So, You Think Working in the Social/Development Sector is Boring?

A khadi-clad, jhola bearing, frail looking bespectacled person in her 20s, with greasy hair, hassled look on the face and an intellectually snobbish book in hand, de-boards a local state tourism bus. Ask anyone in India to describe a social worker and this is the caricature they respond with. As someone who has dedicated years of her life to the social and development sector, I am fed up with this stereotype. Through this blog and through the example of my life as an AIF Clinton Fellow working in the Department of Education at the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), I wish to burst three of the most common myths related to work in the social and development sector that I have faced.

Myth 1: Boring Clothes

Reality: Everyday I show up to the office wearing a traditional Tibetan Chuba. It is an intricately tailored kimono-esque design which is very fashionable. Upon reaching my host city, Dharamshala, one of the first endeavors that I made with my supervisor was going to the local tailor to get two sets of Chubas stitched. We had great fun picking out the fabrics and had a jolly discussion on Tibetan fashion and how the same dress can be designed to look fancy for a wedding or official for office purposes. In my opinion, Chuba is one of the most fashionable pieces of clothing in this world! People in my office have fun with fashion and dress up very nicely. We even discuss fashion and various styles of wearing Chubas during the lunch break! 

The author is standing in front of her desk in her office, wearing the traditional Tibetan dress called Chuba.
Yours Truly Wearing the Traditional Tibetan Dress, Chuba, in Office
The author is doing a Namaste pose in front of her office's main gate. She is wearing a Chuba. The board above her says. "Department of Education, Central Tibetan Administration" which is the name of her host organization.
I proudly wear the traditional Tibetan attire everyday to my office – the Department of Education, Central Tibetan Administration.
Author is posing in front of flowers in her office while wearing the traditional Tibetan dress called Chuba
Posing in Sherig. Photograph clicked by a very dear friend and a Sherig Staff Member.

 

Myth 2: No Fun Activities

Reality: The work culture at the Department of Education, CTA includes no work talk and only jokes with carrom tournaments during the lunch break and weekend hikes. Our education minister has played an instrumental role in organizing Saturday hikes while senior officials organize unofficial Sunday hikes and invite people to join in via WhatsApp. We have hiked to mountain rivers, atop some of the tallest hills to reach the most beautiful viewpoints and created beautiful memories which will last me a lifetime. We do potluck picnics on these hikes where we end up with a cornucopia of authentic Tibetan home-cooked food which we feed to animals and birds with equal generosity and still end up with enough left to distribute to the less fortunate. 

Office staff at the author's host organization is gathered around a carrom board during lunch break in the office.
CTA officials play Carrom during the Lunch Break as a workplace tradition.
Staff of the author's host organization is posing for a group ohoto during one of their weekend hikes in the hills.
A group picture from one of Sherig’s weekend hikes.
Staff of the author's host organization is posing for a group ohoto during one of their weekend hikes in the hills.
A group picture from one of Sherig’s weekend hikes.
The women staff members of the author's host organization are posing for a group ohoto during one of their weekend hikes in the hills.
A group picture from one of Sherig’s weekend hikes in Dal Lake, Himachal Pradesh.
The author strikes a pose with the Education Minister of the Tibetan Government in front of snow-capped mountain ranges in the Himalayas during one of their weekend hikes.
A picture of yours truly with the former Minister of Education, Central Tibetan Administration taken during one of Sherig’s weekend hikes.
The image shows Dhauladhar mountain ranges of the Himalayas. The mountain peaks are covered in snow and Tibetan prayer flags adorn the hill from where the author clicked the picture.
A scenic view of the Himalayas from one of our hikes.
The image shows Dhauladhar mountain ranges of the Himalayas.
A scenic view of the Himalayas from one of our hikes.
The image shows the author posing in front of a mountain river after one of the weekend hikes with the staff of her host organization.
We hiked to several mountain rivers and waterfalls.
The image shows the author posing in front of a tea garden in Dharamshala after one of the weekend hikes with the staff of her host organization.
Office outing to tea gardens in Dharamshala
The image shows the author posing in front of a Himalayan mountain range after one of the weekend hikes with the staff of her host organization.
Office Hike Happiness
The image shows Tibetan prayer flags and holy stones in a forest.
A forest view from one of our office hikes.
The image shows plates of authentic Tibetan food items.
Authentic Tibetan Food – Tingmo and Stir-fry Vegetables.
The image shows plates of authentic Tibetan food items and two glasses of traditional Tibetan lemon ginger herbal tea.
Tibetan Food – Noodles and Kimbab with Ginger Lemon Tea.
The image shows a cornucopia of home-made authentic Tibetan food. The staff of the author's host organization are sitting around the food in a potluck picnic setting.
A cornucopia of authentic home-made Tibetan food, during one of our office potluck picnics.
The image shows a cornucopia of home-made authentic Tibetan food. The staff of the author's host organization are sitting around the food in a potluck picnic setting.
A cornucopia of authentic home-made Tibetan food, during one of our office potluck picnics.

Myth 3: Boring Lifestyle

Reality: I hope you don’t take it as boasting when I tell you that my apartment within the office campus comes complete with a bathtub! While generally considered a luxury in India and mostly seen only in 5 to 7 star hotel chains, my fully furnished apartment provides me the luxury of having a large balcony overlooking snow covered Himalayas, a fridge, a well-stocked kitchen along with a spacious bathroom with a lovely view of the valley where one can see people paragliding on a sunny afternoon. After a busy day at work, I can draw myself a bubble bath spruced with locally sourced fresh rose petals and scented candles handcrafted by the artisans of my host community. How’s that for “boring”? 🙂  Jokes aside, I hope that my photo journey helped to dispel some common myths – and perhaps makes you consider a career in the social development sector as well.

The image shows candles lining the author's bath tub.
Candle-lit bathtub in my apartment situated within CTA campus.
The picture shows the bath tub in the author's apartment in her host organization. A bubble bath is drawn and sprinkled with fresh, locally sourced rose petals.
Rose Petals and Bubble Bath for Self-Care after a long workday
The image shows Sun rising from amidst the Himalayas. The author clicked this picture at dawn to capture the beautiful Sun rise.
View from my Balcony – Sunrise at 5 AM
The picture shows a Himalayan red rose.
A rose in full bloom from the rose plant in my office.
The picture shows a Himalayan Rose bush near the author's place in her host organization's campus.
A rose bush in the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives which is located right next to my apartment.
The image shows hills of Dharamkot.
A scenic mountain view captured during one of our office hikes.
The picture shows the hills and mountain ranges in the author's host city.
View from my balcony.
The picture shows the Tibetan Library which is situated next to the author's apartment in her host organization's campus.
Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, located right next to my apartment.
The picture shows a famous landmark in the author's host city.
St John’s Church in the Wilderness, Dharamshala
The picture shows the view of snow-covered Himalayan peaks captured from the author's balcony.
Views from my balcony.
The picture shows sunset in the Himalayas captured from the author's window in her apartment.
Sunsets as seen from my window.
The picture shows a beautiful view of mountains and hills visible from the author's bathroom window.
Dawn in the Himalayas – views from my balcony at 4 AM
The picture shows the view from the author's balcony. There is a railing and in the background one can see tin-roofed houses, clouds and hills.
Views from my window.
The image shows sunset colors adorning the sky, as seen from the author's balcony.
A sunset in the Himalayas – views from my balcony at 7 PM

Shivangi is serving as an American India Foundation (AIF) Clinton Fellow with the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) in Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh. For her fellowship project, she is integrating gender education and entrepreneurship modules into the school curricula for the Tibetan refugee community. Shivangi brings in diverse personal, academic and professional experiences to her work towards achieving gender equality. Having focused on providing gender sensitivity training and education matching, Shivangi runs her own social initiative called Drishtikona - Changing Perspectives, volunteers as a speaker for SpeakIn and as a Global Shaper for the World Economic Forum, and a Climate Ambassador for the International Youth Committee. Through her experiences, Shivangi has gained relevant skills including data collection and analysis; planning and strategizing; research and documentation, and more. Her personal and professional aims align with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals especially, UN SDG 5. It is her mission in life to make the world a more inclusive place for everyone and she is passionate about human rights and mental health.

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