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If Only We Could Just Do What Makes Us Happy (And Get Paid For It)

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By Himanshi Bhatnagar:

“Ah! I’m taking training to be better at a job I hate!” says a girl to her friend in one of the episodes of my favourite TV shows and the first thought that struck me was, “Hey, I know that feeling!” Trained as a coder, happy as a writer, I don’t hate my job as a software engineer but this is not my dream job either. As I was thinking about this the next day in my office, I looked around. It was a normal Monday morning and people were returning to their routine lives after the weekend. Everybody loves weekends. It’s the time when we go back to being ourselves for a while and recharge our batteries. Some of us like to go out and have fun while some just prefer staying indoors and resting. Some people find time to develop a new hobby or enjoy old ones. Travelling, shopping, boozing, sleeping, writing, partying; everyone has their own way of preparing themselves for the next 5 days of the ‘job’. Wouldn’t it be great if the weekend didn’t end? If we could just do whatever it is that makes us happy and get paid for it? If we didn’t have to be all ‘logical’ while picking up a career path?

I was still preoccupied with this stuff when one of my colleagues came back from a meeting with his manager. Apparently, the poor guy had no “clarity of work” and all the work he had done during the previous week was equated to null in just 15 minutes of the meeting. “What will you do now?” I asked. “Look for another job, do something else!” he replied. Both of us knew the hollowness in those words. It was then that I asked him the question I had been pondering over for so long.

“If I tell you that in this moment of time, you can be anything you wish to be, I give you all the resources you need for that and you are free from all the expectations of your family and society, if money was not one of the driving factors for work, would you still be working in the same field?” It took him longer to understand the question than to find an answer. We are so used to living in this reality that we take time to comprehend if someone tells us to stop for a while and imagine a perfect world for a moment. “Travel…If only I could get paid for that,” he replied, turning back to his desktop.

As I asked the same question to my other friends, it turned out that travelling was the most voted for ‘hypothetically perfect profession’. Some wanted to see all the big cities of this world while some would love to go to the not-so-famous locations. Most people didn’t have a particular destination in mind when they chose travelling over their current job but some were very particular in their answers. For example, one of the respondents wanted to travel to the highest and lowest points on the earth.

Travelling was the most common but not the only answer that I got. Meera (name changed), who has been working in the IT sector for more than a year now, says she would like to be a motivational speaker. “I would like to take up a job where I can actually inspire people and, maybe, make a difference in their lives. Also, I think I want to do it because I know I am good at stuff like that,” she added, as her fingers ran onto her keyboard.

Meera is one of those many people who wish to do something in their lives but are currently in an entirely different field. But I also found some people whose dreams are not that different from the reality. Rajat (name changed), for instance, wants to be a game developer. He wants to make a game that would continue to be associated with his name once he’s gone. A similar example is Smita (name changed) who would, someday, like to be a big name in the field of cyber security. Rajat and Smita are both currently working as Assistant Software Engineers.

Unlike Rajat and Smita, others have a wide gap between where they are and where they want to be and not being able to picture a way to reach the latter, have labelled it as a “childhood dream”. Such a list of unfulfilled dreams comprises joining the armed forces, being a pilot, starting a business of their own, getting into the Indian cricket team and many more. But some people have not stopped chasing their dream yet. Akash (name changed), for example, would like to be a social worker. At present, he is one of the most sought-after coders in his company and his WhatsApp status reads “Happy and content”. But I don’t think he is content with his current job as he says there still is scope for changing the field.

One of the answers that surprised me came from a person who, I always thought, loved his job as a coder. “I don’t want to do this work,” says Piyush (name changed) as he turns his system off at 8:47 p.m. and knows that he’ll be coming an hour before his usual time the next day. He wants a simple life where he can find time for himself. One more person who finds it difficult to fit into this fast moving life of NCR is Kuljeet (name changed). Kuljeet comes from a small town in Punjab and wishes to go back to his hometown more than anything else in the world. “Oh jee, mujhe na achhi ni lagdi ye Dilli-NCR ki zindagi. Mujhe bass ek chhoti si 15-20 hazaar ki koi naukri mil jaye jo ghar ke paas ho…(I don’t like the Delhi-NCR life. I just want a job near my home even if the salary is only 15-20 thousand),” says Kuljeet who has been working in Noida for nearly two years now and is earning way more than the “15-20 hazaar” he yearns for. This, I must say, was the most heart-breaking answer I got.

Some of the bizarre answers I had not really expected also came from those whose imagination really took to their heads and they started picturing their hobby as a profession. One of the respondents said he would like to be a full-time movie critic, while another one wanted to be a real super-hero. Who am I to judge!

Everyone has their own dreams. A majority of people would like to do something that is entirely different from what they are doing now. If only the imaginary situation presented to them was real and heart and intuition were the only driving forces.

All in all, it was a good experience seeing people take a minute out of their lives to think ‘what they would be, if they could be’. But the question I had started asking just for fun and out of a little curiosity made me realise that ‘logical thinking’ has killed more dreams than anything else. We all have that stack of dreams lying in the corner of our hearts, waiting to be chased. If only it was that easy to take the road not taken.

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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.

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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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