This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Rohini Prajapati. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

When No Company Was Willing To Hire Me, Motherhood Helped Me Realise My True Calling

Coming from a small town, I always had high aspirations. I always dreamt of getting a higher education, settling in a big city, earning a good salary which will help me afford a lavish lifestyle. Being good in studies, my parents always motivated me to achieve my dreams and work towards having a brilliant career.

Initially, life went on as I had wished. There were small hurdles, but I overcame them with ease. I met a guy in college who shared the same aspirations as me. Together we hoped to sail through life and conquer our hardships together, no matter what. We completed our MBA, got married, had a cute little daughter and started leading a life that we had dreamt of. Both of us were successful in our own fields and were earning pretty well. We believed that there was no looking back. We believed in our love and our hard work.

But something somewhere went wrong…

Our daughter was only eight months old when my husband got a work opportunity abroad. He had always dreamt of working outside India and this was his golden chance. Though he was not willing to leave us alone and go I insisted that he follows his dream. I was not ready to move because our daughter was very young and I was excelling in my career in India. I didn’t want to leave everything behind and just take off. So, I stayed back knowing full well that my life could change any day.

Living without him was extremely hard. Though I had a house help and my parents were also with me, but managing a child and office, was becoming a herculean task. At the same time, my company began facing a financial crunch and tough times started. We started to face salary delays. I got totally frustrated and decided to quit and join my husband abroad.

After almost two years, our family was together. It took some time for both me and my daughter to settle down, but immediately after that, I started looking for jobs. My husband and I were confident that I would get a job soon, but to our surprise, it turned out to be a nightmare. Wherever I went for interviews, I was either offered a very low salary or a lower designation. I was rejected on the basis of the fact that I was new to Dubai and hence was not well versed with the laws over there. I longed to see my five figure salary in my account. I started regretting the decision of leaving my job and coming to Dubai. It was becoming difficult for me to be without a job, so I decided to move back to India.

My husband has always supported me in my decisions and this time also he did not force me to stay back. He had to stay put as he had a contract with his workplace. I came back and started applying for jobs again, but my career gap became a big issue. When the employers got to know that I stay alone with my daughter, they had questions such as ‘who will look after your daughter?’ ‘how will you manage?’ ‘how can we offer you a senior position since you had a career gap?’. I was shocked to hear such regressive questions. Does being a mother or having a career gap in any way hamper the productivity of a woman? I think not.

Being posed with such questions for the first time in my 12-year long career, I became very upset and my self-confidence also took a toll. Since my daughter was very young and my parents were facing some health issues, I tried to look for work from home jobs. I was confident that I would get one very easily, but that was not the case. I scanned the whole internet but I wasn’t offered a single job that matched my profile. With every passing day, my career gap was also increasing.

I started getting frustrated and depressed. I started scolding my daughter for no reason. Some times, I even felt like ending my life. But then, I realised that if I had decided to bring a child into this world, she was my responsibility.

Eventually, I deleted all my social media accounts, including LinkedIn. I couldn’t bear the idea of my colleagues thinking of me like a loser. I even stopped talking to my husband properly, sometimes just WhatsApp messages had to suffice. I knew that even his hands were tied.

It is only when my daughter started going to school and I started dropping her off and picking her up, that I started feeling a semblance of purpose in my life. At an event in her school, I discovered my love for writing. And then there was no looking back. I started writing about parenting because, in previous years of struggles, it was my daughter who kept me going.

My writing connected me to the virtual world of moms and I got to know that I wasn’t the only one, there are so many moms going through the same situation. Writing helped me come out of my depression. I was back on social media and started connecting with my friends again. I was happy that I finally had something useful to do with my time. My change in attitude also made my husband feel happy and relaxed.

And I didn’t stop at writing. Having visited a few fairs in Kolkata, I fell in love with the art of the place and decided to start a business selling tribal art from interior parts of West Bengal. My dad helped me get my business registered and although I have started small, I am working on taking it to a bigger scale.

Although I didn’t believe in destiny, I am grateful for this second chance at rediscovering myself and my passions.

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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.

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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, 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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