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IIT Bombay Students Are Taking Education Beyond The Classroom With A Wonderful Initiative

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By Raj Nayan Datta:

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Source: Abhyuday/Facebook

In a country of 1.2 billion, there would undoubtedly remain unsolved issues, and staggering limitations. But when those lurking problems pose a serious challenge to a nation’s development, it really presents a grave danger. One such elephant in the room is a lack of education.

With about 39% students dropping out of schools before completing elementary education, the country faces a challenge of growing unskilled labour. The reasons are many. Poverty, poor academic performance, substandard teaching, migration and need for employment to support the family are major factors behind the higher dropout rate of the boys, say experts.

What if they get retained in the schools, and move on to complete their education? What if they resist the forces to quit studies, instead carry on to reach greater academic success?

All these “What ifs” motivated Abhyuday, the social body of IIT Bombay to reach out to the economically backward students, mainly centered around Mumbai, and assist them in their quest towards further education by leading a city-wide initiative, called ‘Career Counselling Campaign (CCC)’.Abhyuday, the social body of IIT Bombay to reach out to the economically backward students, mainly centered around Mumbai, and assist them in their quest towards further education by leading a city-wide initiative, called ‘Career Counselling Campaign (CCC)’.

A group of mentors, entirely pooled from the student community of IIT Bombay, visit these schools and takes sessions where the students are told more about the possibilities of continuing education, different career paths that they might take up after education, and the bright future prospects that they have with proper schooling.

The volunteers who mentor these kids have their own experiences to share. Says Surbhi Sahu, a 2nd year undergraduate at IIT Bombay, “It feels great when you can contribute even a little in transforming the society. It has been an amazing experience and it taught me many things. I am glad that I have been given the opportunity to teach children.” When asked more why she feels this initiative is of prime importance, she replies, “Education is the need of the hour. Every child has the right to education but everyone is not as lucky as us. Even a little step from each one of us can create a huge impact on the society and transform the life of many children.”

Launched in 2015, we are well on our course to cover the maximum possible schools in the city. Some of the areas where we have reached include Bhandup, Vikhroli and as far as Panvel.

Another such initiative by Abhyuday IIT Bombay to spread education and learning as far as possible, is called ‘Lend Your Voice (LYV)’. The mission is to enable access to learning materials for visually impaired students.

The idea is to record audio-books, so that learning process will be made easy for the visually impaired students. This initiative started in 2014, and till now, we have recorded quite a few number of books. Recording books is not as easy as it may seem, and it is evident from the words of the IIT Bombay students who had volunteered for this cause.

Says Anirudh Reddy, “We need to first study what the book is about so that we can read out our part properly and get our characters right. If we make a mistake we have to edit the recording, read conveying emotions through your voice etc. it was a daunting task in our first week. It took nearly 5 hours to totally complete a recording which was only one and half hour long.” Recalls Sai Teja, “I thought the work was easy, which was not the case. Not even close to easy.”

So why did these young students join LYV?

Anirudh also explains, “Have you ever wondered after going for a  movie that if you didn’t have eyes, would you have enjoyed the show? I always felt that I was gifted to have all my senses working. Especially my eyes. It gives me immense pleasure that I have been able to help someone.” We could not have agreed more with him.

Was it easy at the beginning? Obviously not. There are many problems with that. Inexperience is one such thing. But the greater goal kept these young students going. “The most important treasure that we students have is knowledge. It’s a treasure that increases if shared. Yes they (the visually impaired students) have special books, but there are not so many of such books and are not so cheap either,” sums up Reddy.

So how does it feel to have recorded a book, after all the toil? Says Rohit Jenna, “After hours of narrating and editing, I made my first audiobook by sitting in the mess after midnight.” Sai Teja has something more to add to it, “The feeling after completing a good book, I felt that even people who are blind also should know how it feels to which I think I helped. Maybe my contribution was negligible but I contributed to it. I feel happy about it.”

Asked about what they are doing now, Rohit promptly said, “Now I’m working on my third assignment which is a 50-page long assignment to record.”

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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 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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