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I Have Failed Multiple Times In Life, But This Is What I Do Instead Of Giving Up

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By Sumit Kumar:

The recent suicides by teenagers on account of their academic stress and failure to get through exams reveal the enormous pressure encroaching upon the youth of India. They succumb to the burden of expectation enforced on them by their parents and the society at large. The academic system of India or better to say, the societal structure of India, prefers marks over knowledge and wage over talent. Well, the obsession with higher marks or good grade or an education with a higher probability of a ‘six-digit salary job’ is not bad, but it becomes a huge burden on the shoulders of young children who subsequently get entrapped into the vicious cycle of depression and failure and end up giving their lives.

Many editorials, discussions and seminars are being held to find out a pragmatic solution to curb the rising suicide rates of students in India. Some are blaming coaching ‘factories’ while some blame the highly aspirational parents who force their children into high-pressure zones. For me, the only thing to blame is the failure on the part of our society which has developed a binary allowing students to be either “successful” or “unsuccessful”. Securing above 90 percent marks, getting admitted into IIT(s), IIM(s) and other coveted institutions are termed “successful”, while pursuing a ‘normal’ graduation with a ‘normal’ subject in a ‘normal’ university is completely underrated; as if doing a B.Sc or B.A is equal to making a Facebook account.

Isn’t it time we understood that there is much more to life than competitive exams? The resilience and ability to cope with difficult situations determines the life of a person and not the 9.8 grade in a tenth board exam. It is a matter of pride if a student gets high grades in exams but is not a matter of shame or disgrace for any student to get lesser marks. If marks were the sole criteria for someone’s success, Narendra Modi, Mark Zuckerberg, Shahrukh Khan and Bill Gates would have hardly been known figures.

Marks is just an indicator of the alignment of a student towards a given subject and nothing more. If one fails in Physics, he could be a gold-medalist in Biology and vice-versa. The crux of the matter is that exams and grades are nowhere responsible for a person’s success, given that the student and their parents are rational and logical enough to understand these exams simply help you understand yourself and your future course better.

I got 9.2 grade in class 10th and 82.3 percentage in class 12 boards. I took admission in St. Xavier’s in Ranchi and graduated in Chemistry Honours. I have had no exceptional academic achievements in my life except for two Olympiad triumphs and that too when I was in class two and class three. Yet, I love myself. I admire myself, and I will continue to do so until my last breath. I have failed multiple times in my career. In class 11, I wanted to be an engineer but my dream started to recede as I encountered the complicated topics of PCM. In class 12, I fell in love with Chemistry, the very reason behind my admission to St. Xavier’s College in Ranchi. But as soon as I started to dwell deeper into the highly contentious mechanisms of organic chemistry and the recurring exceptions of inorganic chemistry, I got disenchanted with it. Now, I am seeking to pursue Masters in Political Science, because of my inherent love for democratic values and Indian politics. I think that I have finally got the love of my life in politics, but as they say, love nowadays is like the stock market with very high volatility and very low probability.

Nevertheless, the only point I am making is that sometimes it takes time to find the right road to success. If you have erroneously gone on the wrong side, don’t panic, take a U-turn and come back. Have a break-up party with your last subject and start romancing your new passion just like Bunny of ‘Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani’. Parents will force their unfulfilled dreams on you, but don’t worry, they are your parents after all, and they have only one dream – to see your happy face. Don’t commit any obnoxious act that may lead your parents into a pathetic state. Talk to your parents and convince them. One day or the other, they will understand your perspective. Follow your passion, mock your foes, love your friends, bully your teachers, bunk some classes, flirt some, ignore the backstabs and listen to “Tu na jane aas paas hai khuda”, if you get depressed anytime. India needs you as much as you need India. So don’t give up on it yet. There’s a lot more than that damned mark sheet.

Image Source: Sushil Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

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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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