are interacting in training and as future methods of running their Student Council.

Elected Representation was where I was really able to engage the smaller groups in a dialogue about what it is, how it works and ways to implement in on their campus. One of the groups I had was extremely informative in discussing all the challenges that they have faced with representing DWC students to the administration. Many of these challenges revolved around students not wanting to be involved in the Student Council or the Student Representative Groups (SRGs), a lack of communication with the students and not really having the power to create some of the changes that they feel are necessary for the SC/SRGs to run properly. This truly opened my eyes to the enormity of the challenge they face in getting their new, revamped Student Council running next term, but towards the end of our 45 minutes, they were beginning to brainstorm ideas to meet these challenges. Of course, finding out the real story about the Student Council and SRGs meant that we needed to totally change the morning of our third day of training...which I'll cover in the next post since I think this one might be a bit long!


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