Coming from a Muslim service class family and taking up a career in the Environment and Development sector was an unconventional choice in the early 2000s. Beyond marriage, a job in either Civil Services or Medicine was considered best for career-focused, educated Muslim women. Other subjects such as Computers, Electronic Engineering, Biotechnology, Biochemistry, and Microbiology were allowed but not for industrial employment. Even in these fields, one had to choose either academics or get into government jobs.
If a woman wanted to pursue a career in less popular disciplines, it raised ripples in the still waters and not just an eyebrow. I was a black sheep even among my classmates; both men and women did not see much money, comfort, or glamour in this career choice.
Imagine bargaining with patriarchs for a career choice that involved migrating to a new place, probably a remote area, and frequently traveling for work, away from the safety of home. I faced a hard time convincing my father when I wanted to pursue MSc. in Environmental Sciences. Not much was known about this discipline beyond the academic discourses, NGOs, and funding agencies during the Century. By the time I completed my Master's and finished my internship in Environment and Development communication with the Centre for Environment Education, I realized many opportunities that lay ahead of me. The subject is interdisciplinary and definitely beyond measuring and analyzing pollution levels.
It is fluid, makes you a "Jack of all trades,” and equips you with knowledge and skill to cut across themes and subject matter domains. So, do not shy away from embarking on new paths and less traveled roads.
Saba Ishaq is an Environment and Development Practioner with Industry experience of about 14 years. Previously, she has worked with the Planning Commission and as a National Advisor to the National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture with the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer's Welfare. She has a mid-career Ph.D. in Political Sciences from the University of Delhi and is an impaneled consultant for social and environmental impact assessment. Currently, she is working towards her first book based on her Ph.D. thesis, "People's participation in Watershed Programme." Apart from that, she is also an Urban Gardener and Plant Enthusiast