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Student Volunteers In Goa Share What Keeps Them Going About Social Work

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As the clock hits 5 in the evening, you see a bunch of individuals in their late teens, leaving their hostels and moving towards the gate. A journey that, for most of the BITSian population, seems equivalent to Verne’s travel to the Earth’s center. But, just like professor Lindenbrock’s driving force, these students sure must have a reason that helps them work for the society, something that pushes them off their seductive beds after a long, tiring day and into the irritating Goan heat to achieve something that only a handful of people can ever wrap their heads around. With this inspiration in mind, Nirmaan adjured its volunteers to introspect. We asked our team to look within themselves and find a reason as to what keeps their heads down and their bodies moving, in a world where being ignorant and apolitical seems to be the trending attitude.

Following are the responses we got from six of our volunteers after we interviewed them on what they feel drives them to work for the society. The answers range from a sense of self-satisfaction to moral obligation, depicting clearly as to how there’s no one ‘kind’ of people that have it in the hearts to help others.

Kaushik Iyer

In simple terms, I feel social work is nothing more than a symbiotic entity. I believe that along with the one being helped, the one helping the society also gets to rejoice in satisfaction and happiness. I tend to follow the principle of doing well and receiving better in return. Moreover, I feel that the society continues to cater to the general misconception about social work having no material returns, whereas everybody just fails to look at its moral and motivational outcomes. Being introduced to the field of public service at a young age, I believe that my early experiences surely paved a way for me to join Nirmaan after coming to BITS. For me, personally, the acknowledgement and appreciation received for the work done by a social worker is the ultimate satisfaction and that is what has and will always push me and a lot like me to do our bit for this society we owe so much to.

Arohi Dureja

I strongly theorise that the idea of a give-and-take relationship among the occupiers of this ever-changing society is what forms the basis of every social work. As far as the popular view of public service is concerned, I feel that having fewer monetary benefits maligns the primary image of social work. I don’t really accept this common stand, and for me, the non-materialistic outcomes of taking part in social service is reason enough. I realised this a while ago that belonging to a privileged class of the society, it is our moral duty to help those who, due to several reasons, don’t have access to basic necessities. Other than this, the satisfaction and happiness everyone receives for being a part of a change-making process is something that caters to our inherent human need for appreciation and this, according to me, is what will finally clear the path for the betterment of an environment in terms of growth and development.

Nidhay Acharekar

When I was a little kid, there was a lesser privileged family who moved to our neighbourhood. After interacting with them and inspecting their situation, I realised soon enough that being economically helpless might not be a direct fault of the person/family, and honestly, this fact changed me from within. I sincerely respect the right to equal opportunity, and so, I feel that it is our moral obligation that all of us who can afford the basic necessities must step forward and take the charge in supporting those who can’t. There are countless situations where a bunch of setbacks degrades an individual’s lifestyle, without any actual fault of their own and this, according to me, is an unfair consequence of living in an unequal society. My interest in Shiksha (a vertical at Nirmaan) and towards teaching, in particular, stems from my belief that primary education is the most basic of human needs. I strongly believe that a feeling of giving back to the society is something that every public servant must keep bound to their hearts and remind themselves of every day.

From left to right: Kaushik, Arohi and Nidhay.

Sahil Kumar

I’m one of those people who desperately wants to see the society change for the better. I’ve been a huge proponent of the deed of imparting education and my experience here, teaching kids around the college campus has been nothing less than an eye-opener. For me, the inspiration to be a part of this comes from the feeling of self-satisfaction and happiness that I receive from helping and being a part of a change. I strongly feel that keeping myself aware of the world around and doing deeds of contentment form the basis of my happiness. According to me, a need for social welfare is what needs to be imbibed in every citizen’s mind. That combined with a spectrum of opportunities to bring about change, can empower anybody and help them become an important addition to the process of upliftment.

Aditya Pujari

I visualise public service as a form of social responsibility of all those who bear the resources to help the less fortunate in every way they can. In these summers, I had a chance to visit a resort, and the visit made me reflect on the level of privilege most of us take for granted. While my family and I continued to enjoy proper resources limitlessly, I could see local villagers walk miles to get water. It isn’t like development in the region is a problem, the resort being the case in point. Yet, the ability to make this development available to the common villager is a problem we must work on. I believe that everyone is equally worthy of living a good life, and each one of us can do our part in uplifting the less fortunate. If I had to suggest something to my fellow volunteers and social workers, I would request them to step forward and make a difference and that is exactly how I feel that we can develop a set of strong and determined young workers that can bring the required change.

Chetna Malhotra

During my childhood, I was influenced by the lives of the underprivileged, and that is partly the reason that I have this inherent desire towards enlivening the situation of those who continue to stay deprived of basic needs. Nirmaan, for me, felt like an instant connection because of my deepest desire of seeing an equal society, wherein the privileged won’t hesitate to go out of their ways and provide for those who deserve to live a life of dignity. I feel that widespread poverty and our backward mentalities, that too in a developing country, is what continues to deprive generation after generation of basic necessities. To be honest, I often wonder as to how a lot of us just fall upon undeserved prerogative whereas a large chunk of our nation lives without basic fundamental rights. What drives me forward towards bringing about change as a part of Nirmaan or otherwise is the need for a balanced community. A society wherein fighting for basic rights is something the population won’t need to worry about, and wherein the phenomena of class separation would fail to demarcate the society more than it already has.

From left to right: Sahil, Aditya and Chetna.

This piece aims at talking about the kind of mindsets that most volunteers have towards social work. Along with this, it focuses on expanding an outsider’s view of what public service means to those who actually put in their time at making the world a better place. Nirmaan takes pride in all its volunteers and appreciates each one of them for being responsible citizens in a society where turning your back seems like the easiest approach towards solving a problem.

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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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