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Are We Doing What We Love?

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By Rahool Gadkari:

“This is your life. Do what you love. And do it often”

These words are written on a poster that hangs on my wall. Seems pretty obvious, don’t you think? Yet, I doubt too many people do what they love even occasionally, let alone often. The practicalities of life come in the way; peer and parental pressure are often so overwhelming that people don’t spend time trying to understand their strengths and weaknesses.

India’s explosive, almost decade long growth was fuelled by a huge, young and skilled work force. Rapid urbanization, along with the global access to easy credit and India’s position as the developing world’s golden child, fuelled investment and in turn increased consumer spending, giving rise to the Indian growth story. An entire industry called knowledge process outsourcing was conceived on the strengths of India’s skilled workforce. India’s IT industry has been heralded the world over. All this has led to Indians being perceived as tech geniuses, with a flair for mathematics and the sciences. But is this really true? With a population of 1.2 billion, millions of fresh graduates enter our workforce each year. But how many are really good? How many love what they do? How many passionately believe in what they’re doing? While I don’t subscribe to utopian thinking, I think motivational speaker Simon Sinek (author of the book Start With Why) says it better than I could:

If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears”

Blood, sweat and tears. That’s what it takes to truly reach greatness. Our parents sometimes obsess and meticulously plan our careers like it was their very own puppet show. Everything, from which school the child would attend, all the way up to which college/university they should seek admission to, is planned in advance. In circumstances like these, what are the chances of a child discovering his/her true calling, and more importantly, acting on it? Are we a society where the pursuit of dreams is considered a legitimate exercise?

Schools and parents alike need to help create a healthy environment that fosters learning and independent thinking. A recent NYT blog post by KPMG partner Mohit Chandra (An Open Letter to India’s Graduating Classes, New York Times, India Ink, May 23, 2012) touched a few nerves while underscoring some of the deficiencies of our college graduates. While I don’t subscribe to washing one’s dirty laundry in public and found the article to be polemical, I cannot lightly brush off the author’s grievances. Undoubtedly, and I can say with some authority here (being a product of our education system), the Indian education system overemphasizes rote learning. As a consequence, how much you know becomes more important than how well you know it. Some of the other issues the author mentions, such as a lack of English proficiency, the overwhelming need to be spoon fed or the lack of professionalism, though probably true, aren’t the most pressing of our problems. Harping on about the deficiencies of the Indian education system is most certainly not my intention. These are systemic issues that need to be made a part of the national consciousness.

Amidst the throes of this transition to adulthood, confusion is inherent; and hence good guidance on part of parents and institutions is critical to the success of our youth. Sadly though, I think we are failing in our duty to guide our youth, instead subscribing to a form of subtle brainwashing and coercion. A decision made for want of choice isn’t an informed decision. I cannot explain the flood of fresh college graduates applying for MBA programs. How does an about-to graduate engineer know that having not liked 4 years of engineering education, a two-year MBA program is the best match for him/her? Going to business school, could very well be another in a sequence of calamitous decisions that had earlier led him/her to engineering school. Business school & engineering here are mere examples. My point being that, while a small fraction of students make informed decisions, and figure out the why’s/how’s and what’s before they go to college, most aren’t given the opportunity to do so.

Quality education is everyone’s right. How can we expect our youth to be good at something they don’t like? It’s akin to expecting all kids to be good artists. Absurd, isn’t it? That is why I think India needs career counsellors. I propose that every school make proficiency tests compulsory at all levels. That the students are given regular feedback on what they are good at, and that parents be discouraged from forcing their children to study subjects they don’t like. We need to create an atmosphere conducive to learning, so our kids can derive the maximum benefit from the Indian success story. For, like the American dream, I would love each kid to dream of an Indian dream. Imagine the potential we could have with 300 million enlightened souls, doing what they love; giving it their all, for themselves and for their country. In an ideal world this would all be easy, but all it takes is a few people, the rest will slowly but surely follow suit. I leave you with a line from Chaos Theory:

It has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world”

[box bg=”#fdf78c” color=”#000″]About the author: Rahool is an alumnus of the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, and the University of Pune with degrees in electrical engineering. He writes part time and presently lives in the United States. To read his other posts, click here.[/box]

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        An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

        Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

        Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

        The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

        Read more about his campaign.

        Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

        Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

        Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

        Read more about her campaign.

        MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

        With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Read more about her campaign. 

        A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

        As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Find out more about the campaign here.

        A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

        She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

        The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

        As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

        Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

        Find out more about her campaign here.

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        A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

        A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

        Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

        A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
        biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

        Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
        campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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