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After Sudden And Unfair Removal Of Faculty Member, TISS Alumni Voice Support

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By Sushmita Verma:

Editor’s note: The decision of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences to terminate the services of Sanober Keshwar, an Associate Professor (part time), has drawn the ire of professors, students and TISS alumni. According to a Hindustan Times report, her supporters said that “she was simply sent a message saying her services were no longer required, access to her official email id and telephone were abruptly blocked, and electricity supply to her hostel room was cut off.”

When asked about the termination, the TISS Director, Dr. S. Parasuraman, said that Sanober Keshwar’s contract was not renewed because of a “fund crunch” and that she was “irregular”. In response, students, professors, and TISS alumni have demanded an immediate reinstatement and have penned down a letter of endorsement against the unfair and sudden termination of Adv. Sanober Keshwar.

The aforementioned letter, describes Adv. Keshwar as “a faculty loved and respected by many students” and as someone who “participated in many student activities, enriching the discussions without influencing them from a position of power.”

Here is the full text of the letter:

To,
The Director,
Tata Institute of Social Sciences,
Mumbai.

The administration of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, terminated the services of Sanober Keshwaar, an associate professor (Part-time) according to her designation, by sending her reliving letter to her official email id in mid-May. Soon after this the phone unit on her desk was removed, the access to her email on the tiss.edu server blocked in a manner that is derogatory and humiliating. This is not the first instance that something like this has happened, in 2011 Sarita Ganesh and in 2015 Bela Bhatia (both Alumni of the institute) were also terminated similarly.

Adv. Sanober Keshwaar has been one of the most loved faculties since she joined the institution as part-time temporary staff in 2010. She was not only a teacher to her students but also a friend, a counselor and a guide to help students tide over difficult times.

Her classes were full of energy and she brought up discussions about the realilites faced by the poorest of the people she has worked with all her life, to make us students understand the inequalities existing in our society. She engaged with the students at levels they could understand and engage, breaking down difficult concepts with skill. She stayed back on campus longer than required to help students with their assignments, with identifying literature for their research thesis. Sanober participated in many student activities, enriching the discussions without influencing them from a position of power.

Sanober, though attached to the school of social work, taught one course at the Globalisation and Labour program and coordinated another program at the School of Law. She did all of this with the same rigour she put in her courses at the School of Social Work. She juggled multiple responsibilities on campus while caring for her ailing mother who needs constant attention. Sanober too has multiple health issues, over which she has prioritised the campus, as not taking the long breaks, needed to seek medical help, from teaching and from students. Even during the M-ward survey she was one of the more dedicated among the staff who did the surveys herself and made her students engage with the people from the community. She would come back from the survey, collect all the survey sheets from her batch of students, have a discussion and then submit it, the same day, to the secretariat. Despite the logistical issues during the M-ward survey, she pushed her batch to work hard and with passion as it concerned the lives of the toiling people, living in the institution’s neighborhood.

This is how the students of Sanober remember her. It is horrifying to hear that the administration has treated her with such disdain. A faculty member who is extremely passionate and always there for the students is being terminated with no regard for her age and her immense experience.

Therefore, we the undersigned, urge the TISS administration to:

1. Immediately reinstate Sanober to her position of associate professor (Part-time), which she has held the past
2. Provide her with access to her official email (tiss.edu) as well as the telephone on her desk.
3. Institute an external committee to look into the indiscriminate terminations of other faculty members, namely,

This letter has been reproduced exactly as it appeared on Facebook. No edits have been made.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.”

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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