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Why I Believe Robots Will Help Improve Our Work-Life Balance

A professional in India spends approximately 8.5 hours a day and six days a week at work, adding up to almost 100,000 hours of his or her lifetime!

Despite this substantial investment of time, there are common challenges – from unfair practices to burnout and to boredom – that almost every worker faces. In India, particularly in smaller companies, employees are not paid for working overtime. In some companies, people work for 11 hours a day! Extensive workload, especially on managers, lead to high stress affecting both performance and individual’s health.

Alexander, the friendly robot, visits the Indoor Park, London, to interact with children by telling them classic fairy tales, singing and dancing. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for Westfield)

As a high school student, I spend a lot of time thinking about my future and hoping that these negative trends change before I enter the workforce. I often think how new technologies can change the way we live and work. There is one technological innovation, in particular, that I think offers a solution to the problems that workers or professionals face today – Artificial Intelligence.

Artificial Intelligence is a technology in which machines not only understand but also perceive data provided to them. For example, normal machines work only on a set of data that the programmer has entered, but an artificially intelligent machine can generate more data from its experience, understand and comprehend this data and act accordingly. This machine acts just like a human being with the abilities to learn and think on its own.

How Is This A Solution?

In the modern era, machines are human’s best friend. And machines with a brain of their own will be of twice the help. They could be used in nearly any workplace, reducing the workload and improving the efficiency and quality of the work at the same time. Imagine, for example, if everyone had a personal assistant (PA), like Julie Desk, Google Home or x.ai, in the form of an artificially intelligent robot, our lives would have become so much easier and more organised! These assistants can not only help you manage your work efficiently by making a detailed and do-able schedule but with their power of understanding, they can also track the conditions under which you work best, and customise your schedule to optimise your happiness and work performance.

Beyond scheduling, the robots can also improve life by performing accurate health checkups, saving you the trip to your doctor. And even if you get sick, your PA will make arrangements and even do some of your work for you. They can make the time you take to commute to work more productive with self-driven cars and smart traffic maps. They can even help you in your home by keeping stock in your kitchen and ordering groceries online as soon as items finish, or by overseeing your children’s homework, enabling you to be less distracted while at work.

Won’t This Reduce Jobs?

Many people fear that replacing human labour with machinery may lead to widespread unemployment, but this surely is not the case! While these robots can take on tedious, repetitive tasks like scheduling and errands, nothing is better than a human when it comes to generating new, innovative approaches and solutions. These robots will be able to work hand-in-hand with humans at improving the technology and creating high-tech tools for the future. Humans will still be the ones developing and pioneering new ideas in AI, while the robots will be able to physically build the new technology with more speed and accuracy than humans. Even in fields like medicine, machines will be able to perform surgery with greater precision than doctors, but human doctors will always be the ones controlling the machines and making life-saving decisions.

Though AI will eliminate repetitive jobs like manufacturing and factory line jobs which do not require much creativity or original thought, it will ultimately lead to more jobs in creative, consulting and technology fields. As the automation of one task increases, demand for people to do related tasks that are still beyond the machines’ comprehension and capability also increases. Looking at past examples, replacing some bank tellers with ATMs ultimately made it cheaper to open new bank branches, thus creating many more jobs in sales and customer service. Similarly, e-commerce has increased overall employment in retailing. The inevitable job losses that occur in the short term are more than likely to be offset in the long term by the creation of new jobs.

Artificial Intelligence isn’t too far ahead in the future of work and offers prime solutions to improving worker happiness, productivity, and eliminating worker exploitation. This will improve the lives of the average worker, and generate more opportunities for growth and innovation.

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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.

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)’.

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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.

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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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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