Menstrual cycle is still a taboo topic for discussion in India. 50% of human race undergoes it , still we cannot even talk about it forget discussing about menstrual hygiene and various options available .
To make matters worse , in many parts of India, a woman is considered “impure” during “un dino” (having her periods) . She cannot touch the deity in a temple or even , in some places, enter their own house. They live in makeshift sheds outside .
Imagine , a biological phenomenon which basically is linked to a woman’s ability to conceive a child, probably the purest form of “being human” , an ability to bring life to this world , a power similar to God and still being perceived as impure.
But this blog is not to discuss about various taboos surrounding menstrual cycle but to shed light on an organization that is trying to do something.
Due to various taboos surrounding this issue , many women, especially in villages are unaware of menstrual hygiene, leaving them vulnerable to diseases and loss of productivity due to discomfort. Many girls end up skipping upto a WEEK of school EVERY MONTH , eventually leading them to quit school all together .
Aakar is a social enterprise that creates affordable biodegradable sanitary pads . Their model is simple, bring the simple technology to villages where women themselves make and sell these pads . These women also educate other women about menstrual hygiene while becoming mini entrepreneurs themselves.
They are running a fund raising for expanding this noble venture and I believe it is worth contributing to .So Go and DONATE
While in schools and colleges you plan to change a few things here and there, in an NGO your plans can go much beyond. You plan and strategize to change the country ,the world . Your targets are not 1 week or 2 weeks but spread across years and decades.
2. Better networking:
This is the best networking you can possibly get. In the corporate world your networks are based on mutual benefit ,but in NGO it’s for a common goal. In most other types of networking ,your Network is a list of your acquaintances but, in the NGO world it is a list of people who become your best buddies,your mentors ,people you respect and people who respect you.
It has been observed that behavior of people change when they are in a situation where they are reminded of moral values and idealism, such as near Schools,In churches and in temples.This is exactly why when you meet truly dedicated people in an NGO you will see their Guards down, people become much more open,much more ready to change and much more inclined to listen to all points of view.Suddenly there can be order in the chaos of an NGO decision-making process.
4.It opens your mind:
Try working with any NGO and you will see what I mean,you gain a sense of perspective and start seeing the impact of small things. You realize what is more important
The chances of being a leader or learning leadership are much more in NGO sector than any other. It takes about 4-5 years to become a team lead in an IT field but in an NGO you could be doing that the moment you join.It all depends on what you are willing to do .It is not necessary to even join them full-time.
More importantly, you can learn the meaning of true leadership very early on such as
Post does not matter as much as the work/role
Difference between enforced leadership and earned leadership
Importance of NOT being a leader sometimes
How to be a good follower
How to motivate people
While I did point out various Pros of working with NGOs ,I am not discounting the exposure and experience you get in the corporate sector.This article is simply to point out some of the very unique takeaways from NGO sector.
My personal belief is that your learnings and personal growth can be accelerated by working for an ngo . Remember when you join an NGO ,you are not just doing it for giving back to society, but are also gaining much more .
Had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine over team and people management in NGOs/ voluntary organizations . NGO is a basically a non government non profit making organization,dedicated to a social cause and majorly supported by volunteers.
We have been working with various volunteers for organizations like Lead India 2020 ,Vande mataram youth front etc for past 5 years and one thing we have learned is that everything we learn about team skills,team management and people management breaks down in a voluntary organization.
Its much harder to sustain a voluntary organization than a business. Yes it seems counter intuitive because when we say NGO,it brings out an image of volunteers working tirelessly to uplift the society,people working for satisfaction rather than money.
Well nothing wrong in that imagery,most part of it is right but then why it is so hard to sustain an NGO,why don’t voluntary organizations work with the same level of maturity and professionalism as many corporates do.
Well here is my Take on it
Lets forget NGOs and voluntary organizations for a moment
Why do people work the way they work? What drives them to work better and harder
a. Money: Only objective is to sustain. Eat Live Die. Better work=better money
b. Ambition: Have a goal in life ,want to reach somewhere someplace pretty soon. Could be power,prestige ,respect or anything else
c.Work ethic:/Conscience: Yes you smiling people,many people still have it,actually most people have it to varying degrees. There is a level/quality of work you expect from yourself and if you don’t do it you feel guilty. Its that irritating voice which asks you to correct that small little HTML,correct that simple image on your site,keep your record books organized.
d. Need for appreciation: This is closely related to point c and d. We all like to be appreciated for our work .
Most people have one or many of these drives
Now the strongest of these forces is Work ethic and conscience,something that tells you what is the minimum you would expect from yourself. This is exactly the factor that prevents NGOs from achieving what they can and what NGOs need to research more on.
When volunteers work for an NGO all of them work with good intentions, a need to do something good and satisfy their conscience . I do not doubt their intentions,what i believe happens is that their level/minimum self expectation suddenly becomes LOW in a an NGO. Anything that they do is extra work and this satisfies their conscience very very early on.
I call this Short Changed Conscience
Since it is a voluntary work,it was never expected of them and hence anything they do directly adds to their conscience as good work,thus making them feel good about whatever they do even if it is shoddy work from their professional standards.
I may receive brick bats for saying this but most NGOs stand on the half hearted works of many volunteers. and half hearted work ,irrespective of intentions can never match the professionalism.
Now dont get me wrong here,i am not writing this paper because i am frustrated with anyone, I am trying to find out what goes wrong. It is these volunteers only who make things work,it is these volunteers who keep the wheel of development turning,but my point is that this wheel can turn faster.
If you need to create a website for your business,or maybe your client you will spend considerable amount of time to find the best possible technology,best possible interface,you will take feedback and implement it . But what if you are building for an NGO, you will still make the website,but you may not be willing to consider changes based on feedback,you may not research too much and most importantly you may not polish all the edges.
Is that true or is it just me?????
Yes there are exceptions to this,people who take this work more seriously then their professional work also,these are the people who form the nucleus of any voluntary organization,hats off to them. But their percentage is relatively low
Before you guys tell me how dare i question the pure intentions of volunteers who spend their time with NGOs helping them ,let me clarify,I do not question that,I Respect people who want to and do spend time,this paper is to identify areas where we go wrong,why most voluntary teams don’t work the way they should/could and maybe identify what can be done to improve them.
Here are some suggestions:
1. Defined structure: Have a clear structure and role division like any corporate team with clear objectives and responsibilities. More you bring people in that zone,better results you may get
2.No Reliance on the nucleus: Generally the nucleus of the group or you may say the most dedicated person drives everything. He/she handles all activities. This definitely needs to stop. Have clear cut owners of every activity and try and stop this nucleus from working everywhere. The reason is simple ,the nucleus is a GEM but if he/she handels everything you loose the chance of creating more nuclei. Every team should have a nuclei .
Try this in one important activity or a movement of your organization,do not involve your best volunteers. Yes explain them the reasoning,its important
3. Implicit feedback mechanism: Irrespective of what work a person is doing, how dedicated he/she is to the cause or even how old a member he/she is have a compulsory feedback system. the moment people know that their work will be commented upon their productivity goes us. The Work ethic of their corporate work kicks in and standars improve. I would suggest always have 1 compulsory improvement point for every every feedback.
4. View volunteers as leaders and not as temporary workers: No explanation required,try doing that and see the result
So this was my take on teams in Voluntary organizations,…if you have any comments/suggestions/criticisms please do enlighten me.