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“This Is A Snob College And That’s A Kurta-Jeans College”: We Need To Stop Stereotyping!

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By Sakshi Jain:

Stereotypes are not arbitrary ideas propagated by legendary authors. Instead, they are anonymously created, deep- rooted ideas and beliefs that encompass us. Building up on these constructed hackneyed ideas is easier than having to know each individual. Stereotyping has become a way of categorizing the many people on some basis in our attempts to know them. The world of academic institutions is not an exception when it comes to labelling its embodiments on the basis of preconceived notions about the institution. As much as we question the authenticity and the existence of these stereotypes, we tend to use them for creating an image of the people in those institutions. More than building on those set notions, we tend to be a part of the stereotypical identities ourselves which causes us to lose or compromise our personal identity much like we do to others.

Image source: Blogspot
Image source: Blogspot

The common stereotypical identity of any student in Lady Shri Ram College (LSR) is that of a hard core feminist, equal to being a ‘man-hater’. Navneet Arora from LSR negates this notion by saying, “We have women with different shades of characteristics, loving yet fierce and vulnerable yet strong, to paint them all in the same colour will be erroneous.”

Recounting my personal experience as a part of this college, I would confess that LSR channelled my first close acquaintance with the feminist ideology and the implications of the term itself. However, I was oblivious to my ‘labelled identity’ of man-hater by the virtue of being an embodiment of a feminist space. I might identify myself as a feminist but that does not imply my abhorrence towards men. The fierce, rebellious and revolutionary image of women in LSR is an inevitable stereotype that gets attached to my personality even though I do not conform to these. In cases where I intend to resort to negotiation, it is conceived as forceful domination. The pre-established image of women in LSR forces people to construe all their actions or words through the lens of women empowerment initiative.

People interacting with me have a common perception that my familiarity with feminist ideology has had an overpowering effect on my rationality. However, I feel that the stereotypical image back in their minds has overpowered their rationale so much so that they can’t distinguish between the stereotypical and personal identities. I was once beginning to have a normal conversation with my acquaintance when I was alarmingly stopped in the middle of my first sentence by an infuriated reaction of the person. The person presumed that the purpose of my conversation would be gender driven, even though it was meant to be a light-hearted conversation.

Recently, as I was going to visit JNU, I had my mind set to see students in “kurta and jeans” marching to some protest or the other. Because in my mind, there is a constructed image of Jawaharlal Nehru University as a highly political space with its students politically motivated and revolutionary. Even though the ambience within the campus seemed politically intimidating to me but the campus has more to say than the hyped political activism. According to Apoorva Sinha, a student of JNU, “The University is beyond politics and civil services where people also express themselves through different means like Music, Art and Dance etc.” She also delineated a major impact that these stereotypical identities have on students who tend to groom themselves into that stereotypical environment because of pride and survival issues or other unexplained reasons.

This isn’t just restricted to JNU and LSR. I have heard that students of St. Stephens college are indifferent snobs. And I have also heard that SRCC students are vulnerable to a reaction like “Oh SRCC! Of course you’re going to get placed with a brilliant package! You wouldn’t waste your time on further studies now, right? Why would you?”

Some other stereotypes I have come across – girls at Jesus and Mary College (JMC) are stereotyped as fashion queens, interested in shopping from only particular brand shops. Students of IIT Delhi are categorized as frustrated nerds with no social life. I have also come across the stereotype of Hindu College, where the students distinguish themselves from other colleges by a distinct, stereotyped attire of a “black kurta” and being active in drama and debate.

But what about the students in St. Stephen’s who aren’t as affluent as much as it is puffed up, what about students in SRCC who want to pursue jobs after attaining higher degrees after graduation and what about girls in JMC who love buying clothes from the Delhi street markets? Unfortunately, their identity is submerged within the stereotypes that we hold against each other and this cycle of stereotyping is everlasting, trickling down for generations. On one occasion, when my friend and I were watching a Nukkad Natak on our campus, we conjectured the participants’ college by their attire- ‘black kurta’ but we were mistaken. The stereotypical identity has gripped us all into an unreasonable reliance on those pre-set notions of recognizing people. It has become so deeply entrenched in our lives that we fail to question its roots and legitimacy.

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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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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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