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Brave New World: The Youth Today Do Not Need Society’s Approval To Choose Their Careers

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During our parents’ time, choosing a career was easy. The highest form of respectable qualification would be that of a doctor, or a lawyer or perhaps an engineer. (I have kept engineering at the last, as its value has diminished today. The other two are still regarded as having achieved great heights.)

Very few people tried exploring anything else, like an administrative or a professional course. If they had a family business, they could conveniently choose among the limited list of courses available just for the sake of graduating. The last resorts were – B.Com, BBA or BA. Post-graduation, at that time, was like undertaking a PhD course today – rare.

I have never heard people from that generation pondering over how the next decade would be like if they had not chosen conventional careers. I think that the air was not so free at that time and people did not give academic qualifications so much importance. The women were supposed to be proficient in cooking and equipped in managing the house better than being well educated or earning money ( I am talking about our elders who, though quite educated, still chose to live within the walls of their houses to hunt for their identities. My parents are one of them and they are the best. I want to clarify that I mean no offence.) So, there was no thought of exploring better career options. In short, no path towards ‘pursuing your dreams’.

Everyone has a dream. Some are materialistic, like going on a world tour, visiting a country or buying a dream car. And some want to make their talent and hobbies their source of income.

When you choose your academic qualifications as your work and job, it is not easy either because that is an arena which you have entered after passing a plethora of exams and earning your degrees. But when you decide to take a risk, shed the conventional norms, fights the society, brush off their intriguing stares, and chase your dream to make it your work, that is when you actually decide to explore the uncharted territories, walk the unfamiliar path and follow your dreams. This forms the second category of people (the first being our elders).

There is a third category too, a mix of both – those who have a perfect balance. They love to dance when they are free and make the numbers dance on their computers at work. These people do not mix their hobbies with their qualifications. They are happy to keep their hobbies to themselves while they rock their academic qualifications at their workplace. (I am not going to talk more about them, because these people are pretty much perfect.)

So, this story is about that second class of people, who were like a tiny group that had emerged victorious after fighting different obstacles. Firstly, convincing themselves; then, fighting their family, ignoring the society and finally being prepared to face the future challenges if they chose to leave behind the herd mentality. Those who decided to chase their dreams when things were much more difficult than they are today.

As time passed, societies evolved and the countries globalised and people started thinking out of the box. Now they ( I am talking about the generation just before us) tried getting out of their inhibitions and cages, and chose a career that was their heart’s choice and not the society’s.

Standing at the threshold of picking up one degree, they thought of shedding B.Com and BA as the staple career options and tried courses like Fashion Designing, Interior Designing, Hotel Management, Chartered Accountant, Company Secretary or Automobile Designing. (Sure these were present earlier too, but were seldom chosen.) This was not easy either. Their choices were considered somewhat as being ‘stupid’ and ’emotional’. Often such not-so-mainstream career options were not seen as ‘respectable’ and fit for a family’s reputation.

I can imagine people asking – “You want to be a Chef? Why? Cook in your house. How far will you go by being a chef? Don’t disgrace our family.” The wings of a dream cut then and there.

Among those daredevils, kids who had supportive parents made it through the adversities and discouragements and finally reached their dreamland. Undoubtedly, many of them are victorious today. For example, Vikas Khanna, the celebrity Chef, Neeta Lulla, the magical fashion designer and Kausar Munir, the writer and lyricist. Yes, it must have taken them a lot of sleepless nights to stick to their decision of going against the winds and deciding to walk that unknown path.

Then appears my generation, who were no different but a step ahead. I belong to that herd of people who were still afraid to go after their dreams – who were happy being in the third category. That may have been what it looked like from the outside but I wanted to break the barriers and follow my actual dreams. Those who choose a conventional career and then get tired of it and are no longer able to endure the boredom finally decide to take the necessary step.

Miss Universe 2017 Manushi Chhillar is the best example here. Manushi Chhillar was an MBBS student when she listened to her heart’s voice and decided to go for modelling. I am very sure that hundreds of eyes would have popped out witnessing her drastic career change – choosing to model while leaving behind the respectable, noble and lucrative medical profession. She hailed from a family of doctors and scientists but showed the courage to pursue her dream of participating in a beauty pageant. She may resume her course again and that would be more astonishing and praiseworthy.

One of my friends, who was quite sharp, belonged to a respectable family. She completed her Chartered Accounting course. Sharp as she was, she got a good job and worked there for a year. Finally, she realised that she needed to get out. For the family’s dignity and her parent’s wishes, she went the unadventurous way and added a CA tag on her profile. But then she took to pursuing her dream of being an expert in baking and cooking. She left her job, waved aside her lucrative profession and then finally came back home. Today, her lip-smacking dishes are a rage among her family and friends, and a means of envy for the likes.

I belong to the same category – switching career and finally finding the path. Yes, I attempted to break from the herd, from walking the same path, stumbling on the same pit and crying due to the same sorrows. I decided to pursue writing as a means to earn money and also to soothe my soul. I decided to be a writer, rejecting my Company Secretary degree. I decided to live life my way.

The story does not end here.

There are newly emerging brave species of people today. The present hi-tech generation. The generation of startups and the generation where being a DJ is also a respectable profession, where being a yoga trainer is also a career. A generation which is open, courageous and free enough to look beyond the fixed parameters and turn their interests into a job. Today, a choreographer has the same respect as a person with a white collar job (and even better income in many cases). And a person good at baking has hundreds of people lined up to learn from her. The times have changed.

You can hear students toady graduating in courses like Gaming Design, Event Management, Nail Art, Fashion Consultant, Content Strategist and what not. The fields are new, the careers unheard of and the stakes high. They are enrolling in Yoga University and opening up dog beauty parlours. What I mean to say is that the avenues are expanding and the small world of careers and professions has exploded to mark one’s identity of courage and creativity today.

Significantly less “oohs” and “aahs” are heard when one chooses to not be a doctor, an engineer, a businessman or a 9-5 job seeker. Today, this generation is praised for having the valour to chase their dreams and break the traditional bubble. We stumble, we fall but yes, to achieve what we wish for, we have to believe in ourselves and take that extra step.

The motivational speakers and life gurus no longer emphasise only on working hard to succeed but also on listening to your heart and then doing whatever you wish.

I meet more and more people today who share my thoughts. Who think that satisfaction in life is much more than money, or society’s approval. I smile and remember those sleepless nights when I doubted my decision to go against the grain. I feel the wave of change and I am happy that it has finally arrived.

I feel this change resonating from everywhere with much more intensity and conviction. A thought which was buried deep in my heart for so long.

Today, I feel that the world has changed. It is bolder and more intelligent today. People are finding ways to be happy while struggling with the complexities of their lives.

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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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