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Cherry Agarwal

February 27th, 2020

My experience of speaking at UNESCO’s Global #MILWeek

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Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

Cherry Agarwal

February 27th, 2020

My experience of speaking at UNESCO’s Global #MILWeek

0 comments

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

I came to London in early September of last year. To be honest, I was quite anxious. I had been working full-time for about five years until the above mentioned move, thus, a transition away from a secure job, financial independence, and (to an extent) the validation that came because of work was scary. To top it off, I was also moving away from my support system — a close group of friends that I had found in Delhi. One would argue that in today’s day and age you are always connected — just a video call way, as one person put it — but for me, that was just not enough. 

However, this blog is not about the entirety of my experience so far. You will hear from me soon on that front too (in a few month’s time perhaps). Today, I will be focusing on a particular experience with which I kick-started my life in London. Ironically, this week wasn’t in London. It was in Sweden, a two-hour flight journey away. 

I have mentioned elsewhere that you begin your LSE journey with Welcome week. While for some it is an opportunity to get used to LSE — the spaces, the events, and the work — for others, it is a week to explore London, build friendships and pre-emptively tackle course readings.  For me, it was neither. This is because I had the opportunity to participate in UNESCO’s 2019 Global Media and Information Literacy (MIL) Week Feature Conference and Youth Agenda Forum, which, coincidentally, was taking place during Welcome Week. 

The flight to Gothenburg, Sweden, was picturesque, to say the least — which explains why I spent it clicking pictures of the sky and clouds, rather than working on my speech. (I was moderating a panel on “MIL Citizens” and speaking about what media and information literacy meant to the youth.) 

My accommodation was a short 30-minute bus ride from the airport. Given that I did not know the language, could barely pronounce the names of places accurately, I was glad that my phone was charged. Once at the hotel, I met up with fellow speakers to explore Gothenburg and prepare for the week ahead. 

The next couple of days were informative, engaging and helped me build a sense of the work that was being done in different countries. As a journalist in India, working in a primarily media-focused newsroom, I had written several articles about the need for media and information literacy, including media ethics, funding and diversity in newsrooms. But my work and research primarily centred around India and its neighbours. Being at the conference, listening to my peers from Brazil, Nigeria, Jordan, the Philippines and LA (to name a few), I was amazed at the diversity of the work being done. My peers were fighting disinformation, building youth capacity, and ensuring media and information literacy reached the grassroots. I was happy to learn that the world understood the emerging need for media and information literacy-related entrepreneurship and innovation. 

Moderating a panel on media and information literacy, an issue I feel strongly about, and speaking to an illustrious audience was an experience in leadership and learning. I know it was a good debate because we could agree, disagree and share our thoughts without the fear of judgement or censorship. What made it better was the energy and insights that my panellists — Alex, Shereen, Rachel, Rory — brought to the stage. The questions put forth by the audience made the discussions all the more valuable – never mind the technical disruptions. 

The conference also allowed me to relish the Swedish “fika”, share my message with the world youth, and explore the Gothenburg Book Fair, Scandinavia’s largest cultural event. I have never seen so many nations culture, heritage, language and identity represented under one roof. Interacting with people here, including other participants with whom I had little chance to speak, gave me a much-needed optimism boost. It also made me realise how small the world was: there were at least four people from London attending the conference, including Rory, who’s an LSE student!

Feel free to share your thoughts about media and information literacy in the comments below! 

About the author

Cherry Agarwal

Cherry Agarwal is an independent journalist and educator based out of the UK. She started her writing career in 2012. Until recently, she worked as a senior reporter with Newslaundry.com, an award-winning news and media watchdog based out of Delhi, India. Her work focused on the rights of journalists, press freedom, media ethics, regulations and censorship. She is a Harvard College scholar and was a speaker for UNESCO's Media and Information Literacy Week. She tweets @QuilledWords.

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