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If You Had A Tough Time With Teachers At School, You’ll So Relate To This

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By Mahima Rose Angelin Varghese:

I had always been the middle bencher, throughout my school life and through most of my college days. Unlike the front bench ‘geeks’ and the back bench ‘freaks’ that get the limelight, the middle benchers often belong to that category of introverts with a skewed relationship with teachers who manage to scrape through without being noticed.

My very first imprint of teachers was much of discomfiture. They wore sarees, with hair tied in a bun and held a cane in one hand and a book in the other and walked about with an air of extreme stiffness. They mercilessly gave out orders, beat the table with the cane – at times it stung through your flesh – and were tyrant-like autocrats who claimed to know-it-all. My strained relationship with teachers thus begins as early as my first years in school. I always kept a distance and if at all I did converse with a teacher it would either involve the teachers’ monologue or my telegraphic response.

Once during my elementary schooling, I happened to be part of a dance team picked up by teachers. After we proceeded with the first few steps over a week, the teachers made a decision that increased my hatred towards the lot. I happened to overhear one of the teacher’s remarks. “She is less girl-like and too dark for the ‘Barbie girl’ dance!” But my little egoistic mind couldn’t bring myself around to accept it and so I continued the drama of practice at home as my loving parents encouragingly cheered my gimmicks until that day arrived. My heart pounded heavily on that day; my mother helped me with the make-up and dressed me up in a pink frock. We stepped out, walked past the lawn, passed through the gates and then I stopped abruptly, looking at my excited mother. I blurted out that terrible truth in fits of sobs.

Those days, it was prestigious to be a ‘prefect’. Sometimes the teacher chose someone or at times it was put to vote. Either way, I never made it. But the stars favoured me on that day in third grade and I was elected the new house prefect of my class. I couldn’t contain my excitement as I kept mumbling about it with pride to every passerby. I had more reasons for joy as I was to take charge officially on the day I was turning eight. I wore my best dress and carried my merit chart my mother and I had carefully made the other night. In the class, I was busy showcasing my prized possession. I felt unhappy as the rainy day halted the assembly and prevented me from carrying out my first task. In the classroom, no sooner than the teacher came, one of my studious classmates raised a concern.

Girl: “Ma’am, Mahima is talkative! Why have you made her the prefect, then?”
Teacher (After a moment’s pause): “Very well, Fathima, you can be the green house prefect.”

That evening I walked back home, my bag felt unusually heavy, the crumpled chart was pressed close to my heart.

As I moved into higher grades, my distance grew and I secretly had a disdain for the entire breed. The tailoring class was a disaster. While I was still trying to get the thread into the microscopic hole of the needle, my classmates were already busy knitting; while I started hemming the sides, my friends might have stitched letters onto their handkerchiefs. The teacher stood staring and commenting on my poor tailoring skills. I would sometimes be made to stand on the bench or at times kicked out of the class. The day she checked everyone’s work to enter the scores, mine were the worst. She would give that contemptuous look, and sneer at me. “That looks like it came out of the cow’s arse,” she would snarl at my helpless face.

What could be worse than the math class? I was scared of my math teachers. As I never quite understood the language of math, my score was consistently C. In my grade card, this C hung like a sickle above my neck amidst other As. I feared the math exams and mostly the day when the results were announced because the teacher wouldn’t mind openly rebuking my version of mathematical theories and results in the answer sheet.

My relationship with teachers still continued to be official and distant even as I joined college. Unlike in the schools, they were less autocratic. While some were kind enough as they hardly bothered about anyone other than their books, some were excellent spies and specialised in amassing students’ histories. Some were preachers who never practised, some practised but never preached, some elaborated on their epic achievements and some were automated information booths while some were friendly enough. I avoided deep conversations and encounters with teachers but caught myself in trouble sometimes justifiable and once or twice for my own fault (Of course, I am not devoid of faults).

However, it would be improper not to mention those few teachers with whom I was able to make some sort of connection. The motherly Rekha ma’am, the friendly Vidhu ma’am, the one and only teacher with whom I had an intimate talk when I was in trouble. And the teacher Sharon who taught me the art of dedication in teaching. Well, she never taught, I learned by observing her as she was my colleague!

Yes, I chose to teach despite how strained my own relationship with teachers was. I want to be the teacher I always wanted as a student no matter how hard it is for me. Teaching is an art which needs artistic and aesthetic sensibilities. Even though the teachers learn child psychology and philosophy, in reality, it is only a few who practise it. Become a teacher for the love of teaching and never for the sake of it. (P.S. Applicable to me too.)

Featured image is a still from ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’.

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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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