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My Time As A Campus Watch Writer Taught Me The True Meaning Of A Hustle

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It’s June. I hate June. June is the month of the ‘hustlers.’ Now if you have watched enough of Lily Singh on YouTube, you would know what a ‘hustler’ means. A ‘hustler’ can actually mean almost anyone from an Instagram model to your junkie neighbour practicing drums till 4 a.m. for his show because he thinks he is going to be the next John Bonham. ‘Hustlers’ are what slackers weren’t or couldn’t be.

Now, these should not be taken at their dictionary definition because both are encrusted with cultural connotations. The generation of the slackers is best identified with the Kurt Cobain cult (lead singer of Nirvana), or basically a generation of burnout teenagers in the early 1990s who were too cool to go hustling. Now, it’s 2019 and everyone is hustling, at least in their Instagram stories.

What does hustling entail? It would mean you’re constantly moving in the direction of your nearest achievable goal and these goals could be as stupid as health (whaaaat!) and as pointless as career goals (bleeeeh). Now, I know what you’re thinking, I’m an obnoxious undergrad with pretentious and naïve worldviews who thinks unhealthy caffeine consumption is cool and has taken career advice from Alexander Supertramp but can’t differentiate between existentialism and surrealism, so I take recourse to lousy adjectives as a defense mechanism. Here’s a win, you are correct. Does that make me a slacker? Not so quick.

Coming back to why I hate June. June, in college, is supposedly for vacations. However, the hustler gen needs to find a productive purpose for everything, so they go on to apply for internships. Now in India, the concept of an internship, especially in media houses, involves you investing your labour to “learn” about a job and gain “experience” which is “priceless” and so they literally don’t pay you for your work. We love adding sentences to our CVs which are not just empty statements (blatant lies, maybe then?) about our personalities and, thus, we fall prey to it and the generation of hustlers ultimately becomes a generation of suckers.

What does that make June? A month where suckers hustle making bad internships look good on their Instagram stories. You may think I’m saying this just because I couldn’t score an internship, because I had been too busy swiping on hustlers’ Instagram stories and judging them while listening to Cry Baby by Melanie Martinez. Here’s a win for you, you’re partially correct. Does that make me a slacker? Not so quick.

When you actually think about it, who made hustling cool anyway? Was it Snoop Dogg , Britney Spears or Ariana Grande? That could have been a real philosophical question to focus on but that’s not the point. The point is how popular culture portrays hustling as the panacea for the working class which is something your mom and dad have been telling you your entire life – just without the sick beats. I don’t buy that, in the eternal words of Twenty One Pilots, “we don’t believe what’s on TV.”

Now, you may think I’m your general pop culture trash who looks for moral wisdom in opening bands and tries selling it to people in lifestyle articles by trying too hard to sound witty to compensate for good content. Does that make me a slacker? I will tell you what does.

Last year, around this time I was trying to hustle up so I applied for an internship at Youth Ki Awaaz. This was after I had quit two internships already because I’m a quitter. I had no plans to continue with this one either and had enrolled, honestly, just because I had nothing to do. This was a time when I had confronted the mediocrity of my writing in my creative writing classes and was struggling with college societies.

I have been avoiding this part for so long, i.e. actually writing about my experience.

Looking back at great things that come to an end has always been difficult for me so I try not to think about them at all but like I said, I will tell you. Writing for Youth Ki Awaaz has been quite an experience for multiple reasons. It gave me an outlet where I had real audience on a large scale to interact with and this meant a lot for me because I had never been read by so many people before. I got to do my first interview with an IIT professor and I was so excited when he agreed. That was also the first piece of writing that I ever shared on my social media handle.

At Campus Watch, we covered protests, elections, almost everything that mattered to the students and it felt, I won’t lie, a little powerful. Does it sound like a toast already? Because what’s coming would.

More than anything else I’m thankful to Youth Ki Awaaz for the friendship that I’ve cultivated with people to whom I got connected through this. Reading their works, appreciating their works and learning from them was, well, something. I know I’m bad at presenting word salads and reading my work is the equivalent of watching a YouTube vine compilation but better words were used for my work and made me feel incredibly validated.

My friend and fellow writer, Anahita, once told me how she can’t believe that she likes everybody that she works with in YKA. We had an amazing Editor (also a student) who was one of the reasons why both of us continued for another term with YKA. I had another Editor for the last two months who also turned out to be really great, which is weird, but actually true because you don’t imagine people associated with or working at media houses to be nice.

Second year of college was pretty awful for me, I had quit two internships, the drama society, didn’t quit French classes but quit the idea that I will ever learn the language and almost got hit by a bus. However, something that I didn’t expect at all to work for me eventually worked out and that too pretty well. I don’t know if I could graph my growth using a bar chart but for the first time in my life I actually loved what I did and for that I’m thankful to everyone who made it possible.

Coming back to the whole hustling part, this one year was a year of a lot of realizations. You don’t unnecessarily have to grind yourself over work that you don’t like just because everyone is doing it. If something is killing you and you know it, then quitting it doesn’t make you a slacker or a loser. Your personality should not be reduced to that one sentence in your CV and, I know good resume gets you a scholarship, but it shouldn’t cost you your dignity and mental health to get there. I quit and I found something far better and enduring and writing maybe for the last time for it breaks my heart, like, a little. I’m a quitter but a proud one, does that make me a slacker? You can decide for yourself because I couldn’t care less.

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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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