This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Tarika Ninette Shastry. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

‘Christ University, You Are Dealing With Adults. It Is Time You Wake Up To This Fact’

By Tarika Ninette Shastry:

The rise against Christ University’s atrocious management is one that I did not see coming (owing most definitely to the fear of showing any signs of a spine that the university has successfully instilled in me) but is one that is long overdue. And one that I dearly hope will not fizzle out till it brings about some observable change. Thankfully, social media has afforded students of Christ University this opportunity to voice opinions that have been dismissed for far too long.

Even as I write this post, I am figuratively looking over my shoulder contemplating the drastic measures the university could take against me despite the fact that I have graduated after five long years at Christ. Is that not a microcosmic reflection of how students with an opinion are treated at this institution?

But before I delve into all that is wrong with this highly acclaimed university, I’d like to first address the counter-arguments I have read and heard against the few who have listed what they think is not with Christ University.

1. Yes, my resume does say I have graduated from Christ. But only because it has to. It is not something that I am overly proud of nor is it something that gets me called for interviews by the dozen.

2. And of course, I voluntarily sought admission to the university, alas it was because my naivety did at one point lead me to believe that listing Christ University as my Alma Mater would indeed get me job interviews by the dozen. I find it laughable, however, that the fact that I was not forced to join the university should mean that I must accept its ridiculously authoritarian functioning lying down.

And I do not use the term ‘authoritarian’ lightly. Christ University’s response to the necessity of a student body is to set up a cardboard organization of representatives often hand-picked by faculty members, who are then guided as to what is a legitimate student concern and what is not. After all, it’s ridiculous to assume that a student knows what she/he is talking about. This is the foundation of everything that is wrong with this university. Students are a means to an end (read: income). The student welfare and holistic development that the university reiterates ever so often are much like an attractive packaging of a pair of well-worn socks; it only serves to attract the eye and then disappoint.

The university’s sprawling campus that is admittedly home to some advanced, state-of-the-art technologies and facilities can only be seen as a compensation for the mindset it advocates and operates on, instead of being a reflection of it.

And for heaven’s sake stop brushing aside the dress code issue. No, it is not a minor adjustment students have to make. No, it does not infuriate me because it is cramping my style. No, it does not in any way prepare me for a career. And no, there is no logical way of rationalising it. Surely I am not the only one who sees the alarming correlation between the sexual harassment complaints and the increasingly stringent dress code at the university! Surely I am not the only one who sees how this reflects the regrettable stance our larger society takes up on sexual harassment; it is the woman’s fault!? Is this the supposed progressiveness that Christ University waves in your face? Why should I be judged fit or unfit to receive an education based on the way I dress? How does wearing loose pants as opposed to tight ones make me more receptive to what is being taught in class?

Taking off from those questions; if I am confident in my ability to pass an examination without having attended 85% of the classes, why shouldn’t I be allowed to do so? And if that is too progressive a line of thinking for Christ University, I have a set of simpler questions: do you think it is at all just to hold attendance as an ominous figurative guillotine over your students? Is it healthy for students to openly proclaim that securing the required attendance percentage is the sole reason they are attending classes? Moreover, is this high attendance requirement not a reflection of the confidence you have in your faculty’s ability to engage students? Or does it just speak of how you view all students as being irresponsible, immature and waiting for the slightest chance to run amok?

Christ University has a fine list of incredibly illogical rules that are seemingly in place solely to reinforce the control the institution exerts on its students and to serve as a source of cheap-thrills for its management. A personal example would be a friend of mine and I being banned from the university library for hugging each other outside said library. For those of you wondering, yes, it was another girl I was hugging (as if that should matter). Another personal example would be when I had my id card confiscated for not exiting the lift fast enough, much to the irritation of a faculty member who was running late for his class. It gets better, the said faculty member (who I am assuming realised the half-wittedness of his rant, halfway through) then accused me of eve teasing him with my body language. Apparently, that’s a thing. And apparently, that’s a thing that is conveyed by two-second delays in stepping out of the elevator. But these incidents aren’t what infuriate me. After all, there are unreasonable people everywhere. What really grinds my gears is that I was given no space to offer any explanation or defence. A student at Christ University can never be acting purposefully or rationally and therefore, it is futile to waste any time in listening to anything they might have to say. It is always their fault.

Christ University, you are dealing with adults. Much as you might dislike waking up to this fact, I honestly believe it is time you did. It’s time you revert to education, for it seems like you’ve lost sight of what you are there for. Wait, isn’t that another argument that is used against those who have shared their woes about Christ University? That you are there to receive an education and that’s what you should focus on? Well, I have news for you. Students look for far more than an education in any school or university they attend, as they should. Holistic growth is what education is a mere part of. A university should be proud of giving their students a platform through which they are able and encouraged to explore, question, experiment and learn. In stark contrast, Christ University boasts of its regressive and oppressive regime that stifles any outlook that its narrow-minded top management does not subscribe to.

This is not to say that I did not enjoy my stint at Christ University. I made some great friends, I was taught by some truly inspirational teachers, and I had access to some of the best academic amenities thanks to Christ University. My grievances with the management of the university should not serve to invalidate my positive experiences, nor should it be the other way around. The way I look at it, I grew from my experiences at Christ University in spite of the management, and I contribute to this movement solely in hopes that future students may grow because of a reformed management at Christ University.

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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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