“If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” – Bruce Lee, this is a quote I found in my university and has stayed with me ever since, inspiring me to push myself a little extra every day, out of my comfort zone, into situations that demand excellence and sustained efforts to overcome.
I firmly believe our society can solve its problems; poverty, hunger, diseases, inequitable distribution of wealth among others. However, solving a problem sometimes requires us to unlearn what we know and look at the problem from a new perspective, which may require stepping out of the comfort zone. But, there are only a few who take up the challenge. I am aware of some of the challenges of ensuring sustainable and inclusive development especially for a country the size and population of India.
In my opinion as a country, we need a set of sustainable development goals for socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable economic growth and effective policy making. By good governance it does not mean that we rely only on government. Our well-being depends on the world’s multinational powerful businesses obeying the law, respecting the natural environment, and helping the communities in which they operate, especially to help eradicate extreme poverty. It also depends on us as to how we as individuals empower oneself to take the right path and question the wrong. I feel that achieving sustainable development on our crowded and unequal planet is the most important challenge facing our generation. Another solution is inclusive policy making – which includes unbiased monitoring of the impact of current policies and developing an adaptive policy framework to incorporate evolving ground realities. This can be can be an important lever to bring about the necessary change.
Responsible for tracking referral cases in one of the busiest government hospitals, I closely worked for the issue of maternal and new born child care which got me face to face with the inadequacies and severe lacunae of the health system leading to high maternal and child mortality rates. I witnessed the inability of our policies to meet the basic needs of its citizens, despite robust economic growth over the past two decades. Even after the 2014 elections, the new government in India is just pressing accelerator on the old policies and not paying much attention to the acute need of universal affordable healthcare. Instead, they want to open savings account for every citizen. Good health is not something one can buy, however it can be an extremely valuable savings account.
Working with worlds’ largest mining company – Rio Tinto, introduced me to the challenges of inclusive and sustainable development of resources. As a part of the CSR team, I have been exposed to a new approach to community development in rural India, adhering to international norms and practices like the WBCSD and IFC. My close association with the community made me aware of grassroots social action projects and reasons for ground level implementation failures of public policies. I saw a yawning gap in the delivery of public services and low levels of awareness in the community of their rights. Often I found it difficult to strike a balance between emotions and compassion versus business ethics and norms of the company. The debate of natural resources being a curse or blessing reaffirms my willingness to opt to learn more in the field of public policy and its making.
My work with Save the Children, India introduced me to the whole new dimension of strategizing inflow of funds from active institutional donors such as DFID, European Union, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to implement programs and policies.
My work as an Atlas Corps fellow serving in the Advocacy and Partnerships Team has given me an international perspective of development. Visiting legislators and their staffers has opened a whole new area of policy making and opinion on grassroots work and the role of civil societies.
Being a professional and career oriented woman I have constantly battled societal prejudice, peer pressure, male insecurity, and internal conflict in pursuit of my ambitions. Sometimes successful and sometimes not, I have definitely emerged as a stronger individual ready to face more challenges and fare doubly well. I write this with context of policy making from world’s largest democracy, experiences from community mobilization and creative ideas used to tackle some of the challenges that developing societies face today. Working in villages for two years humbled me and motivated to work and contribute constructively to the policy making in my country.