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Why Students At DU Have Mastered The Art Of Controlling Pee

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By Ishita Mishra:

I sat with my legs crossed, trying to control my pee as I waited for the last lecture of the day to end. The ‘Advertising and PR’ lecture had never seemed this long. My focus was on going home and relieving myself, but that meant another half hour of bladder control. There was no way I would use the college washroom. As the teacher started winding up the topic with the example of the ‘Jahan Soch Wahan Shauchalaya’ ad campaign and the importance of clean toilets in rural areas, I realised the irony of the situation.

People in rural areas suffer a hundred times more, but even students like us, studying in an urban university, have to control our pee because of the absence of a clean and usable washroom. With a daily practice session from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., most of us have mastered the art of controlling our pee.

My bladder, which was on the verge of bursting, forced me to use the filthy and stinky washroom in college. The incident left many questions in my head. Was it only my college which had dirty washrooms? Couldn’t one of the premiere universities in the country, provide its colleges with something as basic as clean toilets? Did girls on their period face problems because of unhygienic conditions in their college toilets? I decided to look for answers from the students of different colleges in Delhi University (DU).

As I questioned students, I realised that most of them avoided using the college washrooms. Some had not even used it once. The reason for most of them was the same – dirty, stinky washrooms with no dustbins and soap. Even water was sometimes unavailable. Most colleges even lack sanitary napkin dispensers in their washrooms. Based on the answers I received, I came to know that some colleges ensure their washrooms are clean only when the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) comes for inspection to grade the institute. However, the condition goes back to square one after a few days of the inspection. While the problem isn’t as severe in some colleges, certain colleges have an unimaginably bad condition.

A student of Ramjas College told me, “Not all washrooms are clean. The ones in the corridors are smelly and unusable. There are no sanitary napkin dispensers.” A student of Gargi college had a similar complaint. She said, “The washrooms stink terribly. The toilets are dirty and unflushed.”

Fortunately, not students from all colleges had such negative things to say about their college restrooms. Shri Ram College of Commerce seems to be the better of the lot. “The washrooms are pretty clean, and I don’t mind using them. There are sanitary napkin dispensers. However, they mostly don’t have sanitary napkins in them,” a student from SRCC opined.

Women’s colleges don’t fare any better. A student of Mata Sundari College told Campus Watch that the toilet in her college is so dirty that she has only used it once. She has avoided using the college restroom since her first visit. We were told that the washrooms in the Miranda House are so dirty that a foul smell can be smelt even from a distance.

Zakir Husain College also has much better toilet facilities than other colleges. Campus Watch was told by a current student how the toilets are usually clean and usable.

A girl from Daulat Ram College also spoke about how bad the condition is at her college. “There is just one washroom for 4,000 students in college, so you can imagine how horrible the condition is.”

At the opposite end of the spectrum, one has Lady Shri Ram College, which has more hygienic toilets. A student of the college Campus Watch got in touch with, said, “The washrooms are clean and also have sanitary napkin dispensers installed in them, but there aren’t any sanitary napkins inside.”

It is ridiculous that a university which flaunts its excellence in academics is unable to provide clean washrooms in colleges. The colleges should make sure that the toilets are cleaned at regular intervals and are timely renovated or reconstructed. If the funds received by colleges fall short, then some portion of the money allocated to college fests should be used for maintaining the toilets. This is an issue that requires immediate attention by Delhi University or else students will start contracting urinary infections. If they haven’t already.

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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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