Feminist Series — A Work in Progress

By Shreya Agarwal

My name is Shreya Agarwal, and I am an Indian national with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. I have also studied Economics, and have a background in mental health counselling and public policy. My varied interests are a result of my liberal arts education, which taught me the significance of an interdisciplinary approach to learning and viewing the world. I identify as female (she/her) and have lived in India all my life.

I was born on March 13, 1998 at 3:30 in the morning. Spooky as it is, it was also a Friday the 13th. I was born in a city called Pune, which is also known as the “Oxford of the East”, given the numerous educational institutions situated there. Growing up, I never liked my name because it was, and continues to be, a very common Indian name for a girl. There was always another “Shreya” not only in my class in school, but also in my friend circle. In fact, some of my closest friends’ names have been Shreya. Now I am used to being referred to by my last name “Agarwal” which, unfortunately, is also a very common surname. However, I have come to like my name over the years, mostly because all the women I have met who share my name have been wonderful, kind, ambitious, and beautiful.

Shreya with her grandmother, 2007

My aim in life is to make a difference — no matter how small. My policy professors used to say that change happens at the margins — that it is slow and sometimes invisible to the naked eye. But the conviction that the work will one day ripple into a big shift in society is necessary to keep going. I am passionate about mental health and want to normalise talking about it and seeking help when needed. I am also a strong advocate for gender equality, and I want to ensure that one’s gender identity does not get in the way of achieving goals. I strongly believe in research that is evidence-based and action-oriented, and has the power to change the world for the better. The main barrier to achieving this is my lack of technical and tangible know-how. Although I push myself to learn every day, I know I have a long way to go before I make a sustainable difference.

I joined Includovate as a research intern this year and I love it. I am working with people who share my passion for equality and inclusivity, and I am so happy to be learning from them every day. At work, I am dedicated, a go-getter, a curious learner, and a stickler for rules whereas in my personal life, I am more of an adventurer, risk-taker, and overall more free spirited. However, if there was one word that describes me, it would be kind. I struggle with imposter syndrome that prevents me from genuinely appreciating my work at face value, but I am working on it through therapy and self-work.

A quote that has inspired me to keep working towards my goal and not give up also comes from one of my policy professors. He said, quoting someone else, “Not every battle is fought to be won, some are fought just to show that there’s resistance”. This quote has resonated with me and inspired me to keep resisting the patriarchy and advocate for mental health even when no one’s listening. It has made me believe that no effort ever goes in vain. As long as I’m exhibiting my discomfort with the norms of the society, I know that I’m fighting.

In retrospect, my ideas about feminism and my identity as a feminist comes from my grandmother. Since my childhood, she has always told me to make my own path, be financially independent, and not be dependent on someone else for my livelihood. Her advice came from her own personal experiences, and she has learnt that being self-reliant is the only way to make it in this world. She took pride in my academic achievements and always pushed me to do better. She advocated for the education of her own daughter, and she did the same for me and I do for all women.

About the author

Shreya graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Economics from FLAME University in India. Her undergraduate experience, specifically studying Econometrics, got her interested in research in the field of social sciences. As a certified mental health counsellor and an advocate for gender equality, she hopes to bring about a change through action-oriented, evidence-based research.

Includovate is a feminist research incubator that “walks the talk”. Includovate is an Australian social enterprise consisting of a consulting firm and research incubator that designs solutions for gender equality and social inclusion. Its mission is to incubate transformative and inclusive solutions for measuring, studying, and changing discriminatory norms that lead to poverty, inequality, and injustice. To know more about us at Includovate, follow our social media: @includovate, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram.

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