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What Student Leaders Think Of The Govt’s “Cashless Campus” Drive

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Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar launched the Vittiya Saksharata Abhiyan (VISAKA) on December 1 to appeal to the academic community to become part of a nationwide campaign to make India cashless. Addressing students and teachers through video-conferencing, he said that demonetisation was a “move towards a cashless society” and that VISAKA was an opportunity for them to be a “partner” in India’s growth story.

The campaign, beginning December 12, seeks to train students as volunteers. These volunteers are expected to train their family and 10 selected households in using digital payment modes. Other moves include involving NSS/NCC volunteers going to markets to urge shopowners and customers to use cashless modes of transaction, and directing universities and institutes to declare themselves cashless by January 12.

YKA spoke to leaders of student bodies across India to get their view on the government’s move.

Learning Experience

Many student leaders said that while they were willing to participate in educating others about digital financial literacy, most didn’t seem too happy about the government’s demonetization decision.

Osama Adil, General Secretary for Hostel Affairs, IIT Bombay told YKA that this would be “a learning experience for everyone”. He called the government campaign a good move. Since the college is not in session, he added the campaign would only begin from January.

A Good Idea That Is Waste Without Preparation

AMU’s Women’s College Students Union Vice President Farheen Sherwani and union’s Secretary Utba Israr Sheikh sarcastically said that they were already ‘cashless’ due to the government’s demonetization drive. Sheikh added that the idea was good but would be just a waste without preparation.

“Internet packs are so costly that most people will not be able to afford it (going digital). They could have made internet free for everybody and given them resources so that people could work with it. Right now people don’t have internet at public places, you(the government) are unable to give people more than half-an-hour of wifi, and then you (the government) are asking people to use the internet to pay,” Sheikh told YKA. She added that she does not understand the move as India is an agricultural society not yet equipped to use technology. She wondered how the idea would work in Kashmir and in states like Kashmir where internet gets banned often.

Students Distraught But Will Volunteer If They Get Certificates

AMU Students’ Union President Faizul Hasan said that while students were distraught due to demonetisation, many would be willing to teach digital financial literacy to other people if a certificate was issued. “If a certificate is distributed, then that will be a benefit (of volunteering). Then more students will work,” he told YKA. The MHRD circular on VISAKA has asked directors of all institutions to ensure that students who volunteer for the campaign are awarded necessary credit in academics under project work.

Hasan also told YKA that while the dining halls on campus have installed PoS machines (card-swipe machines) but canteens have not been able to do so due which they are experiencing difficulties. “Moreover, there are some people who are illiterate. So many people don’t even have ATM-cards. How will they do all this?“ he added.

Kuldeep Singh Nagi, the President of University of Hyderabad’s Students’ Union, too expressed similar concerns about going cashless. He said that while the university hasn’t given them any specific direction, the move could be implemented slowly since the university is not ready.

People From Rural Areas, Daily Wagers Will Be Affected

“The thing is in universities, for instance in the University of Hyderabad, there are many people who are coming from marginalised sections and rural backgrounds. There are some people who haven’t seen even a computer. How are you expecting them to use things like internet banking?” Nagi told YKA. He added that while they are ready to train people, for road-side vendors, daily-wagers, rickshaw-pullers, etc, this might be a problem. “They take home whatever they earn during the day. How will they survive when we go cashless?“ Nagi said.

We Have Had To Ask The University To Allow Other Modes Of Payment

Mohit Pandey, President of JNU Students’ Union, told YKA that they hadn’t seen any visible change on campus as queues outside ATMs continue to be long.

In JNU, he said, they themselves have had to ask the administration to be allowed to use modes of payment other than cash, like cheques or online banking, for making payments to the hostel administration.

Featured image for representation only. Photo credit: Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times/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 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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