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When positive change is your job: How one person is crafting a career in the field of Child Rights

When Tasha Koshi completed high school, she had no career plan or guide book to tell her what to do next.  You could say she was looking down “two roads diverging through the yellow wood (or life!)”  But she was pretty clear that one road (a career in accountancy or anything related to numbers which most members of her family had gravitated towards) was not the one she wanted to take.  So, with that out of the way, the only option left was to see what possibilities lay down the other road.

In a quest for more clarity, Tasha wisely listened to the counsel of a well meaning family member and paid a visit to a career counselor soon after she completed her schooling.

“Visiting the counselor definitely helped me get on the right track because the counselor suggested immediately that “Commerce was definitely not my thing and I should pursue Arts”.

So, Tasha opted to pursue an Honors degree in Sociology, a decision which was endorsed wholeheartedly by her family as they realized she was more predisposed to the liberal arts field rather than anything related to commerce or accountancy.  Though Tasha self effacingly refers to this decision as the “easy way out” and describes herself as “not being an exceptionally bright kid throughout school”, her performance at college was nothing short of stellar (no easy feat as an Honors degree from Delhi University is no walk in the park!)

“I don’t mean to blow my own trumpet but throughout college I surprised everyone, including myself, by actually doing well in all my classes for the first time in my life!”

With a decision that paid off so well and armed with more self assurance, Tasha was not about to take chances with her next move.

“I was very sure that I wanted to do my Masters but just to be clear on all the options I could pursue, I made another visit to my career counselor. On hearing about how I genuinely enjoyed my voluntary stint at the blind school, tutoring children as part of NSS and that I had performed well academically, my counselor suggested that I pursue my Masters in Social Work (MSW) or do a B.ED.”  BQ2 Opting to move out of Delhi to pursue her Masters (she has completed her Masters in Social Work from Christ University, Bangalore, India) Tasha made sure that every moment of her learning experience counted.  It was in this process of just being in the moment that she inadvertently stumbled upon an area of work called Child Rights.

“The field of child rights was not something I definitively knew I wanted to be a part of. I have been quite blessed and lucky with the timing of certain things in my life.  I think my interest in the child rights sector germinated when I was assigned to Bosco (an organization that works with children at risk in Bangalore) twice a week for 5 months during my MSW field work days.  Though it was just two days a week, I really enjoyed my work – be it the cases I was deputed to deal with, the heart wrenching stories children would narrate, their crazy yet fun conversations, and just spending time with them – playing carrom, discussing movies or listening to their adventures.” Background for quote 2

Armed with a Masters degree and after completing a stint at the Planning Commission, Tasha having meticulously planned all her moves so far had chalked out her next steps as well.  But as she says “all these plans went out of the window when I started working at Childline India Foundation” (a not for profit organization in India that operates a helpline for children in distress)

BQ4

The time that Tasha had spent at Bosco had left an indelible mark on her. So, the concept of a toll free 24/7 emergency helpline for children was not just a great professional opportunity for Tasha but also deeply resonated with her. CIF provided Tasha with the solid grounding that she needed to understand the Child Rights sector.  It had the perfect eco system for growth and learning, providing Tasha with ample opportunities to use her initiative and innovate.

“Much of my passion, to work in this field (of child rights), was a result of a conducive work atmosphere, helpful colleagues and, particularly, my office superiors who gave me a lot of (i) space to work independently / innovate on tasks assigned, (ii) exposure and opportunities to participate in programmes (iii) and entrusted me with huge projects right from the get go. So, though I had a desk job at CIF, the nature of work assigned, the numerous office discussions whether with peers or veterans etc.  just stirred and enthused me more.”

While there she even helmed a revelatory study across 10 states in India on the issue of child rights. BQ6Her work at CIF and her short stints at various other non profits while pursuing her Masters, have made her a firm believer of the “you learn when you do!” route

“My Masters program gave me the grounding I needed to work in this sector but most of my learning happened on the job for me. I’m quite grateful to my uncle for his advice at that time, telling me to get a good grounding and foundation, in the initial years, by working in grassroot organisations so that core issues are understood in its totality and issues of coordination/ funding/ working with the community and administration is understood from the point closest to the community; only once this is understood should one attempt moving up.”

Tasha is currently working at Leher, a child rights organization founded in 2013 that works towards developing preventive child protection in communities, strengthening the existing child protection systems in the country and building a culture of child protection. At Leher, Tasha is in a critical role as she is conceptualizing, planning, executing and evaluating the execution of a pilot child preventive model currently being carried out in Madhubani, in the state of Bihar, India. BQ7 Working in and many a time witnessing at such close proximity the vulnerability of children at risk has been nothing short of life changing for Tasha.

“Working in this sector has broadened my outlook greatly and has helped me live life differently; more than anything else, it has helped me realise how fortunate I am!!”

It is inevitable that emotions will also come into play in these situations as well.  Tasha says that getting emotionally involved is a given in her line of work, but experience has taught her to also set it aside when required and use sound logic.

“While working in the sector there have been days when I’ve come home angry, emotional and cynical but, with time, you learn to balance emotions with logic! There are days when decisions/ notes etc are made based on emotions, while on others logic takes over.  The fact is you cannot stop emoting.”

In a country where legislative and societal changes happen at a shuffling pace, much slower than the rate at which incidents of children being at risk occur, how does one keep chipping away? Where does Tasha find the energy and the conviction to get up and do her job the next day?

“I have come to hear of numerous cases during my time working in this sector, which often made me see society as inhuman and insecure due to their penchant for torturing/exploiting and taking advantage of the fact that children are smaller, have no voice etc. But when you see a child happy to be restored home, kids in a children group actually questioning officers for acting unscrupulously, it feels like our (Leher’s) work is making a difference. The joy, energy I derive from that is the glucose that energizes me to work. So, YES, it is challenging but you deal with it by remembering that you are directly/indirectly making an attempt to make a conscious difference!”

While it is pretty hard to plan the  “forever and forever” of life, for the time being Tasha knows that this is where she wants to be.

“I definitely love the work I do and feel fortunate to be working in Leher. I will continue working till the time I genuinely believe that even the little work I do is contributing directly or indirectly. There are few workers in the child protection sector – and well I plan to continue being one in this team!” Background for quote 1 To find out more about Leher and the work it does, you can go to http://leher.org

This article has been published by Maslowed.Me – a career portal

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