Q-rious: Everything You Need To Know About North India’s First LGBTQ Career Fair

Unemployment is the biggest problem Indian youth is facing today and it is getting more serious with time. The current situation is so bad that the common youth is wandering around for job opportunities, can you imagine the struggle of the LGBTQ+ community?

It is already difficult to find a job and those who are employed are dealing with discrimination, bullying and other issues at the workplace, since there is no guarantee of a safe working environment. Ankita Mehra is also one of those members from the LGBTQ+ community who had struggled a lot to find a job and faced discrimination by colleagues at some workplaces that made her survival tough in the corporate industry.

“It’s a myth that finding a job is the major issue, I feel surviving at the workplace is equally difficult and I wonder why nobody talks about that.  Members of our community are educated and talented enough to crack the interviews. Many of us are leading in various sectors and setting examples but not everyone is fortunate to find a safe and cooperative working environment,” opined Mehra.

With an aim to create a safe working environment for the LGBTQ+ community, Ankita left her job and joined Equiv- a platform that focuses on hiring women, LGBTQ+, veterans, and persons with disabilities.

Here is the exclusive story of the inception of Q-rious.

The Idea

The struggle of this job-seeking woman led to the launch of an initiative – Q-rious – in association with  Naren Krishna, Founder and CEO of equiv.in and stockroom.io. After working in the gender and diversity space, Naren wanted to create some significant impact for the LGBTQ+ community as well.

Naren Krishna, Founder and CEO of Equiv.in & Stockroom.io

Speaking about the Q-rious he said “As a team, we believe actions speak louder than words. So I thought before we go ahead and conceptualize the event it’s very important for us to follow first and have someone from the community as a part of our team leading this initiative and we are fortunate to have found a champ like Ankita who is committed to this as a cause as much as we are.”

The brainchild of Naren and conceptualized by Ankita, Q-rious is a platform that would not only help the LGBTQ+ community in finding new job opportunities but also making efforts towards sensitising workplaces for accepting employees from the community.

The Challenges

The team started with zero. They just had a thought and converting it into a revolution was itself a big challenge. However, the hard work and dedication of Ankita and the team Q-rious made it possible.

Sharing her struggle, Ankita said “Many people are not open yet and they hesitate to apply. So, our team put lots of effort to assure them that we are here to help. Today, when I look back it all seems like a dream. We have struggled a lot and worked restlessly. Initially, no one was taking us and this idea seriously, but Naren and I were confident about it and that’s why we never gave up. It’s been months we have not even slept properly.”

She traveled a lot across the country to meet people and convince them to associate with Q-rious. There were lots of challenges such as getting sponsorship for the event, collaboration with speakers, association with employers and urge members of the community for the registration.

“Q-rious is a platform- of the community, by the community and for the community, and I must say things became favorable when we got the support from the community itself. We can’t thank enough The Humsafar Trust and Keshav Suri Foundation for putting faith in us, and also Mist, Umang, Yadil and Harmless Hugs for backing us up in the crucial time,” expressed Ankita.

North India’s First Career Fair And Confluence For The LGBTQ+ Community

Taking this initiative forward, Q-rious is all set to organise north India’s first career fair and confluence for the LGBTQ+ community on November 23, in New Delhi, a day before Delhi Pride 2019.

A day-long event will be held at The Lalit which will witness iconic faces from the LGBTQ+ community as speakers such as Suhail Abbasi, Co-Founder, Bombay Dost and HST, the world’s first openly gay prince and the founder of The Lakshya Trust – Manvendra Singh Gohil along with transgender rights activist Gauri Sawant who is also the Goodwill Ambassador of the Election Commission and Keshav Suri, Founder, Keshav Suri Foundation.

Apart from these, some big names from the entertainment industry will also grace the event with their presence including Peppermint, of RuPaul’s Drag Race fame, Mr Gay India 2014 Sushant Divgikar aka Rani-Ko-He-Nur and Pearl Daruwalla, Director Of Operations at Kashish International Queer Film Festival.

The Preparation

Team Q-rious wanted to break the clutter and organise the flagship event in order to bring the much-needed change by sensitising employers towards the community and provide a trustworthy platform to the professional members of the LGBTQ+ community who are willing to work in the various sectors.

Online registration was set up, where one can upload their resume along with other details of their qualifications and work experience. Ankita is personally taking care of all the entries and a dedicated team has been assigned to analyze, monitor and moderate the whole process.

“We are speaking to each and every applicant to gather their details and this process is helping us in understanding the requirement and things need to be taken care of during the event. There is no registration fee or hidden charges so that everybody can be a part of it,” informed Ankita.

To register, click here.

Further, Ankita informed that Q-rious received a very good response from several employers and many companies approached them for an association. But sensitisation is mandatory for all, and hence, only organisations where at least one representative has completed sensitisation training with Q-rious will be entertained.

How’s The Josh?

So far, Q-rious has witnessed over 1000+ registrations from all the country and over 400+ candidates have confirmed to attend. Apart from this, many noted companies will be present at the event in order to provide new employment opportunities to the members of LGBTQ+ community.

Sharing future plans, Naren said, “In the coming few years Equiv would be a key enabler in making India Inc more inclusive and become the go-to platform for diversity platform to hire talent.”

As of now, it seems Q-rious has everything in place – an interesting line-up of motivational speakers, some entertaining performers, and an association with employers and hundreds of candidates. Now it would be interesting to see how this event will change the scenario for the LGBTQ+ community?

“The journey was not easy at all. Either its planning and conceptualizing or execution, it took blood and sweat of the whole team in making it what is it today. We have left no stone unturned and hoping for the best. Those who will come with hopes, if they return with smiling faces, only then Q-rious will be called successful in the real sense,” concluded Ankita.

Featured image for representative purpose only.
Featured image source: provided by author; Buyerlerdeqalardim/Wikimedia Commons.
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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 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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