Navya Khanna grew up in the multicultural capital of India, New Delhi, where people come from diverse religious ideologies and ethnic backgrounds. She considered herself fortunate to have grown up in a community that celebrates similarities and embraces differences. However, over the past few years and with the rise of communal violence and polarization, Navya became increasingly troubled by the increasing hostility and prejudice against minority communities.
“Discrimination, micro agression, the inability to feel safe in public places, is a daily reality for minority communities,” says Navya. This complicates basic rights like access to jobs and education and severely impacts their mental health. The problem is perpetuated by an aggressive mainstream media machine that often demonizes and marginalizes minorities, establishing an overpowering narrative that floods public discourse with hate and negativity. “Underrepresentation and misrepresentation of minority communities in mainstream media along with false narratives fabricated by politicians for electoral gains, further reinforce the prevalent biases against minority communities,” she notes.
Social media platforms were also saturated with this mainstream narrative. One day Navya noticed a derogatory comment against a person from a minority community. She felt compelled to comment and attempt to start a healthy discussion about the consequences of religious disharmony. Within seconds, Navya was on the receiving end of a vicious backlash from ‘netizens’ for speaking out. This made her realize that there was a dire need of spreading awareness and integrating peace education, especially in her own community. Navya felt that perhaps she couldn’t do much to change the mainstream narrative on media channels or make politicians cease their incendiary discourse against minorities, but she can address the lack of value and peace education in the country’s educational institutions.
Navya started a storytelling campaign called Tandem Tales that aimed to capture different narratives around conflict and peacebuilding. She came across stories of bullying, violence and hatred. She became even more determined to educate more people about conflict, peacebuilding and diversity. In 2020, and with the help of Peace First, Navya co founded Diversity Dialogue, a project designed to educate young people about conflict, countering hate speech and promoting the concept of peace and harmony. With the help of Peace First, Diversity Dialogue provided ten workshops to students between the age of 12 to 17 on peace education and plans to provide the workshop to 100 students in the first three months of 2021. The workshops are coupled with storytelling campaigns on social media and interactive games to build a culture of peacebuilding across New Delhi.
“It's important to highlight the message that no one is inferior and everyone should be treated equally. It's important to highlight that diversity is a positive concept which enhances a society in every manner,” says Navya.
We hosted Navya on our IG live series for Asia and Oceania, watch her speak about her project here.