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Away From My Lucrative Job, I Found Happiness Teaching In A School In Odisha

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By Satwik Mishra:

When I resigned from a lucrative job to join the SBI Youth For India Fellowship, the sole motive was to find out the meaning to my life. The job, undoubtedly, was providing me sufficient money, yet I wasn’t receiving the satisfaction I was looking for. The wandering soul finally decided to look out for the happiness in the remote corners of India and hence I applied for the fellowship in 2016.

After the orientation of the fellowship program, we were sent to the allocated NGO to carry our journey forward. As I had requested in my application, I got assigned to work for ‘Gram Vikas‘. After settling down at their headquarters in Mohuda, Odisha, we were taken to the different villages for the field visit, in order to get an understanding of what ‘Gram Vikas’ has been doing since its establishment. We explored more than fifty villages where ‘Gram Vikas’ has been working and we were amazed at the sustainability of development in and around. Some projects, which Gram Vikas has been working on, were water supply to each and every house, disaster-resistant house building, primary schools, livelihood, alternate source of energy, 100 % sanitation facilities etc. Simply one can define these villages as ‘Smart Villages’.

Out of four schools which have been started and is being operated by ‘Gram Vikas’, one is Gram Vikas Residential School, Kankia. This school has a strength of 500+ students coming from more than 200 tribal villages of Odisha. Being located in a remote area, 13 km away from the nearest town, this school was a surprise for us. It had a weightlifting center, solar energy supply, solar water filter facility, steam cooking installations, vermi-compost units, a library, computer lab and creativity center. Not only education but all other facilities come for free here. I must say a lot of these facilities are not available in even most of the urban schools. This school particularly interested me a lot and I started visiting it very frequently. During my survey, I came to know a little more than the obvious about the school. I learned of its flaws but soon I realised that I was here to provide with a solution. Critics have not made this world what it is today but the doers.

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Image Courtesy: Satwik Mishra


One fine day in the school, a student named Manoj came up to me and enquired about my graduation stream. After coming to know that I graduated in engineering, he first got excited and then a dull appearance ran all over his face. When I asked for the reason, all he could say was, “I, too, had a dream to become an engineer but later I realised that it’s not my cup of tea.” Later I came to know that two subjects – Science and Mathematics – have become opportunities for goose bumps for the students of this school. The school has allotted extra classes for these subjects however they were not performing at par with expectations. One clear reason which I observed was that the school had no Science practical labs available, where students could learn through experimentation. Strange to me, was the fact that how any science teacher could teach the methodologies and working principles of scientific instruments efficiently, until and unless they have the facilities to demonstrate them? While this school tried its best to stick to the quantity of teaching hours, it missed out the fact that quality matters as well. Quality, when it integrates with quantity, brings out enormous output on an average.

I decided to set up a Science lab in the school. Working for the same, I have already drafted a lab manual while also taking workshops on various softwares. Their eagerness and zeal makes these students learn much faster.

Now, when I tell them that similar softwares and experimentations are being taught in engineering and other science-related studies as well , unlike those dull faces before, I now see hope on their faces. Yes, I have now realised that satisfaction doesn’t come through getting everything we want from the world but from what we give back to it. Happiness is something which increases by sharing. The more you share, the more you get.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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