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My experience with misogyny as a vet student in India

INSTAGRAM @nikita_tambe_   
Nikita Tambe is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Veterinary Epidemiology and Preventive medicine in a small town in India. She has an interest in small animal diagnostics and is passionate about helping stray animals. Her favorite hobbies include reading and painting.

When I was a kid, I was asked by a lot of people what I wanted to become in future and I always had one answer, to which others would laugh and say, “Rest is okay but will you be able to bear the burden of a vet?” And it wasn’t just men who asked me that.

In India after high school, hopeful vet students we are given an entrance exam called National Eligibility Entrance test (NEET). Seats are allotted as per one’s merit rank. I gave mine in 2012 and didn’t get through, so had to wait another year to get in. The veterinary degree here is called the Bachelor of Veterinary Science and Animal Husbandry (BVSc&AH). There is a reserved quota for male and female candidates. There are reservations based on castes too. The figures change every year.

I was so happy when I got in, I went and told everyone. Everybody had a different opinion about it following their initial congratulations. Some said, “That’s great, I’m sure you will become the best vet in the world” and others went with, “Will you be able to do it?”, “Isn’t it a male dominant field?”, “What happens when a bull attacks you?”

These questions made me doubt my strength and capabilities. In vet school, I would hesitate and refrain myself from approaching a case because of all the self-doubting thoughts I had in the back of my mind.

But one day, I saw this young lady vet in our clinic not only approach an aggressive bull case, but restrain it and manage all the tasks very well. I couldn’t wait to know more. I went over and asked her, “Aren’t you scared? How do you do that?” to which she replied, it’s all about techniques and precision. Nothing else. After a few days of observing her, I felt a great change in my mindset.

I realized that there’s no such thing as “female vets can’t handle tough jobs.” I put myself out there and started approaching with a broader perspective. It was scary at first, but later it got quite easy. I’m currently doing my masters in medicine (MVSc – Medicine) for which my BVSc&AH grades were very helpful. As a part of the degree, we have credits for working at our college’s veterinary clinic. Working wasn’t very pleasant initially, but the vets around me helped a lot. It often happens that misogynistic comments are passed. I take them as a challenge to prove them wrong. I work hard each day. “Improvise the skills and knowledge; stay updated, and overcome the fears,” has been my motto for long enough now to realise that’s all I need to do.

Now, I am doing well and choose do to more of it and nothing has changed with the people around me. They still think that because I am a woman, I won’t be able to do it. Many times, owners ask for male vets and it can get very demotivating. But my point of view definitely changed. Sometimes a nod and a hair flip is all you need to do!

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