Fighting the Good Fight: Sanjna Mishra

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is an agency of the UN that works to improve reproductive health and handles issues like family planning and maternal health.

Over the summer, Sanjna Mishra, a second-year undergraduate at Ashoka University volunteered with them. Here, she shares her experiences as a volunteer.

Q: Could you give us some general details about your work?

S: I worked over the summer with the UNFPA as a volunteer. I visited slums, interacted with people, documented their work, and also did a few case studies to aid the research procedure of the UN.


Q: You said you volunteered with UNFPA. How long were you with them?

S: I worked with them for 2 months over the summer.


Q: Where did this take place?

S: This was in Bhubaneshwar, Odisha.


Q: What was the process of applying like?

S: I worked with the district office. So the process of applying was not super rigorous. I had to list the places where I had worked before I volunteered to work there. Post this, there was a small interaction of sorts where I was asked to  to list out my skills and let them know what my primary interests were. Then I guess I was in.

I would say I got lucky as I was working more in the capacity of a volunteer.


Q: What prompted you to apply?

S: There were two major factors that prompted me to apply. First, to find an engagement over the summer; the second reason was because I wanted to work in a place where I could add to the process of bringing about change in some capacity. I was also always fascinated with the idea of working with kids and women to empower and enable them. This project was an amalgamation of my interests and passion.

Q: Tell us more about how you managed to empower and enable them.

S: To begin with, I had to go through a lot of paperwork. I was also involved with conducting researches on the issues. Mostly, I worked with women in and around the slums who were trying to get their basic rights in vocational education. We mapped their interests through surveys and tried to conduct meetings with tutors who could help them.

These interests were aimed at getting them engaged gainfully in the future. A lot of them wanted financial stability but were not able to work as they didn't know the particular skill that was required in the field they were interested in.

These skills included tailoring, working on computers and driving cars among other things.

In addition to this, we conducted workshops for teenage girls about their well-being.


Q: Can you tell me more about the workshops?

S: The informative workshops were held in Odia, Hindi and English about menstrual hygiene, reproductive health, and safe touch versus bad touch. We also taught them basics of various legal advantages related to women and how they could benefit. We also taught them basic business skills.


Q: Were there any particularly memorable cases?

S: I would like to say that every aspect of the work I did was very memorable. But if there is something in particular that I loved about my engagement, it was the amount of unquestioned affection that I received from the people I worked with every time I visited them. Especially the kids who refused to leave my hand and let me go even after the training sessions ended. It was a lovely feeling; a feeling of belongingness.

Q: Is there anything else you think you've gotten out of this? How would you say it has changed you?

S: I felt that the experience that I have earned out of this is invaluable. I haven't really realized what has changed, but I think I have become mature in my outlook of the society; maybe a tad bit wiser.

But then, that might just be my imagination.


Q: Any advice for people who would be interested in volunteering next year?

S: Well, I don't really have any advice to give. Just be genuine in your commitment and be passionate. And have fun while you are at it.


Most people do their best in their own ways to make the world a little bit better of a place, and it’s amazing that Sanjna has had such a memorable experience doing the same. Here’s hoping it’s not only a one-time (or one-person) thing.

Edited by: Priyanka Shankar

Photographs curated by:  Sanjna Mishra