Hello, this is your host Titash and welcome to the very first episode of my podcast! Well, technically, this one does not have an audio clip but it has the next best thing which is the transcript. This is an experiment and a recitation exercise for you. Please try and imagine what I sound like (it should be something between a tired Sid from the ‘Ice Age’ movie series and an excited professor Trelawney played by the one and only Emma Thompson from ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’ movie) and just read the script out loud to get the ultimate feel of a podcast.
You won’t hear any famous person talking about their favourite recipes or the challenges they face during a worldwide crisis. Instead, you’ll learn about my work as an India Fellow with my host organization and its partner organizations over the course of the fellowship year. Why, you ask? Well, frankly speaking, this is my sixth month on this journey and I still haven’t found the right way of articulating exactly what is it that I do, where, how and why—so, I decided that from now on if people ask, I should be able to point them to something that could satisfy their curiosity without having to bear with me fumbling for words for ten minutes straight after they’ve asked me the question. In today’s conversation, I sit down with myself and six common questions that I’m asked all the time.
Q1) Where am I from and what do I do?
I’m from Kolkata. After finishing my post-graduation last year, I joined the India Fellow Social Leadership Program shortly afterward. Within that, I am working with Gender at Work as a fellow. In short, I am an India Fellow working at Gender at Work.
Q2) What is India Fellowship and how is it related to Gender at Work?The India Fellow program is dedicated to bringing in the youth of this country to work in the NGO sector for a year by placing them with a host organization where they contribute to social change to the best of their abilities. My area of interest was gender and hence I have been placed with Gender at Work which is a new partner of the fellowship.
Q3) What does Gender at Work do?
Gender at Work does a lot of work, comprehending all of which is still something I am working on. It is a feminist non-profit that partners up with organizations, activists, and researchers worldwide. Its primary work revolves around feminist capacity building and feminist leadership skill development of these organizations and young professionals to build sustainable cultures of inclusivity and equality in civil society. While for many years now, Gender at Work global has been working in various countries, including a large part of Africa, Gender at Work India Trust in comparison is a fairly newer affiliation that was established in 2015. I am a fellow at the Gender at Work India Trust within which I am also working with three of its partner organizations from the Feminist Collective initiative.
Q4) What is the Feminist Collective initiative and which are the organizations that I’m working with?
The initiative is a partnership between organizations spanned across northern India who all work on women’s rights. Apart from Gender at Work, they all work directly with the community at the grassroots level. The idea is through creating a platform for these organizations to come together and build a culture of peer learning through strategizing and introspection. Gender at Work has in the past played the role of a facilitator for the other partners by providing sessions on feminist leadership skills and capacity building. The participants look at individual skill development which leads to organizational change and then trickles down to community-level change. They function at the founder or the director level in their respective workplaces and are therefore leaders in the organization and their communities. Collectively, they look at socio-political situations in the country, in their field areas and develop a methodology to bring in changes as individuals in their own lives and as leaders of their teams, which also means strengthening their organizational structures from a feminist perspective, implementing the knowledge gathered in their area of work.
I am working with three of such grass-root level NGOs—Vikalp Sansthan in Udaipur, Sadbhavana Trust in Lucknow and SAKAR in Bareilly over the course of my fellowship, spending three to four months at each of these places. I have already completed the first leg of my journey as a fellow of the Feminist Collective initiative at Vikalp in Udaipur. Currently, I am in Lucknow working with Sadbhavana and I will be moving to Bareilly to work with SAKAR in a couple of month’s time. All three of them are NGOs that work with young women and girls to instil a feminist perspective in them so that they can become feminist leaders of tomorrow.
Q5) What is my role at each of these organizations?
To be honest, I am first and foremost a learner of feminist principles in all four organizations, especially my host organization. Apart from getting the opportunity of roaming around and exploring beautiful places in the country, I have been put in this rotational design of work for the purpose of understanding the needs of the collective better and to be a physical link between Gender at Work and the three organizations. As I understand it, my role is to assist the different organizations in research-based work that includes reading and writing, documenting and developing content for social media communications, trying to showcase the work going on in each of these organizations. A lot of my work also is about understanding the different kinds of organizations that are there in this space and how they all function based on different contexts and backgrounds. A huge chunk is just shadowing the different organizational leaders from whom I receive a tremendous amount of love and guidance. The rest of it is just pondering and reflecting on everything that I learn every day.
Q6) Lastly, do I find it tiring that I am constantly traveling and never quite settling anywhere?
No, I thoroughly enjoy it actually. It’s true that I never really unpack my luggage and I wear the same clothes for days at an end, I do not get the time to get very well acquainted with the community and therefore cannot engage in long-term projects going on in the grassroots level organizations, neither am I very well acquainted with Gender at Work’s other projects. However, I never wanted to be a settler in the sense of physically laying down my roots in one place for long. All this traveling around helps me interact with more and more people, be guided by more than one Jedi master. If I hadn’t been given this unique opportunity, I would have never ended up on this huge learning curve that lies in front of me. I had always dreamt of leading a life that would present me with multiple avenues to explore, both literally and figuratively. I am happy to say that despite all the challenges, this year is doing exactly that.
That’s all for now. Thank you for participating in this exercise. If you haven’t done it, no worries. It was a joke anyway (or maybe not and now I’m gonna go sit in a corner and cry). See you soon (again a joke, given these times)!