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5 Life Lessons To Be Learnt From The Book “Jane Eyre”

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By Ashni Dhaor:

On 16th October 1847, a novel by the name of ‘Jane Eyre: An Autobiography’ was published. The author of the book was stated as Currer Bell which was the pen name used by Charlotte Bronte at that time, since publishers were seldom interested in even looking at the literary work of a woman. The novel was very shocking for its time. Even though the book was written almost a hundred and fifty years ago, the character of the protagonist was way ahead of her time and even today, we can learn a lot from this classic novel.

Jane Eyre
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1. Be a ‘brave’ person before being a ‘good’ person: Jane Eyre, the main character of the story, grew up in a loveless environment and her childhood was portrayed almost like a ‘Cinderella’ story. But the difference was that she was fearless, outspoken and bold even in her childhood. At the age of 10, when she gets to know that she is being sent to a charity institution by her cruel aunt, there is nothing stopping her from the outburst she throws at her aunt for mistreating her and declares that she’ll never call the woman her ‘aunt’ again. She speaks out against her to-be-husband as well when she discovers he has a wife. When Jane gets to know that her uncle has left a fortune for her, she insists on sharing it with her cousins who had helped her later in life through thick and thin. Jane’s childhood and adolescence was miserable but she does bounce back and doesn’t fall prey to life’s adversities.

“Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.” -Jane Eyre

2. No matter what happens, stick to your principles: Being an orphan, Jane never lost the path to righteousness or did anything immoral. In the story, Jane is head over heels in love with Mr. Rochester, but leaves him at the aisle when she discovers that he has a wife. Even after much convincing from the love of her life, not once does she retract from her decision (though she does marry him later when the wife passes away in an accident). She knows that marrying a married man is against her principles and morals. Moreover, she cannot be a home-wrecker for another couple just for the sake of her feelings. At a later instance as well, when St. John asks her to accompany him to his voyage to India for a missionary work as his wife, Jane refuses since that would mean compromising her passion in a loveless marriage.

“I am a free human being with an independent will.” -Jane Eyre

3. Being educated is being self-reliable: Jane is deprived of all the things in life which are normal for us to have. She has no family or money, not even a person whom she could call a friend after her sole friend at the Lowood Institution died in her arms when they were. Though conditions at charity institution were inhumane, Jane focused on her studies and came out as an educated woman. Out of all odds, Jane manages to get a job as a governess at Thornfield Hall and lives with dignity. Out of all that she earns, she also manages to save some of it and travel away from Thornfield after she breaks off her wedding. On reaching another destination, though with some help from her relatives, Jane again arranges for a job as a teacher.

“I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself.” -Jane Eyre

4. Marry only for love, nothing else: Jane’s love life too is as complicated as everything else in her life. She falls in love with Mr. Rochester, her employer, who is also in love with her. Their wedding is interrupted by the revelation that Rochester has another wife which compels Jane to break off the wedding because of her principles. She is then proposed to by a St. John, but turns him down since she knew that it would be nothing but a love less alliance which won’t be a meaningful marriage. The fact that one should always marry for love can also be seen in Mr. Rochester’s life. His first marriage was more of a business deal since he had an eye for his father-in-law’s wealth. Little did he know that his wife has an underlying mental condition which eventually wrecked their marriage.

“I could not unlove him now, merely because I found that he had ceased to notice me.” -Jane Eyre

5. Always hope for the best: Having had a traumatic life as a child, Jane never lost hope. When she was sent to the charity institution by her aunt, Jane hoped that no matter what, at least the place will be better than her aunt’s place. When Jane came to Lowood Institution, the inedible food and harsh conditions did not frighten her. Instead, she strived to have a better future and studied well. Jane’s faith helped her through thick and thin and eventually good things did happen to her. She inherited a fortune from her uncle, married the love of her life and found happiness. In the end, it all turned out to be alright.

“Even for me life had its gleams of sunshine.”-Jane Eyre

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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.

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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.

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Find out more about the campaign here.

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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.

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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.”

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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