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Data, Not Diamonds, Are This Girl’s Best Friend!

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By Namita Nair:

A binary classification of people’s motivation is somewhat of a misnomer. For simplicity sake, I’ll commit a deliberate aberration.

I’ve met two sets of people – while a ridiculously passionate and self-aware set of people pursue their interests consistently, the other set uses each interest as a springboard to jump to the next one, dividing, combining ideas and methods along the way.

I was the captain of the latter crowd until my first month on my first job as an Analyst at at a tech company. I did precisely what I was asked to do – nothing more or nothing less. A typical uninspired fresher! In my free time, I discretely watched funny dog videos on YouTube or checked out the latest exhibitions in the MeT (not that I had any plans, the means or the visa to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York back then). This continued until my boss caught me watching something on the Internet (most likely the video where babies laughed non-stop). He set up a 101 immediately and had a conversation – or ‘the conversation’ 🙂

(2nd L-R) With fellow batchmates from                      the Master’s program in Information Systems
Deep diving into data

Deep diving into data

He explained the value of the data I had access to and the kind of civil and monetary impact I could create by making tools that would generate valuable insights. He asked me to look beyond the numbers and run with the questions those numbers posed. From then on, there was no turning back. Data became my passion.

I learned how data can be applied to improve businesses and my own life. I set up trackers for every aspect of me that I could reduce to a quantitative entity – grocery shopping, workouts, commuting time, sugar intake and even a correlation analysis for my basil. This time I didn’t want to springboard, I wanted to stay footed. Feeling inspired, I joined a Master’s programme in Information Systems. After two intense years in the academic world, I decided it was time for me to have a personal life. Marriage and an early pregnancy followed.

While I was pregnant, I did a number of courses, online and others – Python, Big Data, Tableau and Machine Learning.

I realized that one doesn’t necessarily need expensive degrees and certifications, but a passion and the skill to work with data.

Though I loved the ease with which I was able to get access to these incredible materials, the learning experience was rather lonely. I knew there must be many women out there who’re sitting in front of their systems, trying to crack a bug, looking for tutorials or wanting to share the joy of finally getting it right after hours and hours of labour.

I wanted to find these data-sisters, connect with them and be inspired by them.

Shoutout to my data sisters

A career in data science requires technical knowledge, but also creativity in terms of business development and a good understanding of the industry economics. On looking around, I found many online data science forums that generated voluminous materials on data, but the conversations lacked a sense of community and empathy.

I wanted to be a part of a space where women can share knowledge and ideas, talk about their work, collaborate on projects and give each other a much-needed group hug. That’s how my community – She Drives Data (SDD) came into being.

Online tutorials for my data sisters

Data science is a fantastic and fulfilling field for women, whether for school goers looking for interesting projects to work on, women looking for a career switch or women returning to the workforce after a sabbatical. The SDD community is an attempt to bridge the gap between all these groups and create constructive conversations to benefit each of them.

What next? I created my community website and waited for my fellow data-sisters to come in thousands.

They didn’t.

During this time, I found my fairy Godmother Sairee Chahal, Founder & CEO of SHEROES on Twitter and messaged her. Within minutes she replied saying, “Love what you are building, by we’ll build something cool together”. We talked a week later, where she gave me her valuable insights. The very next day, SDD and SHEROES began their exciting journey together.

Today, my SHEROES data-sisters form a strong network of over 7K members. We bounce off ideas, create and participate in data challenges, share our knowledge and resources by the minute of the day. I’m overwhelmed by the love and support I get from my community. 

Conversations with my community members revealed that a lot of women are so data passionate that they aren’t merely looking at securing a job in this field but intend building their own products and even setting up their own companies. Supporting them in their aspirations is the way forward for me and SDD community. 

I’m also excited to be part of a community panel at the upcoming SHEROES Summit in Trivandrum on Sept 8, where I hope to connect with more and more women in analytics in person!

Like Dr Maya Angelou said, ‘When you get, you give. When you learn, you teach’.

And we hope to do just that in spades.

About Namita Nair:
A data enthusiast and a doting mom, I love to create things that make life better, be it automation tools or brownies. I founded “She Drives Data”, a community for women passionate about data analytics, and those who want to learn! Moderating this community on the SHEROES platform brought me hugely fulfilling positive responses. This is a hub for data enthusiasts and data newbies who learn via free sessions, tutorials, mentorships, community chats and conversations. You can join the “She Drives Data” community here and find support for your data dreams! 

                             SHEROES Communities for women are accessible via Sheroes.com and the SHEROES app
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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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