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This Team Of 12 College Students Knows Exactly How To Do Their Bit For The Society

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By Saumyata Joshi:

The world knows how to straighten out a spoiled child but never makes it up to a child deprived ~ Robert Brault

Childhood is the foundation of an individual’s life. A house with a weak foundation is not only dangerous for its inhabitants but also for the nearby houses. Similarly, a child who lacks the foundation comprising of education and morals becomes a threat to the society and flouts rules at every possible point of his life. It becomes a moral responsibility of the privileged class to extend a helping hand to other people.

akshara

Education, not literacy is the greatest gift one can give another. Akshara is a team comprising of 12 young enthusiastic girls with the simple vision of doing their bit for the society. The team focuses on issues of child and women welfare in the neighbouring area of Vasundhara Enclave, Delhi. The team members are college students and after their college hours teach a bunch of around 50- 60 children in the college ground itself. Teaching these kids makes you realize how significant the smallest of things in life are. Hidden secrets of life and happiness lie in the dearth of imagination. Many of them are unaware as to what is exactly meant by a birthday, so knowing one’s birth day is out of question. When one has grown up amidst luxuries then it is difficult to comprehend the depth of insufficiency. These kids teach you more than they learn from you. Teaching becomes fun when for two whole hours every day the campus resounds with the loud chanting of all the rhymes and hymns.

India being a democratic country offers equal rights and opportunities to all its citizens. Right to Education being one of the fundamental rights should be availed by one and all. No doubt that with the recent government ventures and policies, thousands of children were put in schools with the famous candy of ‘the mid-day meal’ scheme. The central problem lies in the fact that we ensure that the child reaches school building but we forget to assure whether any sort of knowledge is being imparted to him/her or not. Thus the whole idea of education gets blemished with debauchery and pretensions. In an educational survey conducted by the team in the nearby government schools, it was quite shocking to find that all the enrolled students hardly attend classes owing to the violence of the enrolled goons of the school. The team is working in that area with the help of local authorities.

It is the ground reality of most of the government schools that in the name of primary education, simply nothing at all is offered to children. The main reason for this inadequacy in the system is due to lack of teachers and negligence of available teachers. Hooliganism and other vehement forces thriving in these schools deprive the children who really want to study. A psychometric test (technique of psychological measurement, which includes the measurement of knowledge and abilities) was conducted by the team on these children to know their strengths and weaknesses. It was pleasantly surprising that so many of them were artists, excellent painters, young crafty ingenious minds, though not that good in studies. The concept of ‘Play in Education’ does wonders for these children. The overwhelming feeling when one young mind remarked that “Didi mein bahut mehnat karke aapke he college mein dakhila lunga” (Ma’am I will work very hard and take admission in your college), made the girls speechless. These kids just require that slight spark of encouragement which can propel them to heights of success and happiness. Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.

An organization isn’t required to change the society; individual efforts have always amazed the world. The team does not wish to change itself into an organization rather they are the harbinger of a social change. Akshara meaning ‘the imperishable’ is a movement to change young lives for a better future of the society and India at large. The only fault is that these kids were born poor but they have the same zeal and vigour to do something great with their lives. If poverty is that wide terrifying river between the children and success then Akshara is a bridge over this dark river, helping these young ignited minds to reach the other side where sanguine joy and sunshine pervades. Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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