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FailKaun: A Conference In Delhi To Discuss Failure

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India fellow logoEditor’s Note: This post is a part of a campaign by The India Fellow program on Youth Ki Awaaz. India Fellows spend 13 months working at the grassroots level to bring about real on-ground change. They are also mentored to be socially conscious leaders and contribute to the development of the country. Apply here to be a part of the change.

Have you ever failed miserably, and told people about it?

Traditionally, failure is something to hide, to never talk about and to get over. But within failure, there exist lessons that are valuable and crucial to who we are, decisions we make and what we ultimately do with our lives. Failure is important to discuss and share, but as a society, we are still bound by the shackles of shame, embarrassment and repression. In a bid to outdo all this, and give failure an equal chance, India Fellow recently organised a full day conference, dedicated to failure. They called it ‘FailKaun’.

FailKaun 2018 was a day-long event where we tried to look at failure differently. To look beyond and find lessons to learn from it. The day was about acknowledging failure in our lives, sharing it and making sense of it.

The day began with each participant building a CV of failure. A CV or resume is usually a detail about us minus our failure which highlights achievements, thereby only telling one another a certain kind of story. At the conference, each participant had to pen down their own failures on the CV and share it with other participants. The activity enabled people to interact deeply with strangers at the first go, build sensitivity and empathy and also get a chance to share their own failures with others.

The template of the CV. You can take some time filling it out for yourself and keep a copy of it with you. It’ll help you remember that it’s not only success that builds our narrative of ourselves.

The day was divided into three sessions. The first session was about personal learning and stories around failure. Speakers gave their own examples of personal and professional failure, how they dealt with it and the lessons learnt.

Here’s one advice all of us can use,“The easiest way to deal with failure is to stop caring what other people think about you. It is incredible how much freedom that will bring. At the same time, it’s important to listen if everyone around you is giving the same kind of feedback.”

Venkat, the founder of Give India, said that he fails every day, as he makes a big list of things to do and is unable to do half of it. From there to not being able to save lives, the speakers, as well as the participants, reflected upon opportunities they got because they failed at something else. They also answered how they deal with failure, instantly or over a long period of time. “In any case,” said Madhavan from Water Aid India, “there’s no alternative to pain. Our thresholds may differ, but we all have to cope with it.”

From individual speakers, we moved to organisational failure. The session was about organisations, how they fail and is there a way to know when to accept failure. Manali Shah, an independent facilitator, and a speaker for the event raised the question, “Failure from whose perspective?” She explained that many times when organisations complete their targets but forget the vision of the company, the founder might experience a kind of failure, even when the initiative has been very successful. She also stressed on the importance of asking your teams, “How far are you from the purpose of the organisation?” instead of “Who is at fault?” Culturally, we have been taught to hide mistakes in India, right from less mark in report cards to conflicts in relationships. If only we talk openly, we will be able to break down our failure into challenges, setbacks, mistakes and implementation issues.

Rachita Misra from SELCO Foundation talked about internal processes within the team which have been set up to understand the success and failure of initiatives taken up. In professional set-ups, the leaders should also understand when to communicate failure to others. They need to know the cost of delaying the decision to share the news of failure with everyone else. If it leads to the compromise of values, it’s usually not worth it. Ashish Shrivastava, working on an educational initiative in conflict-ridden Sukma, Chhattisgarh, spoke of the need to remember that compromising on smaller things may often feel like a failure. But when you know the larger purpose, you feel confident to make those compromises.

The third (and last) session was about Policy failure, where Parth from ‘Centre for Civil Society’ and Shobhit from ‘Vision India Foundation’ came together to discuss, “When does policy fail?” The conversation included major policies of the day like the Right To Education, Demonetisation, and the odd-even rule in Delhi. The conversation moved from failure in policy design to policy implementation, and more importantly, the human errors in policy.

The day ended up trying to take on personal, organisational and policy level failure, demystify them and also acknowledging their worth in the overall scheme of things. We are looking at a growing narrative around people accepting their failures and sharing them on national level platforms. The day ended with everyone going back taking a piece of acceptance and confidence around their own failures and learning about the stories of others.

India Fellow is a 13-month experiential, social leadership program for young Indians that includes working full-time for a year with a field partner organisation (called ‘host organisation’), on a specific project or issue, together with training, peer learning and mentoring.

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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, 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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