This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Nishan Nazer. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

‘Is It Written Somewhere That Architects Cannot Work In Rural India?’

More from Nishan Nazer

I am an architect by profession and I am proud to be one. I am proud because as an architect I am able to observe problems from different angles and create innovative and pragmatic solutions to the problem. But immediately after my course, I moved to rural Orissa instead of practicing as a professional architect in the city.  Many questioned my decision to work in Orissa, that too for a tribal population, where my skillset as an architect would be of no use. But I was very confident about what I have planned – I just wanted to escape the captivating hold of consumerist, money-centric, extravagant and non-sustainable architecture which is commonly found in the professional field. I wanted to know how an architect can contribute to the lesser privileged people of the country.

I have one question for those people who questioned my decision. Is it written somewhere that architects cannot work in rural India? I can be wrong in my observation since I am a newborn in an architect’s world. I have been trying hard to observe the kind of professionalism and ethics architects keep towards social good, environment and sustainability from the beginning of my course in architecture. It has been a deep disappointment to see when a majority of the architects who boast of sustainability, end up consuming a good portion of natural resources. Numerous fancy and non-fancy LED lights, tall rooms later lowered with gypsum false ceilings, glass walls with air conditioners etc. are few of the self-contradictory concepts that architects have successfully bombarded in the general public’s mind. When I saw every magazine and website glorifying these ridiculous designs, I recognised that sustainability is a concept at stake in an architect’s hands.

With and without media, architects have shrewdly managed to transform the concept of shelter to a mansion. Everyone is ready to invest their lifetime savings to create a junk of natural resources and happily call it a ‘house’. When I gently question them about the extravagance, they give this innocent answer, “Architect asked to invest money if you need a beautiful house, so I invested.” That is when I realised the negative impact the architects have created in our minds is too deep that it even changed the concept of beauty attached to a home to a squanderer’s dimension.

To withstand the increasing competency among architects, they have decided to evolve to the role of a pest – a pest on the richest. The architect’s money is the money of the rich. The architect’s pocket swells when the building he designs grows bigger and fills with useful and useless materials and spaces. The energy for architects is the embodied energy which he maximises in his projects. This successful pest life is attracting a huge chunk of young architects. I am not saying that everyone is a pest. But most of us have safely and silently accepted that role. We are apparently serving the consumerist, extravagant and non-sustainable dreams of the public to come to reality.

I never wanted to serve anyone as an architect or as a human at the expense of nature and lesser privileged sections of society. This created an aversion towards the ‘pest’ profession. I searched for new avenues where I can work without creating a negative footprint. I shifted my focus towards the rural parts of our country where the pest attack was not prevalent. Pests won’t attack them because they do not have any money. But does that mean the lesser privileged don’t need architects? This question had been cooking inside my mind for years. I decided to explore the solution to the problem by myself. I applied for many volunteering programs where I can get a chance to live with the poor to understand their problem. Now I am working in a renowned NGO called Gram Vikas which does fabulous work in rural sanitation and education.

After spending a few days in the village, I quickly realised that the kind of problem that rural India is facing is very fundamental. These problems seemed simple on the outside. But when I dug deep into it I understood that everything in the village is intermingled with sensitive elements like culture, tradition, belief and lifestyle. I cannot correct one without altering others. This was a new set of problems that I had never encountered in my life. It is totally different from the problem statements that an architect receives in design studios or from a city client. But through my architecture course, I have generated a decent storehouse of knowledge on various subjects like sociology, human settlements, climatology, sustainability, planning, product designing, landscaping, estimation, specification, material properties, housing, sanitation etc., which helped in narrowing down the complexity of the problem. These broader sets of knowledge were very helpful in analysing the problems from different angles.

I focused my attention on housing and education. It was observed that there is an acute shortage of infrastructure in schools in rural areas. From a pilot study, I came to know that the infrastructure limitation in rural houses and schools are one of the reasons for the underperformance of tribal students. These students who are not prejudiced by any concepts have a raw thinking ability. This rare quality, if properly moulded, will help them achieve great heights. But even primary infrastructure like bench and desk is missing in schools and houses.

I decided to work closely with schools to study more about the dynamics of the life inside the school. School buildings in rural areas are generally blocks of stones arranged to create a space with a concrete or thatch roof. Since education is in its state of novelty in rural India, people are generally unaware of the built environment and infrastructure required for education. Lack of infrastructure is actually creating severe health problems as students sit in wrong postures while learning. Both houses and schools must have some furniture for learning which is multi-functional and affordable, as families are generally below the poverty line and most of the houses are very small to keep furniture like study table. I accepted this challenge with pleasure as the solution to this problem will directly benefit rural houses, students, education and on a long-term – overall development of the village.

I designed a product that can serve multiple functions of a student like reading, sleeping and drawing. The product is being used by students in school everyday. Testimonies from students prove that it is student-friendly furniture. I felt proud as an architect when I came to know that an innovative solution to a problem was actually helping the students in improving their academics. With the new furniture, students are able to study for a longer time with better concentration. This is the achievement that I had been waiting for, as an architect. I have not designed any school but a simple piece of furniture that can be an aid for tribal students. It is the analytical and creative aspects of an architect in me that I am proud of. I realise that architecture is not just about building houses. If architects can divert some of their attention to rural India where the majority of our population lives, simple and powerful innovations from creative minds will definitely help in transforming the rural life.

There are many more issues in rural houses that are happening due to the invasion of modern technology in rural areas. For example, when they have replaced thatch roof with concrete roofs, the thermal comfort parameters have come down drastically and adversely affects their living in summer seasons. They have not developed passive architecture solutions to counter the problem. Simple techniques can be derived to control such problems using available local resources. Such interventions will help many people in improving their standards of living.

I invite every young architect to dedicate some time of their career to study and attempt to solve problems in rural India and thereby create a positive social impact. Rural India is where an architect can observe many principles of sustainability, social planning and ecology getting practiced. I am experiencing happiness and contentment unknown to me while working in rural India as it is creating significant positive social impact with very low negative footprint. This realisation that most of the problems in rural India are universal and these can be addressed wherever one is, is giving me confidence to continue such interventions in future too.

I finally have found the answer that I was pondering about a long time. Architects can really work for the poor wherever they are. Work for rural India without expecting any reward in cash, instead, your life and profession will be rewarded with invaluable experience and knowledge.

You must be to comment.
  1. Preeti Kansal

    Thanks for boosting mah confidence …
    I was afraid to choose this topic for my dissertation….now i am really going to work on it…without thinking about others

    1. Gopika Mohan

      hai. first of all, I am soo happy to see your comment. I wanted to take this topic for my dissertation, but I am not getting enough pieces of information, the faculty have asked for journals and book references as a part of the submission and i couldn’t find any. So I was hoping that I could get help on my dissertation from you.


    Hello Nishan, I have read your article and though of speaking to you regarding the possibility of developing sustainable housing projects using natural materials available in and around 3 kms radius and without distrubing the nature in rural areas that can create minimum damage to the eco-system and it can be completed in a price range of Rs.1 Lakh per house. If you find this topic worth while to discuss, you may please send me a mail at

More from Nishan Nazer

Similar Posts

By Tania Mitra

By Munazah Shakeel

By Sumit

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below