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“I Lost My Job Due To COVID And It’s Been Very Difficult To Provide For My Family”

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One fine morning, the country woke up to the news of a highly contagious virus, the Corona. We thought this was just another virus but eventually, it proved to be something with way more dire consequences than we had imagined. To stop the virus, a series of complete lockdowns were announced and things have never been the same ever since.

I am capable, I am qualified, I am skilled and I am experienced,  yet I am not desirable. Why? *Image provided by the author*

Out of the many adverse effects the lockdown has produced, there is one issue that I wish to bring forward; the issue that is known to all of us but has never been spoken about or has never found a place as the headline on any media platform.

So, it starts with the opening of my Linkedin account every morning and I see that my news feed is flooded with posts that read –

” I am a professional with 10 years of experience as a Senior Manager in the Banking Industry. I lost my job due to Covid-19 crisis and now it has been very difficult for me to provide for my family as my savings are getting exhausted and I am the only earning member in my family. I am open to any possible job. Please let me know if anything is available.” Any job!

Yes, because many such professionals, who are unable to find anything that would have actually been suitable are now open to any job, putting their careers aside. They are ready to compromise on their pay scale like “I am okay with 5 lacs per annum even though I was at 10 in my previous job.”

Can anyone imagine this agony? I am capable, I am qualified, I am skilled and I am experienced,  yet I am not desirable. Why? Because my company does not need me any more and they have their own reasons, which I cannot deny.

So what is the way out for me? We often come across news pieces on how the lockdown has affected the economically marginalised class like the farmers, the small scale workers, the daily wage workers and the domestic help, who have been going through distress and many of them are dying by suicide or without food.

This is extremely depressing and saddening, and it really needs to be highlighted but at the same time, the plight of the professional class must also be held up. Nobody cared to talk about what kind of mental trauma people like you and I are going through with each passing day.

We are living under constant intimidation of losing employment suddenly, without a notice. Then? What do we do? Who has the answer? What about this? ” I started my career in 2019 but as a result of a major lay off in my organisation, I could not work beyond 6 months. Now I am jobless and nobody is willing to hire me without experience. So what is the way out for me? Should I use this break well, to upskill myself?”

Can anybody give an assurance of employability after obtaining certificates? Can anybody ensure the grooming will be as per the industry standards? Organisations like IBM and Cognizant say that Indian engineers are not employable, so would these major Industry players suggest any strong point that can improve the standard of our employable attributes? Well, in this situation nobody is ready to give an answer.

Many, including the government, argue that professionals don’t need to worry when there are ample remote working opportunities. So let me put this question through, what kind of remote job can anyone suggest for a retail store manager, for a production engineer, for a cashier cum accountant, for an aviation crew staff and for a hotel management graduate? Well, the answer is NONE.

In my opinion, there are no such jobs available that would cater to these professionals. What is the role of this so-called digital upgradation, when it can’t solve the major unemployment crisis by even 10 percent?

How Is Job Insecurity Impacting Mental Health?

This entire scenario has impacted the mental health of professionals like me, to the extent that we are losing our self-esteem. For many, this is even leading to dire consequences like slipping into a deep state of depression.

So my question is; who is there to raise the plight of professionals like me, who are living in the constant fear of losing our livelihoods at any moment? What is the solution for us?

As these questions keep on haunting white-collar professionals like myself, every new day starts with anxiety. We end up working way harder, thereby pushing ourselves to the extent that we experience severe mental fatigue.

However, I thought of ways that gave me solace in this period of distress. One is reading; I consider it a way to detox the mind and intellect at the same time. And then it is writing, which works as the best mode of self-expression for me.

As I went back to reading and writing, without getting anxious about cutting down the time I devote to my job, I have started feeling so much better. The question still haunts me – Do we die of starvation or do we die by suicide? What is the best choice? Well, I leave this answer to you!! But we must not stop living before we die.

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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.

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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.

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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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