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4 Millennials Reveal Why They Chose Satisfaction Over High-Paying Jobs

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While studying English literature at a Delhi University college, Priyanka Gupta lived in a posh locality. However, right next to the university, she would also see makeshift shelters that stood in stark contrast to her comfortable home. It changed her life.

“There were these makeshift shelters where these poor kids would be playing on the street and not going to school. And they were right next to Delhi University,” Gupta says. This made her wonder why some don’t even get to go to a school, while a thousand others attend universities. After finishing her graduation, Gupta decided to work for Teach for India, an NGO that brings together individuals to teach in under-resourced schools.

Gupta isn’t the only one who decided to tread this path. In a country marked by vast disparities and crushing inequalities, there are many like Gupta, who are choosing to get into the development sector to contribute to improving things at the grassroots level.

Koushik Hore, for instance, graduated in geography, and then went on to study agriculture and rural development. But, the 27-year-old couldn’t imagine working in an environment where people are discriminated against, left out of the development process or not allowed to live with dignity.

Hore, who identifies himself as queer, therefore, decided to create a space for interaction between queer and non-queer people, to reduce discrimination faced by the queer community.

“I wanted to create a space where all can take their own decisions irrespective of their gender, caste, class, and can live with dignity,” Hore says. This made him embark on a journey of effecting change.

He conducted workshops in colleges, rural areas, semi-urban spaces and in red-light districts. Working for a Kolkata-based NGO, he also developed a network of lawyers, doctors, and media persons, whom people from the queer community could approach in case they needed help.

But the work came with its own set of challenges. “It (development sector) is like an ecosystem. If something is happening, it will have a ripple effect on everybody. So you need to know the skills of management,” Hore says. He has, therefore, now enrolled in a post-graduate programme in development leadership at the Indian School of Development Management (ISDM).

An appetite for seeing change on ground, coupled with the desire to derive meaning from their work, is what seems to be driving most youngsters.

Consider for example Nitisha Pandey, who quit an engineering job at Tata Consultancy Services to take the plunge into the sector. According to her, working in the development sector not only allows her to be financially independent but also enables her to do what she is passionate about and derives satisfaction from– something, she says, people in corporate jobs are mostly unable to do.

Pandey, who has also decided to join ISDM, feels that the development sector needs quality human resource inputs. “In my role at Teach For India, I have worked with so many other NGOs and organisations who want to do bring about change, but what do these organisations lack to help them grow and sustain simultaneously? ISDM is an interesting opportunity to learn in depth about the development sector across the spectrum and build the understanding of leadership from experts in the field,” she says.

For Inderpreet Singh, the leap also involved making his parents understand that there was life beyond being an engineer or doctor. “Medicine is not the only option for bright students. We need people in this sector as well. Only when there are institutions and students in this field will bright people work in policy and development, right?” he asks.

After finishing his graduation, Singh started the Society for Productive Engagement and Entertainment for Elderly (SPEEE), in order to increase the social and economic participation of elderly people in society. A year into the venture, he has also decided to enrol for a course in development leadership to understand the inner workings of the sector in detail.

These 20-year-olds, however, are only getting started. “NGOs, start-ups do spring up all the time but what does it take to sustain them? What is it that’s going to make me different from somebody else who is doing the same thing? So, my idea is mostly not to create something new, but how to create a platform, where, for instance, if 10 NGOs are working for women’s hygiene, how do I bring these 10 NGOs together, so that they can learn from each other,” Pandey says. Singh, who is already running a venture in Amritsar, wants to start a pan-India conversation on the issue of old-age homes.

Of course, working in the development sector still involves negotiating a minefield of misconceptions. But, it is heartening to see that this has not stopped the youth from joining the sector. With such passionate individuals taking the reigns of the development sector, there may definitely be a hope for a more inclusive and brighter future for the country, after all.

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Image used for representative purposes only.

Image Source: Rj Navneet – The Punch Parmeshwar/Facebook

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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 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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