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What Does The ‘Future Of Work’ Look Like? These 4 Experts Will Tell You!

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ReimagineTogether logoEditor’s Note: This article is a part of #ReimagineTogether, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with UNICEF India, YuWaah and Generation Unlimited, to spark conversations to create a new norm and better world order in the post-pandemic future. How have you and those around you coped with the pandemic? Join the conversation by telling us your COVID story and together, let's reimagine a safer, better and more equal future for all!

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and are not necessarily the views of the partners.

COVID-19 has not just deeply affected the world of work but has also redefined its future in terms of new technology, more access and newer systems in place. To understand these nuances, on the 9th of September, 2020, Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with International Labour Organisation (ILO), IFAD, the United Nations in India, YuWaah-Generation Unlimited India, and UNICEF India conducted its second edition of the #UnitedForHope dialogue. The session, which concentrated on the idea of “Future of Work,” aimed to demystify the Indian economy and employment space, especially in a post-COVID-19 world. A joint report released by the ILO and the Asian Development Bank estimated that over 41 lakh jobs were lost in the country, only due to the pandemic.

As a result, a discussion around how the future looked for people just entering the workforce, specifically the country’s youth, is necessary and beneficial. Consequently, the session brought together four individuals from a diverse set of backgrounds to provide some insightful commentary and answer some basic questions regarding employment and entrepreneurship avenues. The entire session can be found here, but here are the most critical takeaways from the event for those who missed it.

Dagmar Walter, Director, ILO, DWT/CO-New Delhi

Representing the ILO at the webinar, Dagmar introduced the participants to the theme of the discussion. Stressing on the international youth day’s theme of “youth engagement for global action,” she highlighted the various ways that COVID-19 had affected this goal’s achievement. While talking about the post-COVID-19 world, Dagmar also mentioned how countries would soon start going back to their older ways, accepting a few new normals.

In such a time, she talked about the need for establishing specific ground measures to ensure a smooth transition into this new, yet old, world. Additionally, building on the need for a human-inclusive approach to growth, she also highlighted the need for collaborative participation between organisations like the ILO, various governments, workers, and employers.

Neil Banerjee, A Recent Graduate, Now Working As An Advertising Professional At Ogilvy & Mather

Neil’s presence in the session as a recent graduate and a young employee helped structure the discussion further from the youth’s perspective. He began by highlighting the fact that in a highly dynamic market like that of India’s, there is an extensive need for the workforce to rethink the skills that it is looking to acquire.

Pivoting on this insight into the quality of skills, he moved on to talk about ways of revamping the existing education and skilling ecosystem. 

Another essential aspect of Neil’s conversation was the need to restructure the societal understanding of entrepreneurship.  He pointed out how there needs to be a better understanding among youth. While government jobs can be stable in the long run, he felt that in a growing economy like India, the youth must look at options in the startup world and think of innovative ways to contribute to its growth.

Sairee Chahal, Founder, And CEO, SHEROES

Sairee Chahal, the CEO, and founder of SHEROES, one of the largest women-only social networking websites, was also one of the panelists who weighed in on the topic. As a growing CEO herself, Sairee’s experience as a woman entrepreneur provided an additional lens to the conversation around the Future of Work. For instance, one of the essential facets that she highlighted centred around the fact that 80% of active users on the internet are men.

In India’s rapidly digitising economy, access to the internet forms one of the most decisive factors behind an individual’s success. In a traditionally patriarchal society like India, women in families generally see delayed access to phones and the internet, further exacerbated by the fact that male and female literacy rates in some states are still not at par.

With this context, Sairee pointed out that to successfully integrate women workers in today’s Indian market, there needs to be an inclusive approach to economic growth.

Similarly, further elaborating on the need for an inclusive approach, she also touched upon the lack of representation that individuals from LGBTQIA communities saw in the Indian economy. Although she mentioned how many MNCs have been interested in working on this phenomenon, Indian society’s history with these groups has made it all the more difficult for small businesses to consider their proper integration.

In her final remarks, Sairee also highlighted that India’s heavy reliance on its consumer base should ideally open up more opportunities for entrepreneurs and startups to innovate and grow.

Shraddha Joshi, Managing Director, Mahila Arthik Vikas Mahamandal (MAVIM)

One of the drastic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Indian economy has been the overwhelming disintegration of supply chains, as witnessed by multiple industries. Shraddha Joshi, MD at MAVIM, managed to introduce the viewers to a range of insights in light of this. MAVIM, a Maharashtra government’s initiative that aims to strengthen women’s economic resilience, works majorly with self-help groups (SHGs) and women co-operatives.

As a result, Shraddha’s presence helped bring a two-fold angle to the discussion: rural supply chains and gender. Building on Sairee’s analysis of women’s lack of access to technology, she also brought in the lens of access to factors like credit and infrastructure. Shraddha pointed out how all forms of entrepreneurship were reliant on the availability of these three factors, and rural women are, unfortunately, short on proper access to them.

Consequently, the role of SHGs and women cooperatives in solving the problem of lack of access was highlighted by Shraddha. For example, while talking about the need for variation in entrepreneurship, she mentioned how many stitching centres quickly transformed their ability to create PPE kits and masks, thus staying in business even after COVID-19 hit with full force. 

Rituparna Chakraborty, Co-Founder, And EVP, TeamLease

Lastly, to throw more light on the aspects of skilling and employment, Rituparna Chakraborty, co-founder of TeamLease, an HR solutions firm, talked about a range of factors. While discussing the pandemic’s impact on the current skilling ecosystem, she spoke about how there has been a rapid shift towards digitisation.

With courses on online certification and skill training seeing a growth of over 50%, she underlined the urgency for tomorrow’s workforce to modernise its learning processes.

Along with this, Rituparna also stressed the need for governments to invest in local skill training and education. Stressing on the importance of revamping the industrial and manufacturing sectors in a large-scale country like India, she further strengthened her argument on India’s formalisation. For example, she pointed out how a wider acceptance of the provision of “work from home,” thanks to COVID-19, has made the market more accepting of female workers, at least in white-collar jobs.

The speakers addressed more crucial issues like lucrative skills in the post-COVID-19 world, the nuanced impact of the pandemic on workers from different socio-economic groups, and the government’s role in ensuring a smooth transition. One common stand, though, was that the pandemic had exposed multiple cracks in our country’s workings, and it is high time that we begin filling them in.

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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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