“Lag gayi bhai!” haan yeh hi woh pehle shabd the jo mere mann me aaye jab mujhe YCS Leadership Challenge programme ki pre-departure trainings ke aakhiri din apni team aur Project ke bare me pata chala!!!
Before coming to that, let me first give you a small introduction about myself. People address me as Rudraksh Rakshit, born and brought up in Kishangarh, situated in Rajasthan. I did my schooling and further studies from Rajasthan and after completing my Post graduation in Public Policy, Law and Governance, I actually was looking for some opportunity where I would use my theoretical concept about Development, Poverty and Society and then one day I got to know about one programme named Youth Leadership Challenge 2015 by Development Alternatives and VSO-India, which was advertised on a website named NGOBOX. One interesting feature about this programme which intrigued me the most was that the participants would have to address development issues, living within the community itself and that too with limited resources. My motive for applying for this programme was to test my capabilities and also to come out of my comfort box and to work in the challenging conditions of rural area. I also wanted to enhance my personal growth and explore more about myself as an individual.
So after going through all the formal selection process i.e. applying for the programme, telephonic interview, and personal assessment, I was selected for the YCS Leadership Challenge 2015.
I was really excited to be a part of this programme because I knew how important this experience will be in developing my thought process and my actions. I knew that this would also be an opportunity for me, which could help me in interacting with professionals and youths from different parts of the country and also that I would get a chance to be in the presence of peers, who will be sharing the same field interest, and lastly that I would be under the excellent guidance of mentors who will be motivating me from time to time.
I started my journey on 4th of August around 4 AM from my home town and reached Jhansi around 1 pm. From there I was taken to TARAgram Orchha, which is in the Tikamgarh District of Madhya Pradesh. The very next day I met the other 11 volunteers and therefore, from 5th to 7th August, we had our Pre-Departure Training (PDT). During our PDT, we did many activities such as discussions on Poverty, development, disabilities and other various fun activities too and all these helped us volunteers in getting acquainted with each other. On the third day we were briefed about the four livelihood projects working in the Bundelkhand region and all the 12 volunteers were divided into teams of three in one-one project each.
I had mixed feelings when I found out that I was placed under the SanNap Project and on finding out that I would be working on the issue of Menstrual Hygiene with two other girls as part of my team. I was confused because I really wanted to work on this project, but I think I was also pretty clear about the challenges that I would have to face while working on this project. This was the main reason why I did not opt for this project when asked to give project preferences. But after that when I saw my name with two other girls I was not able to decide how I should I react and my other friends were looking at me and smiling because I was the one who never wanted to be in the team of two girls…yes I know feminists would want to kill me after reading this, but this was what the first challenge for me was and that very moment I realised that this is the chance for me to come out of my comfort zone and from here onwards the challenges started in my YCS Leadership challenge.
The very first challenge for me was to overcome my perceptions and break away from my limitations. Working in the field of Menstrual Hygiene was a really tough task for me as I come from a family where we never spoke about this particular thing in the open or in front of other family members, so therefore I was a bit hesitant and confused about how I could give in my contribution to this particular project. But my hesitation slowly drifted away as days passed and I became more and more open to addressing the issue, and the reason for this was my team members. It was because of them that I could break away from my shyness to be open and confident to talk and share about the issue.
The issue was so challenging for us that it was very difficult to get information from the respondents because in the villages of Uttar Pradesh or Madhya Pradesh, where women are not even comfortable to talk about menstruation to the other women, there we had to do conduct our survey’s and awareness campaigns and everything.
It was not only the issue, but also the fact that I was a man and women were not at all comfortable enough sharing their problems regarding their respective menstrual health in front of me. This again turned out to be challenge for me, as I also used to think that my presence would actually create a hindrance for the community women to even talk to the other members of my team. The three of us every time had to come up with a strategy before going to the target village as to how and in which way will we be addressing the issue to them. Once when we had to do an awareness campaign in Laadpura village of Madhya Pradesh, we decided to do a drawing competition and before that we conducted one talk regarding the menstrual health of girls aged between 13-16 years. In this exercise my other two teammates introduced me as a medical doctor in front of the girls so that they could be comfortable enough to speak in front of me, but suddenly one of the teacher asked a typical question and I panicked as I was clueless about the answer but, thankfully my team-mates intervened and took charge of the situation.
40 days spent with the rural communities taught me a lot, earlier I used to think that my contribution to the project and team was nothing, but now I know that I made a difference and there are a lot of achievements and learnings which took place in past these days. My journey of this YCS challenge is really a fruitful one, I got to know about my limitations and that I could surpass them all, plus I also learned a lot of things from the rural communities and from the rest of the YCS volunteers too. Now I know that being a woman is something special and really beautiful. During our awareness campaigns, we got to speak with women who were shy and largely dominated by a patriarchal set up of the family, but these women emerged out as marvelous, confident individuals and it was clearly seen that because of the society, women who have so much in them are being pressed down and they are also not aware of their worth.
This YCS cycle was like an achievement for me, and those who want to know about communities beyond their fantasised world they should come forward and be a part of this challenge, as then they will get to know about themselves, whether they are flexible or whether they are rigid, to judge your own self you need to explore, and need to face the challenges which are coming down the road.
So, therefore all I want to say is COME, EXPLORE AND BE A LEADER.
YCS 2015 Volunteer