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

“Getting Fired For A Second Time Is Devastating. But I Haven’t Given Up Yet”

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Being a fresher, a recent graduate from college is tougher than it seems, especially if you’re an engineering graduate and have backlogs. I graduated in 2017 and had 17 backlogs if I remember correctly. And every engineering graduate knows that you don’t get a job if you’ve written supplementary papers. Hundreds like me have suffered due to this, even I did. As a result, I couldn’t find a job. 

It took a lot of begging and crying to make my parents understand that I can’t do this anymore. Representational image.

I’m not saying education is not important or that I was too lazy to study. I had always had the zest in me to learn but engineering wasn’t my passion, writing was. Something that my engineer parents never understood. It took me two years of going to college and writing those “back” papers (yet not being able to clear most of them), coupled with a lot of begging and crying to make my parents understand that I can’t do this anymore.

But that’s not the only thing I did in two years. I found myself a freelance job that paid me Rs. 60 for writing a 1000-word long article. That time, being my naive self, I didn’t realise it was exploitation. I mostly didn’t even get paid. Eventually, they stopped giving projects after a few months. I wouldn’t even make Rs.100 by writing articles. 

After months of applying for jobs, I found a job; a proper office job as a content creator. It was a start-up. There were just three staff members, but I didn’t mind. I was happy that I got a job.

The boss of the company was an arrogant new entrepreneur who did not respect any of his three, female employees. He would abuse, shout and even demotivate us about our writing.

He fired me and another employee for, well I don’t know. He shut the company the very next month, so I guess he simply wanted to fire us. Naturally, that brought down my confidence level a little. Losing your first job is hard. Getting fired from your first job is harder to handle. 

But, I didn’t fully give up. I joined as a contributor to a website where I’d write articles about shows and movies. I also started writing book reviews for free; created enough sample content to send to potential companies. After six months, I found another job. I was terrified to join. I wasn’t a tech person, but this job as a content writer showed me that I may not have a degree but I do understand enough technical stuff.

I joined as a contributor to a website where I’d write articles about shows and movies. Representational image.

Did being a bright, attentive, student; a first-bencher student in class, pay off? Nah! I realised that those things were never going to be put to use. I worked there for six months and was paid 10,000 throughout, despite being promised around 20,000. Every employee there, other than me, earned more than that, but I stayed mum. I kept believing that they’ll fulfil their promise next month. 

I was judged for being an introvert and was constantly told that I had an attitude. I would often go to the balcony and cry. But these comments never affected my work. I took two buses and a train daily to reach work, as I couldn’t afford to rent a place with such a low salary. I ate and ran back to the office during lunch breaks to keep up with my office hours. Honestly, it was tiring but I loved the hustle; I liked travelling and I was completing my work daily.

I was happy, but people weren’t. I never had the time to interact much. I only talked when needed and it would mostly be about work. They told me I’m task-oriented, a good writer, very punctual but an introvert, and hence they didn’t see their future with someone like me. 

They fired me when I was on sick leave suffering from chicken-pox. The news was unexpected and hit me hard. What did I work so hard for? I was fired because I don’t chit-chat? It took me some time to get over it. Getting fired for a second time is devastating. You start doubting yourself and your capabilities.

It has been six months since then. I’m still unemployed. But I haven’t given up yet. I’m keeping myself busy by building skills, acquiring knowledge from any free online content that I can find. It’s like my friend Nas, from Nas Daily videos said, “education is important, not how you get it”. I’m sure there are companies out there who value skills and not a mere piece of paper. 

My parents, friends, no one believed in me and my dreams. No one really saw my struggle. That’s when I understood that everyone has their own journey and this is mine. Even if no one believes in you, you have to keep believing in yourself. Life is all about finding yourself and only you can find yourself.

I recently self-published a book on Amazon. For me, that’s the greatest achievement as a writer. Even if no one understands my dreams, even if they try to put as many hurdles before me, I’ll never stop chasing them.

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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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